January 2, 2013

The Perfect Tree, The Devil’s Tea Table, Industrial Ruins, and Todd Martin’s Beautiful Short Film on Social Justice

By flip holsinger In Cormac McCarthy, God, haiti, journalism ethics, photo technique, photojournalism, portsmouth ohio, Uncategorized, War

*two videos at end of post

On January 1, 2010 I was depressed. I climbed in a vehicle with my pal Todd Martin of the post-punk rock band Mothman and went in search of photographs to paint a picture of my mood. I’m depressed, I told him. And Todd knew just where to take me.

Todd knows a lot about places that elicit particular moods. It is how he feeds his music. Once when we were in college he drove me across half the state of Ohio to see a tree in a field. It is the world’s most perfect tree, he declared. Someone said so in a book, he told me. We stood and stared at it. And it was perfect. The symmetry of limb and leafs forming the globe-like circumference was like one of those static electricity orbs. Only it was light brown and lime green against a pale sky instead of glass and lightning in a dark room. Another time Todd drove me in his specially outfitted Land Cruiser deep into a hilly woodland where it seemed no road had been. It was dusk and the deep valleyed forest was wet and we smelled the earth and leafs as we plowed slowly through trees and creeks to a strange rock outcropping known as The Devil’s Tea Table.

Todd knew where to take me on New Year’s Day when I said I was depressed. And these images from that day reflect the mood of my spirit precisely: Cold and slippery.

It is an exercise in self-pity, what I do sometimes. But more and more I am starting to see that a good amount of my so-called journalism is just me using different “stories” to explore or express something going on inside me.

But it works. It is like exorcising demons. I photograph it out of me. I turn my camera toward ice sicles the size of thighs. I turn to chemical-poisoned concrete. Crumbling walls. Heaps of metal forms I know not the meaning of. And once they are printed it is as if my bones warm again.

It was a good thing Todd took me to those old steel mill bones because not eleven days later I was summoned to Haiti to deal with the aftermath of the deadly earthquake. Somehow I left some of my sour blood in those dead mills and came back prepared for a new work. When I arrived in Haiti in the third week of January I was ready to listen again and see what others were needing me to say with my cameras for them.

Below is a video slide show of the above images. Below that is a beautiful film short by Todd Martin. Todd’s film was shot at one of his locations where he goes in search of meaning and mood.

1 Comment
  1. Don Willis November 21, 2011

    Amazing. You have come so far as a photographer, Phil. I’ve never seen so much emotion in photos. Never. This blog should win a thousand awards. And very nice short film by Todd, also.

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