Devouring the Dead

Marshall Soules is a photographer who jolts, challenges, sparks me. I feel creative when I’m around his creativity.

He captures street life with his camera. He takes pictures of pictures, makes art from art. He goes to different cities— say, Barcelona or Havana—and photographs wall art by often anonymous or little-known artists who put their signatures on the city in which they live.  Soules keeps a record of their signatures.

The wall artist, Julier P., whose real name is Yulier Rodriguez Pérez, is one of the Cuban “signatures” Soules has faithfully kept a record of. Julier’s gifts to his city are all over Havana – by bus stops, beneath bridges, on the sides of buildings, at the waterfront.

“I try to represent a reality,” Pérez says.  His reality often differs from the official reality of the government.

Marshall Soules’ photograph of Julier P.’s wall painting

The above photograph by Soules of Pérez’s open-mouthed figure about to swallow a skull tells me in image something I know from experience.  We live off the dead. I, in particular, ingest the dead on a daily basis. I welcome dead friends and loved ones into my body and consciousness every day.

My books, my articles, my poems are often about dead writers, dead artists. (Occasionally, as with this short piece on Marshall Soules, I write on the living.)  And like Soules who makes art from art, I make books from books, so my Lightness and Soul is primarily about the books of dead Jewish writers and my Spirit Book Word is primarily about books by dead thinkers, poets, and storytellers.

Growing up, my Irish Aunts –and my mother too—would say to a child in the family: “I love you so much I could eat you.”  And that’s one of the things Soules’ photograph of Julier’s image says: I love you so much I could eat you. When I eat you, you become a part of me. When I eat you, you live in me.  You live through my memory, my work.

When you’re looking at Marshall Soules’ art-wall photographs, read the street-life stories of Roberto Bolaño while listening to Jessie Reyes or Lights, young soulful voices — life coming directly through to you by eye and ear.  That’s one of Soules’ great talents as a photographer: he gives you life as it is from the gritty-edgy-sketchy part of town.


Marshall Soules is the former Chair of Media Studies at Vancouver Island University and author of Media, Persuasion, and Propaganda (2015).  He has been photographing wall art since the 1980s. His most recent book with B.W. Powe, The Charge of the Global Membrane, displays some of his finest wall-art photographs.


Another Soules’ photograph of Julier P.’s murals

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