A Story for Brea Souders


Brea Souders, Film Electric, 2013


She walked down the sloping path toward her studio in the after dinner dark, the taste of soupy flan still on her tongue. The waxing moon overhead was playing hide and seek with the tall pines and the loosely knotted blanket of clouds sliding in from the east. The old batteries in her flashlight could only produce a faint beam that nodded up and down in unison with her steps. She kicked stones as a warning to any nearby skunks, goblins or the rare black bear that sometimes passed through the woods in this part of New Hampshire.  At a sudden rustle she directs the beam to the side of the path where she thinks she catches sight of a raccoon’s tail scampering away through the underbrush. She isn’t sure if she saw anything really, but was certain she would remember the image and in that case there was little difference between illusion and actuality.

Once inside the studio she switched on all the lights, bouncing floodlights off the cathedral ceiling, turning on desk lamps and even the night light in the bathroom. Like an emphatic response to nocturnal blindness, she created an internal sun; barely a shadow could escape the scattering illumination.  Reflecting some of the wayward light about 10 feet outside the north facing windows, a stand of paper white birch looked like pale and nervous tendrils reaching for the forest canopy. Photography is all about light of course, but in her images, light was not just a tool but a presence, a character, an obliterating force or benevolent companion, an energy that intersected with human affairs but took no fixed position in the ancient binary of good and bad.

She stood above her worktable and began to cut up old negatives and slide film, allowing the slivers of silver and dye to fall randomly. With occasional pangs of indecision, she remembers each image as the scissor blades sliced through the legs of a young woman, the ear of a bunny, or the sturdy stems of forsythia. Shards of underexposed frames, light-leaked edges, awkward compositions, and redundant poses, drop like petals into discarded bouquets.  Sometimes the fragments spread across the paper in a manner that reminded her of photographic hieroglyphics communicating from a space in between image and mark.  At other times the pieces clung together via static electricity, gathering in tight clusters to create dense and opaque geometries with bits of transparency jutting out around the edge. Her actions straddled photography’s analog past and its digital future, but she did not want to force a predetermined meaning and instead hoped to discover one. She wanted photography to be more than just a window pointing to something else; she hoped these chance arrangements might sing a new song.

Sensing the night had almost passed and the glow of the outside would soon compete with that of the inside, she switched off all of the lights and turned toward the wall of north-facing windows.  Obscuring the view upon the lightening sky but still dark woods were hundreds of Luna Moths clinging to the surface of the glass. Filling the window frames to the edge, their furry white bodies sprouted enormous yet graceful pale green wings with eye-shaped markings that seemed to be staring at her expectantly, fluttering in a slow-motion plea for entry.


© Mark Alice Durant