Notes on Collaboration

1. Shane sees color where I’d never think to look. Once, lost on a windy road heading to a bridge nobody seemed to have a name for, we pulled over so he could photograph an abandoned old cinder block building. When we stopped, I agreed that the building looked cool and I thought I understood why he might want to shoot it. But he got out of the car and headed straight for a side wall of the buildling. Old red, white, and blue paint chipped away in sheets off the cinder blocks. He squatted down and zoomed in, framing the picture just so. I haven’t seen the image yet, but I imagine you can’t even tell it’s from an old building. What mattered more, then, were the colors. The way the paint captured and revealed the passage of time. And perhaps, even, the symbolism of those three colors decaying together.

2. We were listening to NPR and lost again, looking for a bridge on a road that didn’t exist according to any of the three maps we had. “Can we turn it off?” I asked. “Sure, why?” said Shane. I paused. “Well,” I said, “I guess it would be like somebody splashing colors in front of your eyes every few seconds. Color, color, color.” He smiled and nodded, then reached for the dial.

3. Staying organized, professional, and connected are some of my better skills. Staying in the present moment, seeing how each opportunity unfolds from instant to instance is one of Shane’s better skills. I get shit done. He knows how to have fun. In this way, I think we’re each teaching the other a little bit about how to balance things out in our creative lives. This is good.

4. Despite those differences, we share mutual obsessions, hence the collaboration. A fascination with dying emblems, symbols, ways of life, cultures, and norms is probably the biggie. Also, offering the slightly political or guided view by telling a story a particular way or shooting an image a particular way. In this way, the photos are just pictures, they’re works of art—and the essays aren’t just words, they’re an invitation to go deeper.

5. Checking in is important. Even if it’s for ten minutes in passing on a day when we’re not out looking for bridges. I’ve never collaborated with anyone to this extent before so this is all new to me. But touching base, sharing info—yes, this is crucial.

6. So is sharing responsibilities. This week, we split up a list of four different places to call and talk to about the possibilities of funding this as a larger book project. It lightens the load, motivates, and keeps the energy fresh.

7. Taking notes is crucial. So much can happen in one day, one visit, one interview, one bridge. I’m learning that it can’t possibly all be written down right away. And I’ve started calling the footbridges blog posts “sketches.” This is art-talk but Shane gets it and the more I think about it, it makes sense. They’re notes on an experience. They’re a first, informal attempt, to make meaning. And the posts will become invaluable when I go back later to refine these experiences into complete essays.

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