Odette England shares Raymond Meeks’ Somersault
Somersault. It’s a beautiful, curious, smooth-edged word. A person rotating their body 360 degrees around a horizontal axis, their feet passing overhead. It can be performed forwards, backward, or sideways, on almost any surface, even in the air. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we forget how much fun they are. Perhaps because acts of somersaulting laughing, playing, are all too quickly replaced by the somersaulting that happens in our stomachs as adults, worrying about this and that. Especially, worrying about friends and loved ones.
Ray and I have daughters of different ages experiencing all kinds of ordinary and extraordinary changes. Ray’s daughter Abbey is leaving home. My daughter is starting middle school. We are watching our children pass milestones, playing hide and seek with life’s forces whether ready or not. They are coming, going. We are, too.
In response to Ray’s latest photobook Somersault (MACK, 2021), moved by Abbey’s text in the back, I wrote this piece.
I’m Not This Girl Anymore
I’m not this girl anymore. It’s often easier to speak of what’s not. She’s not me, not the real me. We separate ourselves from the representation. My body is not that body. Was, not, was. This over that. Present tense, it’s a curious kind of tension. Also knots, the bane of the frizzy-haired girl.
Photographs are gifted at telling us who they think we are. Which they do in flattering and fault-finding ways. Their perspective is fixed. Ours are as fickle as the honey bees.
Anymore. An adverb that refers to time. It means “at present” “still” or “any longer.” Anymore, I think she’s a photograph.
Where is the land of Anymore? I want to ask Enid Blyton, she’d know. Or Mark Twain. He said we should buy land, they’re not making it anymore.
…busy with microscopic tasks…
The seventeen-year-old girl’s body is a hive of busyness with its own agenda. Sometimes we’re in sync, other times we’ve little or no control over the tasks. Make a to-do list, get that big task done. We task photographs with showing and feeling, macro and micro. Yes, they perform these tasks, but not always well, not always how and when we want them to. They resist our wishes, they’re good at that. Our bodies do too.
Cameras may be the ultimate busybodies.
There’s a lot I could say about the girl in these pictures. Say the words, let them go to seed. We are gifted at hiding away and lying in wait. Photographs too.
We’re simply meeting the expectation set for us. There’s nothing simple about it. We set high expectations for ourselves, and photographs. Letting down, letting go. Imagine meeting yourself in a picture. If I could, I’d warn myself of the expectations. I’d quote from Norma Klein’s It’s Not What You Expect. It was my favorite novel when I was seventeen. I know this line by heart: “Maybe I’ve just seen too many people who achieved things – including the kinds of things Dad thinks will make him happy – and they’re not in such great shape.”
Dads are not like photographs.
I am very much still her, somehow.
An about-face. Whenever we add or emphasize “very much” I think it’s because we’re trying to convince ourselves of a truth. Otherwise, we’d say I am still her. But her is anonymous. Somehow, in some way, by some means. Every photograph is a reason that is not known or specified.
Climb in a photograph, Abbey, and go where she takes you.
Odette England, September 2021.
“Inspired by his daughter’s entrance into adulthood and her imminent departure from home, Raymond Meeks studies the centrifugal forces of the places we live – how they anchor us, repel us, and return to us – through scenes that appear both fragile and immovable. In these photographs, gardens give way to thicket, houses are suspended on stacked railroad ties, and telephone wires and train lines suggest the networks we build to find our way through the world’s wilderness.
Among these domestic landscapes are portraits of Meeks’ daughter, which capture the introspection and inquisitiveness of early adulthood while paying tribute to the ultimate mystery of their subject’s consciousness. Following the success of Meeks’ previous book, ciprian honey cathedral, Somersault is a concise, poetic reflection on home and the ties that bind us to it — all the stronger as they fade into the half-light.”
Embossed hardback with tip-in
17 x 24.5 cm, 72 pages
€40 £35 $50
Raymond Meeks (Ohio, 1963) has been recognized for his books and pictures centered on memory and place, the way in which a landscape can shape an individual and, in the abstract, how a place possesses you in its absence. His books have been described as a field or vertical plane for examining interior co-existences, as life moves in circles and moments and events—often years apart—unravel and overlap, informing new meanings.
Raymond Meeks lives and works in the Hudson Valley (New York). His work is represented in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Bibliotheque Nationale, France, and the George Eastman House, with recent solo exhibitions at Casemore Kirkeby in San Francisco and Wouter van Leeuwen in Amsterdam. His 2018 book Halfstory Halflife (chose commune) was a finalist for the 2018 Paris Photo/Aperture Photobook of the Year Award. Ciprian Honey Cathedral was published by MACK in Autumn of 2020 and was shortlisted for the Rencontres D’arles Book Awards 2021, Author Book Award.
Raymond Meeks is a 2020 recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography.
Follow Ray on Instagram:@raymondmeeks Follow Mack Books: @mack_
Odette England uses photography, image archives, and text to explore home, autobiography, female labor, and ritual. The isolated rural community in which she was raised and snapshots made by her extended family serve as raw material and inspiration. She has exhibited her work in more than 100 museums, galleries, and art spaces worldwide. Recent honors include a $42,500 grant as Artist-In-Residence Fellow at Amherst College, Light Work $5,000 Artist-in-Residence Fellowship, 3×8 Nature Artist-in-Residence Fellowship in Lecce, Italy, Silver Eye Center for Photography Fellowship, and Firecracker Photographic Grant.
She has two new photobooks out now: Past Paper Present Marks: Responding to Rauschenberg (Radius Books) with fellow artist and Guggenheim Fellow Jennifer Garza-Cuen; and Dairy Character (Saint Lucy Books), winner of the 2021 Light Work Book Award ($5,000).
Follow Odette on Instagram: @odetteengland
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