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The Black & White Challenge

Untitled (from Fragments of Solitude), 2013-14

Mother & Daughter, Cappadocia, 2005

Loteria, Warszawa, 1997

Untitled, Cappadocia, 2005

Untitled (Christina wonders), 1995

Recently I took part in a fun tag experience on Facebook – The Black & White Challenge. It worked like this: someone (person/photographer/artist/friend/etc) nominates someone else (person/photographer/artist/friend/etc) to post one black and white photographic image (their own) a day for five days, and each day nominate another person/photographer/artist/friend/etc to do the same. And so on and so forth.

All of a sudden it seemed everyone was posting black & white photographs. I must admit this is was the first time I genuinely enjoyed being part of a chain event. And! I actually did it from start to finish! Ok, so it took me longer than five days – the legendary ‘Monika time’ effect evidently at play. Anyhow.

I was nominated by the extraordinary photographer, Sylvia de Swaan, who’s work I greatly admire (please check out her work by clicking the link on her name). I’m truly grateful for the opportunity Ms. de Swaan sent my way. For one thing it made me revisit work from long time ago and embrace it again. I used to predominantly photograph in black & white using film – yes, those golden years of photography. Remember when Paul Simon changed a line in the lyrics to “Kodachrome” from ‘worse’ to ‘better’, as in: “…everything looks better in black & white?” The crowd went wild hearing the sentiment in that famous concert in the park!

Something I always enjoyed about the b&w process was looking at contact sheets. Often that’s where the back story of an image existed. Or related stories. It was a great tool for understanding why a particular image was chosen over the other possibilities. Sometimes an intriguing rhythm was manifest from frame to frame, even if the next image captured happened at a different time/place. The contact sheet revealed a way of seeing, a sensibility perhaps, sometimes great joy and other times it pointed to what was missing. The contact sheet itself was a photograph and a physical object to be handled, looked at intensely often using the magnifying loop. We had special wax pencils, in white or red, with which we’d circle the frame to be printed. The darkroom days.

Here are the five images I posted for the black & white challenge. In the order they were posted. As photographs in time and place they are mixed. First one is the most recent of the group and digital  - thus originally in color but transformed into black & white. I do believe as a b&w image it is much stronger than it would be in color. The color would limit it’s potential, making it very concise to a particular time of year if you will. But taking away the colors allows it to become a metaphor.

Though I chose the order of images quite randomly, I’m struck by the way they connect. Somehow one informs the other. There are visual motifs that sort of blend into one another. The way the photographs are lined up here, from top to bottom, can suggest one kind of reading, which might differ significantly have they been arranged in a row horizontally.  Visually speaking the pattern of light, leaves and reflection in the first image is echoed in the crocheted top worn by the young girl in the next photo. The clasped hands of the mother and daughter point to the family huddled together on the snowy street waiting to cross the  street. The car’s window divider (what ever that is called) connects with the the power line in the following portrait of a young boy I met in Cappadocia and within that same image the power lines then point the eye to the boy, who then transforms into the other boy in Texas.

What that all means if anything I don’t know. I’m just sharing a quick post here on a Saturday afternoon before heading over to the Museum of Moving Image to watch a Polish film.  But I do believe this kind of analysis of one’s own work is needed and is a good tool to ascertain the artistic progression of one’s practice. Of equal importance is getting feedback from one’s peers. Art is a conversation.

Hope to continue this at another time. Comments are warmly welcomed should anyone feel compelled to do so.

Louis Brawley - Hi Monika

A fellow you may know called Armando mentioned you this evening while we were having coffee and I remembered you from Hunter. The work is very sublime.. quiet and full of the poetry of light. nice to see you are still at it!


Earlier in the year. Later part of summer, which might have as well been the beginning. Or middle. I’m still astounded how quickly it passed. Tagged on either side by departure.
What does it mean when trees grow sideways?

Here’s a poem by Stephen Dobyns, a poet whose work I discovered by a fortunate accident around the same time pictured above:



Two days of listening to a police radio
and everyone one around me is a killer. I have
walked this far, I must go slower. People
hang onto bodies that won’t be with them
long. Their own and all the others.
Give me your hand. I hold it like liquid
with the same result. My own hand drips
like water from a tree after a short rain.
Green becomes the color of decay. The forest
surronds us.

