"We wish we were… as old as brave men."
An enigmatic line from a poem composed by a soccer team of 8 to 11-year-olds inner city New York touched Jim Thorpe-based photographic artist Tom Storm.
"I don't know if it was intentionally written like that," Storm said. "Some people would say as brave as old men. 'As old as brave men,' that to me had weight to it. Somewhat was identifiable, some was unidentifiable, but it carried it anyway."
Storm selected We Wish We Were from 21 poems written by children participating in the America SCORES New York, an after school program that focuses on soccer, writing, creative expression, and service-learning. With teamwork as the unifying value, it seeks to inspire youth to lead healthy lifestyles, be engaged students, and become agents of change in their communities.
From friends, Storm learned that America SCORES New York was having an event called Inspired Art. The premise is to raise awareness, and to raise money for the program.
"They had children, either in groups or individually write poems, then artists would raise their hand to be a part of this, choose a poem from a bank of those presented, and choose the one that inspired them," Storm explained.
"Then, based on whatever the art medium – mine being photography – we would create a piece of art inspired by that poem, and submit that art to be a part of an online silent auction and be part of an event where the art would be displayed, the children's poems would be highlighted, and then the artwork would be sold."
Storm selected We Wish We Were. The 168 word poem begins, "We wish we were as unbeatable as the best soccer team in the world... We wish we were dinosaurs..."
"I chose it for a number of reasons," Storm explained. "One, the way it was written, 'We wish we were… dinosaurs, so we could scare people.' 'We wish we were… great at soccer, so we could win every game.' There were a number of things that went from imaginative and fantastic to almost moody and introspective."
And there was the line, "as brave as old men," that resonated with him, "because you may think that some brave men don't live very long, depending on what they are being brave about."
"It created several visions for me. I had thoughts of people aging, and what that means. That particular phrase brings up the idea of soldiers, the idea of the VFW, or just being older, having gone through life. The experiences that we all share whether in combat, or in life. It doesn't have to be significant on a worldwide basis to be significant in your life or to carry weight."
Pulling together those ideas, Storm wanted to create a work that was "a little bit moody." He was drawn to a photograph he had taken "in Alaska a few years ago of a trio of trees. All of different heights and one leaning against another."
His friend, John Gunsser, once suggested that the image took on a humanist form, the trees leaning against one another looked like three people standing side-by-side.
For his project, Storm "wanted people to be able to look into it a little," he said. "The people are similar to the trees and the trees are similar to the people."
To make a humanistic photograph similar to the trio of trees photo, Storm asked Gunsser and another friend, Jill Williams and her daughter, Lila, to pose on the steps of the former Mauch Chunk Times News building in Jim Thorpe.
After printing the photos, Storm framed each photo on aged velum on a pattern that that looks like antique wallpaper. It gives a sense of age, of history, and a past-term memory. He pin-mounted each in a way tyou would "find in a science classroom in the 1950s… There's a bunch of visual clues to give it a particular mood," he noted."
His original photos were taken with a Nikon D300, but the photos of his photos were taken on his IPhone using a vintage photography application called Hipstermatic.
The 14" by 20" completed piece, composed of the two images on a vintage background framed in dark oak, will be unveiled April 27 at America SCORES New York's Inspired Art Project at the Sky Room, 330 W. 40th Street, New York City. Their motto is, "The youth provided the voice. The artists provided the vision."