Art as a Promise for Always
A post from the blog of education specialist and Nuru Project customer Emma Nelson
There are no rules, really, in buying gifts for a loved one. It isn’t always easy to think of what to give on birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, but here at The Literary Man, we believe that gifts should come from a place of creativity, taking in all there is to know about that person and buying or creating something that is a keepsake, something that is special. Usually for us we tend toward buying a book, but sometimes for big occasions or special moments, we need to go beyond the carefully selected story. This year, for us, the next level meant the purchasing of art. There is something permanent, something slightly risky and terrifying in buying a piece of visual art as a gift. Even if you, the giver, feel connected and strangely moved by it, who is to say if the receiver will feel the same? It is this risk, this partial exposing of yourself, that makes the gift so valuable, so important, and so essential. In love as in art, we give part of ourselves, and in return, expose our inner selves. In this, we open our lives to the most wondrous of possibilities.
Over the years, The Literary Team has amassed quite a collection of art. Our walls are covered with photographs and paintings done by friends and family mixed with items we’ve collected at flea markets, galleries, and thrift shops. This year, to celebrate a certain milestone, we began and ended our search at the always inspiring Nuru Project, which “sells photojournalism prints to support compelling non-profits and storytellers.” JB Reed, Founder and CEO of Nuru Project writes, “I started Nuru Project to share my favorite form of human expression, photo storytelling, with as many people as possible.” In our search for the right print, we wanted something peaceful, something we could wake up looking toward, something that would make us smile.
At Nuru, each photograph comes with a hand written story by the photographer, sharing some insight into the process, the subjects, or the history behind the image. This simple act moves the photograph from straight documentation to story telling, and as story tellers, we couldn’t love this more.
“Stilt fishing is difficult work. To begin with, the stilts are uncomfortable and fishermen must perch there for hours at dawn and dusk, requiring great patience. Add to that, the fishermen never know whether the tiny fish they stalk will come around their stilt. And then there was the 2004 tsunami, which destroyed the fishermen’s stilts as well as their homes. The stilts have been rebuilt though and the traditional skill that has passed from father to son lives on. Truth is, fishing usually bores me to death. But on this day, the lure was irresistible as the clouds mixed to a color I’d never seen before. So I offered some cigarettes to the fishermen as a thank you and waded out to get my shot.”
For us, the image of the fishermen and corresponding story conveyed hope, healing, and above all else, peace. We wake to this image and know that we can go on; we know that our daily struggles of finding agents, finding publishers, finishing that last line of the manuscript are small fish to fry next to the momentous process of rebuilding that the men in the photograph completed after the tsunami. We look to the photograph with hope, with joy even in the expression of happiness on the man’s face.
And so for us, this process of buying and finding art is part a search for beauty and part a burrowing into our place and putting down roots. We give art as an exposure of our deepest selves as if to say, “I give this to you as though I am giving a part of me, and with this gift I am giving you a promise of always.