Things I Loved, 2017


My new monthly column of highlighting things that I loved from the month before fizzled out in May, along with many other plans, as the year became busier and more complicated (as they tend to do). In a year that was depressing in so many ways at a macro-level I wanted to share some actual positive experiences.

We’ll see if my plan to revive this article each month in 2018 comes to fruition, but I’d like to at least share some of the things that were my favorite aspects of 2017 here. So without further ado:

  1. Favorite photograph by me…the photograph above of my daughter at age 10 this last winter using the wet plate collodion process. Not necessarily in the art category (those are coming soon), but I love her gaze.
  2. Favorite work I wish I had thought of: Brittany Nelson’s Mordancage.
  3. Books, non-photographic category. Reading in 2017 for me was actually highly successful in volume and in quality. Each year I try to read more books than the year before, and I accomplished that with 106 for the year. My top books for the year are (in the order I read them, roughly, as I find it impossible to rank these disparate books):
    1. Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (the best of 2017 for me)
    2. Underground Airlines, Ben Winters
    3. The Sellout, Paul Beatty
    4. The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dilliard
    5. Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
    6. Borne, Jeff Vandermeer
    7. American War, Omar El Akka
    8. The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes
    9. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
    10. The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben
    11. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
    12. The Changeling, Victor Lavalle
    13. Reality is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, Carlo Rovelli
  4. Books, photographic category. My favorite monograph I actually read this year was Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals by Mandy Barker. I love the concept, the images, and the book.
  5. Books, the category of “written by me”. I’m glad you asked! Fine Art Digital Printing from Rocky Nook Press, published Spring 2017, and you can find out more here.
  6. Movies & TV. I finally was able to spend more time watching long-form television and movies this year and loved quite a bit of it, especially Stranger Things and all of the stand-up available on Netflix. But above everything for me was the movie Blade Runner 2049. I had very high expectations for it, and while it certainly had its flaws, it actually met them. Beautiful visuals and cinematography as well.
  7. Music. I became more interested in music than ever before this year, ranging a bit wider in interest than in previously years while also going deeper with much of it. I’m sure playing piano more and my musically-inspired Harmony of the Spheres project have also played a role in this. I was going to do a list of favorite albums and artists, but instead I’ll just mention one musician that I had never heard of previously that blew me away: Cecile McLorin Salvant with her album Dreams and Daggers. Wow. One of the best jazz/vocalist records I’ve heard in ages.
  8. Photographic Process. This is the year that I finally started working in alternative process…I love everything, but my initial love affair is with the cyanotype process. Don’t worry, platinum-palladium and gum – I’m starting up again in January.

I’m going to stop here as the year is running out, but here’s hoping that all of us find, discover, or experience many wonderful things in 2018!

Things I Love, (April &) May 2017

Well, I missed a month of my new monthly column, so this will be a bonus two-month edition of Things I Love. Without further ado, here are somewhat random things that I have loved over the last two months, both photographic and non-photographic:

  1. Favorite article for photo book geeks: This New Yorker feature on the publisher Steidl. Of course, if you are a photo book geek, you probably have already seen this.
  2. Books I loved, non-photographic. These last two months were great for reading with a bit of travel and good luck on choosing books as well. The best book I read was Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which was gripping and brutal and depressing. Other great books for me from these last two months were:
    The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge (entertaining novel very loosely based on the life of H.P. Lovecraft)
    Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (fascinating memoir about botany and the life of a scientist)
    The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (great female protagonist in this post-apocalyptic novel)
    Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (as entertaining as Gaiman’s work always is)
    Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (beautifully written, of course, because it is Saunders)
    Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (I finally read this great and influential post-apocalyptic novel)
    Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (much more interesting than I expected, it is the story of growing up in South Africa during apartheid)
    The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams (a love letter to life and the U.S. National Parks)
    Borne by Jeff Vandermeer (wonderfully written and includes a giant flying bear in a post-apocalyptic landscape – I’m in)
  3. Best bookstore: Any trip to Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR is a good one, and spending five nights in a hotel a few blocks away was heavenly. One of the world’s happy places.
  4. Photobook you should buy if you can swing it: Ravens. Perhaps the greatest of all photobooks back in print by Mack Books — and if this edition is like any of the previous ones, it will be out-of-print and very expensive soon. Good reviews here and here.
  5. Favorite political satire: Winners and Losers of the Recent Nuclear Holocaust.
  6. Awesome podcast: S-Town. This podcast has been massively popular in 2017, and deservedly so. I won’t say much because I don’t want to spoil things, but if a podcast about a fascinating character in a small Alabama town sounds intriguing, you should absolutely seek this out.
  7. Promising photography podcast: The Halftone. His first eighteen guests have been pretty spectacular (I’ve just started listening to this, but it is an impressive guest list).
  8. Movie: Moonlight. Ok, it won Best Picture at the Oscars, so it is not really under the radar, but it is still amazing.
  9. Rocks I Loved: Painted Hills (see above with image leading this section). I’ve wanted to go the Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon for many years and finally was able to do so after Photolucida in April.
  10. Exhibit that I wish I could see: Linden Frederick’s Night Stories at the Forum Gallery in NYC through June 30th. Luckily for Mainers, Linden’s exhibition will be traveling to the CMCA in Rockland on August 19th.
  11. Best new exhibit that I will find some way to see as soon as I can: James Turrell at MassMoCa. You can read about the giant new addition to the museum here.
  12. Photography quote: “The less descriptive the photo, the more stimulating it is for the imagination. The less information, the more suggestion: the less prose, the more poetry.”  ~ Ernst Haas
  13. Most powerful song & video: Cry No More.

