Primavera in 35mm

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Once again I feel absent from this blog. I have been feverishly writing, editing, and re-writing my thesis for several weeks now and my pace has quickened. I get up early, write for a few hours, take a break, and then do some more. Caffeine is vital. Lots of sleep is too.

Above are photographs on film, mostly from my Chinon camera, from the last month. Coffee, walks, the ocean, and necessary bits of humanity are all present.

My body has felt off kilter for a few weeks now, but being able to be in Minneapolis for a few short days has restored my soul a bit. This weekend some really lovely souls helped me have a birthday party- my first in years and years! (Thank you all!) Things are good- the cherry blossoms are everywhere on trees and all I want to do is go photograph them all but writing this damn thing is THE PRIORITY! Keep your eyes peeled- I’ll try to get out during the day this week on one of my breaks and photograph these gorgeous things.

The act of seeing.

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Odds and ends on film. Right now it is windy and clouds are being pushed past my window quickly. I’ve been busy working on a section of my thesis that is due in a few days- and I’m so nervous to send in what I’ve got! I’ve been editing, re-writing, re-organizing, and trying to find some semblance of lucidity in my own writing. Perhaps in my life as well?

Chinon Auto 3001 camera

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I found a boxy little camera at a thrift store, went to 6 different shops and found the obscure battery, and took it out for a test drive.

The Chinon Auto 3001 is a sturdy little camera with a clamshell lens cover. It’s got a f/2.8 lens, a fill flash, an auto flash (that you can turn off) and no manual I could find on the internet.

So, on one of my meandering walks and over the course of a few evenings, I tried to shoot some test film on 2 rolls of Fujifilm. The results: Not too shabby. Obviously I need to test the auto-focus features more (it is supposed to be pretty good with the AF features) but it seems like a handy little beast to have around!

My greatest regret is that you cannot see the marvelous extra toes on Coco the cat’s little feet! She has polydactylism, which means that her feet have more toes than they should, and her adorable little paws look like little muffins!

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Americana: The Lewis & Clark County Fair

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I insisted that Logan come to the fair with me. The fair is a microcosm of American culture: It’s big, colorful, gluttonous, loud, and silly. Children can shoot fake enormous guns that look scarily real from rough looking carnival employees. One can buy deep fried Oreos in large quantities and people watch. Rodeo visitors dress up in their best cowboy boots, hats, and belts. Men with large stomachs wear their largest belt buckles. The exhibition hall houses goats, rabbits, chickens, cows, and sheep, all for purchase or viewing.

Old people walk past children’s carnival rides decorated with busty women, hyper sexualized characters in skimpy outfits. Everywhere there is inescapable mud and dirt, in sharp contrast to the shiny neon and the lights. Food trucks line the parking lot, and one can devour anything from pork chop sandwiches to roasted corn to funnel cakes.

And I found a roll of 35mm film in a film shop in Bozeman that I hadn’t picked up, scanned in the negatives, and found all of this waiting for me. What an odd, marvelous late gift to myself.

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Let it wash over me- the Nostalgia post.

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How much of what I remember is real? How much of it is fantastical, invented by repetition of remembering? How much of Lugano that I possess in image won’t be there when I go next time?

I left Lugano in May of 2011, when I was 20 years old, sure of my return. I have not been back since. I ended up graduating from an in-state university instead of the prestigious, dual-degree giving small college in Switzerland I planned on.

I was surrounded by new things there, when at the age of 18 I embarked on the rare opportunity to learn somewhere entirely foreign to me. Ridiculous amounts of wealth stared me in the face- students in leased Porsches, BMW’s, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles lined the small student parking lot, bags worth my tuition gracefully hanging from fellow students arms, expectations of lavishness that had only entered my eyes previously through magazines. One classmate described growing up being shuffled around in armored vehicles in Colombia due to her father’s fear of being kidnapped. In Montana we keep a winter survival kit in the car in case something happens. In the cafeteria Arabic, Spanish, Russian, German, Czech, and English all mingled. Downtown Lugano was a space of tremendous, blatant wealth as well- I gazed at 800 franc shoes from Ermenegildo Zegna, gorgeously tailored suits, women wearing furs in the midst of May. Limited edition cars so rare that their worth almost couldn’t be ascertained- Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Jaguar- parked near 18th century Baroque churches. Versace, Bally, Hermes, Gucci, Missoni, Cartier boutiques lined the narrow, car-less streets weaving between quiet, elegant piazzas.

