I love winter. I completely embrace the cold, the snow, the extra layers, the hat head, the snail pace driving to town. I revel in it. For me, it’s glorious to trudge through a blizzard with my tears freezing on my cheeks, to go out when everyone else stays in. It’s all an adventure, even better if tinged with some sort of electric danger.
When I was a child I had a strange notion to go out and experience the worst kinds of weather that were possible in Indiana. I wanted to be outside when tornados were approaching, just to feel the power of nature and discover my own helplessness. I remember once staying out in an approaching tornado until my mom shouted at me to come in. I had to crawl to the door on hands and knees because the wind was too strong for me to walk. I remember how exhilarated I felt, and how I laughed, my heart almost bursting from my chest with the pure joy of experiencing a wind that powerful. I used to go out in thunderstorms. I loved the feeling of standing in the rain, lightning and thunder crackling above me, goosebumps prickling on my arms and overwhelmed with awe and my own vulnerability.
I also liked looking up at the sky. Whether it was the bluest blue of a summer day, laying in the grass and just staring up at it, imagining that I could feel the earth turn under me, or the blackest black of night counting endless stars, trying to comprehend the infinity of space and my own being in relation to it. I climbed to the tops of trees and perched, swaying, feeling how dangerously high I was, how dangerously thin the branch was, and yet… the tree held me. It didn’t break or let me fall.
Since I’m very young, I like to feel my smallness in the face of the natural world. I want to be at the edge of the rock when the wave hits, not at a safe distance. Why is that? I really don’t know. As I type this, I wonder if it’s about the powerlessness that I felt as a child. To be matched against the might of nature, to experience it fully and to survive, to continue to exist, gave me a fleeting sense of power. I am important, I am meant to be here.
Another part was that this was all very comforting for me. To feel so small and vulnerable amid such a vast world, but somehow cradled in it, cared for, allowed to be, untouched, unhurt, even when it was at its most angry. It felt like love.
For Johnny. Happy Valentine’s Day to my one and only.
This was such a wonderful Valentine’s Day. We were snowed in and had the whole day to ourselves. We made breakfast at home – pancakes, fried eggs and bacon – and a French press coffee. We talked a lot and read (I am working on Yann Martel’s new book, The High Mountains of Portugal, and have a hard time putting it down). We walked to the water and took pictures of the sea smoke that had formed this morning. We had a nap, made peanut butter cookies and shared a tea. We watched bald eagles fly by our windows for hours. There is a pair nesting right next to our house.
Tonight we’ll make tacos and homemade guacamole together, have a fire and listen to music. Maybe share a glass of bubbly. I loved how simple today felt. For me, just being at home with Johnny without tasks, agendas, people to see or places to go made it perfect.
I have reflected a lot today on love and what it means. I read an article featuring a Zen Buddhist teacher on “How To Love” and it was so profound, beautiful and true. That is exactly what I think love should be, and how I want to grow and love better.
I feel so thankful for the love I share with my husband. I understand and feel understood. There is so much admiration for one another. With Johnny I feel a deep sense of purpose and belonging, as if we had already shared many lifetimes and only found our way back to one another again after a long absence.
Johnny and I braved another snowstorm today to get our morning coffee (read: a-d-d-i-c-t-s) and met up with Gary there. He had brought us gifts: a book of his wet plate photography, writing and sketches, and a pin for me that he made from one of his pictures. He had given Johnny a pin a few weeks ago and promised me one too. I love my pin and have it on my coat. We all sat and looked through his book together for a long time, and Gary made comments about the photos and the story behind many of them. It made it even more meaningful to look at when you added the perspective of the artist who created it.
Gary’s eye is quite different from my own but I truly can appreciate how he sees and what emotional themes drive his work. I think it’s wonderful when people create art that is so true to themselves and honors their unique perspective on the world. I don’t feel anyone’s work needs to be my style for me to really value, appreciate and try to understand it.
On a side note, after looking through Gary’s book I am very interested to try wet plate/contact prints someday. The look is just so interesting, how the light and shadows and textures are.
After coffee we drove our poor car home again through the blizzard and enjoyed a quiet afternoon together. I had a bit of work to catch up with too. We’ll have homemade chili and cornbread for dinner and then hopefully a warm fire and an Earl Grey.
