Thankful.

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This year has been tough. It’s been full of thoughts of failure and regret, of frustrations and complications. It’s been rejection, a lot more than I thought, and a lot of patience.

But this year has also been one of thrills, victories, and love. Getting up at 6 am and writing my thesis, slowly punching out the right words in the morning at my favorite coffee shop while saying hello to the crows I passed in the morning. Walking by the sea, my beloved sacred place, and listening to the waves. Having my dad and Ella visit me there in the spring, taking each to my favorite haunts. Going home and looking at homes with Logan, trying to find somewhere that felt like it would work for us. Struggling with my thesis edits and getting everything right while applying for job after job, only to hear nothing made me feel worthless. Making pizzas with Logan in our kitchen, and eating on our front porch, watching the shadows grow as the sun set in the summer. Seeing movies and walking across the Clark Fork river on the bridge, feeling the breeze on my face while holding Logan’s hand. Hugging my mother and sister when I see them and playing with my mother’s dog. Holding a hot mug of coffee in a booth at Butterfly Herbs.

While Thanksgiving as a holiday is a lot of historical erasure, I still took the day to be thankful for it all. For the struggles and the lack of money, which feels constant. For the love and support I give and receive. For the roof over our head and the car that is still running and for the fact that I am healthy and okay and that it will be okay.

I hope that you had a good day of thanks and that you were able to take a moment or two and think about the good things or hold the ones you love.

Before all the leaves left the trees.

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Outside our window I can see the almost-naked trees sway in the wind. It’s cold and foreboding outside, and it’s the first snow of the year. I feel glad to be nestled in our house, warm and comfortable. I’ve had some health scares lately and am tired of calling doctors and making appointments and dealing with the what if’s of having a corporeal form.

But, having a job makes a lot of the worries feel less serious. I’ve been getting up early, getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and walking to work. The normalcy of doing so is healing, in my opinion, and while I don’t relish the realities of having a lunch hour or watching the clock a lot, it’s refreshing to know that my time means something to somebody, that as I work I get money. Having not necessarily worked with that exchange full time in a couple of years (hey grad school!) it feels so good.

I’ve had some film developed lately and I’m so excited to share it! Here are some frames from when it was still light out in the morning and the foliage hadn’t fallen off the branches yet. I already miss those times even though they still seem like yesterday.

 

A bit of history in expired film.

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I met Ella on a fall day in 2014. My friend Charlotte had told me that her childhood best friend was moving back to Helena and didn’t know a lot of people, and would I like to meet her? I was working a job where my favorite coworker had just left (thank you Kevin for making the front desk livable!) and had almost no friends in Helena. I said yes please, naturally, because as much as I liked being an introvert it wasn’t sustainable.

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Ella and I chatted for over two hours the first time we met at the Blackfoot Brewery, while I was working a job I resented for money I needed. It was my first fall back in my home town, and I was making my home in my parent’s basement while I saved cash for graduate school. It was almost necessary that I met Ella, because if I had not met somebody I think I would have sunken even further down than I felt at that point. Alone, but unable to be truly alone, and twenty-three, I felt suffocated, terrified, and so, so hollow. My joys were long solo walks around the Mansion District, walking by Romanesque arches and Gothic windows and Italianate architecture that people from all over came to build in Helena, Montana. I found leaf piles beside the Myrna Loy Theater to step in and crunch, and I often sat with a book at the local Starbucks until they closed at 10 pm on weekends (no other coffee shop stayed open after 6pm in my small hometown). Life was dull beyond words, and I felt like a machine. Finding one person who seemed like they could help revert me from my corpse-like state was amazing.

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Since then, Ella and I have pursued adventures of our own but always managed to reconnect. This is somebody I have feverishly danced with, spent hours reading with, and in general feel a sense of kinship with that will always be important to simply because the timing of her arrival in my life was really important. A few weekends ago we finally, after discussing it for a year or two, used a whole roll of expired film I was saving just for making photographs. Ella’s cheekbones are unrivaled and she has the loveliest mouth, and with her Morticia-vibes hair it was so good to photograph her. I want to do it again soon! 36518519464_f9916ba3ff_c37315521871_edbf9681b1_c37458147975_f9b4d724cd_c36518520804_8069a56f8a_c

 

A collection of thoughts in a hot, hot summer.