Things I Love, March 2017

Pluto, backlit from the Sun, from the New Horizon’s spacecraft

I was happy how last month’s post came out, so I’m going to make this a tradition  — a monthly post where I get to talk about things that I loved from the month, whether they relate to photography or not.

  1. Favorite books I read (non-photography). Pax, Sara Pennypacker. Your classic tale of a fox and a boy in time of war. Excellent YA fiction. Autumn, Ali Smith. The first in a series of four books coming out over the next year, this elegant book explores community, connectedness, aging, love, and more in a post-Brexit and post-Trump UK.
  2. Favorite photography book I read: Modern Color, Fred Herzog. Herzog’s color street work from 1950’s-present Vancouver (mostly) is like comfort food for me, and this is the most comprehensive book yet of his work (and well printed). Based on his previous books, it might not be available long for reasonable prices, so move quickly if you like his work.
  3. Favorite exhibition: The Thrill of the Chase at the Portland Museum of Art (Maine). This exhibition of the Wagstaff Collection from the Getty Museum is a must-see (and you can see it until April 30th). A spectacular collection of photographs that goes from the beginnings of photography until the mid-1980’s and it is chock full of gems.
  4. Best link for lens geeks: Roger Cicala from Lensrentals analyzes tons of zoom lenses and comes up with some universal (or almost so) truths. The short version: for normal zoom lenses (24-70mm or so), they are highly likely to be better optically on the wide end rather than the long end, which is a bit counter-intuitive for me.
  5. Favorite Science Photo: This amazingly beautiful photograph of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft, backlit by the sun and showing Pluto’s ever-so-tenuous atmosphere. (see it above).
  6. Quote: “There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every of them sufficient.” Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
  7. Song: Day to Day by L.A. Salami. This version is recorded by NPR’s All Songs Considered one night at the SXSW music festival in Austin, my original hometown (at least it has the best argument for that spot). Bluesy/folk from an English guitarist. Amazing song and musician.

Things I Love, February 2017

Photograph: Ok, I don’t have the actual plate in hand since it was still in the drying rack when I last saw it so this iPhone snap will have to suffice, but I love this portrait of my daughter, my first ever wet plate collodion/tintype piece ever (and even the first time I’ve used a large format camera!).

Ok, I’m going to try something new here — a monthly post where I get to talk about things that I loved from the month. Some things will be photography-related, some things not. These things might not have actually been published/released/occurred this month, but this is when I came across them.

We’ll see how this all develops, but I can use more positivity in my life (as I suspect is true for many!).

  1. Favorite books I read (non-photography). A great month for reading. The best were: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dilliard. A contemporary Walden written about Virginia’s Roanoke Valley, a love letter to the natural world. The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Challenging and powerful book. Moonglow by Michael Chabon. This “autobiographical novel” could not be more in my wheelhouse — Michael Chabon, WWII, and the space program — but at its core it is a personal story loosely based on the life of Chabon’s grandparents.
  2. Favorite photography book I read: Western Landscapes, Lee Friedlander. This giant tome, beautifully printed, collects Friedlander’s wonderful square format landscape work. The crisp compositions also provide another way of dealing with those big and clear Western skies in a way different than Weston, Adams, etc. by photographing so many shots through trees and brush.
  3. Favorite exhibition: It has to be Brenton Hamilton’s 20 year retrospective at the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor. You won’t see anywhere else such a range of wonderful images masterfully created using so many 19th Century processes. The exhibit goes until May 6th.
  4. Favorite Science Tidbit: How about this (composite) photograph of the Earth and Moon from 200 million taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, about 120,000 miles away? This is excellent for appreciating their relative sizes and distance between them.
  5. Favorite Science Discovery: The discovery of seven (!) roughly Earth-sized worlds orbiting a single star. For those who grew up before we knew for sure that there were any planets outside our solar system, the idea that there might be more planets in the Universe than stars is mind-blowing.
  6. Favorite photography quote: “The world is open wide to the photographer who can see. And one can never be bored if one can see.” From the description of Black Mountain College’s 1951 summer session, from this great article about the history of their influential photography program.
  7. Song: A Little Uncanny from Conor Oberst. I’m pretty new to Oberst, and my 10-year old loves this song, too — we ended up discussing all the references in the lyrics while we are driving to and fro.