You know, it’s actually very difficult for me to describe the work of fifteen-year-old photographer Alex Simms. I’ve been watching his work for months, and I’ve been thinking about this all week, of course, but still. Even now, the best I can do is to say that every time I look at one of his pictures, I can’t help thinking of hide and seek. That Alex has something like a creative sixth sense for the secret places, the nooks and crannies and corners, where the light likes to hide, playing its own games in our lives. He always finds them out, too, the people, the light, chasing each other around and around, before arriving at that moment of confusion, when one of the two parties suddenly stops, realizing they’re not sure who is chasing whom.
Likewise, I can’t even tell you how happy I was last week, when I received Alex’s writing. It was the first time a collaborator shared writing with me, and Alex’s sketch, which was so clean and direct, gave our collaboration its direction this week, completely. Beyond that, though, Alex’s sketch made me think about Thea’s life in the weeks prior to meeting Cam. Where she was coming from, who she was, how she saw herself in the first two or three weeks of her sophomore year.
Also, Alex’s writing had great details, very specific idea. In that one sketch, there were things he told me about these characters that I didn’t know, hadn’t even thought to ask, really, but certainly do now. There were moments when I had some doubts about Walmart as story line, how I’d handle it, but in the end, I handled it by trying to imagine it was one of Alex’s pictures, how he would handle it, how he would treat it, the weight he would give that detail. And once I thought of it that way, I was off and running.
On the other hand, humor definitely has its place in Alex’s work, as well. I have to say, I was very tempted to a lift a line from his photostream and title the week’s writing sketches, “I Think They Were Astronauts, Or Something.” Another time, maybe.
So I tried bringing these different elements together, the slightly eery sense of hiding and seeking, the way light can hide right in front of our eyes. That genuine awe I feel for the way Alex perceives those very human blind spots, which could easily come across bleak or hopeless in the hands of someone less sensitive. When I think of his pictures, I think of Alex’s innate ability to sneak up from behind, and how, when Alex captures those moments, the light feels like it’s bursting at the seams. Caught, exposed. And then you just have to wait for Alex to return with another picture, another game, another secret hiding place.
Alex, thank you very much for your photos, your writing, your constant support of this project, not just me, but all the artists you encourage, believe in, and inspire.