Shanna Compton


Populating Lewis Baltz's photographs

Elsewhere someone asks about ekphrastic poems inspired by photographs, and requests links to the images as well, to use in a writing class. So I gathered these and figured I would post them here too.

In Brink, there's a poem called "Back in Seaside." I wrote it in April 2011, after visiting the National Gallery of Art, where I was particularly fascinated by the photography of Lewis Baltz. The show included 50 black-and-white photographs plus a 12-panel color work that was backlit and displayed in a darkened gallery.

Here are some of the images.

Seaside 1970

Ideal 1976

Monterey 1976

Gilroy 1967

Fairfax 1973

Ronde de Nuit 1992–1995

The only one I mention by name is Seaside 1970, and I remember other images that I can't find online right now. I particularly love the lettering on the glass and the reflection in Ideal. A vocabularly of images repeats and recycles through his work, so other photos that are not part of this series also resonate.

Here is the poem (at the Academy of American Poets site, Baltz's photographs only rarely have people in them—so I provided those.