There's a lot of news to share and it's much better news than what you'll find on American TV at the moment I am pleased to say, but for now I just want to mention this group show I will be a part of through the next month at the Los Angeles Center of Photography. I am super excited to be in such good company with yet another Kotzebue image--this one of one of the strangest buildings in the village. I feel a little silly offering up a picture of a warehouse as part of a landscape series, but the structure made me laugh every time I walked past it so I finally made a portrait of it one day last summer when I was in northwestern Alaska for the wedding of two of my favorite people, a wedding that strangely enough I was responsible for documenting with my cameras (please note I did not nor will I ever refer to myself as a wedding photographer; I don't have the courage for that trade and I am in awe of those who can herd cats, perform advanced crisis counseling, and take pictures at the same time.)Read More
I met a man in Kotzebue who told me he was sure it is possible to hear the sound of the aurora borealis. He said you had to wait for a night when the air was perfectly still and you had to take yourself far out where there were no other sounds whatsoever. The kind of quiet he said where you are suddenly aware of the sound of your heart beating and then as the light descends toward you you can hear it crackling through the atmosphere.Read More
This weekend the Kobuk 440 sled dog race is taking place in arctic Alaska. The start and finish is in Kotzebue and the trail takes the teams 440 miles through the Kobuk Valley. It is April, which means the days are blindingly long, over 14 hours of daylight now, and though the temperatures are considerably more mild there are still all the dangers of winter travel in the arctic--the challenges of river ice, the isolation of the wilderness that deftly punishes the incapable and the unprepared.Read More
The Pine Effect is a wonderful new full-length collection of poems by my Aldo Leonardo collaborator Andrea Spofford. It's a thrill too to see one of my photographs serving as the cover, this lonely shot from the December Meditation series. Congratulations Andrea on the publication of your book. Those of you on my list who love exquisitely well-made poems will truly appreciate Andrea's work which rewards one fully as only the best writing can. The interweaving of personal and natural history from poem to poem leaves you feeling at times that you have read a field guide to a specific heart--a heart that celebrates all the things of the world, from the mundane to the grand, the broken to the wholly new. Preorders for Spofford's book can be placed here: The Pine Effect.
Meanwhile, I am hunkered down in Kotzebue, Alaska, dozing through one wind and cold-shocked winter storm after another, nursing a cold with an Inupiaq antiviral elixir, a shot glass full of stinkweed steeped in vinegar given to my by my tirelessly gracious host Norma. Photos to follow soon. . . . if I ever again see the out of doors that I trust is out there beyond the foot thick walls of this house and the blur of snow flying past the impossibly small high windows. . . .
The dew point is in the 70s this fine Iowa morning after a night of sirens and what seemed like near misses for Iowa City. Route One north of town washed out after five inches of rain fell. Tornados are due this afternoon. I went outside into the tropical rainforest that used to be my garden to try and catch up on last month's weeding and nature just laughed a big fat nature laugh and let a little more rain pour down on us, and so I hightailed it inside to finish some seriously backlogged editing that harkens back to my favorite time of year in my favorite place. I don't think there could be a landscape any more beautiful than a frozen sea in the light of the long slow dawn like that off the coast of Kotzebue. I love that winter moon that scuds along the horizon. I love that it takes almost six hours for the light to shift from the lavender of twilight to the true sunrise which occurs a little before noon. I will send a crisp ten dollar bill to anyone who can find the polar bear lurking in these pictures! A wildlife photographer I will never be--except by most unfortunate accident! Stay cool Iowa friends.
It's off to Kotzebue Alaska for me next Saturday February 15 where the high the day of my arrival is expected to be -6 F. After a winter of arctic temperatures here in Iowa the jet stream finally bucked the cold back up where it belongs and I'm chasing it as I apparently have not had enough of it. I can't wait to put on my Baffins, which are rated to -148 F, a number the company chose because there has never been a temperature recorded on earth that cold. Hmmmm. Marketing meets meteorology. I'll be happy as long as my feet stay warm as I pick my way across the Chukchi Sea. My goal is to photograph the sea ice, the aurora, ravens, and my favorite haunts along the Baldwin Peninsula. I'd considered researching who the Baldwin of the Baldwin pennisula might be, but the Baldwins are a mixed lot and and the story of the european incursion into this part of the world is fraught with a multitude of colonial horrors. I'm afraid of what I might find should there be any genealogical connection. Some things are better left alone. That feeling was confirmed last summer every time I went to pick up my mail in the post office in Kotzebue. Letters from my husband were often put in one of the "other Baldwin's" boxes and in the process of sorting all that out I learned they live up the Selawick somewhere, the other Baldwins. A meeting is inevitable, I suppose, given the smallness of the human community in that vast space but I don't want to hurry into that history. I don't expect to work in air above zero while I am there and to that end my favorite camera guru/salesman Roger has given me some creative advice about keeping both my hands and my batteries warm in that battery destroying temperature. I am most exited about the idea of vet-wrapping hand warmers to the tops of my hands to toast the blood supply running down into my fingers. Ingenious and so obvious.
Meanwhile, one of my dear little speedscapes is on its way to Minneapolis Center for Photography for inclusion in a wonderful show this spring: The Visual Narrative (see below).
The Visual Narrative, opening on March 14, will feature images selected by Susan Burnstine. My work in the exhibit is from a year-long series of landscapes I've been shooting while traveling at a high rate of speed--which is how most people these days experience landscape--as a fleeting presence glimpsed from the window of a train, plane, or car. I have been wondering how acceleration impacts our impression of a place and more importantly how it alters our feeling for the earth. Shooting while in motion is challenging in many new ways, and not unlike low-light photography in that it pushes me into a deeper appreciation of the physics of light.
It is always an honor to have your work chosen by someone whose work you admire--and I really love Susan Burnstine's work; her images defy conventional notions of time in photography. I often feel when looking at her images like I am looking through time or that time is a mosaic not a line and in the frame a multitude of potentialities are aligning themselves--not one. It is the opposite of commercial work and I am endlessly grateful to photographers like her for the inspiration of her work.
I'm so happy to have one of my photograms included in this year's Flower Power 2013 exhibit at the 1650 Gallery in Los Angeles. The image included in that show is from a series of photograms of medicinal and edible tundra flora I worked on during my downtime in Kotzebue this past summer. As photograms require ultraviolet light for development I thought perhaps I might put the nearly 24 hours of sun I had to work with to use, and so I had shipped the chemicals and papers I needed ahead of myself last July. Between our trips into the Noatak Preserve I took long wandering walks in the tundra with my colleague the wonderful poet Andrea Spofford and our new-found K-town friend Norma. We collected for tinctures, teas, and balms, gossiping about people we barely knew and eating more than our fair share of cloudberries and blueberries as we went. Now that winter is closing in I finally have time to work through the images I made this past summer. I find myself waxing nostalgic over those long bright sun-filled nights I spent in that red house on Grayling, listening to KOTZ, catching up on local events through Tundra Talk, marveling at musical selections so insanely eclectic and disparate the playlists opened up a whole new dimension of coolness. I'm still figuring out the intricacies of the process, and though I am acutely aware of how this project speaks to its originator Anna Atkins' magnificent work on the flora of the British seacoast in 1848, I am trying to find new ways of exploring the medium. Most of the images I made last summer were first drafts of what I hope will become a far more layered project, but for now I am happy enough with some of this preliminary work to start sharing it.