Matthew Orr

Critique of an Excerpt of My Father’s Portfolio

Geoffrey, if I can offer a critique it is this: while your work is of course well-executed and displays great potential, what I keep seeing is this notion, a suggestion in what you do, as if implicit to each design, that something is happening. A connection is there whether I want one or not. Comparatively, when we compare this to something else, say, Uncle Bill’s work, or even Grandma Shirley’s recent retrospective in the attic, the exact opposite occurs. In them, I see the distinct possibility that nothing is happening. No connection is there except chance and accident. Then again, these are different people, your relatives. Uncle Bill always says, “See the big picture,” and I sense an indifferent, documentarian quality to the way Grandma Shirley smokes alone in the evening. Regarding the neighborhood as an old camera on the porch with its f-stop thrown open. Nothing to see except chance and accidents. My personal opinion is that she finds the idea of nothing far more compelling than the idea of something. Which is not to necessarily say that she is a proponent of nothing, or believes that nothing is the answer to everything. I just think she likes to leave the idea of nothing as a very real possibility.

Have you heard of Anne Marshall? She writes textbooks on photography and is married to your brother. In the revised edition of her Picture This series (DoubleImage Press, Cement City, OH), she ends each chapter with a series of questions. Originally, I had thought they were meant to be rhetorical, though recently I discovered an answer key just behind the index. Chapter Nine, “Matters of Perspective” goes as follows:

Think of it as an act of photography. Can a zoom lens really take a picture without a subject? When looking at a cluttered and unfocused snapshot of some drunken family reunion in the high heat of summer, is it possible that the photographer clicked his camera when no one was looking? His finger pushing the button as a fly buzzed about him and he had thought to scratch his nose? (Marshall 66)

Matthew Orr was born in Ossineke, Michigan. His work has previously appeared in Unsaid, Smalls and Xylem. He is concerned primarily with fiction writing and running long distances.

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