Being Present, Coming Home, and Unrequited Correspondence, An Interview with Photographer Eva Deitch
Last year we had the pleasure of connecting with Photographer Eva Deitch, first at Basilica Farm and Flea and then more deeply when she asked us some beautiful interview questions. We are honored to continue this conversation and share her mindful perspective, her thoughtful photography, and her unrequited correspondence. Enjoy!
We met at the Basilica Farm & Flea when you bought our I'm Here card. Can you share why you were inspired to purchase that card and how you used it?
First off, I’m thrilled to have connected with you and that our meeting has made this exchange possible.
The “I’m Here" card caught my eye for it’s simplicity in design and the power to convey a message in two words. I had recently started a meditation practice at that time, so the present moment was something I was thinking and reading about quite a bit. "I’m here" is a really nice mantra.While the card you’ve created will most likely be sent to someone as a reminder that you are there for them in a time of need, I bought it for myself as a conceptual memento of the present state of mind.
In your work you desire for people to feel more intimately connected to their world, and in turn, a deeper connection to themselves. Can you tell us more about how you facilitate that "coming home”?
Ooooo, I love that term “coming home” in regards to connecting to oneself. Thank you for saying it. It makes me think of the poem “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott who recently passed. The first time I read that poem, I bawled. I found it so moving and really craved to know myself in that way.
I don’t know if photographs have the ability to impact people in the way they used to, but this idea that people can feel more connected to themselves through a deeper connection to the world is a general hope I have for humanity, so I’m going to try and encourage that through my work. I think where I am finding success is the esoteric quality of the imagery I’m making. The moments I capture are quiet and visually compelling, which invites people to pause and consider what it is they are looking at. For example, it’s just an image of stainless steel measuring cups on the window sill, but why does this mundane scene provoke something more. I’ve been told this by people who see my work.
Even though the act of taking photographs is very personal to me, I make photos for other people. A lot of the imagery we look at now a days feels fabricated or a testament to the lives of those taking the image. We feel like we are looking at a life separate or different from ours, but what if an image helped us notice those same things in our own lives and made us feel more connected to others. This is what I’m ultimately trying to do. I’m asking, “ Did you notice?”.
Noticing is a spiritual act…it’s life changing.
"The moments I capture are quiet and visually compelling, which invites people to pause and consider what it is they are looking at."
We love this question from our interview with you and would like to ask it back, what correlation do you find between making photographs and being present?
Being present and making photographs are again about noticing. About understanding what is really happening, not what we think is happening. The camera is just a tool to facilitate and navigate this. The type of photographs I make requires connecting to what’s happening around me in the moment and using my intuition and experiences from the past to anticipate what might be coming next. This is how strong images are made in the wild. I’ve always loved documentary and street photography for this reason. Photographer Andre Wagner is doing this so well right now.
You recently posted a photograph of Joan Juliet Buck and said, " The Hudson Valley is filled with prominent figures like Joan, who are now looking to connect with the quieter, simpler, more natural sides of life." Is this statement true for you as a resident of The Hudson Valley? How do you connect with the quieter, simpler, and more natural sides of life?
This is definitely true for me. I moved from Chicago to The Hudson Valley with my husband at the end of 2015 and immediately felt the effects of having more space around me. Not knowing a single person in the town we moved to, gave me an opportunity to take some time for myself with very little social obligation. Having NYC a 90 minute train ride away is perfect and I love the journey into Grand Central. I enjoy soaking up the energy in the city and bringing it back with me to the Hudson Valley. However, the sounds of the birds, the river, a front porch with a sunset view wins in my book. I connect with these quite, simple, natural sides of life by meditating, reading poetry, writing, lighting candles, sitting by the water as the waves lap against the shore and connecting with other people. For your readers living in a city, I find that visiting a botanical conservatory, taking a walk alone and people watching, perusing books at the library or the magazine rack at a bookstore, or striking up a conversation with a stranger also have the ability to slow you down and enrich your day.
Most of your photos on Instagram are in black and white and then occasionally some in color. Tell us more about that choice and how you decide which photos should exist in which scheme.
In the digital age, I think about this choice a lot. When you shoot film, you make the decision before hand, with digital files you can change your mind later. I usually choose whether a photo will be black and white or color based on what the image contains. It’s about the light or shapes in the image, whether I think the color will become distracting or enhance the scene. I like the diaristic and “truthful” quality that black and white images emote. So I guess you could say it’s partly an aesthetic choice and partly the conceptual motive or message of the image that decides how I’ll share it.
In November you started an unrequited correspondence series of photographs. Where did this idea come from and what are you exploring in writing correspondence that won't be answered?
It’s hard for me to pin point where an idea comes from, they usually can't be traced to a single source. I find that everything I create stems from experiences, insights and inspirations cumulated over years. When I started this project I had been reading bits and pieces of correspondences between the great writers, artists and thinkers of our time on the site Brain Pickings and had been contemplating the boundaries of art practice and life (practice). The first time I wrote an unrequited correspondence, it was spontaneous. I was walking around making images, then sat down to write, and the idea just manifested itself right there. I shot the first images with my camera phone. The concept of writing notes that won’t get answered is something I think we all do frequently. We may not write these thoughts down, but we are constantly engaged in an unrequited correspondence with the things we choose not to share, whether it's dreams we have for the future, the things one might request through prayer, and the words intentionally withheld from someone even though we are looking them right in the face. The notes I write are deeply personal. They are my hopes, questions, or things I want to say but don’t know how or can’t for whatever reason. In someways writing them makes me feel brave, in someways cowardly.
What do you hope these written acts will achieve?
Sometimes I fantasize about someone digging around and finding one, which sparks a rush of feelings, but mostly I imagine them disintegrating, unearthed by anyone. For people viewing the project, I imagine it will spark curiosity in what I wrote, but also in what they might write knowing no one will ever read it. It’s one thing to think something, another to put it out into the world in a tangible way...there is always a possibility someone could find it…that feels vulnerable. I think by burying these notes, I’m also playing into my own magical daydreams of stumbling upon objects of the past or places undiscovered. I want to believe that all that is sacred is not lost...this is my way of replenishing that well.