I’m a writer and editor of an online literary magazine. My primary blog is Via Negativa, and I have a personal website with a bio, publication credits, social media links and the like. I use Flickr as my primary photo storage site. You can contact me by email: bontasaurus [at] yahoo [dot] com.
About the site
This site began as a photoblog on Shutterchance in late December 2007, and I greatly appreciate the comments and huge numbers of hits I received as a result of my virtual residence there. But when the pace of my posting began to fall off in mid-2009, it no longer made sense to pay just to keep the archive online, so I moved some of the photos here, one by one. I’ve preserved the original posting dates for those.*
To relieve the tedium of re-posting old photos one by one, I began making up haiku for the captions. These soon morphed into a new hybrid form I call photoblog haiku, in which the first line also functions as the title of the photo/post. The photo and poem together may be seen as a contemporary, digital realization of the Japanese haiga, an ekphrastic combination of picture (ga) and haiku. Needless to say, I am not a 5-7-5 dogmatist where haiku are concerned.
About the name
The Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) is a native of the abundant rock outcroppings and talus slopes on ridgetops in the Appalachians, where I live. A close relative of the better-known packrat of the American West, it is renowned for the large midden or trash-heap which it likes to build just outside the entrance to its burrow. Unfortunately, the species has suffered a drastic decline in many parts of its traditional range in recent decades, due to the fragmentation of forested mountaintop habitat by roads, rights-of-way, housing subdivisions, and other openings, which together have permitted the edge-dwelling raccoon to invade woodrat territory and transmit a deadly roundworm. The loss of the American chestnut as a dependable source of food might also be a contributing factor. In 40 years’ residence in Plummer’s Hollow, we have only ever had one woodrat sighting — probably an individual dispersing from a colony on the nearby, much wilder Allegheny Front.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Larkin (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), “The Allegheny woodrat is a poster child for everything that can and will go wrong in a human dominated landscape.” For me, it is a potent emblem of the wildness and fragility of the Appalachian forest.
About my photography
The vast majority of my photos have been taken within a mile of where I live. For me as a poet and an editor, photography is an almost spiritual exercise, a training in how to see, how to frame and edit, how to find the poetry in ordinary things. I’m especially interested in the challenge of making photos in which the roles of figure and ground are reversible, or even nonexistent. Philosophically, I feel we must get beyond a perception of nature as mere scenery. Gorgeous wall calendars from Sierra Club and the like offend me at a very basic level; nature porn does nothing for the cause of conservation. Indeed, to the extent that it helps sell SUVs and houses in subdivisions, it actually makes things worse. We must get people to appreciate their own back forty, or the vacant lot down the street — only then do we have a chance of convincing them that every part of this planet is a work of art in which we participate and are continually remade.
My camera is a Fuji FinePix S5200. I keep telling myself that the limitations of my equipment constitute an artistic challenge. Would it make sense for me to succumb to societal pressure to upgrade, to be a consumer, if the primary purpose of my photography is to communicate love of the natural world?
About the license
All the photos here are available for reuse or remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States license. For web use, “attribution” should include both my full name (Dave Bonta) and a link back to the original photo page. “Noncommercial” includes any publication from a registered nonprofit. If you’re interested in commercial use, drop me a line. If you want to make prints of the photos for personal use, go right ahead.
*Oddly enough, Shutterchance did not in fact remove all but the last month of my archives as expected — last I checked, everything I posted was still online there.