After a late Thanksgiving dinner I got restless and drove around in the rain. Eugene is a smallish city, so doesn’t have a lot of the intense urban energy that makes shooting in a big city so much more exciting (or so I imagine, anyway). But despite its reputation as a hippie holdout (a mini-Portlandia, if you will), Eugene is still at heart a working-class town.
This is the Park Avenue Market. Since we moved here in 1997, it’s gone through three changes of ownership. The current owners are two brothers, young college students, the sons of immigrants from India, and they seem to work 24/7. Thanksgiving and Christmas nights are about the only times the parking lot is empty.
Some more shots in the rain here.
Every day on my way to work I drive past a strip mall on River Road, and one morning I turned into the parking lot just as the sun was coming up. Or so my cell phone said. The fog wasn’t dense, but there was enough of it that the amount of light in the sky didn’t appreciably change.
Hiding in its own lot next to the far south end of the mall, after the dark-windowed nail salon and the seemingly always open poker deli, was this light-reflecting jewel, the Anytime Car Wash. In nearly twenty years of living here I’d never really paid attention to it before, but right away I fell in love with the way its corrugated metal exterior bends the hazy dawn, and its grimy vinyl walls radiate back the fungus-tinted fluorescent lamplight. The whole dilapidated edifice shines with damp, do-it-yourself, 4-in-the-morning effort.
And there’s a dog wash in back, too.
I guess the neighborhood will be my project for a while.
Also: I thought I’d be a good citizen and ask the River Road Dari Mart if they minded if I went around back and took some pictures of their drive-thru–another east-facing wall that catches the rising sun and renders it in glorious grunge. But my friendly request seemed to alarm the manager behind the counter, and she informed me very sternly that I’d need to get clearance from the main office, which didn’t open until eight o’clock. I should’ve listened to my husband, a more experienced photographer, who told me to shoot first and ask forgiveness later.
Now that it gets dark so early, Buster and I usually walk in the field behind the Howard Elementary and Kelly Middle schools instead of down at the river. Before they built the new sports facilities (not to mention the slick new buildings), we used to run around the schoolyard unimpeded by children, soccer balls, and other dog-walk-interrupting nuisances (the nerve!). While walking and grumbling I shot a few pictures, telling myself I was learning about exposure and white balance, but it turns out I’m getting really interested in the new schoolyard.
It isn’t just the uncluttered stretch of ground–rare in this suburb–open to the western sky and its amazing Oregon sunsets. Another part of it is the contrast between the battered, drafty school buildings that remain and the genuinely cool (and eco-friendly) new campus. And it’s been fun watching the Pop Warner kids throw the pigskin around in a real football field.
For someone who takes pictures to say they’re “interested in light” is about as insightful as anyone who’s alive saying they’re “interested in breathing,” but it may be that the biggest lessons I’m learning in the schoolyard have to do with light, and what qualities and circumstances make certain conditions more intriguing, more mysterious, maybe even more beautiful.
Gallery: Howard Elementary and Kelly Middle School Athletic Fields
Banyan Tree, Kona, Hawaii October 9, 2016
All summer long I took pictures, most of them while walking Buster on the trails along the Willamette River. Some were for fun, but most were Landscapes with a capital “L.” At the time I liked them well enough, but looking back I can see they were maybe just a little stiff, a little dull.
Then Mark and I went to Hawaii for twelve days, and something changed. Next thing I knew I was walking around Kona, taking pictures all over the place with my Galaxy Note 5. Maybe it was the relaxed pace on the Big Island, everyone in flip-flops, nobody giving me side eye for letting my hair get all frizzy in the humidity. Or maybe it was breathing in the refreshing sea air every day. Or drinking in the refreshing vodka martinis every night. Whatever it was, I didn’t feel the need to rigidly compose every shot. If something looked interesting I took a picture of it, whether I thought it would make “art” or not.
That’s how I got one of my favorite photographs, this shot of a banyan tree in downtown Kona. I walked by it three times, each time thinking its undulating trunks and silvery bark were just sumptuous, and that the amber leaves cradled in its roots were like perfect jewels adorning a lovely woman. So I finally went back and shot it, close up and without any game plan other than capturing its gorgeous texture and color.
Mahalo, Banyan Tree of Kona.
Storm Approaching Reno: September 22, 2016
This is what I saw the last time I left Reno: a storm brewing that never quite broke. I knew life would be different, but I couldn’t see yet how different.
For now I’m taking pictures; it’s an interesting enough pursuit to be both a distraction and a kind of self-medication. It’s not the first time I’ve taken pictures. In one way or another, I’ve been making pictures most of my life. Suddenly, though, I’m interested in photographs for their own sake, not just as reference material for paintings or stories.
My first “serious” photographs — meaning photographs in which I pay attention to such photographer-ish things as exposure and saturation — are like the one above: moody landscapes, self-consciously striving for gravitas. In other words, they’re a lot like my paintings used to be.
But that seems to be changing. I don’t have a goal. I just want to keep going, and stay open to inspiration. Even if in large part because that keeps me from dwelling on the pain.