Various feelings about my thesis illustrated by Twin Peaks

Intermittent crying regarding frustration finding sources because archives are hell and horribly organized and nobody gets back to you. s1_e6_crying

Somebody suggests you might actually need help on the damn thesis but you’re feeling hostile and defensive so you ignore their advice and later collapse even though you are actually a nice person underneath it all. s1_e4_hulkingboob

Ravenous bouts of hunger that make you feel productive because at least you’re fueling your next bout of angst and guilt-filled procrastination that will end with you falling asleep reading a source at 3 am. s1_e3_omnomnom

When you think you’ve been really fucking productive but then realize how much more is left to do. s1_e2_distant_thunder

When you try to do things you enjoy like beach walks and making photographs but are consistently hounded by the reality that you’re not working on the thesis and you suck and it’s all futile and life is cold and the universe indifferent. s1_e1_sobbing

Trying to explain to your family who doesn’t really get it that this is really really hard and that all of these problems actually matter. s1_e1_ohdear

More sobbing because for some reason Andy sobbing matters a lot and feels relevant because he’s so pure and good and at one point you probably were too. s1_e1_cryingagain

At some point you’ll reach the stage where you feel cold and emotionless and more like a shell of a human. But since you have good skincare routines and a decent sartorial sense you’ll at least look decent. cooper_s1e1

 

Here | There

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Somehow film from mid-July stayed in the bottom of my handbag until last Saturday. I gave Prism Photo on Fort Street here in Victoria 6 rolls of color film and picked up all six a few hours later (those guys do a wicked job!). The next day, after a tearful goodbye to my mother, who once again came and helped me move into a new space, I settled in and accepted that it was time to let waves of nostalgia engulf me.

I scanned in the negatives, my trusty Epson machine humming comfortingly at me, telling me that all of these memories were not lost. I am back in Victoria, and it feels strangely wrong. Perhaps because the rhythm of here hasn’t sunk in yet. Perhaps because I have not seen enough people who make me want to remain here. Perhaps because my purpose, to write a thesis honoring and properly delving into the life of an incredible woman, was put on pause while I gathered my strength, made money working, and let my mental health state grow stronger. Perhaps because I am a bit behind my colleagues and the anxiety that parallels my strong yet quiet competitive nature has already made this lag seem massive.

I have moved into the spare room of an older woman’s apartment and so far that too seems strange. She is kind and quiet, lets me have my privacy, and altogether seems like a very kind soul. I fear that my want for space and order will doom me in this place though, and my mind fleetingly, even after only 2 nights in my room, tells me to find somewhere else.

Perhaps it is time to settle with all these demons that seem to mark my return here. Victoria has been a place of utmost success and utmost personal failure for me. From coming home to my apartment last year to sob to coming home feeling accomplished, I can tell you that this small city has seen the best and worst of me, at my weakest and at my most put-together. Coming back here, leaving my loved ones, my family, my car, my patterns, my comforts, is good but feels off. I loathe this feeling of something breathing down my neck, most likely my own horrid self-doubt spectre, quietly letting me know that yes, I can fail here, and it would not be difficult.

These photographs are from the Montana Folk Festival in Butte. We found a peculiar front yard replete with skulls hanging and sitting everywhere. We walked past homes in disrepair, old trucks, quiet signs of life, and up steep hills. I tried to photograph Logan in a flower garden and love the grain and shadow that resulted. These memories, of good days, of being with people I trust and love, already feel like they were made years ago. I hate that feeling.

If I sound rather defeated, it is because my heart and body are both exhausted at the moment. I’m sure this feeling will not last.

Turkey legs/”No I’m not Neil Young”

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These images have been a long time coming.

Ella, Logan, and I piled into the Subaru in Helena, then made the quick, windy drive into Butte.

The first sign you’re getting close if you come from Helena is the massive piles of leftover, contaminated dirt that block your view of the city. This reminder of Butte’s legacy is a dirty one. Then, you get a view of the 1980’s strip mining scars on that side of town. Then, finally, nestled in the valley, hugging steep hills, you see the sprawling city.

Butte’s steep streets provided us with exercise aplenty all day. Ella and Logan had to fight to keep up with my ridiculously frantic pace (sorry guys). We ate all kinds of food, but the hightlight was when those two decided to split the consumption of a massive smoked turkey leg. The thing was so damn salty and massive, yet looked amazing. I stuck with my pork chop sandwich and whatever other food stuffs I decided to try that day (it was over a month ago! I am so bad at this blog!).

Overall it was a joy to be in Butte that day. We ended the day in the Silver Dollar Saloon, a dark and cozy place where we listened to a guy who looked like Neil Young (“No, I’m not Neil Young” he made clear before he started) before we walked back to crash on Kristin’s floor (thank you!).

