COLEaboration, part one

I had an idea. Or, more of a spark of an idea. A vision, maybe.

I am near Silver Lake State Park, which is a section of land that separates an inland lake from the big lake (Lake Michigan). Legend is that after the Great Chicago Fire, this piece of land was deforested to provide lumber to rebuild the city. Now, I don’t know for sure if this is true, but what I do know is it a vast, open landscape of moving, shifting, shape-changing, tree-swallowing, rolling, blowing, lunar landscape-looking, absolutely stunning sand dunes that I find infinitely compelling to photograph.

Twenty some years ago I met a dancer in a geology class in college and we were instant friends. I had never even heard of modern dance, let alone seen it performed, until I met Margi and she opened my eyes to it. We lost touch after college (pre-Internet days) and got back in touch in recent years via Facebook. She teaches dance and has a 20-year-old dance company (The Dance COLEctive), which I’ve seen perform several times and have always left these performances a bit shaken up–awed and inspired and full and just wowed. So many beautiful and talented dancers and creative voices.

I had a vision of photographing Margi on the dunes.

Movement, dance, shapes, shadows, sand, the driftwood as architectural element, human and stark nature. I don’t generally photograph people unless they are incidental to an image, but I’m trying to get more comfortable with it (directing people is not my strong suit). And this vision persisted, so I asked. Not only was she willing, she brought up the word “collaborate.” That felt safer–it wouldn’t be just me experimenting photographically with a willing participant, but it would now be two people creating something artistic, an experience, planting a seed. So we finalized a date.


deshantzcook_20160617_IMG_7869We spent the weekend catching up, laughing, drinking, taking photos, and comparing vision as I started the editing process. I found she was drawn to some of the images I might have dismissed, and I was drawn to some she would have overlooked. In general, though, we gasped at the same images as I uploaded them, which I took as a very good sign that we had some stuff we were both happy with.

I think we have some of the same sensibilities, and while she has the artist’s vocabulary to describe these things, I am still working on developing that language, those senses. In these few days I learned just a little of this language as well as a new way of looking at movement that is more organic and artistic. What a weekend of inspiration, of rekindling an old friendship, of creating. I feel full. And again wowed.


This is just a little of what we ended up with. I am having trouble moving away from black and white edits for these dune images, but I’ll sit on them a while and let the ideas percolate.



There’s much more, but I’m still processing (photos as well as the whole collaboration process). I’ll follow up with another post.


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