And the Smoke Rises

by | Jul 21, 2022

A grayscale image of a crow sitting on the skeletal branches of a tree

And the Smoke Rises, by Sam Carter

A pigeon sits atop a tree and gasps for breath back.

Novelist Richard Price once gave the advice that “The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.” But what do you write about when the whole of the big thing is not yet so faded from memory as to leave a resonance? What do you do when there’s nothing left at all?

Maybe you try to count your blessings. You strive to be grateful for what you do have. You collect bits of good news and hope it’s enough to drown out all the bad. You tell yourself that other people have suffered worse. You write about the shoes of a child someone else lost, because you can’t bring yourself to even write about the child itself without feeling the loss as if it were your own. Somehow there are no words for that. There will never be enough words, and there will never be the right words. All you can do is collect the ashes and promise yourself that next time the world will be kinder. Next time the world won’t break your heart.

Then suddenly it’s summer again, and the world is on fire.

It is impossible to write of flames without writing of ash, perhaps because it seems impossible to make the world care about fire without showing it desolation, but you have to find a way to show people loss without it feeling so real it breaks them. Maybe you take Richard Price’s advice and try to find something small to write about, something there are words for, but maybe there is nothing. Maybe all you can do is show them that the world is suffering with them.

A pigeon sits atop a tree and gasps for breath back.

Sam Carter

Sam Carter

Publab Fellow 2022

Sam Carter is both an avid photographer and writer. Her love of animals as well as her fascination with the complexity of the relationship between mankind and the rest of creation has driven her to try to bridge the gap between the joys and the suffering of each. She utilizes her art to not only showcase the beauty of nature, but also to remind her audience of the not-so-distant connection between animals and themselves. As the impact humans have upon their world bleeds into each new generation, all life cannot help but suffer along with them. Sam aims to remind her audience to not get so wrapped up in their own troubles as to forget that their hardship, and, more importantly, that their response to that hardship, is never theirs alone to bear. It is this passion that has led Sam to publish both her photos and her writing for the likes of the Pasadena Audubon Society, which works to educate the general public on the plight of birds everywhere, as well as show how people can make a positive change towards their conservation. It is this kind of advocacy that drives Sam to create her art. Sam uses photojournalism to present the world as it is – a raw reflection of both the lovely and the ugly truth of what humanity has created.