Thank you for the submission you made to our art editors. Your work created quite a stir in our emails and Zoom conference calls (we are social distancing after all). Anyway, while your work demonstrates some promise beyond its ability to pose “what if” questions, the photography’s subject matter is never fully realized and the world in it still seems very much at large.
For example, in the image titled “Headshot,” our editorial staff could only make out what might possibly be a hillcrest, although one staff member joked the hilltop might actually be a man’s receding hairline. We thought at first that if this conjecture were true, then the hairline might be yours, but then we thought perhaps we had overstepped our bounds and intruded too much upon your identity. We do, after all, want our submitters to retain some level of anonymity. We are not Google or Facebook, but could you somehow render a similar image with more of the artist’s intent, or history, per se? Perhaps a metaphor exists in the photograph’s geography that we’re somehow missing. Maybe a new title could help translate the figurative for your viewers—is there a lurking violence that could be excavated from the various meanings buried in the term “Headshot”? How is the camera like a gun? How is its subject matter prey? Then again, we had this discussion amongst ourselves and thought it led nowhere. Photography should be something other than a Hemingway story.
But there should be something of a story, shouldn’t there? And pardon the vernacular pun—but many of your pieces simply cast too much shade, obfuscating the true nature of your work. There is no shape to it. Something’s missing in most of these photographs besides shade and shadow. Is the individual so obscure that she or he blurs into their surroundings? I mean, even Ed Hopper contrasts darkness with lightness. Then again, so much of Hopper’s work exists within arm’s reach of an electrical socket. Are you on location in these photographs? Do you have wifi? The sheer volume and density of the foliage is impressive, but we simply can’t see anything for the trees.
You title one entry “Selfie,” but all we can make out is a cloud in the sky and a possible shadow on the ground. The angle itself is quite odd, even unimaginable. Maybe you resemble this cloud. Maybe the shadow belongs to the cloud. It’s all difficult to determine. Is there something there? Our staff wanted to believe there was, but what? The punchline is much too ephemeral, and should we really be searching for punchlines when discussing the art of the matter? Punchlines, after all, often feel like overwrought transitions when subtle evolutions are much more gratifying.
So maybe your work is much too blunt. Your “Footprints” is literally a picture of rather large footprints, but there is no contrast or prompting of your viewer. Where’s the game in the hunt so to speak when you have simply handed over a rather heavy-handed image as if it is proof of something? We would much more prefer to search for whatever here is to be the essence of your work, but we also need you (as an artist) to be less aloof. I don’t mean to be passive aggressive here and neither do I aim to conflate. But our magazine intends to tread lightly here because we do not aim to box in your process—but perhaps while a there there isn’t necessary, we do need a you there. We need something on which to hang a belief, and so while we cannot accept any of your work to date, we wish you luck in placing these elsewhere and hope to see more of you in the future.
The editorial staff at Hook & Feather
Bryan Harvey‘s work is forthcoming in Hobart Pulp and has appeared in Gravel Magazine, Former Cactus, The Florida Review (online), The Cold Mountain Review, The Shocker, Bluestem Magazine, The Harpoon Review, and elsewhere. He blogs about basketball for Fansided’s The Step Back. He is currently at home with everybody else.