Published on November 21st, 2013 | by Daniel Rahe1
The Post Defiance Guide to Space
Last weekend, I was fortunate to be on a list of presenters at TAC/TAC, the Tacoma Arts Conference, a day-long event featuring a series of expert panels and discussions on the business of art in Tacoma.
The speakers in my session were asked to share our responses to the question, “How does the space you use impact your work?”
It was my first experience with public speaking, and a challenging one at that, since most of my work takes place in a space called “my cubicle” in the wee hours of the morning before my patently non-artistic day job begins.
Post Defiance itself occupies no physical space. Sure, we occasionally hold events (like our upcoming Winter Reading), but those events are not central to the character of the publication. So, when I began to think about the impact of space upon the work we do, I had to think in theoretical terms.
My love of photography first inspired me to write about arts and culture, and led ultimately to my participation in Post Defiance. I remember the deep impression Charles Peterson’s photographs of the Seattle Grunge scene made on me in the 1990s – especially his famous picture of Mudhoney, with Mark Arm bent backwards in a flash of kinetic abandon.
In this powerful image, Peterson made masterful use of three aspects of space: distance, perspective, and scope. With this visionary construction, the photograph tells a story about Mudhoney’s performance that evening. It wordlessly conveys the rude and untamed spirit animating the band and how the photographer responded to the music.
Though we primarily use words rather than images in our editorial process, Post Defiance is shaped by these same aspects of space.
When we think about distance in the Mudhoney photograph, we note that Peterson put himself almost precisely between the band and audience, and in doing so, shared what it must have felt like to be there in that sweaty, buzzing moment.
Similarly, our goal at Post Defiance is to convey and document what it feels like to be in Tacoma right now, and to interact with the art and culture that distinguishes it.
We consciously choose to go beyond objective fact reporting and instead get close enough to our subjects to describe them as we see them and as they wish to be interpreted. It is our hope that in so doing, we will create an archive of material that is relevant long into the future.
Perspective is another element of photography common to the editorial approach at Post Defiance. Perspective reveals relationships – how the subject is situated in its surroundings.
The perspectives Peterson chose, or that Robert Capa risked his life for in his famous pictures of the D-Day landing (another series of images that heavily influenced me as a writer) were not incidental.
Those angles, in concert with the distance, tell us about the Subject while revealing the style of the photographer or storyteller themselves. Post Defiance aims to show how the art and culture we write about is related to other elements of life in Tacoma and beyond. In the process, the writer also becomes an artist a with a signature perspective.
Finally, we must consider scope. In Peterson’s photograph, the scope is narrow. In Capa’s, it is frighteningly broad – a hillside full of machine guns looms ahead. At Post Defiance, nothing so profound is taking place, obviously; but nonetheless, scope helps us describe our community.
Our scope is broad and inclusive, and we continue to work to find new and other voices. We strive to create a virtual space where every subject is on even ground, no matter who created it or how well known it is – as long as it is happening in Tacoma. We put nothing in a parenthetical space. We may not be able to write about every single thing that happens in Tacoma, but we try to treat everything we do cover like it’s the Moon landing.
Distance, perspective, and scope are the central considerations of my work for Post Defiance, though I will not pretend I have ever been capable of exercising them effectively. My passions influence the distance from which I experience the things I write about.
My perspective is hopelessly skewed: my scope is limited by the bounds of my experience and research. But I know I am not alone in being imperfect though well-intentioned, and I depend on the community of writers around me to sharpen and enrich my work. When my vision falls short or lacks breadth, I can count on the Post Defiance team and our readers to point me toward discoveries that shape my next creation, or completely refresh my daily interactions.