Standing on the fire tower
in the state park, I see a doe moving
beneath me. All twigs are pointing at it.
The ground can swallow it. If I shout
its sky will crumble. I refuse to breathe.
Nearby, hunters with bows and arrows rehearse
their comic lines: Who will grace our fenders?
Who will hang upside down in our immaculate
front yards? Their arrows have captured
the wind and its music. Their faces are like
drums, or clocks ticking. Their faces drip-
the noise of static on a radio. If I shout,
my own sky will splinter. Silence? I fill
my lungs like a swimmer diving to the bottom.

Splendor of the in-between

© Monika Sosnowski

This is my Notebook:

The in-between. My work is about moments that reveal a fragmented narrative.

Summer is fading minute by minute now each evening. When I notice its dwindling twilight I’m surprised at the earlier time each day. It was still bright at this hour just a few weeks ago!
Six more days left of the season.

This morning waking up I felt emptied out. Strangely and with relief.

Been reading more by Annie Dillard. It’s been very helpful. Very:
“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.” (The Writing Life, published by Harper Perennial)

Here’s to less.
Less needing. Making it matter. Making do. Keeping a schedule.

9/15/2014 NYC





Excerpts from Exile

Untitled (Once Upon a Time) © Monika Sosnowski

Here’s a poem by Adam Zagajewski from Mysticism for Beginners:



I haven’t written a single poem
in months.
I’ve lived humbly, reading the paper,
pondering the riddle of power
and the reasons for obedience.
I’ve watched sunsets
(crimson, anxious),
I’ve heard the birds grow quiet
and night’s muteness.
I’ve seen sunflowers dangling
their heads at dusk, as if a careless hangman
had gone strolling through the gardens.
September’s sweet dust gathered
on the windowsill and lizards
hid in the bends of walls.
I’ve taken long walks,
craving one thing only:

(translated from Polish by Clare Cavanagh and published in: Adam Zagajewski – Without End – New and Selected Poems, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2002)

Stormy Weather Jazz

Few weeks ago on a Sunday. 3491 feet above sea level. Ben Kohn’s Quartet opened the mountain-top Jazz Festival 2014 at Bascom Lodge on Mount Greylock, MA.
Ben Kohn Quartet: Benny “Fingers” Kohn on keyboard, Daniel Broad on bass, Aaron Dean on sax, and Bill Chapman on drums. Bravo!

When I think back..

The cloud resisted dispersing. The music drizzled sideways blown by the wind turning music sheets to other places.
The musicians kept at it undeterred while the audience soaked up their misty notes.

We were dreaming again. Lost in the woods looking for a clearing.


Bobbie - Such a beautiful album, Monika!!

Monika Sosnowski - Thanks Bobbie! It would have been so great if you were there! Missed you.

An Artist’s Studio: Susan Hartung

Recently I visited Susan Hartung’s studio on North Street in downtown Pittsfield. Susan is getting ready for a retrospective of her work curated by Peter Dudek, which will be exhibited this September at the HVCC Teaching Gallery in Troy, NY.

Susan’s art encompasses painting, drawing and some photography. She is also a poet. Experiencing her work, be it by looking, reading, or listening is akin to walking in a meadow after it rained when the light and air is enchanting. Or perhaps very early in the morning when it’s still quiet and odds are favorable. It is a moment of clarity, a dearest memory, an openness.

Her’s is a study in mindfulness regardless of circumstances.

She has outwitted the grid and ruffled abstraction sincerely, playfully, unflinchingly. A photograph morphs into a drawing and colors into a painting. The line is a word and another word and another… Fragments aware of  their own own fluidity and purpose. Rhetorical questions without irony.

Susan’s work, like she herself, emanates a luminosity. She recognizes the Beauty and Form of animal footprints on a snow covered ground. The real drama is found in keeping things going. Elements. Life.

She looks for lines. She looks for light. She sees from within and stays curious. She has a most lovely smile and eyes the color of a landscape far in the distance seen from a mountain top. And then there’s her laugh: youthful, unadulterated, affecting.

Susan’s work, both visual and poetry echoes that  laugh of her’s. There is joy, even if sometimes on equal footing with sadness.  A complexity runs throughout. Fragments can be both glimpses either into or out of something. Lines can be connected again. It is about connectedness, perhaps even about how things work or don’t in life, love, color theories, language.. A paint brush stroke on canvas, pencil line on paper, a poem that goes straight into the heart of what matters.

Susan Hartung’s retrospective, titled “Following The Line,” will be exhibited at HVCC September 18th through October 25th. The opening reception will take place on Thursday, September 18th  4:00 – 6:00 pm.

I have posted one of Susan’s poems, “The Insistence of Hope,” in a previous post here.

Peter - Great photos and words.

Monika Sosnowski - Thanks Peter xoxo.