Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Letter to Wyoming

We are friends now, Wyoming, so I feel I can be honest. I thought you were a loser when we first met. You were lonely and vengeful with your wind, your plains like cold, empty bed sheets tucked into snow covered mountains, polka-dotted with ungulates and dead towns.
But then on that coldest day – do you remember? - we boiled water and threw it in the crisp air and it turned to snowflakes and I started to fall for you.
In the dead towns, I met cowboys with their throats wrapped in silk wild rags and on roads where you can drive fast I found steely skies that stretched out into impossible horizons. At the Hobo hot springs I met a man that looked like a Viking, and in the forest I prospected for gold in the glacial streams, and on a ranch I fished snakes out of a canal, and in the mountains I traced petroglyphs with my finger, and everywhere I watched trains trudge across landscapes in endless caravans, and I met people with faces open as the land, soft-spoken as the ready snow, with belt buckles big as the sky.
I ran my hands against your thick seems of coal in the Basin, too, and I have not forgotten your white outs that made it seem like the world was made of cold cotton candy. Also, I’m still not sure about these loud souped-up trucks, dear, and I remember Matthew Shepard and my landlord, who thought I had an attitude problem because she couldn’t pronounce my name. Sometimes, too, the loneliness and the starkness still reign.
This isn’t goodbye, Wyoming. This isn’t a proposition of any sort. I sunned yesterday on granite slabs in a field of blue columbines and now it is September, which means snow, and I feel alright about that. I thought I would let you know just that. That you’re alright, dear.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Caceres, Spain

Though the birds and their shrill song is present always here, they come out most fully when the sky starts to pinken and the heat gives in to a slight breeze, around 10. They emerge from the holes in the castles and walls, which at this hour are already glowing, and they circle in the sky madly, their sharp little wings like daggers and their vast numbers in the pale sky making it look like a fine fishing net is dancing in the wind above the plaza.

A man with a cane walks across the plaza and looks up at them. A lone crane flies from one roof to another and looks like a massive white airplane striking through the blackness of rapidly circling little swallows. Couples make out all over the place. A man packs a cigarette before lighting it on the steps below the clock. When it gets a little darker, the sky a deeper blue like the blue of tissue paper, and the birds fly close to the buildings, their shadows swoop along the walls as if on mirrors and it looks like there are even more of them than there are.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Uzbekistan: recent archives

I went to Uzbekistan, but Uzbekistan failed at the internet. I share:

The Motherland tests you in many ways. At the airport , the line to check in is hella long, moving real slow, and it seems like they'll never get through all of us in time. I seek out a security gaurd and he laughs. The plane is delayed nine hours, he says. It takes three to check in my bag and the man checking me in can't answer any of my questions. He writes a number on the back of my ticket and says to call with any inquiries. My dad comes back to pick me up. We drink vodka at a friend's house and eat shashlik. When I call the number a bit later to see if the flight has been further delayed, the message informs me that their office hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. It is Sunday. Sunday is for relaxing and so I do.

I return to the airport when it starts to obumbrate. I like the swarthy clientele of this airline, the ladies in sparkling head scarves, the plump women and the men in pointy shoes. The blondes will get off in Latvia, the brunettes keep going East. There are a couple of outliers. An American blonde, older, animal print cardigan, shaking head, bobble-like, that makes me think that she is going to Uzbekistan to find herself a husband. Something attitudinal. A young Korean girl with a laptop. And me. I wore my gold necklace but I didn't bring my gold teeth.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Clouds in pants dripping with magenta, from the air a landscape as if acid was splashed upon the land and in the burnt splotches it left fields grew, rows of olive trees and orange groves, a woman in all red with red high heels standing in the cafĂ© car of the train during golden hour and gazing out at an approaching purple dusk and passing small towns like islands in greenery. My favorite thing to do in new places is traverse the lands inside its borders back and forth in various forms of transport and spend long hours walking in its city streets and drinking coffee. I arrived in Barcelona on San Juan, which I had spent in Potosi last year. From the train I could see bonfires on the beaches and the whole city was shaking with fireworks and explosions – the orchestra of fire thinned out but lone detonations echoed late into the night. City of the sea, city of the mountain, city of the fire.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Women Photographers: What's 30 Under 30 Trying to Say, Exactly?

