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.
A few months ago I got the opportunity to start going through my grandmothers photographs. This collection is not your standard few albums with posed family snapshots, but thousands of prints, slides and negatives by both my grandmother and my great-grandmother. There are family portraits, landscapes, snapshots, and close-up shots of flowers. Starting to sort through these photographs that span my grandmothers entire life (and yes, I mean entire, as some of the oldest negatives in the collection were taken in Salt Lake City by my great-grandmother in 1911 when my grandmother was born), I find myself focused on the compositions and lines in the photographs, as well as the life lines that flow through the photographs and make up the stories of my mother’s, grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s lives.
So much of our lives have been shaped by where we live, and where we come from. My grandmother spent her childhood in the Alberta prairies, mapping the land her father farmed, and much later, helped her husband work their farm in the Wenatchee Valley. My grandfathers family had helped settle the land, and it was here, after 30 years of being a nomad that my grandmother settled down, as best as a nomad can, and found her roots.
So this is where I have started, somewhere before my beginning, in the middle of my grandmothers story, and near the beginning of my mothers story, following the maps of my family’s roots.