I sailed into the high arctic at the beginning of last winter on board a 1957 fishing boat retrofitted to appear like a tall ship. This floating art and science residency brought artists together from around the world for a three week adventure along the northwestern coast of Svalbard. My colleagues arrived in Lonyearbyen from far flung cities such as Shanghai and Seoul and Barcelona and Luxembourg and Athens and Belgrade. Together we endured close quarters and trying circumstances--rough passages and bad weather and multiple unexpected mishaps and detours not the least of which included a broken desalination machine which greatly limited our supply of freshwater. By the final week we were at sea we only had four hours of workable light per day for making landings, each of which required elaborate preparation. Four rifle toting women would make land first to clear a perimeter in which we were allowed to work, and once we were on land we had to work fast in dim light and weather so bizarrely warm and wet it was hard to believe we were actually in the high arctic.Read More
I am just now catching up from almost six months of traveling. Between July of last year and last week I was on the road more or less constantly. We drove from Iowa City to Arizona last summer, a trip that brought us to the cool airy heights of the Chiracahua Mountains in southeast Arizona where we were able to look out over the desert and watch the monsoons sailing through below, their big gray ballooning clouds looking more and more like Spanish galleons. It was easy to imagine Coronado traveling through those mountains, and later Cochise--whose body was thought to be secretly buried here--and the ghosts of Buffalo Soldiers in hot pursuit. In Chiricahua National Monument you can find the ecological wonder known as "sky islands," unique micro climates that host species that have been stranded there since the last Ice Age. It's also a geologist's paradise, with distinctive volcanic formations that are among the most unique and other-worldly I have seen outside of Iceland. From there we went to Phoenix where we were able to catch the Edward Burtynsky show "Water" at the Phoenix Art Museum and then onward to LA, San Diego, and West Hollywood.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. . . .
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.