Perfect Strangers - Doug Johnson

One of my favorite poems, "Thesaurus" by Billy Collins, ends with:


   I would rather see words out on their own, away

   from their families and the warehouse of Roget,

   wandering the world where they sometimes fall

   in love with a completely different word.

   Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever

   next to each other on the same line inside a poem,

   a small chapel where weddings like these,

   between perfect strangers, can take place.


Discovering these surprisingly harmonious "perfect strangers" can be a delight. In "Osso Buco" Collins deliciously serves "meat soft as the leg of an angel" in a "moat of risotto" (transforming one of my favorite dishes into a miniature medieval castle). Over breakfast at the Three Pines bistro, Louise Penny has the soon-to-be-murdered Jane punctuate a key revelation by sending a "squall of croissant flakes" onto her friend's lap (far more vivid than a "snort" or "puff"). My friend James in his poem "Chinese Chess Masters" unveils "the curved willow of your back" (forever enriching the lives of both willows and curves).

So, if these fortuitous word-weddings are so rewarding, can visual artists play? Well, of course they can! Matchmakers from Hieronymus Bosch to Bansky regularly ushered total strangers down the aisles of satire, humor, allegory and fable.

And what about photographers? Some, like writers and painters, are free to construct their images from "scratch" (e.g. Man Ray's rayographs, Fran Forman's photo-paintings and Duane Michals' staged scenes) but more traditional, camera-based photographers must actually find, recognize and record these fleeting lovebirds "standing next to each other" in the real world.

This week's photo is one of the few times I was lucky enough to pull this off. Albino boa constrictors and kid's hands are interesting enough but this child's apparent impulse to pet the boa is startling, risky and riveting.


Perfect Strangers

Snake Charmer

Photographing these unexpectedly suitable strangers in the wild will never be more than a rare treat but many thanks to Billy Collins for sharing this wonderful concept.

p.s. Here's a link if you would like to read all of "Thesaurus" by Billy Collins.

Thesaurus

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