 

Saturday in the park

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I had been craving sushi for a few days by Saturday. My coworker had discussed eating a massive amount of it, and after work and watering a massive garden, I convened with my partner in crime while we collected raspberries in a friend’s yard.

We never get a lot of sushi. We could both consume massive amounts of it but that’s not the point. So, getting 3 rolls and some sashimi is usually how it goes. This time, we ate on a spare sheet in the relative coolness of some shade in the park. We both brought books (Aldous Huxley and Amanda Littaeur authoring the works, respectively) and unpacked our to-go order. I was wearing a brand new dress covered in kittens that I was so excited to wear! I always forget how awful it is to wear dresses for picnics though- you cannot truly just relax. Regardless, as we ate in the shade and heard birds flutter in the branches above, I felt really goddamn happy. Later , I posted a picture of our picnic on Instagram with the hashtag #idyllicasfuck and let me tell you that’s pretty accurate as to how all of this felt.

I hope all of you had wondrous weekends!

 

 

To the river!

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Two of the best days I’ve had so far back in Montana were spent 3.5 hours away from home, soaking wet, with damp hair and an intense chill. I feel so lucky to be so close to such an epic place, where you can literally just wade your way to a warm spot in the river at almost any time of the year in Yellowstone National Park.

We brought an underwater film camera and with it documented this glory- including the most hideous, distorted picture of us ever. I am very pleased with it, and cannot wait to return. I am a creature of the water, and water I shall return to.

From the car

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I’ve come to love making photographs from the car.

This summer has been spent in various cars, both driving and sitting, in passenger seats and back seats. I’ve seen rushing rivers, deep woods tinged with the setting sun, dry plains soaking up the last bit of spring moisture in Eastern Montana before they relegate themselves to bone-dry browns and yellows. Foxes, elk, bison, antelope, deer, cows, and all other manner of living things have been seen and admired.

Here are some slightly blurry images made from a fast moving machine.

“You’re out of your element”

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I’ve got 5 rolls of film from our trip to Minneapolis. We were in the actual city for less than 48 hours, and somehow Logan, Everett, and I survived 36 hours in a Prius together. (Real talk: those two are  quality co-pilots. We all traded driving, DJ, and napping shifts like bosses and killed it. Thanks you two for being quality humans to spend a lot of time in a tiny space with).

Minneapolis was gorgeous. Warm, sunny, with a light breeze fluttering in the streets. Seeing Mary, I had to give her a long hug- this marvelous woman is killing it in law school, dresses like she’s always ready to settle a lawsuit, and also seamlessly transitions into the punk goddess she is. Gina, wearing gorgeous red lipstick, greeted us, and we all went to eat. We spent the afternoon eating, getting stoked to see Savages (OH MY GOD) and catching up.

Honestly, spending so much time with so many good souls is replenishing in a way that lets you inwardly smile and realize that the world, while indifferent, is populated by people who care, even if their version of caring is tossing insults from The Big Lebowski your way.

Seeing Savages was incredible. When I get film back I’ll make a post about the concert. I was pretty damn tempted to just press pause on my life and follow Savages around on their tours and stop being a productive human and just absorb their power that they send into the audience in epic waves.

Ahem…anyway. We ate. We drank. We laughed and sat on Mary’s massive front porch and grilled breakfast sausages and listened to music. We wove ourselves into each other’s lives  again for the briefest of times. It was the best sort of weekend.

Quietly learning

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My grandfather is not the most verbose individual. But, he gave me boxes and boxes of his Ektachrome and Kodachrome slides covering the early 1960’s all the way into the late 1980’s. As I scan in the slides, 12 at a time, I see what he saw. I see who he photographed. I don’t know why or how or even sometimes where, but I get to see the world through his eyes.

My grandfather has a wealth of knowledge about almost everything. He doesn’t talk about it too often, though. One thing I love is to see how he frames his wife, his children, and his friends. My grandfather is careful. He is not reckless with his photographs. I love finding these very blatantly sensitive, conscious thoughts coming through his photographs. My intimidating, often quiet grandfather makes gorgeous photographs. I’ll post more soon.

These are from Maine in 1975, and the gloom and blue hues make me want to head East.

Home again, iPhone POV

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My beloved, ancient iPhone4 is still functioning. While I wait for 35mm film to be developed in a town 100 miles away, and while I wait to find time to scan it in, here are digital bits of evidence of what I have been up to. Dry Bordeaux wine, evening hikes with friends, ducking inside echoing kilns, drinking coffee at the Parrot Confectionery, looking out the window in Gardiner, and quietly existing.

First year of grad school: DONE

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My first year of grad school has been over for a month now.

