If you’re a patron of independent films and theatrical productions here on Bainbridge Island, then you are almost definitely familiar with Steve Stolee. In his more than 40 years on Bainbridge, his cultural contributions to our community have been numerous, including his documentary film “A Date with the Fenderskirts” and co-founding the Island Theatre and the theatre’s Ten-Minute Play Festival.
Steve’s latest creative accomplishment is the paperback book, “Imageries” images by Stephen M. Stolee and epigrams by James Botsford. “Imageries is an assembly of reflections on human experience through both the eyes of a photographer and the voice of a poet,” he explained. “The pairings of epigrams and photos offer juxtapositions that alternate between easy resonance and vibrating dissonance, humor and pathos, curiosity and criticism. It offers the reader a provocative second and third viewpoint to stimulate deeper insights into our commonplace yet subtly mysterious world.”
Steve co-produced the book with long-time friend and poet James Botsford. The two grew up in the same town of Grand Forks, North Dakota, in the 1950s and 60s. As close friends since 1970, their creative paths often intertwined throughout the years and in various places around the world. “Imageries” is their first formal collaboration in print and the winner of the Eric Hoffer Book Award – Art Category 2022 – “This volume of crisp and colorful eye-catching photographs reflects the artist’s journey through everyday life.”
The path to creating and publishing “Imageries” was a long and sometimes arduous journey. For decades, Steve had been taking “street” images and was hoping to compile them into a book. “James and I have been friends since our teens and close friends from our 20s on. He has published several books of poetry, stories and essays, two of which I designed for him. When he mentioned that he had a folder full of ‘epigrams’ that he wanted to publish, I suggested they might go well with my street photos,” Steve said.
In 2018, Steve began combing through his collection, starting with his more recent photographs. He worked backwards, discovering old favorites and re-acquainting himself with the ones he’d lost track of. For the first match, James visited Steve and they had multiple discussions about themes, directions, messages, and intentions. The discussions were often spirited, with James holding fast to his favorite picture choices, and Steve defending his own choices. The process continued, often alternating between spells of contemplation and shared thoughts until finally a first draft was completed. However, as Steve admitted, that first draft “was a bit disappointing to both of us so revisions continued fitfully for the next two years (basically the pandemic lockdown) until I felt the images were strong enough and created a flow and cadence that led the viewer on a philosophical and visually stimulating sequence, and James agreed.” By the end of summer in 2020, the two had agreed on the final layout and began the laborious journey of self-publication.
Their efforts were worth it. When I perused the book, I was quite taken with the witticism portrayed in both the images and epigrams. You also can hear more from Steve in this interview with Currents last year.
Steve moved to Bainbridge Island in 1979. He is a producer, director, visual artist, writer and performer for independent films and theatrical productions. In addition to his work with the Island Theatre, he has created several visual histories and documentaries, including the much acclaimed, “Another Man’s Treasure” (the story of the Bainbridge Island Rotary Auction and Rummage sale, considered the world’s largest of its kind). Steve also received the 2019 Island Treasure Award for Arts and Humanities, as well as the Individual Artist Grant from Arts & Humanities Bainbridge in 2019 to create “A Date with the Fenderskirts.”
James Botsford lives on the banks of Big Sandy Creek in north central Wisconsin with his wife of 40-plus years. He has been an Indian Rights attorney for 36 years, and although mostly retired, he contributes some emeritus work to indigenous religious freedom issues and serves on a tribal supreme court.
Steve and James are currently working on their next project: a book of pairings of James’ writings and Steve’s photos. While there may be more epigrams, they are also considering other short literary ideas, such as (very) short stories and poetry.
“Imageries” by Stephen M. Stolee (images) and James Botsford (epigrams), Sandyhouse Press can be found at Eagle Harbor Book Store in the Northwest Authors section – 157 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, Phone: (206) 842-5332. Online orders may be purchased on Steve’s website.
This story was originally published on Arts & Humanities Bainbridge Currents Online Magazine.
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