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Author: Mac Kenney

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1-4327-7227-7

This man’s kind eyes illuminate nature.

Mac Kenney is a generous man. He was not content to share what he had captured in his lens of natural landscapes without adding his emotional responses to being in and with Nature. This makes My Pictures, My Words just what the title implies: a very personal book. I am sure his family members and friends will be grateful to have it. Your family and friends might find it quite wonderful, too, but first let me try to describe where it is on a spectrum between photography coffee table books and pictorial memoirs.

I started a search to get the name of a publication I recall from my youth, because that’s what Kenney’s book brought to mind, pages of photographs paired with uplifting prose. It might have been something like “Inspirations,” but that didn’t turn up, so I leave it to you to wrack your memories and you’ll immediately understand what type of book this is, except for the fact that all the writing is original.

Though Mac is a poet, he is not one you will find on the university circuit. You would more likely find him in church. He says many wise and sweet things. I was especially touched by his grasp of the brevity of life and his appreciation of another human being’s love. He kept coming back to those themes again and again. I began to think he was a dying old man, leaving these thoughts as a final gift, but that didn’t match his publicity photo.

He appears on the cover dressed in hiking gear, sitting at the edge of a meadow with a deep valley directly behind him, and a background of snow-capped mountains. His hairline is slightly receding, but he wears cool “shades.” I’d guess age 42. I am naturally curious about what events shape artists, so began to speculate: Did he have a close brush with a bear? Fall from a cliff? Capsize his kayak? Did someone close to him recently die?

In “Voices” he credits his parents, grandparents, coaches and others for keeping him out of jail. Perhaps he got too close to danger in adolescence, and his devotion to family brought him back. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Every one of us will find something he has to say a reminder to be grateful for our beautiful land and people we love.

The format of the book is unusual (and probably cost a lot to produce). It’s all color, and every left-hand page is dedicated to a small piece of the larger photograph on the right. In my mind, these miniatures become focal points for meditation.

One drawback in the format — and this is a hard choice for a designer — you sometimes have to turn the standard 8 ½ x11 book sideways. The large photos “bleed” off the page. If they were all vertical, some scenes appropriately wide would have to be cropped or made smaller.

On this matte paper, you don’t get the brilliance of an Arizona Highways scene. You do get an unusual point of view, a special eye, and a little manipulation. While some of Kenney’s subjects demand a long shot (the photo background for the poem “Life” could represent infinity), the photographer has close-cropped many scenes so that, for instance, you could reach out and pet a lion, or breathe on a butterfly.

The page I like best contains “Imagination,” a call to “pretend you are a child with me.” It is set against a woods with wildflowers in the foreground. In the center of this peaceful scene, a “beast” rises as if startled by our presence. Maybe it’s a horse, or a ghost-horse. In fact, it’s a stump with branches left hanging like legs (and arms?), a head with a long muzzle and sunken eyes. It could be a sculpture. In any case, it’s more interesting than scary, at least in the daylight. Fun!

Some people might think the most amusing page is the last. I won’t give that away, but I was glad that this thoughtful man who dares to touch a painful place, and ache with love, leaves us with his sense of humor.

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