6 ways of looking at things right in front of me

Here are some of the things I have been looking at that caused me to reach for my smartphone camera. Since, sometimes, you just point and shoot without thinking too deeply about it. Or as the 18th century Japanese Confucianist philosopher, historian, and poet Rai San’yo put it:

Let us sit together
On a mat of reeds
And watch the mountains
Turn purple in the sunset.

~ Rai San’yo

Photography by Douglas John Imbrogno

‘Rectangular Life’

Every rectangle on view is a Russian novel of a life, with multiple characters, endless dramas, highs and lows, losses and lost glories, dreams and desperate nights, hopes and happinesses—however long these last, until the next doubt, the next kindness, the next gift, the next dawn. | St. Albans, West Virginia apartment complex | june 2023 | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photography

‘A Bridge So Far’

The cable-stayed East Huntington Bridge in Guyandotte, W.Va., just east of downtown Huntington, can be seen from on high in Rotary Park near Barboursville. Back in the early 1980s, when I was a tousle-haired cub reporter at the Huntington Herald-Dispatch and eager to take on any offbeat assignment, I rode to the top of that main pylon in a construction bucket as the bridge was under construction. A handful of us were hauled hundreds of feet up there via cables. “Nah, I don’t have acrophobia,” I said to the site construction supervisor.

Well, wait. Um … I meant I didn’t have ‘ground-based‘ acrophobia. I should have scratched my initials on the top of the pylon. Or peed off the top, which, given the bucket’s sway on the way upwards would not have been all that difficult. My kidneys let me know that. The cable-stayed support of the bridge deck was the first of its kind in West Virginia when it opened in August 1985, and only the third such design in America, at the time. I covered the dedication, too, as Gov. Arch Moore helicoptered in from Charleston, his pilot landing, if I recall correctly, right upon the West Virginia side of the deck. | june 2023 | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photography | PS: Read more on the bridge’s history here.

‘Black Meets Black’

Luna the Cat considered as a work of art. I snapped her one recent day in the living room after she rose from a nap upon a bed of her toys. I would like to say I composed and worked with the light and then masterfully fine-tweaked some settings to come up with this offbeat, cool shot. But I just poked one of the photo settings on my iPhone that dropped out the stuff all around this dear creature, isolating her tuxedo cat-ness against an all-black backdrop. The setting highlighted her own blackness, with her ruffly, fluffy, white bib looking as if she were dressed for a night out at the feline opera. june 2023 | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photography

‘Roll On.’

The two cyclists were pulled off the trail in Rotary Park, taking a break to sip water from bike-mounted water bottles. “Go easy on your father, he’s not a young sprite like you!” I told the boy, as I came upon them while strolling down the lane on a fine West Virginia afternoon. The boy grinned, wide and happy. His feet reached for the pedals as he began to roll once more. “We’re gonna stay out here all day!”

The Dad got himself moving, too. A wrinkled smile. “We’ll have to see about that,” he said. “I appreciate you,” he says to me as he catches up, then rolls onward. And off they went, with me quick-snapping about ten phone-camera shots, later settling on the one that worked best. Appreciating them. | june2023 | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photography

‘Dulcimer Nights’

My good friend Jim Probst is a furniture maker/designer of some note. You’ll find his company up an unassuming holler way out in Hamlin, W.Va., given the quality of the nationally known work which emanates from there. But Jim has also long harbored a dream of playing out regularly on his instrument of choice, the lap dulcimer. His style is ethereal and lovely—I call it ‘new-age dulcimer‘— even if he will be the first one to diss himself as a musician. Yet he has sounded good on the dulcimer for a long time. See this video I did in 2010 for The Charleston Gazette, about Jim and “The Chair That Went for a Walk,” set to a score of his sweet instrumental “Creekside.” (Click to read the short interview I posted with the video for more on his backstory.)

The above photograph comes from a June 2023 performance at the swan song of The Vandalia Sessions, a fabulous ‘listening room’ open mic concocted for several months in downtown Huntington WV, by videographer, musician, and sound-and-video maestro Bobby Lee Messer (my frequent award-winning documentary and video production partner). Vandalia Sessions is no more, at least for the moment. But I suspect Jim will be playing on and playing out even more. One can hope. Especially now that he and I, and others have been so jazzed by playing our music in a quiet room with an attentive audience, which is just the best. (Here are some samples of Jim playing in noisier rooms like this and this). | june2023 | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photography

‘Curvature of the Earth’

I travel upriver a lot, along W.Va. 2, paralleling the Ohio, fleeing wherever more than two human beings are gathered. Seeking to commune, rather, with egrets, red-tailed hawks, and Great Blue Herons. There are some fine rolling fences out that way, demarcating the green, green hills of Earth. march2021 | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photography


Looking in on the old grain silos upriver, before they go down: The only sounds I hear while standing at the foot of the silos is the whip and whoosh of occasional traffic on W.Va. 2, a trail mix of various birds charting out their personal space in song, and now and again the wind whistling through the portals of these abandoned legacies of a pre-industrial rural heartland.

Pondering some views other than the dismal, daunting breaking news: From where I recline in my living room right now in the West Virginia exurbs, I hear the tree frogs rasp outside on a starry night, clinging to the scaly bark and branches of sycamore, pine, and maple trees on our property. Time to think of something other than the news …

For updates on new essays, poems, diatribes, photo essays, experimental videos & sorta memoir excerpts, subscribe to this site’s free e-mail newsletter: TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply