On Light.

Puget Sound.

Puget Sound. Seattle WA.

I had a conversation with A. about the properties of light in different geographic locations. She talked of Venice, I talked of the South. It led me to dreaming about the light out on the west coast, before I set foot on the damp earth there. Here, in Pennsylvania the daylight has a density to it that I can't describe. It is a thick daylight, heavy and long limbed.

Seattle's light was crisp and bright, defining the edges of the landscape with clarity. I was a little dumb founded when I stepped out the plane and was surrounded by the grey, sharp light of the 6 o'clock hour on the west coast. It felt like someone had focused my eyes.


Aw, Shucked.

Shucking I

Last of the Sweet Corn. October.


An Unintentional Beast.

Groundhog Pelvis. Tulip Bulbs. Groundhog Hip/Spine.

The act of putting something in a jar is about preservation, is about keeping that object around as it is for a long time. I have a collection of glass containers and inside that collection are objects that have been picked up and kept out of sentiment, value, or interest.

Last year, I went to Alvira PA with my aunt and picked up a groundhog skeleton. Between then and now, my attempt at curing the bones failed and it began to grow some very neat looking mold which attached it's self to a bird's nest. The bulbs were from the backyard of my old apartment. While gross in formation, I found the results to be gorgeous.




Pike Place Market Parking. Seattle WA.


Puget Sound Shore.

Rose Petal, Rain Water.

Rose Petal Filled with Rain Water, Gravel. Seattle WA.

Lately, I have been really interested in being very close to things when I photograph them, flattening the space and leaving only a few hints of depth in the images. I have spent so much time in my photographic life taking two or three steps back and to the right. I think being as close as possible to my subject creates new possibilities for images and enables me to explore both new and old places with ideas that I have yet to mull over. I force myself to look closer.



Nadine's Front Porch.

Nadine's Front Porch, Drums PA.




Photobooth, originally located at the Palace Arcarde. Asbury Park NJ.


Me, I Just Got Tired of Hanging in Them Dirty Arcades Banging Them Pleasure Machines.

Madame Marie's.

Madame Marie's, Asbury Park NJ.

"Well the cops finally busted Madame Marie for telling fortunes better than they do."


Viewer, Ocean Grove.

"This boardwalk life for me is through, you know you ought to quit this scene too."

Sometimes, most of the time, particularly in the dead of winter or right before spring's wild explosion of life and green, I am seeking out what summer feels like. Stifling heat brings a sense of wide open youth, playful desire, endless twilight and wonderment to the world. I want a perpetual summer. I perpetually want sand in my hair and around my toes, I perpetually want sun-licked skin and sticky sweet ice cream and a light heart to make life brighter, easier to bear.

Sea View Avenue. Jesus on the Beach.

Sea View Avenue, Beachside Jesus.

"Sandy the aurora's rising behind us, the pier lights our carnival life forever."

So, during a phone conversation I impulsively suggested to A. that we go to Ocean Grove, New Jersey for a long weekend by ourselves. Admittedly, I wanted to be close to Asbury Park, enchanted as I am by the mythology that is Springsteen. I wanted to explore the place more, intrigued as I was by what I saw the last time I was there. I loved Ocean Grove's obvious preoccupation for it's past but it's attention for it's present and longing for it's future. Ocean Grove, tucked away from the interstate, sleepy-eyed and quiet seemed like the best place for us to spend our short but much-need time away.

The Boss.

The Boss, Pleasure Island Pinball Game.

My hunt for the elusive light, playful essence of summertime completed it's self on the Jersey shore, in a second floor room of a historical B&B, along the stretch of Asbury Park's boardwalk. I fell hard for both A. and Ocean Grove. That sandy strip of beach and the town's narrow streets lined with quaint Victorian houses and the soft skin of her palm in mine gave me that feeling of summer that I hadn't felt since I was young. Enormous, weightless, in love.

Asbury Waterpark.

Asbury's Waterpark.

"Love me tonight and I promise that I'll love you forever."


Roberts' 100th Reunion.

Gathering for the Big Group Photo.

Gathering for the Big Group Photo, Roberts' Reunion. Drums PA.

The first Sunday of every August, since 1909, the relatives and (now, since there isn't anyone actually named Roberts there) decedents of the Roberts family gather in Drums, PA to "reunite" with one another. August is not August unless the first Sunday is spent eating food, chatting with people who's names I can only sometimes recall, drinking birch beer from the tap jutting from the side of the green refrigerator, and gazing out across the pond/lake.

Summer Cabin & the Pond.

At the Pond

It is like any place I go that is populated by my former selves, by my family's history. There are photo albums containing the group photographs from the time I was born until present day and all 25 of us, all different incarnations of me linger there in the cat-o-nine tails and the swampy ground, around the stream that feeds the lake, with mud-caked feet and a full belly. See, every year each cluster of families is photographed together and those photographs stretch all the way back to the mid 30's.

Food Stuffs.


Like it's very existence, the reunion is punctuated by ritual. The potluck lunch is at noon sharp, preceded by a brief thanks given to the Lord for the bounty and nourishment that he's provided. There is the 50-50 drawing, the meeting to discuss affairs regarding the fiances and future of the reunion, the Chinese auction where my uncle always wins my aunt's quilt. There are the photo of the families and then there is corn, which has been steaming quietly over fire and under wet burlap sacks the majority of the afternoon.

Gaby & Rafle Tickets. Steaming Corn.

Gaby Takes Charge of the 50/50 Tickets, Steaming Corn.

This year had little to no variation on these themes. Inhaling the sweet, damp air, eating my aunt's macaroni and cheese, flipping through the albums filled with photographs, and wondering around the lake was like most years before. The sensory input at the reunion, forever unchanging, fulfills and marks the beginning of August, to mark the beginning of the end of summer.



Behind but Still Here.

Steaming Corn.

Steaming Corn, Roberts' 100th Family Reunion. Drums PA


The Narrows, Sunbury, Pa.

Speaking of home, timauman over at Flickr has uploaded a bunch of scans of old postcards and photos from Sunbury (and surrounding towns) and they are fantastic.

I wanted to share this one, a particular favorite of mine. It is strange and wonderful to see a place so familiar depicted in such a picturesque way. The way those towns look now is so enormously different than what is depicted in the images. The Opera House and The Trolley in Northumberland are absolutely amazing.


So, I Visit.

Center Road.

Center Road.

I can trace the way back to my birthplace over the worn asphalt roads with my eyes closed. Finding my way through the stretch of Pennsylvania that separates me from there is a second nature, like breathing or sleeping, now in my 24th year. I inhale the warm air pushing through wide open car windows, blink against the sunlight and listen to the groaning hum of my car's engine in it's impaired state, later to be found out as a misfiring 3rd cylinder. The language of traveling here is laden with numbers and sharp turns in small towns; the long left off of 309 to 54, the sharp right off of 54 to 61, the steep hill where 42 begins it's long journey over the Blue Ridge and down into Catawissa. This is what I love, what I am, who I am, what I look for in other places around the country as beauty, as home.

Stacked Wood. Clothes Line.

Stacked Wood, Clothes Line.

I have said this time and time again but the landscape of central Pennsylvania is who I am. My heart is the rise and fall of the smooth Appalachian mountains, my veins the neglected back roads, my skin the fields. I cannot talk of myself without speaking, conflicted, about this place.

Front Porch II. Front Porch.

Front Porch at Amy's.

Yet, when I am here, I am an outsider, a foreigner. I know better than to think, to pretend that I belong here. I see the short comings of small-town life and the darkness of my personal history stings like a fresh cut. The memories of growing up here rise out of the back of the mind without much evocation; the corner at 8th and Orange, the building where I went to elementary and middle school, the long hill up to the development I played in. They are there, thick and real and vivid and living. I could not live among those ghosts, those formative years as a person in the present.

Amy & Dan's Garage. Amy's Kitchen Window.

Garage, Kitchen Window.

So, I visit. I drive down Market Street in Sunbury and stop at the local hippie shop for moccasins, visit my grandmother on Orange Street in Northumberland for conversation, meander around the life I lived here in my Volkswagen and head out to Amy's house for laughter, beer, food, and dusk.

Amy & Dan's, At Dusk.

Amy & Dan's, at Dusk.

Dusk at Amy's, my aunt, has the type of long light that I have trouble finding where I live now. The shadows get long and parody the objects that they are and the light turns purple and flat as the sun disappears slowly over edge of the soy bean field. Here, in the garage or the warm kitchen or the softly lit living room, I like to watch the sun's light diminish and listen to the sounds of night come up. Here, the fireflies blink randomly in numbers than border the thousands and the quiet is expansive.

Locust Treet

Locust Tree.

I am always reluctant to leave. The force that it takes to get me into my car and drive away is all that I can muster against my will to stay.


