Terence Thomas

Terence Thomas

Blending of arts disciplines

Literary events include poetry, photography and readings from a real-life mystery

Literary events – with an emphasis on the inspiration derived from combining disciplines – are to the fore over the next couple of months at Semiahmoo Arts’ Turnbull Gallery.

On March 23, at 7:30 p.m., Semiahmoo Arts’ Readings By The Salish Sea series continues with a reading by Vancouver author Deborah Cambell, author of the real life mystery A Disappearance in Damascus, whose work blends journalism with literature.

And later this month the exhibit Double Exposure: Photography/Poetry (March 30 to April 27) brings back the successful marriage of the highly imagistic fields of photography and poetry pioneered by organizers Barbara Cooper and poet-novelist Heidi Greco last year, but with a few changes and refinements.

Campbell, an award-winning writer noted for thorough field work and literary journalism, has specialized in covering the Middle East (including Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Gaza, Qatar, the UAE, Israel and Palestine) as well as Cuba, Mexico and Russia.

“She calls herself an ‘immersive journalist’,” said Cooper, noting that Campbell’s clear and engaging technique helps bring clarity for western readers to the convoluted history of the Middle East.

“She is one gutsy woman,” Greco commented. “The places she’s gone – if I were her mother, I would have grounded her!”

A Disappearance in Damascus, which won the 2016 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize – Canada’s largest literary award for non-fiction – has just been shortlisted for the non-fiction category of the 2017 BC Book Prizes.

She was working as a journalist in Syria in 2007 when Ahlam, her Iraqi guide and interpreter was taken by the secret police. A Disappearance in Damascus, tracing her attempts to find Ahlam as the country teeters on the edge of chaos and civil war, has been described as a detective story, compelling first-person storytelling, a tale of courage, a study of human relationships, and a political investigation of shifting power in the Middle East.

Double Exposure is designed as an adjudicated showcase of talent in the community in conjunction with the Canadian Association for Photographic Art (CAPA) Capture Photography Festival and National Poetry Month.

“The Capture Photography Festival was one of the things we applied for this year and got accepted into,” said Cooper.

“It will let people in Vancouver know that people out on the fringes here can do great work.”

The opening on March 30 (7-9 p.m.) features photography by local artists in five categories – Action/Movement; Animals; Cityscape/Architecture; Seascape/Water and Social Commentary.

“There were some blurred lines last year in terms of categories,” Greco explained.

“‘Cityscape/Architecture’ seemed clearer than just ‘Landscape’.”

It will also include an ongoing screening of digital photography by youth, Youth Pix, for which entrants can submit three digital images, with a deadline of March 15 (for details, visit www.semiahmooarts.com).

“We wanted a clearer outreach to youth – it means they will be able to shoot something on their phones and fire it off, bingo,” Greco said.

“There are a number of screens in the lobby that we will display their digital photos on – they don’t have to go to the trouble and expense of framing, although it doesn’t mean they can’t submit something to the main show,” Cooper said.

Also featured at the opening will be a brief ‘flash’ performance by members of XBa Dance’s Diskordanse troupe.

During the course of the exhibit, two challenges will encourage the interplay of poetry and photography.

The Poetry Challenge, judged by well known Surrey writers Virginia Gillespie and Fauzia Rafique, invites writers to create poems inspired by photographs in the show. Up to three poems per entrant can be submitted, although each poem has a maximum 20-line limit.

“It was interesting that it wasn’t always the largest or most prominent photographs that inspired poets last year,” Greco said.

“At least one of the photos was inspired by an almost unrecognizable image – to the point of being abstract.”

The new challenge this year – the Photography Challenge – reverses the process by inviting photographers to capture images inspired by poetry by guest poet Cecily Nicholson, posted on the Semiahmoo Arts website.

Nicholson will read from her work at the event finale (April 27, 7-9 p.m.) and also invite selected Photography Challenge entrants to share their images.

The finale will also feature prizes for each challenge as well as awards for top photograph in each category and the best in the Youth Pix exhibit.

A prize for viewer’s choice, voted on by visitors throughout the show, will also be awarded at the finale.

For further details, entry forms and tickets to all events, call 604-536-8333.

The Turnbull Gallery is located in the South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre, 14601 20 Ave.