Anika in her ghost costume…
When I was away with my family, we went to Oregon’s Wildlife Safari just south of Roseburg. It was great to see animals having room to roam. The giraffes are my favorites. It’s difficult to appreciate their immensity from a distance. Up close you can see not only the magnitude of their dimensions, but incredible strength and coordination that is required for them to move so gracefully. From the side their necks look broad and powerful. Seen straight-on they look thin and boney.
So it’s been ten years since the attack of September 11. The media has been filled with remembrances of that day, I thought I should write mine. A couple of weeks earlier I had been in New York shooting some panoramic images of Manhattan using a parabolic mirror. The images above were created this way and were taken on August 29, 2001. The circular one is a raw image right off of the round mirror, looking straight up. You can see the whole World Trade Center plaza, complete with a security guard telling me that I could not use a tripod in that area. I’ve often wondered what happened to him. On September 11 I was safely back home in Portland, Oregon. Summer, my then girlfriend and now wife were sleeping in. The phone kept ringing, and I kept thinking I’d check the machine later. When I got up the phone was ringing again. I answered and heard my mother telling me that both towers had collapsed and that the Pentagon had been attacked as well, all by commercial jetliners. It was hard to believe. Turning on the television Summer and I started watching what seemed like an endless loop of video showing planes crashing, towers falling and smoke billowing. It seemed so close yet so far away. The TV had us transfixed and my mind was slipping into a deeper and darker torpor each time the news footage was replayed. Slowly it seemed that some form was shaping out of the chaos. The mayor of New York was visibly taking charge of the rescue operation. The president was in an undisclosed location.
That afternoon I had a Little League photo shoot scheduled for team photos. I kept expecting to get the call that the appointment had been cancelled. That call never came. In retrospect, it was for the best to be pulled from the television and forced out into the world. Driving out to the shoot, the city of Portland seemed to be in stunned silence and few cars were on the road.
After arriving at the field, I remember walking across the green grass under a placid blue sky. The coach was standing with the kids as they were arriving. I said something like “I’m a little surprised that you’re here.” The coach replied “I’m a little surprised you showed up.”
That was all either of us said about what had happened. As the kids gathered some seemed to be murmuring about the attacks, but most were silent. After their photos were done, I packed up my gear and wondered about how still and quiet the world seemed. Then I realized that it was the lack of planes. No jet rumbles or vapor trails in the sky—it was a quietness that I would never have realized would be so noticeable. Yet while the planes were grounded, the silence seemed deafening.
In New York, my friend, David Vanadia was living in lower Manhattan. As soon as he hear what had happened he took to the streets with his video camera. It was a fancy digital camera he had bought from me after the dot com I was working for went under. I kept the camera in lieu of back pay. I sold it to David to help cover bills while I looked for work. David now took this camera and shot hours of tape capturing the reactions of those most directly effected that morning. After ten years, he’s finally edited it down to an hour-long documentary. See out here on his site Vanadia.com.
My little girl happily started the 2nd grade today. While it’s September and autumn is fast approaching, Portland is having it’s first real heat wave of the year. Temperatures are expected to be in the 90’s through the week. It’s at times like this that I really start to miss the rain. After spending last week at the coast, I was getting used to cool ocean spray in the air.
Twenty years ago, shortly after I arrived in Montana, I decided that I wanted to understand photography from the beginning, I wanted to learn to Daguerreotype. I enrolled at the University Of Montana in an independent study collaboratively supervised by the Art and Chemistry departments. There was very little contemporary literature about the photographic process. One article I did find said that it was all but impossible to master. To paraphrase: Every so often someone working in isolation will attempt to figure it out. After spending lots of time and money to laboriously produce a few foggy images, they give up.
So far I must count myself among those so described. After a year of working alone in a lab (on a weekly basis) trying to decipher 150 year-old texts, the best product I created can be seen above. It’s a self portrait, though my face is blurred from moving my head during the ten minute exposure.
If I were to try again, the flow of information is far freer now than it was in 1991. Indeed, there is an online community of modern Daguerrotype makers. Someday, when my schedule is freer, I hope to join them and learn this elusive craft.
I only bring all this up because on Sunday at 1 pm, I will be giving a lecture on the history of photography. Though from any objective standard, I am uniquely unqualified to present such material, hopefully I can provide an entertaining exhibition of what I have learned throughout the years of pursuing my own idiosyncratic interests. If you’d like to attend please let me know. It will be at New Space Center for Photography where I regularly teach. I don’t know how many spaces are left—but it is free to attend. You can also reserve a spot by contacting New Space directly.