In the autumn, the piazzas were laced with the smell of roasted chestnuts. Sullen Gothic teenagers huddled outside Manor, sharing quiet comradery. Efficient buses hummed around and the funiculare which took you from downtown to the train station cost .10 francs and went to and fro full of passengers up the steep hill. Centuries old buildings with painted on windows, all shades of pastel, created a maze-like town of alleys and piazzas to stumble into. In the winter, one would hear the helicopters as large, regal Christmas trees were lowered into the piazzas. Old men played chess on the many painted large chess boards around the city. Swans, regal thieves, languidly floated near the edge of the lake, waiting to be fed. The sleek, small train station whisked people away to Milano Centrale or to the Zurich Bahnhof, wherever the rider wanted to go. I myself had the utter joy of having a train pass, being able to explore such cities as Lausanne, St. Gallen, Basel, and Zurich, easily and efficiently. Well-dressed older gentleman whose taxis were plush Jaguars asked if you needed their services. If you did indeed take a taxi, the inside was full of the sounds of bad 1990’s American rock and pop music that the drivers knew every word to. (I remember having one very patient Luganese gentleman try to shove my rather tattered bag into the back of his car at 5 am, probably much more used to dealing with more sleek creatures.)

Among all this newness and strangeness, I found my stride, my humble Montana-based stride, in the midst of all. Migros was the affordable grocery store that I regularly patronized. H&M clothed me. My friends and I splurged on warm Nutella crepes or nocciolo gelato, at 5 francs a welcome luxury, from the petite stands that emerged outside Manor and on corners. Churches full of relics, frescoes, and gorgeous, quiet details absorbed my spare time. Flowers in the Parco Civico, changed frequently, smiled at me, and in the early mornings, before most humans were awake, I could have the lakeside, and even the Italian mountains across the lake, to myself. On a few special occasions my dearest friends and I gathered at the Spaghetti Store by the lake to devour pizza with marscopone, arugula, and prosciutto with cheap table wine.

And yet, how much of this is personal mythology I coaxed from the threads of my mind? How many times was my identity as outsider made obvious?

I really hope, in the next few years, to go back and ascertain how much of what I think I know about this beautiful city is false. Human memory is so faulty, beautifully so, and if I find comfort in the ideas I’ve woven for myself,so be it. The curious part of me, however, is not always content with that answer- nor should it be. Lugano, I cannot wait to re-explore and analyze you with my veteran eyes.

Home for a brief moment

Flying into Montana at its ugliest reminds me how much I love it despite how dry and brown it is at this time of year. Hunting season is out and about, with men and women decked out in camouflage in the grocery stores and gas stations, likely just returning from a day in the mountains or fields, meandering buying milk and other things. I had forgotten about this simple aspect of life home.

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I missed driving, the 12oz glasses of Blackfoot IPA, the inevitable seeing of people I knew, because it was all familiar. Ultra-crunch leaves were everywhere, bare trees ready to embrace coats of snow. Bob Ross, the tree in Logan’s backyard, looked eerie and naked without his beautiful leaves. We had a fire on my last day, which Ella stoked to perfection. The wind made it a mercurial joy to have around, switching directions quickly, threatening to singe one or more of us. I was able to hold warm cups of coffee with loved ones close by. I hugged my sister, surprised my parents with my visit, and slept in. It was beautiful, and like all lovely things, quick, far too quick for my liking.

On a 7 mile walk

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There were words here that I meant to expand upon about being soft and kind and letting yourself feel all the feels but I couldn’t write what my mind was thinking well enough to let it linger here. Suffice to say, it’s gone now.

I went on a very long walk the other day after a long day working and encountered lots of small moments in humanity that made me feel good. I walked a long, long way and went home and slept like a rock and it felt right. Long walks always put things right with me.

 

Habit Coffee

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My first experience with Habit Coffee happened last fall, as an eager newcomer to Victoria. From the charming exterior to the well-lit interior, it seemed a likely spot for me to enjoy. When I inquired about WiFi at the counter (trying to deduce some good study locations) I was given a look as though I had just whispered Voldermort’s name to a wizard. “We. Don’t. Have. WiFi.”, the barista practically hissed. WiFi, it seems, is anathema to everything Habit Coffee stands for.

