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—E. Washington Roadscapes

x “I went in search of astral America, not social and cultural America, but the America of the empty, absolute freedom of the freeways, not the deep America of mores and mentalities, but the America of desert speed, of motels and mineral surfaces. I looked for it in the speed of the screenplay, in the indifferent reflex of television, in the film of days and nights projected across an empty space, in the marvelously affectless succession of signs, images, faces, and ritual acts on the road; looked for what was nearest to the nuclear and enucleated universe, a universe which … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—E. Washington Roadscapes”

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—Hanford Works, June 28

Somewhere past this barrier is the B Reactor, where plutonium was manufactured for more than a quarter of a century and was used “in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in ‘Fat Man,’ the atomic bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.” By 1966, the N Reactor came on and this death factory started to produce electricity, so up until that moment, the massive amount of energy produced here through the splitting of atoms and collision of neutrons “served no social purpose,” as Richard White so poignantly puts it. He goes on: “Everything at Hanford seemed … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—Hanford Works, June 28”

Trip Like I Do—Eastern Washington, June 27-29

For the longest time, I avoided taking photos of human beings like the plague. No one’s ever happy with how they look, so if they know you, they’ll be sad, and if they don’t, why are you pointing a camera in their face? I couldn’t imagine walking up to a stranger and asking them for something so terrible as their photograph—who would say yes? Would you? I’d never in a million years. And yet, turns out that much of that anxiety is a set up for one of those “expectations versus reality” memes. As you might recall, I deliberately devised … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—Eastern Washington, June 27-29”

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”

Trip Like I Do—Seattle, July 4

“Processing” takes a much more visceral meaning when you’re literally waiting for a roll of film to develop. I’ve never really known a time when photography wasn’t instantaneous; I mean, I do remember those days, but they didn’t effect me personally. The gap between holiday and photo album was like the cash my father drove to retrieve from a robot in the wall—someone else’s magic trick. We’ve all been processing something very heavy and very large in the past few months. It rolled in like a summer storm and it just sat there, covering everything with the acid rain of … Continue reading “Trip Like I Do—Seattle, July 4”