A Process Note
“American Patriot” is a collaboration between the photographer Charlee Brodsky and the poet Jim Daniels. Brodsky and Daniels have been working together for nearly a dozen years and have published two books together, Street, winner of the Tillie Olsen Prize, and From Milltown to Malltown, and have had a number of gallery shows. “American Patriot” explores the American flag within the context of Western Pennsylvania and Ohio River Valley communities. For this area was a center of heavy industry symbolizing American pride and brute power. However, the demographics and economy rapidly changed by the 21st century, and now much of this region struggles with unemployment and failing infrastructures.
Rather than going in with an agenda, Brodsky and Daniels are trying to explore the complexities of life in America through the classic symbol of the flag rather than resort to the easy stereotyping of class and politics that the media tends to fall back on. The on-going process includes travelling the region, talking to residents using basic ethnographic techniques, and meeting to choose images and shape the project for literary journals and exhibitions. This project is regional and national in scope—the flag operates as a symbol for all Americans in very different ways. The stories told in these photo-poem combinations should have deep resonance for all viewers and readers and prompt serious discussion of ‘American values’ beneath the daily din and uproar of the current political landscape.
Jim Daniels’ seventeenth book of poems, The Middle Ages, will be published by Red Mountain Press in 2018. Street Calligraphy, Steel Toe Books, and Rowing Inland, Wayne State University Press, were published in 2017. A native of Detroit, Daniels is the Thomas Stockham University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University.
Charlee Brodsky is a fine art documentary photographer and a professor of photography at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2012 she was honored to be Pittsburgh’s Artist of the Year chosen by Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. A selection of her awards includes the Tillie Olsen Award with writer Jim Daniels for their book, Street; an Emmy with the film team that created the documentary “Stephanie,” which is based on her friend’s life with breast cancer; the Pearl of Hope award given by Sojourner House for her work with her students in the Pittsburgh community; and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowships. She continues her documentary projects and also creates hand-made books that feature photographs of dogs paired with words from great writers. Her work can be seen at: www.charleebrodsky.com and www.thespotpress.com.