Written by Logan Riley Carroll
Photographed by Blair Bellaire
Caleb Flachman is a self-described “amalgamation” of sorts. He is the offspring of Minnesotans, a left-brain father who discusses family matters through Microsoft Excel and a right-brain mother who whimsically stops the car to photograph roadside fields. He is a senior Communication major with minors in both Fine Art and English Creative Writing. He is a man of flesh, bone, and steel rods, having undergone three life-saving spinal surgeries before he was fifteen. And there he sits across from me: blond, straight-backed, observing—the analyst and the artist.
Caleb’s photography is featured in this year’s edition of Ivy Leaves, but his writing, both poetry and nonfiction, have appeared in journals past. Like the varied parts of his sum, Caleb draws inspiration from all across the artistic spectrum. He shares American photographer William Eggleston’s fascination with photographing the commonplace, the everyday, the individuals in commute to work, the vehicle that got them there. Caleb even admires writers and painters through a lens, so to speak. “There’s a certain cinematic quality to George Orwell’s descriptions of things that I really like.” Caleb grips his cup of tea, occasionally lifting it from the table, but never to sip. “Maybe, even more so, Ray Bradbury—how he can put you in a moment without a ton of detail and description.”
Edward Hopper is especially influential to Caleb, not only as a painter he studied last Fall semester, but as a fellow connoisseur and collector of the daily humdrum. Caleb acknowledges Hopper’s “oblique view into space,” and says he “seems to subconsciously emulate” the style in his own photography. Like Hopper’s work, the object of Caleb’s focus never ends up in the middle, at times drifting far to the left or the right, often planting the question in the viewers’ head, what is most important in the frame? I teasingly ask if he finds himself being pulled toward such perspectives at concerts and the like. He laughs, “I don’t know. Quite possibly. I haven’t really thought of that. I definitely, on a social level, tend to pull back to the corners where I can see everything that’s happening … I don’t like feeling surrounded by people that are watching me.”
But he likes to watch them. With a camera in hand, Caleb is eager to capture the images of strangers. He ventures down city sidewalks and aboard public transportation, surrounding himself with many, perhaps intruding on some. “I’ve definitely been yelled at before.” As he shows me various photos he’s shot in the hearts of Washington D.C. and New York City, Caleb begins to speak of a completely different amalgamation—an establishment that blends socioeconomic/political realms with daily existential crises; a civilization where the most sad and frustrated individuals are juxtaposed with advertisements for joy-inducing products. Caleb’s photograph Disaffection seems to be a culmination of the artists who inspire him—a Hopper snapshot of a world where this societal doublethink is tearing its inhabitants to pieces, routinely.
Caleb shrugs when I ask about his post-graduation agenda. Perhaps an MFA program is on the horizon. Perhaps a job in photojournalism. But wherever he ends up, talent, passion, and creativity will arrive with him.