For over a year, I have been taking photographs of hands at work at the various events we have attended all over the country, and since July of 2019, there has often been a gallery of some of these photos next to the Lost City Knits booth.
We were supposed to be at the DFW FiberFest in Irving, Texas this weekend, and Project HandWork was to have some dedicated space.
Instead, we are all cooped up, each doing our part to help our human community get beyond this moment.
I had no understanding of what this project was about when I began. Denise and I kicked around a couple of ideas for photographic projects, and one of them was to photograph hands. The technical aspects were easy enough to figure out, but an early concern was how to ask people for photos. I quickly learned that there is no need for concern there. Knitters will always show their work.
My understanding of what I’m doing keeps developing. After the first couple of days of taking photos, when I saw thirty or forty images on my screen together in my editing software, it hit me — this isn’t about individual photos, although they are all lovely by themselves. This is about the diverse human community.
My own lenses, metaphorically speaking, keep coming into focus. At an early display an observer announced, “Hmm…it seems like people are choosing bright colors these days.”
No, I thought…that doesn’t reflect a market trend. Those are simply the more vibrant photos. I chose them, and they don’t reflect anyone else’s preferences. I’m a component of what people experience, because of my decisions.
I often ask what people notice, and the first time someone said, “I’m seeing how people carry their yarn,” I realized that, as a non-knitter, I’d never thought to consider that quite technical component of the photos.
Recently, at STITCHES West in California, a woman came in to look at the gallery. She said she was a rehabilitation nurse, and helped people regain physical ability after illness or trauma. I asked her what she saw.
“That’s a surgeon,” she said, “That’s how a surgeon would hold needles.”
She was correct. She continued to look around.
“There is a joint trauma.”
“I want to check her blood pressure.”
“That joint will be arthritic in ten years.”
“This is some sort of burn trauma.”
Because I knew some of the people behind the stories, I was aware of how accurate her observations were, although I certainly lack her expertise in being able to spot our differences. She brought her own unique lens.
We all bring our own lenses.
While there is no gathering of like-minded people at DFW FiberFest this weekend, these photos showing individuals in isolation working on pieces that are important to them speaks to our moment. We are separated, but not alone. We each do our thing. The human fabric continues to unfurl, with all its diversity, individualism, and community.
A different sort of handwork.
Denise working on masks for friends and the local hospital.