Unsurprisingly, I have been watching, like everyone else, the slope the American economy has been sliding down the last year or so. I am disheartened and worried and cynical and terrified about what the future holds for this country; I fret about my money as well as my future on a regular basis, even though I am relatively gainfully employed. I have seen and benefited greatly from, in my brief 24 years on this planet, a hugely prosperous upswing in the economy and watched, wide-eyed and stupid, as the foundation of the American way of life in late 20th and early 21st century fell out from underneath everyone. It is obvious to cite the 65 banks that have closed since 2008, note the bankruptcy and failures of GM and Chrysler as well as Ford's shortcomings, the deflation of the housing market and the joblessness that is reported back to me everyday.

It's all beating a dead horse, really. I can't say anything about the economic situation of the last 2 years that hasn't already been articulated and explored better than I can.

What I see in times of seemingly endless struggle, however, is re-examining the way Americans have been living the last 50 years. We have been ever-expanding outward; bigger, better, faster, newer without considering the consequences of the precious land and the vast, gorgeous history that has been sacrificed for our culture of empty, mindless buying and the inherently American need to own a piece of that land for ourselves.

I see the shift when I work out at the Rodale Institute, watching the expanding interest in organic, sustainable and local food. I hear about it when wind and solar energy is slowly starting to be the new go-to for powering our country, as opposed to fossil fuels.

So, when I read about Flint, Michigan's plans to shrink itself in order to save it, I was amazed. It sounds so counter-intuitive to what Americans think of as a means of prosperity and yet, by making a town (especially that has struggled so notoriously as Flint has) smaller makes so much sense. By bringing the town back to a center and making it more concentrated around that center, it becomes more sustainable, accessible and and economically viable. While I am not saying that decision to give up the house that one has worked so hard to make home is an easy one, to let go of the idea that "This is mine and it will always be mine" for the larger good of a failing community seems like a strange and refreshingly good idea.

Big Box Reuse is a photography project by Julia Christensen about the ways in which people and organizations have taken closed Big Box stores and re-imagined them into places of worship, art, community, health and learning. It is well known that the construction and openings of such places as Wal-mart and Home Depot kills local economies and businesses and to see the space that such places of huge consumerism once occupied reused and remade into a places of purpose is refreshing and inspiring.


North Carolina: Of Comfort.

Garden Plot.
K.'s Garden Plot. Winston-Salem.

com⋅fort [kuhm-fert]

–verb (used with object)
1. to soothe, console, or reassure; bring cheer to: They tried to comfort her after her loss.
2. to make physically comfortable.

4. relief in affliction; consolation; solace: Her presence was a comfort to him.
5. a feeling of relief or consolation: Her forgiveness afforded him great comfort.
6. a person or thing that gives consolation: She was a great comfort to him.
7. a cause or matter of relief or satisfaction: The patient's recovery was a comfort to the doctor.
8. a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety: He is a man who enjoys his comfort.
9. something that promotes such a state: His wealth allows him to enjoy a high degree of comfort.
10. Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. a comforter or quilt.

K.'s Living Room.
Living Room.

That Friday, I woke up in the house of someone who I love and who's absence in my life is felt in small but enormous ways every day. We came together like interlacing fingers, as hands folded in prayer, our words slow but flowing, like the 9 months that has passed hadn't changed anything. When we ran out of words, we just enjoyed the shared silence, the sunlight, the hum of the truck's engine, the birds, the heat.

Living Room.

K., in one of those long, layered conversations about life, mentioned that North Carolina is all around comfort for her. She lives in a house she grew up in and so I can imagine that it feels like a big hug or hand on the small of the back. Her personal aesthetics fit so perfectly into the house and I felt instantly calm and let go of whatever had been weighing on me from my everyday life. It was like walking into the house of a family member, an aunt, a cousin. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the small, strange histories that live in the rooms and the yard.

Tree House. Back Porch.
Former Tree House and Back Porch, with Basti.

Is home that of a real, physical space or does it come out of something else? Does it offer comfort solely from it's mere existence as a place to return to after a long day, a space to decorate and store or is it greater than an apartment, a house? Is it the people that are within it, that lets the nerves relax and brings the calm? How does one create the comfort of home? Does it take patience and time or paint and curtains? Is the combination there of?


I Can Grow Things.


Golden Arrow Lettuce.

Being able to grow my own food is something I have become really invested in the last few months. Through research and hands-on experience, I have found a sense of pride through watching seeds sprout and grow into real looking plants. I can't imagine how excited I will be when I can pull plump tomatoes off the vine and grill my own squash.

Pea Vines. Tomato Blossoms.

Pea Vines and Black Cherry Tomato Blossoms.

While I don't know if my plants will really yield all that much, since there aren't very many of them, I like the idea of starting to grow things and become part of the growing and harvesting cycle, even if only to provide small amounts of food for myself. I like the thought of a big, green garden. I like to dream of a cellar full of beautiful canned tomatoes, fruit jams and gorgeous potatoes.

Yellow Crook Neck Squash.
Yellow Crook Neck Squash


Crack of the Bat.

Thunderhead Over Coca-Cola Park

Thunderhead Over the Bottom of the 5th.
Iron Pigs' Game at Coca-Cola Park. Allentown PA.

Baseball has become the only reason I turn on the TV lately. Everything that makes baseball, baseball makes me inexplicably happy. The chatters, the field, the ritual, the sounds, the idle time between plays.


Of Making Pictures: Then, Now, Here, There.

Moselem Door. Blue Knob.

Old Salem Cemetery. Winston-Salem NC.

My thoughts on picture-making have shifted greatly over the last 12 months or so. School taught me to think about picture-making as a means to communicate some greater truth about your subject and relate to greater social issues. Coming home and working in a environment that is about picture making in another way, a way born solely out of aesthetic has made me re-evaluate what it means to pick up a camera. I work among those* who's main purpose in making pictures is to make them fit into a mold of what pictures are "supposed" to be. It's rare that I see a picture come through the lab that isn't a take on some other example of what good photography is suppose to be. Macro shots of flowers, pseudo fashion shots, moody pictures of architectural and industrial decay, highly edited wedding shots are all common in my workplace and it's hard, sometimes, to not roll my eyes while adding two points of density and hitting enter to move on to the next order.

And it's not that either camp is particularly bad (although I do have trouble letting go of the high-art/important notions I learned in school, as in I try not to scoff at fluffy pictures of flowers and babies), but both camps have their place and merit.

Personally, I struggle with both of them. The high art camp takes things too seriously and thinks too much; the suppose-to camp doesn't think enough. I'd like to straddle the line between the two, making photos that are highly pleasing to the eyeball (trying to, at least) and making photos that are compelling to think about. Though, making work at all is challenge for me lately.

The camera I shot with in North Carolina was a beast of a high end DSLR that was as satisfying to shoot with as a Hasselblad.** The body substantial and the lens crisp, the photos I took there are gorgeous but without much brains. I chalk this up to the novelty of the camera and the lens, because it's hard for the novelty of a 14mm lens to wear off. I'd like to be able to reconcile this at a later date and blend the two ideas together.

I have also been more concerned with documenting my experience of life, no matter how minuscule. More than anything, pictures of my friends, family, and the beauty I see in the mundane details of living seem much more important and precedent than discussing some universal truth through photographs. I think that I am getting back to the reasons I picked up a camera and fell in love with picture-making in the first place.

*Though I am not saying they are bad at what they do, because they aren't. I just can't do photography that way. Also, most of them are making money from their work and I am not. In fact, none of my work has been even seen all that much with exception of here and my website.

** Film cameras. Sigh.


North Carolina: Magnolias.

On my drive down, I couldn't help but noticed the abundance of fantastic looking trees that populated the highway sides. My mouth slightly ajar, my foot heavy on the gas pedal my stomach empty and my bladder full, I wasn't really up for doing sight seeing or slowing down to look at stuff. So I pushed on, well above the speed limit to get to my destination in a timely manner.

Huge Magnolia Grove.

Magnolia Tree, Reynolda, R.J. Reynolds' Estate, Winston-Salem NC.

That is, until I saw a magnolia tree. I unfortunately missed the blossoming of the trees probably by about 2 weeks (too early) but until I went to North Carolina, I had never seen a fully matured one in person. I am perpetually dumbfounded by these ancient trees when I ever I see them. Their leaves are fat and waxy and the branches are elegant. I felt this stupid sense of wonder when I zoomed by one on the highway, my breath sharp in the back of my throat. I probably would've about died if they were in bloom when I was down there.

Massive Magnolia Tree. Magnolia Tree Grove.

This particular magnolia tree was in the front yard of Reynolda, R.J. Reynolds' Estate. I wanted to stay underneath the big, winding branches and the fat leaves and read and stay cool. I wanted to give that massive trunk a hug just because it existed and I couldn't get my arms around it if I tried. I collected about a dozen of their seed pods to bring home with me.

Magnolia Leaves.

Magnolia. Such a lovely word, too. I'd like one day to have a magnolia tree in my front yard.


North Carolina: The Drive.

Secretly, I have always wanted to be a Southerner, one who is born from the South. Sadly, I was born above the Mason-Dixon line and don't get to have such an honor but I figure I can always visit. Or live there as my stupid hopeful plans go for the next year or so. When I set out last Thursday for a 8 hour drive to Winston-Salem North Carolina, the sun was bright and the weather forecast was promising for the trip: 85 degree weather with clear skies. Car packed, lunch waiting for 1pm, plenty of liquids and music, I headed west on I-78 over dry asphalt and then south on I-81.

