K.B. Dixon

 

Photo Shoot: Six Oregon Poets

Photographer K.B. Dixon focuses on National Poetry Month with portraits of half a dozen leading Oregon writers


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


April marks the 25th Anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was launched in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. It has become one of the largest literary celebrations in the world.

The portraits here of Oregon poets are previously unpublished images from a series I did in 2019 that focused on Oregon writers in general—the unusually gifted people who make up this state’s diverse and dynamic literary culture.   

My hope back then was to call attention to the uniquely rewarding work of these talented people and, as always, to produce a good photograph. I have the same hope today. 

KIM STAFFORD

Oregon’s ninth Poet Laureate, 2018-20; founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College. His newest collection of poems, Singer Come From Afar, will be released April 27, 2021.

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An Open-Air Museum, Part 2

Museums and art galleries are just beginning to awake. But Portland's museum of the street artists has been thriving through the pandemic.


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


While our local art galleries are no longer quite closed, they are not yet fully open. Things are headed in the right direction, but restrictions still abound. Back in April 2020 I did a photographic survey of an alternative venue for the depressed aesthete—a venue offering a safe, in-person experience: the open-air museum that is Portland’s street art. There was plenty to see thanks to an industrious guild of talented muralists. The photographs here (all taken in 2021) are Part 2 of that survey.  

For further information about Portland street art, I refer you to the Portland Street Art Alliance.

And to see the murals in Part 1 of this series, from April 2020, look here.


SOUTHEAST MADISON STREET AND WATER AVENUE


Artist: Dangerfangz

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Remembrance of Things Past

The once and future city? K.B. Dixon turns his camera lens on downtown Portland, before the pandemic and the plywood


PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY K.B. DIXON


There has been a lot of depressing talk lately about what our city has become this past year. It’s hard to argue. The images here have been gathered for nostalgics.  They are, à la Proust, a small remembrance of things past—images of Portland before the pandemic, the protests, and the plywood.


SIMON BENSON HOUSE, 2016



JACKSON TOWER, 2011


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Things that go bump in the light

On portraits and phrenology: Meet Phil, who's been hanging around the house all through the shutdown and has a lot on his mind


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


The photographs here are of Phil (no last name). He is, for all his insinuations to the contrary, an inanimate object. A phrenological head made of stone and resin, he is one of those iffy bits of bric-a-bracery that occasionally make it into my office and stay. He is both a piece of comic commentary on pseudoscience and the symbolic embodiment of a portrait photographer’s dream—a subject whose character is literally written on his face.

Phrenology, a crackpot theory of the mind from the early years of the 19th century, was the “brainchild” of a Viennese physician by the name of Franz Joseph Gall. It purported to deduce a person’s character from the size, shape, and location of various bumps on one’s head. Those bumps were read like Tarot cards.

The phrenologists of today are the microexpressionists. These are not diminutive painters of subjective exaggerations, but lab-coated, algorithm-addled analyzers of facial expressions. While phrenologists studied the bumps on one’s head, microexpressionists study the twitches, bunches, and tics of one’s facial muscles. 

(A gaggle of practitioners ran Leonardo’s Mona Lisa through one of their emotion-recognition analyzers. After assessing, among other things, the curvature of the lips and the crinkling around the eyes [variations from something called the average “neutral” expression], they concluded their subject—Mona—was 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.)

Although on firmer scientific ground than phrenology, microexpressionism as a critical tool is of no greater use to the portrait photographer. Studies suggest it might be helpful in detecting deception—in sorting out who has snatched your yogurt from the refrigerator at work—but it provides only the most cretinish counsel to anyone assessing a work of art. It would be like using a spectrometer to critique a sunset—factually accurate, perhaps, but essentially a desecration.

***

Phil #1, 2021.

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XMas 2020: Neo-Elizabethan Edition

To decorate, or not to decorate? Photographer K.B. Dixon and a Guy Named Will collaborate on a winter's tale of baubles and figurines


TEXT MOSTLY BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


To decorate, or not to decorate, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to down a quart of nog against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. 


OLD WORLD SANTA, 2020


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Postcards from Home

K.B. Dixon develops an itinerary for his pandemic travels. He finds himself voyaging into the rediscovered territories of his own home.


PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY K.B. DIXON


The first stop on this pandemically restricted voyage is my office—a place I think of as both sanctuary and cell. “All of humanity’s problems,” writes Blaise Pascal, “stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” This office is where I do most of my sitting quietly alone—but not all of it.

***

That is “Brian.” He is a frequent portrait subject. I test eccentric lighting ideas on him. He is easy to work with. He never complains, doesn’t ask for prints, and has two good sides. He is, however, preternaturally aloof. Some may find that off-putting.

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The Year of Living Crowdlessly

Nine months into shutdown, even an introvert can miss the hustle and bustle of the streets. A look back in photos on the art of gathering.


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


I don’t like crowds. I avoid them as much as I can, and when I can’t—as when I am working on a photographic project—I try to limit the amount of time I spend in them. So it has come as something of a surprise to find that now, after living for nine months without crowds, I have started to miss them—sort of. “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?”

The photographs here are a look back at the not all-too-distant past, when we congregated with impunity. Each image has been contextually enhanced by a pandemical subtext. When will we ever be doing something like this again? We are all waiting for an answer to that question—some more patiently than others.


BASTILLE DAY, 2012



2 PARTIES NO VOICE, 2011


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