a match made in heaven

In photography, like writing, revision helps strengthen your images and clarify meaning. Do not be afraid to show your work to others. Having a trusted audience or knowledgeable friend holds inestimable value for photographers. Gather responses. Survey how people read your images. Revise on the computer or go back and shoot again as needed. Try, and try again. You are looking for something that you’ll know when you see it. Take the time that is needed to get what you want in terms of both communication and evocation.
— David Ulrich, Zen Camera

I agree with this philosophy of learning, but it can be gut-wrenching to expose my work to critique. This is where my photography book club comes into play. I envision a group of trusted friends who will give honest responses about my photographs, providing the objectivity that I might lack.

I’m working my way through Lesson Three of Zen Camera. I confess to procrastination on the reading and the exercises, but the minute I begin, I feel better. This is time well spent. And my book club is set to meet just after Christmas.

Lesson Three is on identity. Start close to home. Tell the stories you know.

The best advice I can give is to follow the thread of your interests, enthusiasms, and passions—and just begin. Don’t feel you need to go to places that others have identified as ‘good’ photographic subjects. In fact, often the photographs in these locations are highly conventional cliches. Be genuine. Photograph those subjects or themes that you care about, that challenge and inspire your artistic growth. Look at the world with a critical eye. What themes rise to the surface of your awareness? That’s a good place to start.
— David Ulrich, Zen Camera
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.
— Rumi

I love this line from Rumi because it feels like permission to be myself.

I tell people that I make images in and around my home because our budget is limited and exotic travels are not possible. But, when I consider what I love carefully, I can see that I would photograph those simple and ordinary moments of life no matter where I might travel.

I am often the least interested in the grandest and most obvious elements of any scene or adventure, and most drawn to the details and sincerity of the commonplace. It is the very notion that we are connected in our humanity by sameness—our bodies, the way we gather to eat and drink, cooking, growing and harvesting, walking in nature—that drives my photography.

It feels right to follow my natural enthusiasm and make pictures like these. Coffee brewed in a French press, rich with cream, a match made in heaven.

Prepared with great care and shared with the one I love.

shiny brite

I am experiencing a time of great contentment in my life.

This feeling of peace and joy is not something I take for granted. Our family has known hardship. We’ve wrestled with cancer, anxiety and depression, loss and grief, heartache and despair.

Life is a mix of sun and clouds, and the warmth of the sun on my face today is welcome.

But life is not shiny brite for everyone.

There is someone in my circle of friends and family who is suffering, and I’ve been walking the path alongside them.

I believe that illness is always blameless, no matter its shape or form. And that bad things happen to really good people. I understand that life is not fair.

And I believe there are things I can do to help.

From Everything Happens For a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler. . . a short list.

I’d love to bring you a meal this week. Can I email you about it?

You are a beautiful person.

I’m so grateful to hear about how you’re doing and just know that I’m on your team.

Can I give you a hug?

Oh, my friend, that sounds so hard.

Silence. Show up and shut up.

Life is hard and uncertain, but it is also beautiful and worthwhile.

whatever the reason

I’m piggybacking on a thoughtful post from ViewFinders where each photographer culled their images to choose one photograph, from all those taken in 2018, that held special significance.

“After you look through these images, we hope you’ll take some time to look through the photographs you created in 2018. We hope you’ll understand the importance of each image created by you, each image unique in the way that you frame and choose settings, in the way you process, in the way you make the initial decision to press the shutter. Have fun culling your photos (don’t forget to save them securely and print some out!). And we wish you more happy shooting in the coming year.”

I took this challenge to heart and set about skimming through my pictures for this year. Seeing the year as one long string of photographs is an exercise in gratitude. My ordinary life is extraordinarily beautiful, and this perspective made choosing a single photograph both difficult - because art is everywhere - and easy - because art is for every one. What I am saying is that significance lies in the interpretation of the photo, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to understand every photograph in order to appreciate it. Sometimes I simply feel a pull, a deep resonance, with a picture.

In my recent correspondence with Naomi Ernest about how to make and love our art, she reminded me of a simple truth.

I read this quote by Matisse recently, “Don’t try to be original. Be simple. Be good technically, and if there is something in you, it will come out.” I just love this— granting ourselves permission to just be. Just letting the work happen.

And so I chose this photograph as my one.

The reason is only partially clear even to me. But I am certain of one thing - my choice is about sincerity, not originality.

We visited Ells Blueberry Farm twice this summer. On both trips I felt an abiding sense of home. This is what it’s like to live in the rural South. We start off in our suburban neighborhood but within an hour we are in Madison County, Virginia, driving along rolling hills, pulling over here and there for small adventures. We stop to talk to the farmer. We pick till our buckets are overflowing. We pay on the honor system. We return home to make blueberry topping for vanilla ice cream. We remember the sweetness of summer. It’s all so familiar. Comforting.

a breath of cold morning air

There were many years when holiday time was marked by specific events and traditions. Cutting down a live tree. Decorations galore. Magic Elves that flew about the house. Advent calendars filled with treats. Baking cookies, making fudge, and singing carols. Lots of lights and even more shopping.

But Christmas comes this year with a soft sadness as my mother continues to decline, no longer engaged in the joys of the season. I’ve let go of the “Mom-chores” of Christmas and held onto the simple pleasures of the season, those that have meaning for me.

We’re making way for new ways of telling time, new ways to mark the season.

“There comes a time when the old things don’t work. The stringing of Christmas lights, the glass of wine, the shopping spree. Dull palliatives for a wound that needs real triage. And this past season feels like I’m in need of some real triage. The decorating isn’t doing it.

But then there are old things that come into new meaning. Advent is here and it is a breath of cold morning air. I’m grateful for the Christian calendar, I’m grateful for the chance to tell time differently. Because when the radio is telling me that “this is the most wonderful time of the year,” Advent says: you don’t have to wrap it up, figuratively in holiday cheer, or literally with another strand of twinkle lights. It declares, with no apologies, all is not well in this veil of tears and it won’t be until the second Advent– the restoration of all things, the healing of all wounds, the wiping of all tears. We look for mercy, we work for gratitude, but we still long for the peace that knows no end.” —Rebecca Parker Payne