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Everybody told us Missoula would be hotter than Helena. We laughed it off, sure that we would be fine with fans, ice packs, and spirit. Instead, this summer has been one of the hottest in the last sixty years. The heat starts early, seeping in through the open windows which I shut vigorously every morning. It lingers far longer than it should, an impolite guest that traps us in our homes, grumpy and disoriented. My appetite fades or I feel hungry at odd hours, and sleep escapes me frequently. I begin to loathe sunlight and the daytime and consider becoming nocturnal, except somewhere I read that being up at night and working at night fucks with your circadian rhythm and gives you higher likelihoods of getting certain cancers…but then again, at this point, doesn’t everything give you cancer?

At night we hear the train cars crash together as they move, a semi-apocalyptic sound that often shakes the house. We say it is like living on the edge of the world. When we had an earthquake a month back, I woke up because it felt like the trains but more intense. It felt like some primordial worm was crawling beneath the house on it’s way somewhere else..  Now, I often wake at an especially loud crash because differentiating between the rumble of train cars and the eerie sensation of an earthquake has blurred. An emergency kit is being made in my mind but no, we haven’t bought distilled water, flashlights, a medical kit, food, or any of the other recommend emergency things.

On Saturday night we went to see Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult film El Topo. It was a mess of gore, dead animals, weird sexual themes, and beautiful, bleak desert. When we left the theatre, it was cold! The wind whipped and blew up my dress and I held it down, and we discussed how good it felt to actually be chilly. Goosebumps on my arms felt like a soft blanket, and I felt so much more alive than when the heat saps away my energy. We had a drink at Plonk outside, and the wind made the pages of the fancy menu flap and flutter. Nighttime is the only time I feel completely human again.

My state of unemployment weighs heavily all day, every day. The quiet, insistent pressure to be employed and working makes me feel like a worthless soul, even though in fact I am worthwhile, so goddamn worthwhile. Self care in these times is important. I treasure little things, like sharing lunch with Logan, listening to a good record while we make dinner, or having a moment outside early in the morning before the heat, smelling the outside smells, heavier with nighttime moisture that still lingers. Right now, there is a blackberry pie in the oven, it’s smell wafting throughout the house. WordPress keeps deleting my post, so here it is in messy, unedited form. I cannot wait to take out the pie and see the slightly browned crust, having wrestled with cold butter in flour and gathering blackberries while fending off wasps and other insects. It felt so satisfying to be able to make the pie with fruit from our backyard! I’ll be making a post about that soon. Until then, lovely readers!

 

 

 

 

San Francisco on film

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The colors were everywhere. Bits of coral, the blue of the sky, the warm hue of sand, the cool grey of the dense fog that engulfed Adrienne’s neighborhood each night. The smells were different- hot asphalt, whiffs of delicious foods not found in Montana, the sterile yet slight omnipresent stink of public transit, of thousands of bodies inhabiting the same small train cars day in and day out. San Francisco felt like a city that was in the midst of a lot of change. Money and youth everywhere, and yet none of it to be found for many.

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We walked through the park, surrounded by massive eucalyptus trees, before breakfast. Logan took a picture of poop in the park with my film camera because he said I was being stingy with my film. We smelled the rich earth and the flora and saw red wing blackbirds and ravens before making our way to the beach.

The beach was engulfed in fog that was slowly retreating, and we walked to meet the waves, letting the edges of the Pacific ocean lap at our feet. The sand felt good in between my toes and I watched as one man in a dark coat walked up and over one of the dunes. The beach felt melancholy and full of gloom, but I loved it. Such spaces are great for letting thoughts wander and unravel and then pulling them back to have new, strange, and better ideas and thoughts.

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We went to the Mission District, which Adrienne had warned us was quickly becoming gentrified. Historically Latinx and Hispanic families have lived there, but as we got off BART we saw the inevitable results of gentrification. We walked a lot around that area and still heard plenty of Spanish, saw groups of school children and church groups outside churches with signs that read, “Jesus te ama”, and I hoped that the people who had been there would hold onto their apartments and stores and churches and habits, but I quietly knew that money and white people were probably sinking their teeth into the area and biting away at what hadn’t been theirs before.

