Symphony in black and white

... dancing to a silent tune

Louise Fennell

There are three black and white photograms of
peacock feathers hanging above the keyboard in my
living room. Another three are on the floor waiting to
join them on the wall as soon as I figure out where I
want to place them. They look so peaceful that no one
would ever suspect the journey they have survived.

I developed them over twenty years ago in an art class
at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly. I was a
volunteer in the school library and as compensation
for my time, I was allowed to use the darkroom and
also audit classes. Since I had already taken all their
photo classes, I chose a design course. The emphasis
was on painting  but I decided to fulfill the
assignments with unusual photo techniques. That's
how the journey began.

I don't remember the specifics of the assignment but I
knew I had to be creative.  After staring into space for
a few hours, I determined to use my allotted time in
the darkroom to advantage. As part of an earlier class
in black and white photography the teacher showed us
how to make photograms. They are pictures done  in
the darkroom without the use of a camera. I took
some peacock feathers I had in a vase in the corner of
the living room and experimented with placing them in
different ways on the photo paper and then developing
them. Where the feathers block the light from striking
the paper the paper stays white and where the light
hits it turns black. This makes an interesting contrast
in black and white. I loved the results.

In fact, I loved the results so much that I entered them
in a Danvers Art Association exhibit. That's where the
journey began. The pictures hung in the halls of a
medical center for a month. By the end of that time, I
had forgotten all about them and never went to pick
them up. Years later, after I had moved from Danvers
to Melrose I got a call one day from a woman who said
she had been trying to find me for years and finally
succeeded in getting my address on the internet.

She said that after the exhibit, she had taken them
home with her expecting to hear from me, which never
happened, and had stored them until she could find
me. I went to her house and picked them up the next
day and they have been hanging on my wall ever since
with the short exception of a month when they were
entered in a competition in Malden. They took second

I now look at them from the comfort of my couch
every night while watching television, and imagine
them swaying to a joyful tune.

April 1, 2016

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