The three photographs featured in this issue are drawn from my most recent project, a collection of black and white photographs and short stories titled Unsettled. The collection is inspired, in part, by my interest in the historical relationship between detective fiction and not only photography, but also a variety of other forensic technologies such as fingerprinting, handwriting analysis, and lie detection. The stories explore conflicts and mysteries generated by personal space and property; many involve characters occupying or navigating someone else’s turf: a woman illicitly inhabits her ex-husband’s apartment; a family loses itself amidst the vacant houses, foreclosure auctions, and other artifacts of the recent housing bust; a house-sitter attempts to fend off trick-or-treaters and other menaces. The collection’s thematic interest in space serves to generate, in turn, a set of more formal questions: How does narrative itself manage space? What do stories enable the reader to see (or not see)? How do different points of view and strategies of focalization shape the reader’s movement through the story? The photographs in the collection do not illustrate moments in the stories directly, but rather extend and complicate these broader questions. They suggest that some event or even crime has taken place already—that the particular object or site photographed is subject to inspection. The mysteries raised by the photographs and the stories, however, do not always find solutions. Instead of yielding psychological depth and dimension, the stories and photographs more often get flattened out into a set of material patterns and arrangements.
Jennie Berner’s writing has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Journal, Boston Review, The Coachella Review, Postmodern Culture, and elsewhere. A recent graduate of the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she teaches creative writing and composition at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. The photographs featured in this issue are part of her most recent short story collection, Unsettled. She is currently at work on a novel centered around a set of late 19th-century documents and photographs of Glen Echo, Maryland, and a screenplay based on the 18th-century novel Fantomina by Eliza Haywood.