A manifesto for a more wondrous age.


This is Monochromatic Aberration, the newsletter of Ian J. Battaglia, a writer and photographer based out of Chicago. Click through to view this post on the blog mnchrm.co, and if you no longer want to receive these emails, feel free to click to unsubscribe link at the bottom.

As I mentioned in my last post, I still feel like I’m not really in a groove, creatively. The desire is there, but these past few weeks have been a bit hectic for me, and I just flat out haven’t really carved out the time to write. My photographic struggles are a bit more existential. I want to elevate my craft, but I’m still working out how exactly to do that, what it’ll look like for me. But I think these sorts of difficult times are probably exactly the times it’s best to keep going. Even if I’m not in love with the photos I’m making, or being productive with any writing, I still want to show up and struggle.

I saw a tweet to this effect recently that’s stuck with me:

It’s a hard line to walk; the right kind of struggle, the right kind of stuck. But I’ve definitely felt the opposite, too: where everything seems to come easy, and upon review later, it wasn’t any good. There really is something about that discomfort, about “sitting with it,” that pushes you in the right direction, I feel. Especially so for a medium like writing, where you can sit and stare at a blank page, working while ostensibly “not writing.” The line between “writing” and “not writing” seems to get smaller all the time, to me.

Photography is the same way I think, though the way it manifests is different. While I’m out shooting—especially with street photography but really in any genre—there are times where I feel like I’m in a groove. Like the pictures are coming easy, or that I’ve just taken a shot I’ll be really proud of. They look so good on the little screens. But it’s really when you get home, when you’ve got all the images laid out in front of you that you find out which ones really work. Maybe none!

Of course, this isn’t a new thought. I’ve got this quote from Ann Patchett taped next to my desk:

Do you want to do this thing? Sit down and do it. Are you not writing? Keep sitting there. Does it not feel right? Keep sitting there. Think of yourself as a monk walking the path to enlightenment.
Ann Patchett

It’s good to think clearly and deeply about the sort of work you want to do, about the direction you’re headed. But I don’t want to let that get in the way of just showing up.

One of the things I’m doing now is a very conscious search for inspiration, especially in photography. I must admit, I don’t own many photobooks—they’re usually just so expensive—but I’d like to get some more. In the meantime, I’ve been looking through my gigantic “inspo” folder on my computer, as well as seeking out the work of several photographers I admire. I hope to write a post about this process soon.

I started a new column over at The Chicago Review of Books, where I’ve been on the editorial staff for a few years now. It’s called “The Translator’s Voice,” and the goal is to highlight the work of a translator each month through interviews and more.

I’ve been interested in translation for a long time, as I’ve always sort of gravitated towards those books. It was my desire to read Japanese novels that pushed me to study the language, so it was a huge honor to be able to talk to Philip Gabriel, the translator behind many of the books of Haruki Murakami which spurred on that desire in the first place.

A few years ago I interviewed Sam Bett and David Boyd about translating Mieko Kawakami, which was truly both an honor and a pleasure. I had a lot of fun doing that interview, bringing it together, and felt it occupied a relatively unique space in the literary criticism landscape. But it was extremely difficult to find a publication that was interested in running it, pay aside! So it’s great to have a regular home for these pieces at a publication that’s been such a gracious home to me to this point.

As of right now, these pieces will mostly be interviews, but I’d love to try and integrate them with deeper analysis, maybe leaning more towards features than straight interviews.

Read the first edition here.

I finally got to see a film I’ve been dying to watch. Eno Swinnen’s short animation, E6D7. I’m not sure when I became aware of Eno’s work; I’m certain I stumbled across their profile on Twitter at some point, but beyond that the details are murky. Regardless through the teaser they shared, the impeccable art and design, I’ve been hyped for this for a good while now.

I saw the film had hit the festival circuit, and as such finally got a chance to see it for myself.

Boy, it didn’t disappoint. I don’t want to say too much here, but I thought it was extremely beautiful. The story is about a robot, learning both surgery and chess, and improving in both. It’s a simple story at the core, but deeply affecting; two scenes made me cry—not a small feat for a film under 20 minutes.

I watched the screener on my computer, and I only wish I could’ve seen it in a theater. There’s a lot that frustrates me about the modern theater experience, but I think there really is something special about sitting in the dark, and then stepping out into the world again having been changed by the experience.

That’s how E6D7 felt to me; after I watched it, I felt like I needed to go somewhere, like the things it had left me with were too much to hold on my own, sitting in my apartment. I took my dog out. As we walked around the neighborhood, I got the same feeling I do after a nice meditation; everything seems a bit clearer, I feel a bit more tuned-in. I watched a young mother blowing bubbles to her infant daughter as they sat in their front yard. I saw the patterns of the petals from the flowering trees that had collected on the asphalt after the previous-night’s rain. I saw the first new blades of grass pushing up through the dirt. It was like stepping outside after a morning rain. I hope the work I make is able to convey that same feeling to people.

Follow Eno on Twitter to find out when you can see E6D7 for yourself.

Finally, there’s a handful of new changes on the site, all stuff I think probably only I will notice. I added reading times to the metadata of each post. I added a sign-up form directly on the newsletter page, and a link to an unlisted archive of past issues, if you missed one. I also removed Disqus comments in favor of Ghost’s built-in ones—members (all of you!) can leave comments directly on posts now; give it a go!

That’s all for now. As always, thanks for reading, and if you really liked this, feel free to share with a friend. We've currently got 86 members on the site; trying to hit 100 by mid-June. Your support means a lot.

Stay Strong,

From Chicago with love,

— I

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