I just looked at the photos selected for the 30 Under 30 Women Photographers, put together by Photo Boite. The intro to the exhibit writes, "Photography, whether we like to admit it or not, is by and large a male-dominated arena where the 'looking' is a masculine act, and the subject is feminine, playing the role of 'looked' and admired mainly for their outward appearance. Photography, then, has been a mirror for conventional gender roles in western society."

Sure, duh, but browsing through the small galleries put up for each artist on the site, a selection of work that is supposed to be representative of these women's aesthetic ranges, their subject matter interest, their skill, etc., I'm a little disappointed to see that a large percentage of the photos on the site are, well, the same photo. Artist after artists seems to favor young, beautiful, long-haired models for their shoots (woa, men would never do that!), romantic, sun hazed lighting, flowing skirts and nests of taffeta in fields, orchards, by time-stained windows and rippling water. Haven't we seen all this before? Does the Victorian-era aesthetic need another comeback? And in such force! Some of the photos veer towards the urban, but again, waify girls in tat shops, looking hot and badass - it's like the bad sister that left her good sister in the field to mope. C'mon.

If the idea of singling out women photographers is to give them a chance to show the world how they see the female form in front of the camera, then the implications are worrisome. Just like for men, to many of these female photographers, women apparently are at their best lounging around in sun dappled nooks, looking languorous and pretty. If the idea is just to showcase some talented female photographers, who are underrepresented in the industry, then why choose so many that do work that looks so similar? Of the 30, there are few outliers whose work is noticeably different - Olya Ivanova has what looks like a series of portraits of Russian youths, Jocelyn Allen has a more conceptual series of portraits as part of her portfolio, Aislinn Leggett has what look like historical montages, Nina Cuviller has travel photography - while the rest are stuck on a romantic, some with a slightly absurdist Joel-Peter Witkin-esque twist, aesthetic.

I obviously don't know who submitted and whether different work was overlooked or the whole thing attracted a self-selected group of similar work that doesn't exactly push the envelope in terms of the photographic tradition or the female form. But I do know that there are women out there making photography that, to me, is fresher, more interesting, more exploratory. The Humble Arts Foundation, for example, also puts together an annual exhibit of women photographers where the work is varied, seeking, more thought-provoking, etc., even if most of it doesn't become my favorite, either. It's not that the artists featured in this 30 Under 30 are bad - a lot of the work is clearly done by technically proficient hands and is aesthetically nice - but I'm not sure what it's representative of. Is this a good sampling of what women under 30 are up to in the photography world? I hope not.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Back in Laramie.

Back in Laramie. On the drive from the airport, Lu said the skies out here are like a Rorschach test. We looked out the windows. This, she said, examining the empty plains, is the opposite of a good restaurant. And then again, later, peering at a brilliant sky that looked like it was reflecting off of smooth rolls of aluminum, its light oozing out of slits between rolls, she said that she could not perceive physicality, only the misery and desperation that the sky seemed to hold. W.G. Sebald, writing of St. Sebolt's miraculous lighting of a fire using icicles, writes, "This story of the burning of the frozen substance of life has, of late, meant much to me, and I wonder now whether inner coldness and desolation may not be the pre-condition for making the world believe, by a kind of fraudulent showmanship, that one's own wretched heart is still aglow."

I slept 7pm to 7am today and when I left the house, I seemed to float between the physicalities of the real world, perceiving but not participating. I felt it a board (bored?) game on which I floated involuntarily. Here, the polite service people always ask questions about your day and constantly I fail to recognize that I am being spoken to, and do not answer. I stay hush on the plains.