This is my work: to sit quietly in the open air and watch a grosbeak walk sideways along the thinnest branches of the longest limbs of the tallest oak tree, his throat a crimson banner blazing in the afternoon sun. It is also my peace. © stephanie g pepper, 2023
I didn’t read near as much in 2022 as I have in the past couple of years. I think my brain worked more in images than words. Even so, I got a little bit of reading in. I finished off Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead series (put off several years after reading Gilead, because, well, not my favorite), found myself drawn to memoirs (do yourself a favor and read both Agassi’s and Brandi Carlile’s), and studied photographs in several collections, some of which I didn’t get all the way through so I didn’t include. I even branched out into audiobooks, a trend that appears to be continuing in 2023. So, here it is wrapped up, reading list, v.2022.
The Wild Iris, Louise Glück
Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot
Appalachian Elegy, bell hooks
New and Selected Poems, Volume One, Mary Oliver
Blue Horses, Mary Oliver
The Polaroid Diaries, Linda McCartney
Wide Open, Linda McCartney
Sun Prints, Linda McCartney
Photo Basics, Joel Sartore
Advanced ICM Techniques, Roxanne Bouché Overton
Home, Marilynne Robinson
Beheld, TaraShea Nesbit
Lila, Marilynne Robinson
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel
Home, Toni Morrison
Jack, Marilynne Robinson
Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret?, Judy Blume
creativity; Where the Divine and the Human Meet, Matthew Fox
Poet Warrior, Joy Harjo
Open, Andre Agassi
How to Sell Your Art Online, Cory Huff
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers, Deborah Heiligman
Midlife and the Great Unknown, David Whyte
creativity, John Cleese
Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile
Over the last year, creative energy has been manifesting in images more than words. I’ve gone deeper into photography than I ever expected–sharpening my skill, honing my eye, digging into new techniques and processes. It’s been a rewarding time, and while I haven’t written much in the way of poetry, that doesn’t mean that I have not been creating. In addition to concert photography, I’ve explored not only traditional photography, but sun prints, image transfers, and a new (to me) technique called Intentional Camera Movement. I’ve assembled a nice portfolio of work. So to support this facet of my creative endeavors, I recently launched a new website and I’d like to introduce you to this new aspect of my creative life.
Presenting: Stephanie Pepper Studios
Here you’ll find a sampling of my work, as well as a shop where both limited edition and open edition prints can be purchased. I hope you’ll take some time to look around and maybe even get lost in these images.
No matter how far
I carry myself
or where I land,
I’ve no doubt that when,
deep into the dry summer,
begins to fall and
tumbles across the
you will find me on my
with a sweating jar of
muttering, “mm-hmm, we needed this.”
Earlier this year I read Louise Glück’s collection The Wild Iris. The cover photo intrigued me as much as the poems and I searched the cover to find out about the artist.
Anna Atkins. An English botanist who lived during the 1800s.
The photo: “Iris pseudacorus,” a cyanotype ca. 1861. Cyanotypes are one of the earliest forms of photography, and Atkins was one of the first to use the process to document the plants she studied.
I read a bit about cyanotypes, and the process; tucked it away as something interesting to maybe try later.
Later has become Now.
Cyanotypes harness the power of the sun to develop photos or objects laid on paper treated with a sensitizer–a mix of Potassium Ferricyanide and Ferric Ammonium Citrate. The treated paper is painted with the sensitizer and left to dry in the dark. Once dry, objects such as flowers or leaves, or a photo negative–in my case, a digital photo that has been converted to grayscale, inverted, and printed on a transparency–is laid on the paper and placed in the sun. The painted surface turns from yellowish-green, to deep bronze as Brother Sun goes about his work. Development takes as little as three minutes. The paper is then washed in cold water and the exposed areas turn a deep Prussian blue, while the unexposed areas–areas that were covered–turn white. It’s a bit like magic, and I love it.
SUN PRINTS USING PRESSED FLOWERS
SUN PRINTS USING PHOTO NEGATIVES
I have plenty to figure out about what works and what doesn’t, but I’m having fun!
