Even when the geotag doesn’t specify their locations, the pictures—of half-eaten pastries, graffitied bathroom stalls, or rusting fixtures—convey the imperfections, wear, grit, and disorder of urban living. And, because this is Instagram, there are inevitably selfies. Myles’s are as rough and honest as their writing. They have fun photographing themself coming back from the airport, or in other such unglamorous states: Myles never takes themself too seriously. Some venues are better than others: “Bathrooms are shrines of selfhood,” they say—and the author photograph on the back flap of evolution is, indeed, a bathroom selfie, complete with a reflection of a hand dryer.
In many of their own shots, they aim to take the poet out of the picture and just show their own surroundings. One photograph depicts their kitchen counter with evidence of bodily presence (orange peels, a Chemex filter), conveying the life and mundane rituals of the character who lurks just beyond the frame. Absence and presence—in language or image—is always central to their work.
Myles tells me that their writing and photography practices really aren’t so different. (Indeed, the upcoming show at Bridget Donahue is called, somewhat confusingly, “Eileen Myles—Poems.”) For each, they maintain a position as a flâneur, observing the city with artistic detachment. “You’re in the world of people, and you’re in the crowd, and everybody’s getting out of work but you’re always in this walking space—which is your work,” they say. As a photographer, Myles’s vision is often askew, more interested in abstracting details than in displaying an easily legible scene. One recent image features the bottom of a wooden pole, next to the bottom of a white drainpipe. Another depicts a white paper-towel roll, on a slant, inside a metal recess. Shapes, colors, and strange interactions between various objects always catch Myles’s eye more than any formal composition or beauty.