Author : Tom Waits (Author), Michael O'Brien (Author, Photographer) ISBN : 029272649X Publisher : University of Texas Press

Summary:
Singer/songwriter Tom Waits and Michael O'Brien, the renowned photographer or rather an artist, collaborate to present the world, in fact humanity with Hard Ground, a salubrious potion comprising of fine photographs of the homeless and a set of lyrical poetry that speaks compassion and dawning. O'Brien, who began his career as a staff photographer in 1975, finds himself inclined towards deeper empathy for those living without a home as he learns in 2006 that the number of homeless adults and children has elevated to 3.5 million since the 70's.

Tom's songs usually depicted the lives of prostitutes, hucksters, drunks, gangsters, and the ones who have learned to survive the hostile; it is evident why Michael paired up with him, together crafting this artful object of expression. In the introduction, Michael says that photography is a common art of expression that involves the subject sharing his experiences, often giving away something.

Review:
Hard Ground is a transcendental documentary on the lives of those who survive "on the ground", with their in-ground voices speaking oneness on the shady background. The photos mark the extinction of the other. Being simple and together needs merely a peek beyond comfort and independence, as we experience this interconnected existence in which pain and sorrow of one person is not independent of the happiness of another, in another corner of the world. This book brings to the fore the very disparity in the world that we live in, where ideas and ambitions are restricted to the growth of self and not the whole, however, a new dawn awaits our eyes to look at it and experience the transformation real-time as the distances between fellow beings of the world will slowly be erased with many more artistic endeavors like this.

Award winning O'Brien, who has photographed for Life and National geographic, expresses unity in the form of art. Tom's lines are portraitures of empathy and compassion towards those encountering/confronting the "hard ground", in and out, although one might find that they don't fit into poetry. Fairly complimenting his works, Tom paints his contemplations as he communicates luminescence; he writes, See I remind them all that there is a bottom; a bottom, I remind them all, that there is a bottom; Lord Oh yes, there is a bottom indeed, yes there is a bottom, and it looks just like me. Know self-delusion to successfully complete the cycle to rise out of it and realize it at an absolute perspective to turn it into a healthy reflection of your state of being. Acceptance breeds resilience, and resilience is the ground for propelling anything to an ascent; this book helps you swallow the bitter truth of deprivation that has been prevailing in our society, the painful fact that many of our brothers and sisters of the world have no security of a home or a family, as we coldly watch them slip away to a state of an apathetic existence.

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Nhut Pham

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