I can’t close without mentioning Johnny’s 365 photo that he published today (from December 19th). It’s one of the coolest pictures I’ve ever seen. Do you see the optical illusion?
Today I relaunched my website and my new branding for Rebecca Lily. This was a project that began about 14 months ago and has been such a labor of love, both for myself, my husband, and the designer who worked with me. I can’t even describe how surreal it felt to see it online after so much time. I had all of these ideas and concepts in my head and now it’s really existing in visual form. Kind of like… making a darkroom print. (I am smiling to myself right now because I managed to find a way to talk about darkroom again.)
I’m so happy that I was finally able to relaunch today, and the feedback I’ve received since it went live has been overwhelming. Everyone has been so positive, supportive, and kind. I’m very very grateful.
Today’s darkroom session was a lot of fun. I met my friend Sierra there and we did some printing. I made contact sheets for the two rolls I developed a couple of weeks ago, and she made contact sheets and a few prints. Her prints turned out great. She shoots a Rolleiflex as well and makes really beautiful images of her family. We’re going to meet again on Tuesday and do some film developing together. I’m super excited, I have 4 rolls waiting for that.
Johnny made 3 large (16×20) prints yesterday and we picked them up today after they were done drying. Wow, they look so incredible. A smaller print is already so beautiful (my largest has been 7×7) but it literally takes your breath away to see a darkroom print that size. I’m so proud of him.
I just realized that darkroom talk has literally taken over my 365 to the point where I don’t talk about much else. But that’s pretty accurate, Johnny and I devote about 80% of our conversation and free time to photography lately. What else is there to talk about? The weather is freezing cold, I’m making sweet potatoes and chicken for dinner, and I am about to start a new book: The High Mountains of Portugal, by Yann Martel. Oh, and I hope the cafe has their homemade donuts tomorrow because it’s been two weeks and I’m starting to go through withdrawals.
Our friend Ray Larose drove all the way from Derry, NH today to share a darkroom printing session with us. We met for coffee and a pastry first at Rock City Cafe, and Ray showed us his new/old Graflex medium format camera from 1961 (which he readily admits will probably be his gateway drug to large format). It was really cool seeing how the camera worked, it’s a lot different than my Rolleiflex or Johnny’s Hasselblad.
After breakfast we went to the darkroom. Johnny and Ray both printed and I was darkroom assistant, which was a lot of fun. Both of their prints were a huge success, but the best part about the day was being in each other’s company, catching up and enjoying some photography chat. We spent 6 hours in the darkroom, and then Ray treated us to a great dinner at Cafe Miranda, one of our favorite local spots. Next time you come up to print with us, Ray, we’ll treat you to tacos and some good local Maine brew.
Tomorrow I’m meeting a girlfriend, guess where, the darkroom. 10am. This seems to be dangerously habit-forming, I can’t seem to stay away from that place for longer than two days at a time.
Another long day of work. I will be so happy for the weekend when it finally arrives.
I am thinking a lot lately about my photography and what I would like to do in the future. Up until now, my work felt very goal-oriented; I shot weddings for a time, and the last few years I have shot for publications and for my business. I’ve written articles about photography and participated in collaborative projects. I have always viewed my photographic output as having more of a purpose outside myself, connected to other people – but that is changing. It seems like this change is connected to the darkroom.
Since I started shooting black & white and developing/printing my film, I feel a lot differently about that very aspect of my work and it begins to divide in my mind. While my 365 remains a playful project, and my personal blog is to share my creative and published work, black & white feels more serious for me as well as more about myself – more like art. The darkroom is an introverted place where I can be alone with myself, create freely and without constraint or any external purpose. It becomes very important to me that I learn how to shoot, develop and print my film well, and gain experience and competence. I feel no pressure right now to share what I’m doing with anyone else. I love making prints just for the sake of making them. They are like little tangible representations of my imagination and innermost feelings.
It’s very hard to put this into words without sounding arrogant or self-serving, I really don’t mean it that way. But I’ve never felt so much like an artist as I do when I’m in the darkroom. I suppose it’s the tactile part, the handcrafting, where I make an idea come into actual physicality. I also have a very strong feeling that the most important art I am meant to create in my life will be the black & white prints I make myself.
The snow just keeps coming. We had a lull the last few days, but today it started up again and it’s been relentless since then. I am pretty certain that tomorrow morning we will wake up to a snow-in. Luckily, we are well stocked with firewood, food and hot chocolate.
