Contributor Spotlight: Toni Bennett

Toni Bennett on “Crow’s Feet

My picture “Crow’s Feet” is of a wooden crow I bought in Canada on a trip to a cabin where I was supposed to be finishing my dissertation but ended up writing poetry and taking photos instead. I should have seen the signs as to what my future occupation would be! I set it on a piece of acrylic from the hardware store and photographed it from below.

I very much see myself as a documentarian who is allowed a liberal dose of poetic or artistic license. I want to show people what exists at one specific point in place and time that no one notices because we are all busy rushing around. I am also very concerned with matters of connection. As I try to do in my poetry, I want my images to show the invisible lines connecting things we didn’t realize were connected.

After photographing many different subjects (group events, rodeos, zoo animals, travel, pets, urban scenes, etc.), lately I’m gravitating towards the inanimate. I have a whole series of doll photos that started when I would go visit my mother and would photograph her huge doll collection. I’ve been “toying” with some toy dinosaurs and a toy schoolbus and had a couple of those photos published. 

I am drawn to this photograph arena for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I don’t like being looked at when I’m taking pictures. A more artistic reason is that I’m fascinated by the oxymoronic dualism of the dynamism of static forms; I want to show the vital essence of dead things. I once submitted a doll portrait to a stock company and had it rejected because I didn’t have a model release. They thought it was human and I felt validated that they saw the life in my photo of an inanimate object. What is it in a plastic doll’s silent lips that speaks back to us humans who make creatures in their likeness as if we were gods ? What is it in a pile of rocks that tells us something we didn’t know or forgot? Or what is it in the lines of a neon sign that gives us hints of who we are by focusing on how we decorate our city landscapes? 

I suppose I have a sort of “animistic” bent when looking at objects. As a child, I used to think my dolls got up and played on their own while I was asleep. As a matter of fact, the very crow that is in this photograph has been noted being an inch closer to the edge of its shelf every once in a while and I have to keep pushing it back. I’m hoping my photographs show the life inside all matter. It’s not their fault that their molecules move slower than ours.