A Walk through Indiana in Photographs and Poems

Poems by Norbert Krapf
Photographs by Darryl Jones

Foreword by Scott Russell Sanders
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: May 24, 2006
Format: 288 pages, cloth, 9-1/2 X 8-3/4
135 color photographs, 125 poems
Price: $39.95
ISBN: 0-253-34753-X

Table of Contents


This book is the fruit of a collaboration that Indiana natives Darryl Jones and Norbert Krapf have wanted to do since Krapf used a favorite Jones photograph on the cover of his 2002 collection of poems set in Indiana, The Country I Come From, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Jones and Krapf share a love of Indiana history, culture, and landscape as well as an appreciation of Asian art and literature. When Krapf moved back to Indiana in 2004 after thirty-four years in the New York area and resettled with his family in Indianapolis, a collaboration became inevitable.

Jones' Polaroid manipulations and transfers of Indiana scenes, which resemble Impressionist paintings or watercolors, and Krapf's meditative poems in response, take the reader on a spiritual journey through a familiar landscape that reveals the "invisible presence" of a higher reality underlying everyday Midwestern life. The book, which includes an epigraph from American Transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau's "Walking" essay, takes the reader on a stroll along back roads, into fields, woods, the barnyard, the garden, the small town, and, finally, along waters that become increasingly spiritual. Readers will recognize these Jones images as familiar scenes transformed into the timeless realm of art further deepened by Krapf's short meditative poems. A series of reflections on mortality triggered by Jones' Polaroid images of nature are balanced by the humor in Krapf's poems written in the voice of creatures such as cows and steers staring at the idiosyncracies of human behavior, a sculpted chicken perched atop a pole at the county fair surveying the human drama below, and fields of pumpkins and hay bales determined to revolt against their plight.

In the Preface he wrote for Invisible Presence, Darryl Jones talks about how he came to employ the Polaroid “manipulation” technique after a period of taking realistic or “literal” photographs that aimed to capture the inner essence and spirit of a landscape. The end of both the traditional approach and the more experimental Polaroid manipulation and transfer is “nature as theophany,” but there is a difference in methodology. Jones explains how the Polaroid manipulation differs: “The technique is reminiscent of open-air painting, for after I have taken the photograph I stand in front of the original scene while I am working on the print.  I use numerous devices, such as a stylus, to press upon the surface of the print, applying the necessary pressure to move the dyes beneath the protective surface.  Experimenting with different styluses and hand-stylus pressures, I realized I could produce dramatically different results.” 

The effect, Jones concludes, is similar to what the Impressionistic painters, whom he had long admired, achieved: “The resulting image is only a representation of what I experienced, an impression of the experience rather than a literal presentation of the scene before me.  Instead of detail, I work to reveal the essential, underlying form… I always appreciated the Impressionist painters who looked for form and bold colors, but now I feel as if we are kindred spirits.” 

Invisible Presence is a unique and ground-breaking collaboration between a photographer and a poet that makes the reader see and appreciate the Midwestern heritage, as well as everyday reality, in a new way.

In the Foreword, essayist and novelist Scott Russell Sanders, author of Staying Put, Writing from the Center, and A Private History of Awe, says: "Ranging from haiku-like maxims to brawny catalogues reminiscent of Whitman, by turns wry and soulful, these poems link the exterior landscape of pumpkins and pumps with the interior landscape of memory and emotion. Like "Corn Syllables," which ends as "a hymn / of praise," all of these poems may be read as psalms, hymns of wonder and delight. Those with an ear for American poetry will hear echoes not only of Whitman but also of Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Sandburg, and Roethke, and those with an ear for poetry from across the sea will hear echoes of Blake, Lawrence, and Rilke...

"Those of us who live in unspectacular landscapes - like Indiana, or for that matter like most of the Midwest - landscapes without mountains or canyons, without towering waterfalls or stony coastlines - may be especially prone to lose our sense of awe. Our senses may grow dull, cutting us off from the radiance that surrounds us, fills us, makes us. We should be grateful to Darryl Jones and Norbert Krapf for helping us to see spiritual presence not merely in all things Hoosier but in all things."

Historical novelist James Alexander Thom, author of the best-selling Follow the River, Long Knife, The Red Heart, and other works set in the Old Northwest and early Indiana, has said about Invisible Presence: "I’ve known Darryl Jones and Norbert Krapf many years and admired their respective works. What they’ve done together here is a new and magical symbiosis. There’s a Van Gogh quality to these images. What set Van Gogh apart was his way of seeing, into the essence of light and form. Now those pictures in turn have helped the poet see into the essence, and express what he sees with an economy of words…. It’s rare…to read such intense thought and feeling compressed into tight, neat packages of one-syllable words."

Thom concludes about the Jones and Krapf collaboration represented in Invisible Presence: "Both the poet and the photographer have advanced into a new, free level of image-making."

Read Norbert Krapf's autobiographical essay "Collaborating with Indiana Photographer Darryl Jones."




What if fish flew
in a blue sky over
the house & birds
flipped out of water?

What if shadows
instead of family sounds
leaked out of a house?

What if an animal
lounged in a chair
on the porch
while his master
snored at his feet
on the floor?

Polaroid manipulation

What if a poet
built gingerbread houses
made out of words
that when you ate
them gave you
the power to create
an Indiana epic

& a photographer
transformed every
image into a painting
that gave you
the capacity to see
spiritual presence
in all things Hoosier?

Poem © Norbert Krapf 2006
Polaroid manipulation © Darryl Jones 2006


The space between
the noses of
a mare & her foal

who arch together
in a field
beside a fence

is the distance
between two worlds
reduced by love.

Poem © Norbert Krapf 2006
Polaroid transfer
© Darryl Jones 2006

Polaroid transfer