20/20 Tacoma In Images and Verse

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This is a project from back in 2010… a collaboration with a group of 20 poets.  The project culminated in an exhibit and public reading at the Tacoma Art Museum.

Below is the intro to the small book of the project.

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.    T. S. Eliot

I have to admit, I’ve never been a big poetry fan.  So, it seems rather odd that at this point in life I should suddenly have an interest in it and undertake a project of this magnitude.   Perhaps it is because poetry and photography share a similar ethos and aesthetic, a kinship grounded in the simplicity of expression. If a picture is worth a thousand words, it is the poem’s elegant economy of language which draws out attention leaving us spellbound.   Photography too communicates in ways we don’t always fully understand. Who has not stood in awe and wonder while gazing at the work of Cartier-Bresson, Steichen, Curtis or Adams? In 20/20 we bring both together and the results do not disappoint.

I first became acquainted with Michael Magee, my collaborator on 20/20, after Michael wrote several poems based on my photos in a poetry contest some years ago.   It is hard to explain the sudden bond I felt with him and another participant, poet Brian Desmond (a poet in 20/20). Suffice to say that the experience had a profound and lasting impact on all my work since.  

20/20 has been a similar experience.  We invited a group of poets to write poems based on a collection of my Tacoma work to culminate in a show and reading.  During our editing sessions, I would often ask Michael to read the poems out loud. He is a terrific poet and an excellent reader of poetry.  To suddenly discover rhythm and new story emerge from my work is exhilarating. It is one thing to have someone offer kind words of praise about a photo but quite a different matter to hear praise arise obliquely from the poet’s voice and hand.

I am humbled and inspired by the work of these gifted poets.  I thank them for their generous contribution to this project and to my growth as an artist.

Peter Serko

November 2010