In in the midst of our Mission ventures we found a beautiful, cramped Italian market. One wall was entirely devoted to hanging sausages and I felt myself growing hungry even though we had eaten quite recently. A beautiful wheel of Parmesan cheese sat staring at me and Logan pointed out some meats he had been searching for. We looked at the olive oils and the cans of tomatoes and all the pasta and left because if we didn’t leave soon we would buy meats and cheese that we had no room in our luggage for. We found a Brazilian mercado, and once inside I was the only one who wasn’t speaking Portuguese. People sipped coffee and around us were baskets full of Brazilian cooking ingredients, juices, and random odds and ends like deodorant or romance novels. Logan chatted with the barista and we left to go find a cool place to linger. We ended up at a dive bar with the right amount of sticky counters, grimy interiors, and dark corners and sat down. Adrienne joined us shortly after, and we talked and people watched.

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The rest of our trip was like that- full of lovely places but being quietly reminded that this was a city being inundated with money from tech firms and start ups and that things were shifting and maybe had been for a while. Regardless, we thoroughly enjoyed being able to see and do the things only cities can give you- art, diversity, busy crowds and the kaleidoscope of humanity that buzzes and bustles as each one of us carves out our own space in the world in whatever way we can.

Come Sail Your Ships Around Me

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The older gentleman who develops my film cuts it for me and I take it home to hum through my scanner. As the images appear, slowly, I fall back into memory. Film is delayed gratification, a slowly opened gift, a practice in patience and deliberate moves.

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As you read this Logan and I are packing to go to San Francisco, where we will be seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds! Logan got the tickets as our Christmas present in December, and we weren’t sure if we would be able to go for a long time, but in the end the chance to see Nick Cave live was too damn good.

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We’ve never been to San Francisco, and I cannot wait to see Adrienne and explore a new city for a few days!

In any case, here is some film from the last 3 weeks. Sunshine, gloom, bandaged hands from fishing at 4am, old grumpy fishermen, canoeing on the lake, and other delightful moments and things.

The final foray- for now.

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I sit in a comfy plastic chair on a busy street in my new home. Our home is strewn with half-unpacked boxes and we ponder how to decorate the empty walls. Irises bloom in the front yard, making me think of Van Gogh and summer.

Meanwhile, as I look at these 35mm pictures, all the silence and noise of the woods comes rushing back. These wet, saturated, deep woods that fill Vancouver Island have seeped their way into my bones and soul the way that the water permeates everything there: slowly and deeply. The forest floor gives as I walk upon it, layers of decaying wood, leaves, animal scat, and other refuse creating a natural carpet. Squirrels chatter and birds sing, and deer quietly and shyly snack on edible foliage. I hear ducks quietly land on the water and smell the rich earth and look at the way the light changes seemingly every second, casting ever changing shadows into the recesses of the forest. It feels right.

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.

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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Working on it.

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Do you know how difficult it is to photograph people with a  50mm lens without feeling like a creep? Well, I still can’t do it very well. I feel invasive and rude. Nonetheless, practice makes perfect, and I fully intend this year to do better at photographing humans and not just landscapes or still lifes. People are wonderful and interesting and I would like to attempt to bring that out in my photographs this year more.

Here’s the first roll of 35mm film since I got my camera repaired- and not a spot of light leak on the film! I am truly giddy to be able to tote my Olympus out and about with me again.

An appreciated delay

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The two week delay in finishing this roll of film and getting it to the lab is actually marvelous. I feel renewed looking at images I haven’t seen before.

I remember having cold hands and feeling like the sun was extra bright. It was a weirdly clear, sunny day in Seattle, after the two days of clouds and rain we’d encountered. We had our heavy packs slung over our shoulders after leaving the apartment we’d rented and walked towards the water, down steep hills. West Seattle and the Sound faced us and there was a cold breeze coming up the wind-tunnel like streets. The lack of caffeine in my system made this cold breeze not entirely welcome. My eyes were all over the place and my mind was as well. We walked right past the gorgeous library, and buildings that had actually been obscured by clouds the nights before. Cities always make me feel hyper aware of my ant-like existence.

