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Photography :: Larry Schwarm

One of Larry Schwarm’s photographs adorns the cover of the most recent issue of New Letters. At first I thought it was an image from Katrina, but there was something more colorful about it than those now, all too familiar waterlogged and mildewed landscapes. Schwarm’s subject is the Greensburg Tornado that swept through and destroyed his home town on May 4, 2007. Schwarm was out the next day documenting the devastation. It’s odd to say there’s something beautiful about the images he captures, but then, maybe it’s an odd kind of beauty – to be awed by the end result of an F5 tornado, to see an ordered world turned upside down, to be witness to death and chaos that comes to rest under sunny blue skies. Had Schwarm shot this photo essay in black and white, my feelings might be different, more somber perhaps, less mesmerized by the intricacies of these ruins. As it is, it’s like looking at the pages of a children’s seek and find book, trying to pick out and make sense of the pieces and how they should have fit together. And being stunned to see a single green plate, whole and intact at the top of a heap of brick and mortar rubble, or a closet full of clothes and personal items left completely intact while the entire structure around it is obliterated. This issue of New Letters is worth picking up just for Schwarm’s photos alone, though the images are also on his web site. Also on his site, the one black and white photos he shares is 7.5×36.5 inches and is composed of nine negatives. Prints are available for $100 each, with 100% above printing costs donated to the Kiowa County (Greensburg, Kansas) Historical Society. In print or online, well worth the look.

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