I turned in my final papers and breathed, but also couldn’t stop being stressed out. I worked harder this year than I think I ever have. My mind was constantly being bent, twisted, guided into places it hadn’t ever been. My curiosity, which knows no bounds already, was unleashed in ferocious ways. I questioned verbally and mentally. I reasoned and debated and held my ground and changed my opinions and was, in general, constantly feeling alive in an exhausted, electric way.

It has been a month since I posted on here. My sincere apologies. I have been home looking for employment, catching up on reality, being with people I love, and eating good food. I have been catching up with humanity, politics, and the outside world. My life is stressful in different ways now.

The photographs above are from the History program’s end of semester trip to a cabin on Lake Cowichan. We all gather and sleep in a simple cabin. We drink and eat and ponder. Aimless conversations, still beneficial, sporadically pop up. We learn bits and pieces about each other that we didn’t before, though we have spent dozens of hours together. I have been a bit of a recluse in some ways so coming to gatherings like this are wonderful. I realize that even though in some ways this degree is isolating it is also cohesive, and that these humans I work with are in this with me.

 

RIP another Kodak film and other stories.

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Images from 2011. I used to make so many more photographs than I do now, and I want to rectify this wrong and begin making images with the recklessness I used to. There are benefits to being very cerebral about photography but often my favorite images were made at the moment- organic, spontaneous, serendipitous moments. I treasure those the most.

These were made using Kodak’s Profession BW400 Black and White Negative Film. It’s black and white film that can supposedly go through C-41 developer, which is for color. It’s not truly black and white, as you can tell. I’ve had sepia frames, some bordering on blue, others more purple, but it’s honestly so fun to see the hues and tones that this odd film gains in the developer. Guess what I found out this morning?! Apparently Kodak stopped making it in 2014! My heart gave a small twinge as I learned this. 5844433096_b56fa08112_b6066507859_effee73b87_b6066984108_77b034f8b8_b

So, rest in peace you delightful, fun film that I used 20 or 30 rolls of in my lifetime. You gave my photos delightful tones and added some drama to my small hometown summers. Kodak, stop killing my film options!

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Massacre of the Innocents

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Details of Pieter Bruegel’s Massacre of the Innocents. 

When I was making these I realized all the fantastic things I miss when I just see it. The way the horse’s tail is tied in a bow, the way that Bruegel frames the bodies of animals and men alike. The lack of outright blood and gore, but still omnipresent violence and the threat of it everywhere, hemmed in with the most lovely, peaceful looking rooftops and skyline. The sky alone could be looked at for quite some time, in my opinion. The delicate hues of pink, the richness of his browns, the touches of blue, the harshness of the green against the winter village setting, even the cold glint of armor- a wonderful whirlwind.

 

Flickr Commons: Around the world.

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C. Ray and large jellyfish. Smithsonian Institution.

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Gezi Park, Taksim Square, Istanbul via SALTOnline

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Unicorn and bird pattern, artist uknown, Bergem Public Library

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British Library, Illustration of a Northern Pike. 

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View of Stuffed Animals Installation, cyanotype, Smithsonian Insitution

 

Acervo Museu do Senado

 Brilho da Noite by Eduardo Meira Lima via Senado The Commons

The National Galleries of Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland, albumen print, 1860. 

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1902, torfbærinn Sölvhóll á Arnarhólstúni. Ær framan við bæinn via Reykjavik Museum of Photography

Last night I spent an evening as I often do: On my computer. However, I found myself falling deep into the Flickr Commons, a sort of collection of archives from various universities and institutions that digitized photographs, documents, postcards, you name it, and put them available for public use.

Last night alone I explored post-mortem photography (a grim Victorian thing that today is not often done), tin types, illustrations of plants, original treaties from various nations- dozens of different areas.

What I posted above are a few of my favorites. Oddly enough, many don’t post actual art collections, with the exception of the Senado Federal do Brasil, which has a massive album of some amazing modern and early modern art.  The British Library has one of the best collections of fauna (animal) sketches and illustrations I have ever seen, and I spent hours scrolling through early German, French, and English explorer’s depictions of animals from all corners of the world (early sketches of water creatures are especially interesting- sharks often look more like cats for some reason). The Smithsonian Institution has an (obviously) gigantic collection but images from one person’s diving around Antarctica were really damn spectacular.

If you’re bored (which you shouldn’t be, the world is too awesome for that) I recommend simply starting here: https://www.flickr.com/commons. Go get lost exploring what various institutions and places have collected and then made available to you. Find goofy sketches of extinct animals done by some guy with more imagination than observational skills. Explore orotypes (gold-tinted photographs) from over 100 years ago. Find yourself looking at woolly Icelandic sheep living out their days on that wonderfully bizarre island. Delve into photographs of wealthy people fabulously lounging in repose. Look at images of fantastical buildings from different time periods. Wonder how the hell an archivist delicately handles centuries old documents in acid-free cotton gloves without panicking. Begin a thought train and see where it takes you.