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A brief stop in a cafe with big windows and odd coffee only made me hungrier, and in my standard clumsy state I spilled water all over the table and felt like a fool. Food was needed. We found a sushi place and devoured quite a bit of raw fish. We were right next door to the Seattle Art Museum and part of me wanted to venture back inside. I felt like a human battery recharging, sitting in the sun by the water.

I am in the midst of finishing papers and getting images back that were made when I wasn’t so stressed out feels destressing, even though writing about them is essentially shooting myself in the foot, as I should be writing about New Zealand government repatriation programs.

After the last member of our party departed, I spent the afternoon and evening in Seattle solo. I went to dinner by myself with a new book and had two large glasses of dark, dry wine while delving into a gorgeous story. I didn’t sleep at all in my hostel bed, and mostly tossed and turned, waiting for the first sign of morning. My ferry the next day was cancelled so the next day was a flurry of being transferred from bus to ferry, bus to ferry, to finally make it back onto the island. Huge waves tossed our ferry around and arriving in town it was pouring rain in a relentless manner. I got back to my apartment that still smelled like burned pancakes (a mini tragedy involving a spacey grad student and a hot burner) and settled back into my routine.

 

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To finish, I miss making pictures. I want to make more of people. On this trip I made images of my friends tentatively, never outright trying to invade space or be intrusive. I wish I’d made more images on film. On this roll you will note the lack of portraits- I made pictures of food in lieu of people. I feel shy at times making portraits of people I am in close proximity with, as tempting as it is to photograph people.

So, this is a kind warning to everybody I will see over Christmas: I miss making images, and you are all potential subjects. Ready yourselves. I will not be shy, and I’ve got a low-light lens.

 

All the ice for the ice queen + some camera talk.

Cooper the black Labrador wandered away and my voice is almost gone due to being very sick, so in the midst of photographing our lake ice I had to go and literally run to get him. He’s almost deaf and I can’t yell and we are a mess in general.

I’m in a coffee shop because there is no internet at our rural home. Maybe it’s not appropriate to be sitting in a public place while I’ve got the plague but I need internet more than I have morals so…that’s a lost battle.

I sent 5 rolls of film for my sister to get developed so very very soon I will be sitting in front of my trusty scanner and scanning film again!

One of the worst parts of 2014 was not shooting as much film. I know that sounds odd but it really made the year seem less memorable. Some people have amazing memories and can pull the most minute aspects of an event out of their minds; I have no such ability. I think the reason I photograph so much is so that I can highlight events and illustrate them in my own slanted way and never forget them. I can remember the random creepy carny wearing devil horns in July at the county fair or remember that my freckles were very vivid that one summer. I can recall details about my loved ones that I couldn’t otherwise, like how their faces have changed in little ways or how they hold their hands, or how we made duct tape dresses for a fashion show and picked raspberries and drove around aimlessly.

CAMERA TALK TIME:

As I mentioned to one blogger, I’m making the big transition really soon to a DSLR! GAH! For the first time in my life I will have good digital gear. I’m not throwing down $3,000 for a Canon 5D iii, and I’m not splurging on any f/1.2 lenses, but I’m getting good, decent gear that will do what I need. I’m nervous to take the plunge- it’s a serious investment, because even if I am not purchasing professional grade photography gear I’m still paying good money that I worked really hard for! (And at a job that I’m really unhappy with…every dollar means that much more!)

WHY:

I’m finally throwing down the cash because of geography. I live in Montana, where getting film developed is getting harder and harder, and also more expensive. Now only specialty photo shops develop film, and for them to scan your images onto a disc or harddrive is over $10/roll. My parents gave me a beautiful Epson V700 scanner, which is truly a beautiful machine, so that I wouldn’t ever have to bother with that again. However, that comes with its own learning curve! (Professional software, patience, etc…) For me to get a single roll of film developed, I either have to drive 90 minutes or mail it there, wait for it to get mailed back, and then scan it after cutting the negatives on my own. It takes a very very long time.

