Utne Blogs > Literature

A Thousand Words

 by Julie Hanus

Tags: creative nonfiction, photography, visual arts, writing about art, X-Tra, 1 Image 1 Minute, Micol Hebron, Chas Bowie, Bill Thomas, Paul Minden,

a snapshot.For anyone who ever has picked up an unfamiliar photograph and pondered its meaning, LA-based arts magazine X-Tra runs a captivating column. “1 Image 1 Minute,” curated (so to speak) by visual/performance artist Micol Hebron, always features two images, each one complemented with a one-minute narrative from an artist or writer describing the significance therein.

Sometimes the narratives are straight-forwardly analytical; in the Summer 2008 issue, for example, writer Chas Bowie responds to photographer Bill Thomas’ disturbing self-portrait Rats and Syringes. Other narratives are more personal, poignant peeks into the lives of others. In the Spring 2008 issue, writer Paul Minden describes deciphering a photograph taken of his father in Romania in 1939 (article not available online):

“What’s interesting about this picture,” my father asked. This was clearly a quiz, and I was failing. At 86 he was sharp as a tack, found these old photos much more compelling than his stomach cancer, and had no intention of leaving this world till I understood why this literally pedestrian photo struck him as monumental.

As it turns out, the photograph was taken just hours before Hitler attacked Poland. “Five teens with time for a campy snapshot,” Minden reflects, “with no clue how drastically life was about to change…. This was the calm before the storm troopers.”

Image by freeparking, licensed under Creative Commons.