Quite honestly, I thought he was crazy: my father. As a kid, I can vaguely recall him photographing pomegranates—whole, halved, seeded or not, I can’t specifically recall and it doesn’t really matter. For what reason, purpose? What was the creative draw? I knew neither. I never understood the language of Pom. And the pomegranate remained shrouded in mystery, as such, for decades.
I was in college, must have been around my third year, and had begun focusing—yeah, you bet that I’m going to dare and use a photography pun here—on the photographic portion of my Bachelors in Art degree. The subject matter that appealed to me most at that time (and it still does to this today) was landscape photography. Central Pennsylvania was a terrific location for an admirer of the natural world. Rocky mountain ridges were within a twenty minute drive, ample vistas beckoned young artists, and hiking trails led into the forest with promises of adventure laced with equal portions of danger and intrigue.
While the name of the rocky outlook has long been forgotten, I can still remember sitting on the granite boulders. The green leaves had been replaced with yellow, red, and orange substitutes. Hawks glided above the horizon, circling, perhaps catching updrafts to remain in flight. A backpack of camera gear rested on the rocks. From inside, I withdrew a singular pomegranate. I began to photograph the fruit: resting upon the granite, hidden within the fallen timber, and finally smashed over a rock.
I can’t even say with certainty that I understood, in that moment, my dad’s fascination with pomegranates. Many autumns would pass before I revisited the yearly tradition of photographing the singular red fruit.
It must have been later in my photographic experimentations, that I returned to the subject matter. In working with medium and large format camera systems, my subject matter and technique fell within the realm of stationary compositions and still life. Flowers, vegetables, shells, and fruit were all qualified candidates for my camera work, during those years. I suppose that’s when I began to take a closer look.
Upon detailed inspection, the pomegranate is a beautiful subject. Under the gloss red, tough and durable exterior, you will find a fruit comprised of hundreds of sweet nodes, compartmentalized in chambers of seed. When pulled apart, the fruit presents an unusual experience. It is simultaneously lovely, but also visceral and corporeal. As the water-laden pulp, surrounding a seed, is pierced or cut or torn, the red liquid stains your hands, resembling that of thinned blood. And the tough white interior rind is textured like bone. It conjures thoughts of both death and life.
I believe that this is what my father was searching for: a subject matter that prompted questions, through the language of light and shadow, texture, and line; something that was equal parts familiar and foreign; an object that was easily attainable, yet seasonally restricted to the months of Autumn. This was his draw, his allure, and his fascination. This was his language of Pom.
At this time each year, I purchase my default pomegranate of the season. Some years, I do not even get to the ‘photographing portion’ of the fruit, and it simply gets eaten, or perhaps rots away. Other years, a simple still life is arranged and photographed. In conjunction with the sweetness and deliciousness of the fruit, I appreciate the visual nature of rind and seed and pulp.
This is my language of Pom.