After reading thousands of reviews (I’ve been researching for months now) and thinking about what I really want vs. what I really need, I think I’ve settled on a Canon 60D. I’d rather put a bit more cash into some good lenses than a good body. I’ll then purchase a 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens and probably the Canon or Sigma 50mm f/1.4 (after having an f/1.4 lens on my film cameras I can’t look back). Maybe a zoom lens? We’ll see how much money I can actually put forward (my laptop is also on its last legs and I need a good bright screen for editing and scanning my film, so when I enter grad school I’ll have to drop some cash for a decent Mac).

For a while I was really really tempted to go for the new Olympus Micro Four Thirds system. I’m mostly getting gear for travel photography and portraits. My sister and I are spending 3 weeks in Iceland, the Netherlands, and Belgium and I really want a camera that I can carry around all day alongside my Olympus OM-G. I’ll admit it: I love my Olympus SLR from the 80’s and the Zuiko lenses I have are simply fantastic pieces of glass. Zuiko and Olympus had some good shit going on back in the day and I would love to see what they’ve done with technology. Plus, the cameras are lighter and those little Zuiko lenses on the Four Thirds system are absolutely adorable. The OM-D E-M10 (phew Olympus, couldn’t you make that more of a mouthful!) is also weather sealed and seems pretty hardy, and if it’s anything like my OM-G, it’ll be a beast.

A lot of camera enthusiasts will ask me why I haven’t considered Nikon and I’ll be honest: figuring out which damn lenses go with which bodies confused me so much. I couldn’t do it! I’m sure if I was more focused and paid more attention I would get it, and I know Nikon puts out some awesome cameras and lenses, but Canon and Olympus both had very user friendly systems that didn’t require me to distinguish and really study which lenses go with which bodies. Sorry, Nikon, you got a bit too complex for me.

If anybody has any recommendations or experience with DSLRs and lenses, feel free to give me feedback or ideas! I haven’t made any purchases yet…

And I will always, always shoot film. My OM-G is too sturdy and awesome and those Zuiko lenses are too nice to gather dust.

A place I never wanted to leave

35mm goodness from my sturdy Olympus OM-G. I only brought my f/1.8 lens for some reason, not my f/1.4 or a wide angle or even my shift lens, but I’m still pretty happy with how many of my frames from the trip turned out.

I still can’t believe it only cost $2.00 to go into the gardens. Montana doesn’t have the sort of season to encourage ferns, flowers, and lily pads everywhere, so I’ve never been anywhere like this. I wanted to settle down on one of the many benches and sketch and maybe sing to myself a little because it was the most calming place I’d been in a long, long time. There weren’t a lot of people and we had the gardens mostly to ourselves. The overcast day made parts seem eerily private and in this way perfect. I loved the curling edges of ferns and the twirling stems of so many different flowers.

I’ve got many more frames to share with you all but for now I think I’ll let these stand alone. Mother Nature has such beautiful creations.

I could have set up a tent in the bamboo forest and lived there happily ever after. Too bad we only spent a few hours there! It felt incredible to be surrounded by the hum of birds, bugs, and the sound of water while being visually enveloped with every color possible.

New format and lovely memories

Hello lovely readers! I’ve been ignoring this blog. I’ve been really into cleaner designs and I realized that instead of looking to make a new site when I had loved this one for so long I could literally just find a new theme. 10 minutes later, BOOM! It was done. Without an actual boom sound, of course.

What did I do today? I ate lots of candy. I chopped wood with a hatchet in a cashmere sweater. I took pictures and had a milkshake. I sat in front of a fireplace. I ate pie. It was glorious. I also spent time with a warm sleepy Labrador and my lovely famiglia.

However, since I’m a slave to film (i.e. haven’t invested in a good DSLR/have no money/when I have money it goes to rent and food not cameras), any pictures of pie or candy or whatever else I took pictures of will have to wait. For at least a week. CVS swears they can get it to me in a week. Hmmm….

So, here are pictures of what winter in Montana look like on bitterly cold mornings in backyards and front yards and around town. Things are covered in frost, a frozen sort of fog blankets the valleys, and your world becomes a little more beautiful and brittle. These are from 2010 when I was home from Switzerland for a month. My mother had recently given me her Olympus OM-20 with an f/1.8 lens and I think I made some lovely images.