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[Photography] Interview with David Murphy

[KELP JOURNAL] Your photos have such a sense of place; can you talk about what inspires you to pick a shoot?

[DAVID MURPHY] I pick a shoot based on what I think is beautiful. I know that’s a subjective word, so maybe some examples will help. I find beauty in people, places, things, architecture, animals, and most of the natural world. Haha—maybe that doesn’t help! Haha! All I know is that when I see something that’s beautiful, then I know it when I feel it.

Sometimes I like taking pictures of cliffs and oceans, like in these photos of Shi Shi in Washington. When I find a subject that I like, I’ll just keep going back to take photos of it. I made multiple trips to Shi Shi to get these pictures, and I camped near the beach in all four seasons. It was a lot of fun, especially during the cold wet winter. I genuinely liked it. I spent a couple of years in Afghanistan taking photos (mostly of people) when I wasn’t at work. Those photos became a kind of long-term project. While people, places, and animals are some of my favorite subjects, I will shoot pics of anything that I think is beautiful.

I’ve found that looking at my photos years after they are taken, and seeing some of the pretty pictures that I’ve made, has made my life richer and made me happier.

[KJ] There is a dream-like quality about this collection, was that intentional? What did you capture that lends itself to that mood?

[DM] Maybe the dream-like quality was a projection of my own vision—I always get my eight hours, and I do a lot of dreaming! Haha! I think that what I captured was nature itself, so if there’s a dream-like quality about the photos, then, in this case, the fault is on Mother Nature for making dreamy scenes! I wish I could credit myself with the creation of such extraordinary, almost magical beauty, but I cannot.

[KJ] Often with multi-faceted artists, I like to ask about how each form influences the other and if certain projects are specific to certain forms? Do you find that your poetry influences your photography (or vice versa)? Do you feel that certain projects are best expressed by a certain form, for example a photo rather than a poem?

[DM] I definitely feel that there’s an overlap between artistic fields. I’m not exactly sure how each field affects another, however. To me, the relationship between my artistic mediums has a pretty mysterious interplay. But I think that this foggy, misty mysteriousness—which I don’t think that anyone will ever completely clarify—is part of what fascinates me about art.

I write poetry, prose (short stories and novels), take photos, oil paint, and do encaustic work. I also weld, skateboard, box, and do rope work—tying knots and stuff. So, I’ve always felt something in my heart drive me to create/do things and be active. Art is one of my favorite means of expressing myself. (I consider myself, socially, to be a fairly quiet fellow.) Sometimes when I’m looking at my photos, they will inspire me to write poetry. Other times, they will inspire me to paint. Now that I think about it; however, I’ve never found the reverse to be true: I’ve never been inspired to take a photograph of anything because of my poetry. I think that the reason has to do with sequence and imagery. For example, I’m able to see a photograph and describe it in words. It’s harder for me to describe something in words, then find a corresponding person or place to photograph.

[KJ] You are a conservationist as well as a photographer and poet. I am always curious how and if these facets blend. Does your art help your conservation work in any way?

[DM] No, haha, but I wish that it did. I think any connection that I could make would be solely so that I could feel some pleasure at answering this question in the affirmative. With regards to conservation, I just find a lot of beauty in nature, and I feel like it should be preserved. I’m a humanist and animal-lover, and I feel a lot of empathy. I like for clean, unpolluted spaces to be spared for animals and people to live freely. I like to watch things grow: trees, plants, and living creatures. It takes a long time for things to grow in a healthy way, and I think that the growth should be protected and preserved. Live and let live. Grow and care.

David Murphy was born on Easter Sunday in northern Oklahoma. He received his Bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State University where he won the Bailey Scholarship for Study Abroad. On it, he studied Viking Age rune stones in Sweden. He received his Master's from Kansas State University where he won the Seaton Fellowship for Creative Writing and served as editor-in-chief of the university’s literary journal. He then worked in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Washington. In 2022, he published in Orchards Poetry Review, Everywhere: A Journal of Place, and Dream Noir. He is an enrolled member of the Cherokee tribe.

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