Was so thrilled Dr. Panning wanted to be a part of this project. She taught the one and only graduate class I took. One of the assignments for the class was to create a syllabus for a creative writing class I would teach and then proceed to teach the class a lesson from the syllabus. I drafted my syllabus on biography and the self, and it was a complete disaster! (Dr. Panning reassures me it was not, but it was.) Firstly, I had only male authors on my syllabus, a fact which Dr. Panning questioned me on in front of the class – a valid question too for which i had no real reply other than I just picked my favorite autobiographies. Secondly, I got into an argument with one of the students while I taught my lesson. (Pro tip – don’t do that.) I had this grand vision of the class reading Franz Kafka’s short story The Bridge followed by this equally grand discussion on how the story illustrates biography being shaped by our understanding or misunderstanding of our true self (if there is a true self or nature). This… didn’t happen. The more it didn’t happen, the more frustrated I became and probably took it out on a student. To think that thinking people should think the way you think they ought to think is to think wrongly. Lessoned learned.
Anyway, years later, I have a blog on self-portraiture. (I guess i’m still trying to figure out the self.) Dr. Panning’s photos are spectacular! In addition to being a professor of creative writing, she is an author, and you can really see that in the images she made. Her images are of objects and environment. You can see collections of memory in the frame – in doll heads, a father’s barber’s chair, or a recipe and her interaction with them. In some photos, Dr. Panning puts a veil in-between the camera and herself. She, like many of you who are going to do this project or already had, is not a photographer. I find that brave of all of you and your work has been awesome – seriously really awesome. I am also finding themes and similarities in many of your images. Excited to see more and explore these similarities.
Here are some of Anne’s photos. Check out some of her books too! You can find them on Amazon (and you should read her book Butter – just do a search).