I just added a tabbed page to That’s a Negative that will host a selection of my published pieces about photography. I will add essays and reviews gradually, and am kicking things off with a creative piece from many lifetimes ago, called “Proposals for an Imaginary Photographer.” I don’t plan to run these older pieces in their entirety here, but am making an exception for “Proposals,” which I wrote in that faraway year of 2000. This was originally published two years later in Glasstire, reprinted here exactly as it first appeared, minus a few typos/formatting errors.
Proposals for an Imaginary Photographer
Pretend aliens have landed on Earth. Document their presence. Look for clues. What ceases to be suspect? Can you be sure? Convince me.
Make 36 religious photographs that make no overt reference to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other organized religion.
Anonymous, “Human Jigsaw by an American Unit,” c. 1925
Show me a storyboard of failure. In reverse, does it spell success?
Please imagine, just for a day, that you are a dwarf. Nobody looks at you but your children. You can not drive, get a job, nor earn your father’s love. You have never been kissed on the lips. What does today look like?
Would you like to be an action painter? A physicist in repose? An actor between jobs or a Tejano musician at 1:30 Saturday morning? What time would you wake up if you worked the press line for a major newspaper? How many earplugs would be on the front seat of your car? Where are you going on that plane overhead? What did you do fourteen years ago? Fifty years from now?
Herbert Bayer, “Self-Portrait Before a Mirror,” 1932
In a boutique, I saw a bar of soap with a photograph inside of it. What picture would you clean yourself with?
What does a low-rider photograph look like?
Show me a cycle. Now a tri-cycle.
Anders Petersen, from “Nobody Has Seen it All,” n.d.
Take vacation photographs without changing your daily routine.
Please pinpoint, in one photograph, the midpoint between sex and death.
What is the strangest picture you know? Whatever pops into your head, re-photograph it.
Arno Minnkinen, “Self-portrait with Daniel, White House Overlook, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona,” 1995
Propose a condensed historical view — of your life, of language, of art, in a suite of photographs. Does it have a soundtrack?
Do you ever think about God?
What is the closest you can get to a barking dog or a naked senior citizen?
Please make a picture for someone you miss.