The camera I brought with me was a rental from a work, a Nikon D3 with a massive 14-24mm lens. It is a bulky and heavy set-up and though I was tempted to shoot on the way down through my car window, careening into the side of one of the many tractor trailers that I was traveling with wasn't exactly appealing. Which is why there are no photographs until I actually got to North Carolina.

That said, crossing the Mason-Dixon line was strange and anti-climatic. It is marked mostly by the Mason-Dixon Auto Auction, the Mason-Dixon Road and a rectangular green sign, posted on either sides of the highway. While I have been south before in my life, I was less cognizant of the impact of that line and when I did finally cross it for the first time in my adult life, the impact was underwhelming. The changes in the land didn't come until I was well into West Virigina and even then they were subtle; from the change in land use by the sides of the highway (rolling, wide fields versus rocky, steep pastures) to the blue highway signs advertising fast food (Wendys' versus Bo'jangles) were the only indicators that I was below the line of demarcation between North and South.



I find comfort in the menial tasks of domesticity, where my life floats beautiful around the mundane. In small housekeeping based tasks, I find satisfaction in keeping a clean space, a clean house, meticulously organized and put together. It is no surprise that upon coming home, I have found myself more willing to put up with and maintain my mother's expectation of order that has been established long before I was born, long before she was even born. In washing dishes, I find time to mediate. In making my bed every morning, I find a routine that keeps me grounded. In dusting, I am comforted by the way the rag clears the pale floatsom from tabletops, from nooks and crannies in furniture.

Admittedly, it's akin to a nervous tick.

When I am worried, I straighten. When I am listless, I dig into the world that is my stuff and discard the unneeded, the extraneous, the superfluous. When I am sad, I find myself scrubbing a bathroom from top to bottom. When I am alone, as I often am, I find myself deep in the silence of cleaning a floor by hand, on my hands and knees. Often, as extra income, I find myself in other people's houses, polishing their hardwood staircases with hot water and Murphy's oil soap, hands wrung dry and knees bruised. I find a calm in not only cleaning my living space, but other's as well. The world is a better place when I can organize and put things where they belong.

Housekeeping, in a way, is a representation of moral character. The matriarchal family in which I was born into has taught me the responsibility and need to maintain a clean living space in an intense, obsessive manner. Before I moved out, away from the life I lived under the gaze of my parents, my room was a place of chaos, of collaged walls, of piles of clothes, of stuff. I clung to disorder as a means of rebellion, to not only irritate my mother, as all good teenagers do, but push against all that I was brought up to believe, what I should be. I tried to ignore the uneasy feeling I got when I went into homes that were less clean than the one I lived in, whose blatant filth forced me to be careful about touching things, about stepping lightly. I tried so very hard to ignore the dust on the baseboards, the dirty kitchen floor but I could not.

So, when I moved out, when I got to fill an apartment with my things, my tendency and my need to keep house crept up on me and the one day smacked me across the back of the head. I dreaded using the dirty bathroom so I cleaned it. I hated walking barefoot across the dirt-speckled wood floors so I vaccumed. The disorganization of the kitchen made me nervous so I straightened. By the time I moved into my third apartment in 2 years, I was willingly and happily scrubbing the dingy linoleum kitchen floor back to it's former white glory once a month while my roommate was out. I swept the back porch in the summer time, pulled weeds from the sad patch of dirt in front of the house, wiped out windowsills after rainstorms.

I often think of not keeping house a sign of something amiss. I have noticed, as I go back through the short stories I have written, that when ever something is wrong, the house is a mess, the dishes aren't washed, there are no clean clothes, the floors are dirty. Despair is eating in bed, leaving the dishes on the nightstand. When the future is bright, the characters (or myself, since I think it's hard to write something about someone else without you in it) live in a world of order and immaculate baseboards. Love is washing dishes together. I see the decay of personal space as internal conflict in other people's writing too; off the top of my head, Housekeeping by Marylynne Robinson is one, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates is another.

Today, while I am alone in a big quiet house, I am listing the things off in my head that I need to do in order to maintain that moral character. There is a vacuum to be run, a kitchen floor to be cleaned, counters to be bleached, laundry to be folded and put away, and as an extension of personal space, a car to be cleaned out. Granted there are other things I need to do but before I leave the house, before I even bother getting dressed, the housekeeping comes first. It is only after I do these things, only after I have made my world a better place, can I deal with the world outside, in all it's dirt and disorganization.