PDN Photo of the Day

Youth and Revolt

Photographer and writer Paul Kwiatkowski‘s debut novel, “And Every Day Was Overcast” (Black Balloon Publishing, 2013) combines a story of South Florida suburban adolescence with snapshot photographs that allude to characters and situations described in the text. The photographs were made first on film with cheap, often disposable cameras during Kwiatkowski’s youth, then later with a phone or point-and-shoot camera. Some of the images were staged and others real, but readers don’t know which are which. The book, reminiscent of Harmony Korine and Larry Clark’s film “Kids,” follows the main character through first-person narration, moving chronologically through his childhood and high-school years as he copes with the grim and hedonistic characters that sprout from the rotting suburban landscape. There are older guys taking advantage of sad and lonely teenage girls by feeding them drugs; a ruthlessly picked-on kid; friends who mix frog venom and iced tea into hallucinogenic drinks; poverty and depression; acid and cocaine and malt liquor; intense adolescent cruelty; and the all-consuming and mostly elusive pursuit of sex. Kwiatkowski’s language is harsh and direct, and his stories are compelling in their sadness and brutality. The “hero” descends into a yearlong acid binge. He finally gets laid but is too drunk to know much about it. Few of his associates seem destined for anything more than what they already have, which is very little ambition and fewer brain cells. The photographs serve to confirm the reality of these stories. We look at them and can see the people and landscape Kwiatkowski describes. Whether this means these stories are largely autobiographical, or are simply of a piece with the author’s experience, matters little, and is part of what grips us. Kwiatkowski has produced an illustrated novel that shows what the form can do.

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