I Think Her Tractor’s Sexy…

My wife and I traveled across the great state of Washington last weekend to table at Spokane’s LGBT pride festival. We tabled last year and had such a blast (seriously… I think Spokane’s pride fest is awesome) and couldn’t wait to go back this year. The day of pride it was 40 degrees (cold!) and raining buckets (nonstop!) and was generally miserable. We had fun talking to everyone who braved the weather, but at the end of the day we were soaked, freezing and miserable. Thankfully, the day after was warm and sunny, so we got to take a nice leisurely drive back, and I took a lot of fun pictures (and my wife made a lot of u-turns on the highway so I could go take pictures of stuff I saw).

Washington is an interesting state. On the western third, we have rainforests and the Puget Sound. It’s gray and drizzly most of the year, and the landscape is lush and green. Gardens pepper backyards and community plots. There are ferry boats, farmers markets, independent coffee shops, a mild climate, and lots of hills. The other two-thirds of the state, on the eastern side of the cascades, is flat, dry, and windy. There are 4 distinct seasons (sunny warm summers! snowy cold winters!). And a lot of country western radio stations and large-scale commercial farms.

When I was little and I’d head over the mountains to visit my extended family (and I have a lot of family in Eastern Washington) I thought it was a miserable place. Hot and dry and smelling of cow poop. The only time I liked to go over the mountains when I was young was in the winter when we would go ski into the cabin my great-uncle built in the Wentachee Forest.

But that was then. And this is now. And it has taken years, but I have fallen in love with the eastern side of Washington. I love romping through sagebrush in the dry heat. I love the wind whipping my hair around. I love watching snow flurries come down with no promise of stopping their wild dance. My roots go deep in the eastern side of the state.

Now, when I cross the cascades, the minute the landscape turns flat, I turn on whatever country music I can find on the stereo (and if I can find Cash, Williams or Cline I get the biggest grin). And then I dream of my wife and I buying a few acres out in the dry flat land. we’ll plant some vegetables, and have a small orchard and a few rescued farm animals perusing the place. I will sit on the porch in a little sun-dress and cowboy boots, showing off my full sleeve tattoos (this always seems very important in my day-dream…) and drinking unsweetened ice tea. My wife is working the vegetable plots, and I am subverting one of the most annoying country songs ever by singing “I think her tractor’s sexy” at the top of my lungs, because no one can hear me in our little plot of land.

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The Accidental Titles

I’ve been taking a class on photo books for the last three months, and while I have been working on a hand-bound hardcover accordion book (more on that later) I became inspired and made two small paperback photo books.

The first title, The Cartography of Farmers’ Wives: Photography from 1915-1976, is a short paper-back book with sampling of photography from my great-grandmother and my grandmother. Many of the photographs are landscapes from eastern Washington, although there are a few portraits as well in this contemplative story of one families relationship with the land. I look at this book as a small meditation on a much larger project that I think will probably take me the next 2-3 years to complete. Now that I know I can complete a small project with some of the information and items I have in this collection of family history that has been handed to me, I feel ready to embark on the larger journey.


The second book, A Traveling Song is a small paper-back of Hipstamiatic images I took on my phone on the road-trip my wife and I took when we moved across the country from Washington, D.C., to Seattle, Washington, in 2009. We pretty much drove straight through, and most of the images were taken from the car window while passing through middle America.

More Glances Into the Past

If you’ve read any of my posts, you’ll know that I’m in the middle of mucking about in a bunch of old family photos. The cool thing about my family photos is that I have thousands (yes, really, thousands) of prints and negatives going back 100 years. Both my great-grandmother, and my grandmother were both shutterbugs, and my grandmother kept all the negatives she could.

They both also took a lot of landscape photographs, and candid images of their families (as opposed to posed group shots), and that is primarily what I have been working with as of late.

One of the reasons I am starting to work with these images is because I am taking a photobook class. I signed up for the class mainly for the technical information (i.e. what makes a successful photobook? what is the history? what makes a successful series of images? when is a photobook the best format? etc.) that will aid with the new publishing venture in the upcoming year, and for some inspiration (as the class is being taught by one of my favorite contemporary northwest photographers).

The difference between me, and most of the other students in the class, is that they have a clear concept of one specific book they want to create. I, on the other hand, want all the information, and to be able to pick peoples brains, and see what is going on in the world of photobooks currently. But seeing as making a photobook is part of the class, I am using some of these old photographs and making what I hope will be a quiet contemplation of the land that my family farmed from 1912 through the late 1960’s. It’s a good exercise in editing, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.