And yet, despite this initial rather acidic welcoming, Habit Coffee has somehow remained a place I go when I’m out of sorts, can’t stand to look at a computer screen, and just want to read or write at a small table with a cup of coffee or a hot tea. The vibe at the smaller Chinatown location is, like many Victoria places, eclectic, but simple. They’ve got great magazines to thumb through (I recently discovered the joy of Frankie magazine, a wonderful Australian creation!) and overall it’s a space that feels welcoming and warm, has decent and decently priced coffee, and offers respite from the busy streets downtown.

 

 

Sunsets/Musings on realities of photography.

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Photography is a marvelous tool to make your life look much better than it feels. You choose a moment, and you eliminate sound, movement, context. You strip the moment down to an element that is then frozen into light sensitive silver particles on roll of film carefully threaded into your camera.

I am a thief. I am a propagandist. I use photography as a tool for coping, for survival, for love, for preservation, for dear life. It is better that way.

Pictured above: A series of evening photographs on idyllic Vancouver Island.

 

Where I go to wander

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Ross Bay Cemetery.

I do spend a lot of time, perhaps too much, in this cemetery. It’s enormous, full of paths, and the most magnificent trees! There is so much history here, and every time I walk through I find a new headstone I admire or a new detail to enjoy. Somebody, for example, put the most perfect pine cone on the top of a tombstone, and it looked very fitting with the darkening stone.

The trees in here are regal but not overbearing. They have different personalities and the leaves they all have are different. This time of year a lot of yellow and orange leaves- the trees that have red leaves have not yet let gravity inevitably take them yet.

If you’re in Victoria and want to escape downtown head to Ross Bay and spend some time here. I like reading on one of the benches or quietly learning about all the people who came here from every corner of the earth- Croatia, Poland, all parts of England, Japan, Russia, etc., because it makes Victoria, which feels very settled and sometimes overly cultivated, feel more real.

One Year Later in Victoria

One thing has remained constant here during my time in Victoria: the crows. Corvids cry from lampposts, make eerie noises from rooftops, and I quietly try to never disturb them. After reading books about the intelligence of these marvelous animals, I respect them and personally love it when many are seen on my walks, on my meandering, long, illogical wanderings around this southern part of the island.

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One year later, parts of Victoria still very foreign to me. It is September, still tourist season, roses are abloom, and I am constantly irked by the large buses that unload slow moving old tourists who group together like schools of fish and block the sidewalks. Although I can deftly weave through them, I prefer now to meander at dusk or dawn, when there aren’t so many humans awake and out.

Parts of town are still unknown to me- they are too far to walk, and the bus system is good but not good enough for me to risk taking one to some corner of the city. I try to avoid night walks on the weekends, as it is busier and groups of men hang around bars and cat call in an exhausting ritual I have known since I was a teenager. The smell of the harbor, intermingled with smells wafting from restaurants and cafes, is ever changing, and seeing lights reflected on the water will never cease to make me pause.

The blatant poverty present is still mildly shocking. People who need healthcare, a roof over their heads, and access to food are tucked away in doorways, seated on corners, and perched in wheelchairs. They have dogs tightly curled next to them, and a few have cats bundled up in their laps. Some who ask for help are moving through- buskers who don’t have an exact destination but offer music as a service- while others got stuck here, lured by the relatively warm winters. The chill that Victoria has in the winter, though, feels more severe than any Montana cold.

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One year later and many things I do here I do alone. It is very important to know how to be alone, to be comfortable with silences and gaps in social times. I know myself, and I am a fairly predictable, sturdy creature of habits, of black coffee and long walks and a slim book tucked in my bag in case I want to stop in somewhere and take a break from my own thoughts. I have friends here, delightful souls who work hard and make time for coffee, pho, muffins, and comradery, and I am lucky.

Victoria is still claustrophobic to me. The British habit of manicured, landscaped parks, lawns, and every green space makes my stomach turn a bit. Everything is trimmed, shaped, artificially groomed, never allowed to flourish naturally. This control of nature has gone too far, and the only truly natural feature in town is the ocean, which is terrifying and all knowing, and hems me in further onto this massive rock off the coast. I have never spent so much time near the edge of the water, and the primordial respect, fear, and appreciation I have for the sea grows each time I hear the waves and let myself be still for a moment.

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Victoria is, for the time being, another sort-of-home.