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Month: September 2014

Blithe from Port Angeles

Our Port Angeles affiliate
September 2014

I take a lot of cheap shots at Port Angeles, but I love this odd little town. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.  After spending a few days in Olympia, it’s great to get back, even though I picked up some overachieving bug. Puking, diarrhea, aching, head cold, headache, fever. The past 24 hours have been pretty awesome. Reading over these entries of the past week, I don’t know, maybe I’ve been nursing this fever for a while.

The only pictures I managed to take in Olympia were of a toy duck enmeshed in the utter crud of Capitol Lake. I went back the next morning at dawn as if looking to expand on this theme, and there was an actual real dead duck only feet away from the rubber duck. I took the picture, but it was under duress, a contrivance- albeit a serendipitous one. Under the shadow of the Capital dome, the continuity also felt wrong. I’m not nearly familiar enough with the city to place a dead duck, or even a toy duck for that matter, into it’s iconography. I do give myself points for actually saying this aloud, rising from boneheadedness into actual words: ‘mhunh?…the crud must have killed the duck, not the toy one.’

Fever or no, if it had been in Port Angeles I probably would have spend the day getting the shot from every possible angle. You only hurt the ones you love.

The observation diet


September, 2014

Hmmm, how to loose muscle in my head, and fat in the rest of me?
(Hint- stop chewing, and move along… Preferably more than 50 steps from home.)

Entitlement programs

Nude’s eye view
September 2014

The stuff I’m doing lately is so beneath the symbolic vernacular or even basic human interest, it’s becoming increasingly pointless to post pictures here. One need only refer to my recent series of one-liners about chronically disengaged local nudes. Not so much lowbrow as unibrow.

I don’t really consider myself a photographer. And not only because I’ve always felt ridiculous hauling out a title for doing something that everyone can now do so easily. It’s like calling oneself a motorist. Or like getting one of those bright green award ribbons back in grade school just for showing up.

Were they actually green? Because that’s perfect. Photography has always had an inferiority complex thrust upon it because it’s mechanically easy. But that’s silly- writing is mechanically easy as well. Many photographers seem to fall for lesser-class status, there is much wringing of hands and assigning of motifs. En-nuggeting photography with bits that no other visual medium need concern itself with. Indexically, I wonder if not considering myself a photographer is just a cowardly opt-out of not only criticism for the photos posted here, but also for of the institutional baggage that comes with the entire culture. There is much to opt-out of: dogged resistance to change, proselytizing about old traditions, the mix of derision and celebration when a colleague makes it big. The bumptious recycling of antique discoveries. I’m as susceptible as anyone.

I mostly took up snapping pictures as a method for dealing with writer’s block, but then maybe that’s because I’ve never really considered myself a writer either. I can’t remember why I took up writing, probably to get laid. No doubt it felt like genuine love at the time but since I can’t even remember the principals, it was likely just hormonal. What I do with words is also a little hormonal. More like fingerpainting, or beating mud puddles with a stick. Great messy abandon for me, but not exactly a spectator sport.

Writing about photography takes special coordination, but writing a photo blog might be more akin to trying to blow your nose and wipe your ass at the same time. But that’s not why it’s difficult. The reason it’s difficult isn’t even worth writing down- and that’s mostly the reason it’s difficult. I know it’s often considered difficult because it’s so easy to break whatever slender thread the photograph is using to tug someone towards a reaction. But to keep mute presupposes that there’s some advantage to misinterpretation. Does anyone fear that they’ll be understood? I do at times. I’m a shallow, vulgar individual. Why be coy? Maybe because even worse traits are increasingly evident- irrelevance, indulgence, insanity.

When making pictures or drawing these verbal doodles fails me, there’s always the dark garage shop. (I took up woodworking when I no longer needed to get laid.) I can tinker with modern tools and re-invent some photographic accessory or device that was contemporary to the butter churn, and the buggy whip. (That this is also precisely what I do with a camera is not lost on me.)

I think that’s what I like best about photography, if not considering myself a photographer. No matter how much experience or discipline I have, no matter how much special gear I buy or make, there’s the excellent chance that some philistine will come along and make vastly better photographs with nothing but a cell phone.

Ah, website. Like the landscape, notebook, and garage shop, it’s a grand place to be alone. Even traffic from immediate family has tapered off. Being utterly released from all expectation is great security, but maybe the best freedoms come from not assigning yourself titles. But the photos themselves, they are on their own.

The ghosts of old efforts

Discovery Trail
September 11, 2014

Ah, Port Angeles. The anal polyp of the Pacific Northwest.  1 million gallons of untreated sewage were dumped into the harbor over the day after Labor Day. Pump malfunction. The swimming hazards were lifted today. I don’t know what’s more troubling, the sewage, or that it’s normally treated. What is this, catch and release?

The Discovery Trail is truly generous. Composite park benches, water-jet engraved with the names of trail patrons. Small burnished micro-memorials like bronzed cinderblocks heaved from the back of a moving maintenance cart. A giant elevated shit-pipe running trailside along the entire length of the marina. Then some patriotic bunting on a solitary bench, forgotten since the 4th of July as if beyond scope as the city reduces its workload with the waning tourist season. It’s the summer version of the ghostly Christmas decorations that are up downtown year-round, Wal-Mart lights ganged together, sapling to sapling, with green Wal-Mart extension cords. Is it more civic-minded to report these ironic flourishes, or leave them alone?

Never mind the Superfund site- there’s an transplanted chunk of a World Trade Center girder overlooking it.  In its small white-washed plaza it looks like a lawn sculpture toppled by drunk frat boys into a drained swimming pool. The small memorial plaque look like it was framed with welding slag. Something to stick in the corner, a conversation piece that has little to do with itself. More interesting for the oddity than the sentiment. Still, every city should have one. If for no other reason than it must be insanely difficult to just scrap the pieces of that day.  Makes sense to spread out the burden.

A little further along the trail I was mesmerized by this bench in the photo above, and not only because the trail starts to repeat itself every 20 yards at this point. And not because of the water hazard, high tide and a rockery right at my heels. An elderly couple stopped to watch me set up my weird old wood camera. Ostensibly because the bench faces a harbor view and they could unobtrusively watch the show from behind, but maybe a little because these days I’m convinced I look like a pitchman setting this thing up in public, and it’s difficult to shake the feeling that I have some undetectable body language similar to the posturing that usually heralds the barking of patent cures or the lives of saints. ‘Just bear with me a sec folks, and I will transform your lives.’  Then I pointed the camera at the bench instead of the harbor and the couple  started walking in opposite directions and coughed into each other’s armpits.  As for testimonials though, all I can manage is these stoic and dessicated 5×7 negatives, but that’s too hard to externalize. Just irreducible earnestness.

Do people advertise their dead? Is that the take-away from these scenes? I admit that phrase circled the skull for a while. The Memorial, is it irreducible too, even encased in composite,  casual scenes, and gull crap.