I have a body of work that is rather unique. I have been working on it since 2013 in a quasi-secret manner.
From time to time I think of doing something with it because I find it deeply interesting on a variety of levels: it has elements of visual storytelling, it is a commentary on the current state of our country and world and in a way, it shines a light on the strength of the human spirit.
Some of you know what I am about to say.
My name is Julie and I love taking photos of shopping carts, abandoned in places other than grocery store parking lots.
Today I was on my morning walk on a path near my home in an urban series of parkways surrounding the Kern River. This particular section of it is mostly unknown to others. I have for years thought of it as an “underbelly place”.
Nonetheless, I can walk there and oftentimes feel as immersed in nature as if I was far from home. I certainly wasn’t expecting to come upon this glorious shopping cart in the midst of vines, moonblossoms and sunflower patches.
I sent the four shots I took to one of my “real artist” friends. Naturally he exclaimed his admiration.
“But which has the best composition, in your opinion?” I asked him. “You’re always telling me to feature the photo has the best composition.”
One of my rules for this body of work is to not move anything I come upon, but that I may circle around and move however I see fit. In this case, I quietly looked around for the owner of this particular cart. When I see them in places like this, it is usually in a “doorway” to a make shift shelter.
There was nothing like that here.
I didn’t want to anger the owner.
I took four photos in total and the one above is my favorite.
Once again, I fully enjoyed and immersed myself in an underbelly place, a space many people would be afraid to visit much less use as a subject of art.
I first discovered this space when I was unschooling Samuel in the first grade. I had discovered his behavior problems were actually caused by autism. At that time, I didn’t know a child with autism could also teach himself to read and be very intelligent.
School became a torture chamber of an experience and I believed because autism has a strong social element, he needed to be in a conventional school setting for his life long success and set the district to work to on a plan for his education that was suitable for his unique needs – maybe this video was the genesis of my interest in “underbelly” places. Interesting, because this was a “blind” self-portrait. I couldn’t see myself as I took the video unlike the videos of today.
I doubt anyone else beside me will ever care about my shopping cart/underbelly obsession.
I’m currently re-reading “Letters to a Young Poet” a collection of responses from Rainer Rilke in a correspondence where a young man pondered a similar question:
“Will anyone besides me ever care about my poetry?” he wondered. Rainer Rilke wrote a series of letters to a young poet in the military academy he once attended. That earnest young poet, Frank Xaver Kappus, sent poems for Rilke to peruse. Most notably, he sought approval and commentary.
In his first letter back to Mr. Kappus, Rainer Rilke suggests he stop asking for opinions from other people. He wrote,
“Nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There’s only one way to proceed. Go inside yourself. Explore the reason that compels you to write; test whether it stretches your roots into the deepest part of your heart, admit to yourself whether you would have to die if the opportunity to write were withheld from you. Above all, ask yourself at your most silent hour, must I write? Dig inside yourself for a deep answer. And if the answer is yes, if it is possible for you to respond to this serious question with a strong and simple I must, then build your life on the basis of this necessity.”
I decided long ago it doesn’t matter if anyone cares or doesn’t care about these photos. What matters is I care. What matters is I enjoy the process. What matters is I grow as a writer and observer of life as well as growing as a photographer.
If my necessity of life is to enjoy my life as a creative – and allow the space for my heart to dance with glee when I come upon a seen like a shopping cart on a walking path like this – that is enough. Any other recognition is a bonus.
Julie JordanScott, the Creative Life Midwife, is a writer, a poet performer, a Creativity Coach, A Social Media Whiz and a Mother of three. One of her greatest joys include loving people into their greatness they just aren’t quite able to realize yet.
Julie is also one of the Founders of Bridge to the New Year. Join us now in mid-2020 in #Refresh2020 to reflect, connect, intend and taking passionate action to create a truly remarkable rest of 2020.