Jody Poorwill & James Smith - HIGH RISK

Sunday Spotlight — August 4, 2019 

Photographer: Jody Poorwill

Writer: James Smith

Project: High Risk

Artist Statement: “For Jody Poorwill, who battled ADD and dyslexia for much of their life, photography is a way to describe unease in the world and give visibility to depression and trauma more naturally than words. This flows through multiple projects, whether it’s unpacking and recovering from the end of a marriage, learning to understand and love oneself through doubling self-portraits, or using Instagram’s face morph feature to reflect dysmorphia.” - Jon Feinstein, Vice.

‘High Risk’ is a collaboration between Jody Poorwill and writer James Smith. Jody and James have been friends for many years, sharing stories about therapy, medications and mental health. In March of 2019, Jody and James began Sand & Gravel Press, based in Tacoma, WA.

Excerpt from ‘High Risk’:

I’ve been to five different therapists over the years, six if you count my current one, and so I consider myself a little bit of an expert. I don’t know how to waterski, do my taxes, or drive a stick shift, but I can bare my soul to a stranger sitting on a seventy-five dollar IKEA loveseat. 

Every therapist office has an assortment of teas—jasmine, earl gray, chamomile. Some even have snacks—granola bars or fresh fruit. My first therapist had lutefisk, a gelatinous mix of dried fish and lye. She called it Norwegian soul food. “Just take a small piece, not the entire thing. Don’t get greedy. It’s going to be a long a day for me,” she’d say, sweating. 

Her name was Gundra, it met ‘war-like,’ in Swedish. She looked like a Russian nesting doll. I saw her Wednesdays and Fridays for almost a year. She lived in a yellow cottage in one of the last seedy neighborhoods of Seattle. Her home office was small, probably no more than two-hundred square feet, but it had a private entrance, a water cooler, and a mini fridge. There were always dogs barking at the beginning of our appointments. One time, I asked if her dogs were friendly, and she looked at me like I was crazy. “Let’s worry about you, okay?” she said.


Jody Poorwill received their BFA from Purchase College in 2001. Their work has been featured in VICE, at the Photographic Center Northwest, and Milk Gallery in Tacoma, WA. Jody’s publications include ‘Lost Seattle’ (Kris Graves Projects), ‘High Risk’ (Sand & Gravel Press) and ‘DISCOVER/Y’ (Sand & Gravel Press). Jody currently calls Tacoma home. 

James Smith’s short stories have been published in the Sierra Nevada Review, A Critical Flame and other small publications. He is currently at work on his first short story collection. James lives with his family in Tacoma, WA.


Using Format