At coffee today I spotted a family that had two daughters, probably around 14 and 10. The 10 year old was who I noticed. She had this incredible mop of short curly hair that stuck out in all directions. I had a black and white portrait of her that came instantly into my mind when I saw her. I kept looking over and thinking about whether I should go and ask if she would like to do some pictures together, but I felt a little intimidated, and then as I was psyching myself into it, they left the cafe. But I really didn’t want to let the opportunity go (having learned from experience that these kind of things haunt you forever if you don’t act on them). I decided to approach a lady sitting nearby that I had seen talking to the mother of the girls earlier, and I asked if she knew them. She said she did, they were her friends. I explained that I was a photographer and that I would love to photograph the younger daughter. The lady said, “Oh, she would probably love that. She is as spunky as her hair!” Long story short, I gave the lady my name and number and we’ll see if the family contacts me. I hope so, I would really enjoy doing some black & white portraits of this little girl.
It may seem like a small thing but I’m really proud that I went and talked to this lady today. I was so close to saying, well, maybe I’ll see this family again sometime and maybe I’ll talk to them then… which I probably wouldn’t have. I always feel hesitant approaching people about portraits and I had also made a couple of bad experiences with that a couple of years ago. But I am really determined to work on these fears and overcome them, so I’m making a conscious effort to switch my mindset and assume that people will respond positively, and not negatively to me. I’m also reminding myself that in doing what I want to do, I don’t take from anyone. Rather, I give.
We also had a really nice talk at the cafe with Gary. He’s become a great friend and I especially enjoy seeing he and Johnny connect on very many levels and develop a bond. That makes me so happy.
Other than that, I had a lot of work on my plate today, which kept me busy from breakfast until dinner without much of a break. I really love days like this, even though I can get annoyed sometimes in the midst of them. The feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, and having empty inboxes, is really satisfying.
We spent the afternoon in the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, enjoying their new photography exhibit, “Picturing Maine”. I was especially inspired by the darkroom prints. They are so timeless and have such a wonderful richness about them.
One photographer whose work I really liked was Berenice Abbott. She had an illustrious career that took her to Paris, Berlin and New York City, which ended in our state when she had to leave New York due to health reasons. Her last book, published in 1968, was called A Portrait of Maine. She had done a project based on Route 1 which is the same road that we drive every day. I looked her up when we got home to find out a little more about her, and came across this quote which I thought was very wise:
Some people are still unaware that reality contains unparalleled beauties. The fantastic and unexpected, the ever-changing and renewing is nowhere so exemplified as in real life itself.
I think that is so true. The world is so full of wonders for those who cultivate the eyes to see it.
I wonder at which point this couple in the coffee place will realize that I’m taking pictures of them. This is the same couple that I photographed exactly a week ago today, but this time it was even more challenging because I was at the very next table (I use a 50mm lens, and this picture isn’t cropped). I had to prefocus and then snipe really fast while they were behind their newspapers. If they ever find this blog, they will probably think I’m some weird stalker. I just find them very photographically interesting. Maybe one of these days I will ask them for a portrait and then show them the shots I took when they were unaware.
Today was one of those really good days that completely exhaust you in a happy, satisfied sort of way. We woke up to a knee-deep blanket of snow and went out for a walk with the dog in the woods. Johnny brought his Hasselblad and I had my Rolleiflex. I don’t think I have ever seen such a perfect winter wonderland as we had today, it looked completely surreal. I hope I got my exposures right.
After breakfast we went to the darkroom and worked on prints. Johnny had a few to make from his 365 project and I worked on a print for my project with Merritt, the woman I talked about on 01/18. It turned out wonderful and I can’t wait to give it to her. I really love darkroom printing, it’s become so much a part of how I approach the photographic process. When I shoot, I visualize my prints. That’s a new experience for me. I also really enjoy applying some of what I’ve learned in my work with Lightroom to the darkroom. There are a lot of similarities between making good prints and making good presets – being mindful of contrast, highlights & shadows, gradients, blacks, what things might be worth sacrificing for the overall aesthetic, how far is too far, etc. It’s really so interesting to apply these things and also to learn the differences. Lightroom is a predictable software, but the darkroom has a mind of its own. I think that is part of what I love about it; the challenge of seeing if it and myself can meet minds.