True Poems Flee
I run down to the shore – if running is the right word, as I clumsily juggle
my tripod and camera and concern myself with not tripping on a jutting root or
turning my ankle in a divot in the bumpy ground – and hope to get there in
time to make a picture of that perfect cloud formation. But then, those clouds
move to the east and a ray of light appears, and a new scene, a new poem, appears…
then flees almost as quickly as it appeared, maybe before I can make the picture.
I wait… and keep photographing. Is there one even better moment still to come?
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Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens of the South
One early September afternoon I found myself on the porch of Bea Robinson’s
house in Athens, Georgia. While my friend Sara Glickman and Bea chatted
about their lives, I looked around and became entranced by Bea’s garden. Something
came over me – or through me – as I stood in the garden, looking,
feeling, sensing the energy or magic or spirit, call it what you will, that
surrounded me. On that warm, soft, sunny day I took the first of what
has turned into a series of photographs with which I continue to be deeply
involved fifteen years later.
Vaughn's book Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens is now available from Amazon and other bookstores.
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I have chosen objects from nature one by one, found them, dug them, preserved
them – a squirrel’s skeleton, poplar saplings that sprout from
one long root, broken egg shells lying on the forest floor. I have taken
them, or been given them, from the land on Prince Edward Island where my
grandparents visited each summer, where I now have a cottage. I chose these
things because of their extraordinary beauty – and because they seem
to hold the mystery of life and death.
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While traveling in Georgia nearly
twenty-five years ago, I stopped at a small mill worker’s house to
photograph two children who were playing in the front yard. Soon their
mother, Lois, came out and joined in the picture-making; on that day and
the next, I photographed them and one older sister who later arrived; and
ever since, I have been photographing this family, including Lois, her husband
Joel, their seven children, and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As
I returned almost every year, bringing pictures and making more, the Tooles
came to accept me as part of their lives, and I came to know much of the
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