LIGHT/SHADOW

The French word for a camera lens is “objectif photographique,” a factoid I learned in a piece from a series of articles & books called “Object Lessons,” which, surprisingly, has yet to publish any histories of cameras. They’ve published a book on the potato, so… But maybe the story’s too big to tell too quickly; that’s probably why the article only touches on how the 50 mm lens came to be the standard for “normal” vision. Anyway, the French word is perfect because, as the author points out, it encodes much of what we tend to think photography is for: “truth and … Continue reading “LIGHT/SHADOW”

LOOK/SEE

There’s an ethics to looking that takes on sharp relief when one begins writing with light. Photography is the craft of capturing emanations from “out there,” and so, with a camera to look through, the predatory urge to survey and ensnare becomes a very real possibility. But to look is not necessarily to see, and there’s an ethics to that moment as well. Viktor Shklovsky writes: “this thing we call art exists in order to restore the sensation of life, in order to make us feel things, in order to make a stone stony. The goal of art is to … Continue reading “LOOK/SEE”

Trip Like I Do—Snoqualmie Falls, June 27

So here we are, back to the start; these iconic falls “where Heaven and Earth meet” were the very first stop on our itinerary, making these some of my very first photographs on the journey. I’d read about this sacred place and wanted to capture a little bit of how indigenous peoples might perceive these waters, these “mists that roll up to Heaven” and “carry our prayers and our hopes and our dreams to the Creator of us all,” in the words of Ernie Barr, Jr. My photos weren’t successful in the way I’d imagined them when I looked through … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—Snoqualmie Falls, June 27”

Trip Like I Do—Eating Edition

Spokane, June 28: Our vacation was obviously not deep and moody all the time, despite our itinerary; a big part of traveling for us is finding fun spots to eat. Frank’s was the first of two train-themed restaurants we stumbled on during this trip, located right next to an active railway line. Here’s what their website says about this space: “During the golden days of railroading, Barney-Smith and Pullman vied for supremacy of the elegant rail car business. In 1906, Barney Smith manufactured this car as an “observation car”. It remained unsold until 1909, when it was purchased by the … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—Eating Edition”

Trip Like I Do—Palouse Falls, June 28

Getting here was incredibly rough on our poor little hybrid sedan; the road into the park is grooved like sawtooth, which is great for winter visits, I guess, but absolutely bone rattling for city slickers in a ten-year-old car like ours. I genuinely expected parts to start falling off the chassis like some Hannah-Barbara cartoon. But we made it and were greeted by the most incredible lunch spot and view. Palouse is the official state waterfall and is significant to me mostly for what isn’t here; I love that Wikipedia even includes a whole section about it: “In 1984, the … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—Palouse Falls, June 28”

Trip Like I Do—Priest Rapids Dam, June 28

The genesis of this whole itinerary was my reading about Smohalla, a spiritual leader of the Wanapum people and prophet of the Washani (Dreamer) religion. After yesterday’s extended quote from Eugene Smalley, I want to share a little of what Smohalla had to say: “The work of the white man hardens soul and body. Nor is it right to tear up and mutilate the earth as white men do. … We simply take the gifts that are freely offered. We no more harm the earth than would an infant’s fingers harm its mother’s breast. But the white man tears up large tracts … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—Priest Rapids Dam, June 28”

Trip Like I Do—Priest Lake, June 29-July 2

The object of our trip was Priest Lake in northern Idaho; it was our destination and where we spent most of our time. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this part of the journey. In fact, Christine reminds me that my very first reaction to a proposed gathering of sisters at this traditional family summering spot was precisely this: “I am inclined to say no.” Part of my hesitation is due to my relatively urbanized comportment: I am very much the product of my time, preferring the contemplation of natural beauty over my immersion in it. As the author of … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—Priest Lake, June 29-July 2”

Composition #2

Every time I think of Kundera I recall my favorite line from Unbearable Lightness: “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.” And as I wrote these words, I went back to refresh my memory and was surprised to see that sentence on page 4—page 4!—of the book. Could something so meaningful to me have come so early in the text? Does that make it any more or any less significant? I’m pretty sure the man would say: both. Kundera opens his Unbearable Lightness with a reflection on the concept of “eternal … Continue reading “Composition #2”

Our Marmite God

There’s a sticky sandwich spread in the United Kingdom called marmite. It’s as dark and goopy as molasses but has a savory flavor that’s so strange and inscrutable that the company that produces it decided decades ago to celebrate its divisive distinctiveness with a slogan that declared: “Marmite—You Either Love It or Hate It.” Brilliant. Why pretend that your yeast extract is just like peanut butter when it’s so demonstrably not? By fully owning your bizarreness, your fans become your best evangelists and you may even generate a healthy margin of profit from the curious seeking something new (even if … Continue reading “Our Marmite God”

Consolations

A Pentecost sermon is many things, but you don’t often expect to hear about the fear of heights, let alone the kind of morbid ideation that sometimes accompanies that phobic vertigo: “what if I just flung myself over the edge,” the preacher intimated, illustrating his larger point about the fragility of trust in the self in contrast with the solidity of trusting in God. I suspect that his moment of vulnerability was encouraged by an editor who left a comment in the margin urging him to “tell us something of what you’re afraid of here.” I wonder if he worried … Continue reading “Consolations”