PS: I later found out Linda McCartney did sun prints, too. *hearteyes emoji*
The moon was a beautiful splinter last night, hanging amber in the indigo sky, while threads of milky purple clouds drifted by like lazy hitchhikers on a deserted highway. Oh, I wanted a picture—or two— but between arriving home and chopping onions for soup, leaving no time to get the camera, the moon dropped behind the trees, then, slipped below the horizon, out of reach, out of time. If I’d known— if I’d known, I would’ve stood in her light a little longer, gazed more fully, breathed more deeply, taking in the angled crescent nodding luminous in the muted night. I carry it now, a photograph in my mind, as I do all beautiful things. ©stephanie g pepper, 2020
How many drops make a river where silver bellied fish flash in the sun? How many make the puddle in the pothole where a robin splashes in the rain? For that matter, how many make this mug, make this spoonful, make a cup, make a kettle? How many make a spring storm, that soaks the winter weary earth? Don’t ask about the ocean-- it’s futile to guess. So. What is one more drop, or another tear that falls?
©stephanie g pepper, 2022
“McCartney has a formidable acuity of gaze, but her pictures eschew the perfectionism of a photographer like him [Henri Cartier-Bresson] for something that embraces instead the informal, accidental beauty of lived experience.”from the introduction to “The Polaroid Diaries”
After catching small glimpses of Linda Eastman (later McCartney, of course) in “The Beatles: Get Back” I became smitten with her work. And reading more, her whole way of looking at the world, whether through a lens or not. Particularly mesmerizing are her Polaroid transfers. Misty and muted; enchanted, as though what she’s seeing is just beyond the Veil.
–a winter rose.
–scattered maples leaves on a wooden walkway.
McCartney captured the extraordinary magic of ordinary moments.
Her daughter Mary says, “She’d always just be looking for everyday moments that interested her rather than manicured scenes. She wanted real moments.”
I wanted to try it myself, but I don’t have a Polaroid camera. So…I improvised.
And there is my new art.
Window Poems, Wendell Berry
Conamara Blues: Poems, John O’Donohue
100 Poems, Seamus Heaney
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems, Joy Harjo
The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry
Given: Poems, Wendell Berry
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver
Bright Dead Things: Poems, Ada Limón
The Mad Farmer Poems, Wendell Berry
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: poems, Marie Howe
Breathing the Water, Denise Levertov
Entries: poems, Wendell Berry
Red Suitcase, Naomi Shihab Nye
Station Island, Seamus Heaney
What Do We Know: poems and prose poems, Mary Oliver
Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey: poems 1991-1995, Hayden Carruth
How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons), Barbara Kingsolver
Dearly, Margaret Atwood
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton
A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There, Aldo Leopold
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, J. Drew Lanham
Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, Mirabai Starr
Standing by Words: essays, Wendell Berry
Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer
The Beginner’s Photography Guide, Chris Gatcum
If Women Rose Rooted: a life-changing journey to authenticity and belonging, Sharon Blackie
It All Turns on Affection, The Jefferson Lecture & Other Essays, Wendell Berry
Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés
The Body Knows the Way: Coming Home Through the Dark Night, Gordon Peerman
Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy, edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll
Wild Like Flowers, The Restoration of Relationship through Regeneration, Daniel Firth Griffith
The Long-Legged House: essays, Wendell Berry
Late Migrations; A Natural History of Love and Loss, Margaret Renkl
The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
Fidelity: Five Stories, Wendell Berry
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Memory of Old Jack, Wendell Berry
The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow
The Wild Birds: Six Stories of the Port William Membership, Wendell Berry
Remembering, Wendell Berry
Circe, Madeline Miller
A World Lost: a novel, Wendell Berry
This morning I had a long conversation with a winter wren. I’m not sure what passed between us, exactly, only that something did. Something that left me feeling joyful… giddy, almost… and definitely delighted. All afternoon I considered this, and wondered why such a secretive little bird would call me out for a chat, which, clearly, she did, kit-kittering loudly all around me until, at last, I called out “hello, Little One,” and rose to find her in the undergrowth. She did not startle and fly away at my approach, but studied me quite carefully as I spoke. Neither was she injured, as she crept around under the rocks and hopped among the tangled thickets, a worm dangling from her fine, sharp beak, chittering all the while. And now, night has fallen fully, and the moon peers out behind the clouds, and I—delighted and grateful—am no closer to knowing what, exactly, passed between me and the winter wren.
©stephanie g pepper, 2021