024 - Inspired Art

Smog filled the air at dawn today. Birds swayed in and out of the frame, aimless. On the news people spoke about Mars, the equinox and the solstice, what do we have to say here in this letter?

I am Maneesh, this Bombay Daak. You may have signed up after reading this piece or this (or maybe this). If not tell me what got you here.

To break the grey around me we have some colour from Raed Al-Rawi that sets the platform for a fanciful poem by Ernest Tjia. This issue thus touches upon an unspoken (at least not often) truth of creative life - all art is inspired.  


Brian Eno has created an ambience for more of these letters here than any other musician.

I write these letters in bits. Some start on a Sunday afternoon, and then wind up in a letter weeks later. The music keeps varying, but I drift into pieces like this one - [1/1] from Music for Airports.

And it is strange that I am listening to it, because what's got me started with this letter to you today is a poem called Mural of an Alligator in Aviation.  

Mural of an Alligator in Aviation

by Ernest Tjia 

At the Charlotte Douglas Airport there is a mural 
featuring an alligator flying, wearing a yellow

dress shirt that has been tailored-fit to 
act like a cape, and he has a red tie

that is parallel to his body in the wind, that looks 
like it was clipped on instead of worn.

Of course, the trick is that it was indeed, painted 
on, and I wonder what that says

about the Bank of America whose headquarters are 
located on 100 North Tryon street.

I remember the bailout to the tune of twenty billion dollars 
issued by the Troubled Asset Relief Program

in which some moneylenders and corporate suits 
made a bad decision. Maybe two.

Or more. I’ve lost count. What I do know: 
The first forms of modern insurance

predate the founding of the Republic 
that issued the three-fifths compromise.

In capitalist ruins there is the figure of a woman 
in a pantsuit, who has just bought ownership

of her first home, and plans to decorate it 
with art, and flowers you can only get

from a specialty florist up in the Appalachians 
who sells them by the double-dozen.

There are pennyworts and bloodroots and rue 
anemones, accompanied by the sweet

southern twang, that awful lonesome 
song of a Mountaineer. 

More Raed Al-Rawi

I explored more of the Iraq born Al-Rawi’s work and I’ve become a fan of his whimsy.

These flying letter boxes, so apt for this newsletter, gives us a sweet segue into another beautiful project that was born during the pandemic.

The Parameters of our Cage

Chris Fausto wrote a letter in January to photographer to Alec Soth. Which is alright, except that Chris is incarcerated in prison.

The Parameters of our Cage is a book documenting this exchange of letters between Fausto and Soth. At once a conversation of our times, at once a conversation for the ages, I am looking forward to this more than any other book this year!

Pictures the contrast here, Fausto a jailbird caught within the walls and Soth a path breaking photographer who travels almost all the time for work. What did they learn from each other? What came of it? And to think all this came out of this pandemic year, at a time when their country has burned and stood divided and massacred by a virus. Letters accompanied by Soth’s photos, give it to me already!


In most interviews Soth speaks about how one of his earliest inspirations was Summer Nights by Robert Adams. A young artist, picks up an object and desires to make something similar. But as in the case of Tjia and Fausto, inspiration can work in a manner that stands as a stage to take flight from.


  1. I liked Alec Soth’s new newsletter project, it is usually long, but it is unique

  2. MACK’s blog on Soth’s first photo book - Sleeping by the Mississippi, is a great place to get context of his work

  3. I am a fan of photo books in general as they fall into my logic of Objects vs Things better. We have previously spoken about Teju Cole’s photo book in Daak. As part of writing this letter, I landed on a tour of Soth’s library and its filled with photo books and albums and is generally a joy to see. I should probably also call this part of this issue Alec Soth.