Across the Bridge - August/Sept. 2018
- story by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, photography by Marc Lamkin
I have a photographer friend in North Carolina who grew up in Louisiana. You can take the boy out of the pea soup humidity, but you can’t take the dread of it out of the boy.
When I’m on the coast and we email, Marc constantly asks about the local temperature. This year, in May, he referred to the Gulf Coast weather as “early brutal.” That’s about as apt as you can get.
He sits on a beautiful mountaintop in North Carolina and worries about us. He probably swats at imaginary gnats.
The reason I mention Marc is because recently I closed the little art gallery I attempted to get going in North Mississippi. Not enough interest. Read that, no interest.
Across the Bridge
Marc seems to be sincerely feeling my pain about the closing. Few do.
I mailed back his unsold photographs that combine humor, pathos and beauty in the strangest, most delightful way. I felt like a fool. How had I failed to sell those?
An architectural photographer by trade, Marc still shoots a couple of “official” jobs each year, but mostly now sits on his deck and lets the subject matter come to him. He shares a lot of pictures of sunsets, flowers, grandbabies and rainbows. They are beautiful. I find them infinitely more interesting than 99 percent of the art photos I’ve seen in coffee table books and museums.
And yet Marc admits to missing real deadlines and relentless struggle to get a job done just right. But probably not enough to leave his comfortable perch and his big loving family and take to the road again.
I used to think nothing of writing four columns a week. Now I struggle to write one essay every other month.
My idea with the gallery was to exploit the artists and other creative folk I’d met in four decades of trolling for columns. I would have art receptions, book-signings, music events and cartoon exhibitions. I would do all of this in a town of 3,000 that has six auto part stores, 12 beauty salons, 22 churches and not much else.
The work would be different, more social than sitting at a computer by myself for hours each day while attempting to turn a phrase. I was good at my job, but I was tired of it, too.
The things I worried about seem silly now. I worried about having enough inventory, and now struggle to return much of it. I worried I didn’t know enough about art to start a gallery. Turns out, I knew far too little about business to start a gallery.
Right out of college I tried to birth a weekly newspaper. After 26 weeks, the adventure was over. I swore to myself then that I’d never been in business for myself again. Until two years ago, I remembered the lesson.
Marc says I get points for trying. He charitably called me a “risk-taker,” which is a nice way of saying I threw a lot of money at a vision nobody could see but me.
We remember our old jobs – the hard work and daily deadlines, bad food, bad roads and lonely nights -- the way Marc remembers the dreaded humidity. At the core of our beings.
And, still, we miss it.