NEWPORT -Partners and artists Tony Oliveri and Vicki Latta took a leap on their first-ever collaborative project.
The Millerstown couple is showing off their collaboration, the book of poetry and photographs entitled, "LEAP," during a book signing and reading at 7 p.m. March 2, at the Perry County Council of the Arts Gallery in downtown Newport.
Life is a leap
Sentinel photo by TABITHA GOODLING
Millerstown couple Tony Oliveri and Vicki Latta collaborated on a book of his poetry and her photographs entitled, ‘LEAP.’ They will appear at a book signing and reading at 7 p.m. March 2, at the Perry County Council of the Arts Gallery in downtown Newport.
Oliveri is a writer who has produced three other books of poetry including "Framing Mundane Moments" and "Dithyramb Sithyramb." The first book he published was entitled "20 Some Thing: Millenary Musings." Latta had contributed some of the photography in Oliveri's earlier books, but the "LEAP" book was a complete combined effort in which only Latta did the photography.
"The idea hatched in November, 2009," Oliveri said. He had noticed that some of Latta's work would appear nicely with some of the poems he was writing. They decided to give it a "whirl" so to speak, and learned a few things about one another along the way.
"Our working processes are very different," Oliveri said, "I was in charge," he added with a chuckle.
Oliveri, who is known to many in the area as "Santa Claus," due to his similar appearance to the bearded man of Christmas, is originally from Pittsburgh and moved to the Millerstown area to raise his daughter 35 years ago.
He had been a writer many years before, since his days in high school, journaling his thoughts and sketching out poems. It wasn't until 1996 and the help of Sophie's Reaction Writer's Group, a group Oliveri and others created in Perry County, that he was able to read aloud and share his work. Since then, he is also known as the "Poet Coot."
"Sometimes I would think, 'Why would anyone want to read that?'" Oliveri admitted.
"It truly is a leap to put this stuff out there," he said.
"LEAP," the book, is filled with poetry that speaks of "leaps" in life with the underlying message that life is short and sometimes it's necessary to take the plunge.
One such poem is entitled "Attitude," which won a third place award through Perry County Poet Laureate in 2011. It is an account of an older person looking back over his or her life. The photo that accompanies the poem is one Latta snapped of her aging mother, whose back was to the camera in her chair looking at the wall in her home.
"Life isn't a sure thing," Latta commented. The photo is among a variety of shots taken in Perry and Juniata counties.
Leap and snap!
The cover photo for "LEAP" was taken at Millerstown Community Pool. One hot July afternoon as the temperatures tickled the 100 degree mark, Latta ventured out with the pool committee's permission to take shot of young people diving into the pool.
"I shot between 200 and 250 (photos). This young man was one of three or four who were jumping into the pool that day," Latta said, pointing to the red-haired man with fair skin and sunburn shadowed in pink on his back and neck. Barak Hunker, the 16year-old Greenwood High School student, was thrilled to be the cover boy on the book, Latta said.
The photos in the book are expressive and creative, thoughtful and portrait. From an eerie face that is actually a lemon in a glass of ice water, to a photo of Oliveri in a Santa suit holding a newborn, the photos give an additional voice to the poem.
Latta has been in love with photography since she was given her first Polaroid Swinger in 1965. Since then she has moved from the world of darkrooms and film to the modern day digital era of discs and memory cards.
"I've always been fascinated with the whole idea," she said.
Her first photo - or perhaps one of her first - was taken near Christmas in 1965 of her mother's Volkswagon covered in snow. It was a "leap" for Latta to learn the new photo technology of today after years of using a Nikon with duct tape holding the back of the camera together.
She chuckled, "It was a great camera."
Latta added, however, that the fancy cameras of today are not a must to be a good photographer. "You don't need a good camera to get good picture." Some of the photos in the book were taken with a camera phone and some others, such as one picture of fireworks that one would assume required a highly aggressive piece of technology, were taken with a "point and shoot" camera.
The couple has been a part of each other's life for 15 years and, they have enjoyed the world of the arts and opportunities around them. They have attended many a Little Buffalo Arts Festival together as Latta juggled her duct-taped Nikon and Oliveri took in the sounds and sights in hopes of putting the experience to paper. Oliveri has volunteered in some form at every festival in its 29-year existence.
One photo featured in the new book is of a little girl with a ring of flowers in hair reading a book at the Little Buffalo event. The photo is nestled next to the poem "Writing."
The couple sorted through hundreds of photos for the book, as Latta read over Oliveri's poems and shared ideas.
Oliveri works under his own self-publishing name, Totaloonie. He also helps other writers set up their own books and create the "perfect binding" book. Perry County Council of the Arts provides the ISBN number for writer's books.
Latta and Oliveri are thrilled to share their work together at the PCCA gallery. Oliveri will read from his book and Latta's photos will appear in slide show form.
Copies of the book will be available at the gallery for $15, with some of the proceeds supporting PCCA.
"We really want to support the gallery by doing this," Oliveri said, noting his appreciation of PCCA organizations like Sophie's Reaction Group, as well as the Perry County Camera Club, in which Latta is a member.
Copies of the book are also available at the RC&D in Lewistown and online at www.pccagallery.com.