Or, don’t. But bookmark the link because you’ll be glad you did when your plans cancel and you’re stuck at home. Or when you voluntarily cancel your plans because being outside and around people is just too much.

Palermo, mi manchi.

6223903220_f496024fd0_b6223898176_ec30d30067_bI’ve been reading the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri. These books take place in Sicily, in Catania, outside Palermo, where the clever, savvy, well-fed Police Inspector navigates working in southern Italy. The descriptions of the food he eats alone makes reading the books worthwhile, and they’ve taken me down memory lane quite a bit recently.

There’s one passage where he takes his lover to the Vucciria market (she’s from Genoa, up North) while they stay in Palermo and it brought me right back to walking through and smelling all the fresh fish, sea water, blood and flesh of newly slaughtered animali, fruits and vegetables, all mingling together, while hearing shouts of prices in Sicilian and people arguing, with slick, wet stone streets full of people not paying attention meandering, looking for ingredients or a meal. A marvelous assault on the senses.

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I remember when Exa and I bought some enormous fragole and blood-red ciliegi, or strawberries and cherries, in the Vucciria, from a man who teased us for our passable Italian and gave us DVD’s of him singing songs- I still have the DVD somewhere tucked away. We ate our delicious meal on the balcony of our hostel, fat and happy.

Palermo itself an assault on the senses, visual included. It’s a mishmash of every architectural style all together- one moment you’re in a Baroque church, and the next a Fascist, morbid looking building is around the corner, while down the next block a Greek-style building proudly stands as the neighbor to a Norman-influenced structure. Sicilian itself is a gorgeously harsh dialect (or language- we could discuss this point all day), with Greek and Arabic roots woven in, and if your Italian is not very good, Sicilian will take you for a ride. (We rode the struggle bus the whole time).

The thing I do remember most were the epic meals Exa and I consumed. They will never be forgotten. We ate arancini, which are delicious rice balls full of meat and vegetables about the size of a fist. We had slightly bitter hot chocolate in tiny cafes, and ate at the same trattoria three nights in a row, splitting un mezzo litro di vino rosso every evening (Palermo at night for the two of us was a bit daunting and the trattoria was close by).

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We stayed at a brightly lit, nicely located hostel run by a fiercely caring woman whose name I sadly don’t recall, in a room that was sparse with high ceilings. Outside our window was a courtyard with beautiful orange trees and lines full of laundry. The first night, Exa and I were very, very lost deep in Palermo when we arrived to the city with our packs on our backs, and we got phone calls from this wonderful woman on my cheap phone, frantic and telling us that we were quite stupid, to get to her soon, to be safe, because surely we would end up in a no good situation being silly American girls, who likely have no common sense. (We eventually got a map from a hotel lobby and found our way there without incident).

When we went to a museo, everybody assumed we were from Alemania- Germany- and that was why our Italian was so funny. We said, yes, siamo tedeschi, and quietly made up fake German-ish names to go by, even if it was just for a few hours. We saw gorgeous paintings, milled about in the midst of a group of schoolchildren while their teacher told them about the art. I lost a part of my heart to the most gorgeous fresco, Trionfo della Morte (Triumph of Death), which was the most fantastical example of Italian Gothic art I’d ever seen- it took up a whole wall, and the museum was very caring in placing it so that you could climb a set of stairs and look at it from a second story as well as from the floor. It was in poor shape, but the skeleton horse and it’s rattled-bones rider will never leave my mind.

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For me, Palermo was very intimidating. Mind you, this is from a girl who lived in clean, orderly Ticino, Switzerland and grew up in quiet, rural Montana. Palermo was loud, it felt disorganized, and it felt like it had a film of age, but it was also utterly entrancing. Having been a major stop and trading outpost, it’s hosted the British, the Greeks, the Arabs, the Normans, and has been a beautiful mosaic of cultures and influences. Because Italy didn’t become a unified nation until the Risorgimento in the mid-19th century many parts of Italy feel like puzzle pieces in that they are all very different. Milan and Palermo, Rome and Florence, Genoa and Calabria, every city and region has its own wonderful histories. For somebody not used to so many energies, Palermo was an adventure in the best sense. (We also did happen to see a Communist rally that a man in a Superman suit marched into outside a mall. Ah, what oddness.)

In short, if anybody wants to take a trip to Sicily, please let me know. I’ll brush up on my Italian and we can eat to our hearts delight.

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