Black & White Magazine

You ever wake up and have a single tear roll down your cheek and not know why exactly? Well this happened to me this morning. It happens every now and then. Just all of life’s sadness compressed into one moment.

On my way to a meeting this morning, I stopped into Oryana, the local natural foods grocery co-op and bought a single twelve-ounce beer. A strong 7% IPA from the Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette. I haven’t drank in months but today had to be the day where I had to sneak one in.

Today, I called a couple of British visa consultants’ offices in London, seeking advice on whether they thought I’d be able to take a trip there next year, given my criminal history. The general opinion was that I should apply for a tourist visa after I pay back my court fines, even though Americans generally don’t have to do this. I was very grateful these people took the time to answer my questions, free of charge. One even called back with more information.

A few weeks ago I went on Black & White Magazine’s website and signed up to have a free issue sent to me. It said it would take about six weeks to arrive. I was excited to find an issue in my mailbox, which, on the cover, above the barcode, says usually costs thirteen dollars. I look forward to thumbing through it over the next week or so. I’ve looked through a many Black & White before, and that along with Aperture and Wired are some of my favorite magazines commonly available.

Black and White | Roll 4, 5, and 6

The camera shop finally finished processing my film. It took almost three weeks. I’m done with this project. It’s been interesting.

Roll 4
Roll 5
Roll 6

Olympus Infinity Jr. 35mm Ilford Delta 100

edit: I deleted most of the photos from this Black and White project due to storage constraints on WordPress and the fact that I prematurely quit this project.

One Sad Bowl Of Mac and Cheese

A coffee, three energy drinks, and one bowl of macaroni and cheese at work. That’s all I’ve consumed today. I had to work all day. I really feel terrible. And it’s starting to get existential. I was outside smoking, thinking about how it’s already almost June.

I’ve started taking photos of the clouds with my 35mm camera. It’s nothing serious, I think what I’ll do is take a couple everyday and tack one on to each post, just for something to do.

It’s one of those quiet Sundays where there’s just not much else to say. I’m really not religious but I wish I would’ve went to church this morning, I think it may’ve helped this funk I’m in.

If I Fail Probation

This morning I walked to an AA meeting up on Cedar Run Rd. I say “up” not because it’s out of town or north of where I live (how a lot of people use the word “up” in America), I say “up” because it’s mostly an uphill walk. It was drizzling rain the whole walk. I stopped at Oleson’s grocery store on the way back and bought a pack of Pall Mall’s and ten dollars in scratch-offs. I know that seems like a white trash move but I rarely buy lotto tickets and I smoke Pall Mall’s ironically, so fuck you. I didn’t have a single winning ticket and am inclined to never buy a lottery ticket again.

I quit the photography project. I may still buy a roll of film here and there and I definitely still have a project I want to do in the fall, but it’s a relief not to have to commit to this thing and spend money on something that is starting to bore me. I think a couple of really great pictures came out of it. I’ll still post the last few rolls once they come in and finish the roll that’s currently in my camera.

I’ve been going to Espresso Bay everyday before work to drink a coffee and read a few chapters from my book. I wonder what I’d do if I’m caught where I’m technically not allowed. I’ve been thinking a lot today about what I’d do if I was told I’m kicked out of the transition house. I was late to a couple of PBTs over the past week and being kicked out is a real possibility. My probation officer says that if I’m kicked out, I’m going back to jail. If I knew that my punishment isn’t increased or only increased a little if I abscond, then I’d definitely leave town. I’d probably lose my job anyway, so I might as well try and make a run for it. I have about a thousand dollars and I think I could live off that for a bit. To be honest, I’d probably start hitting the bottle pretty hard. If I were to skip out on probation I’d probably head back out west to southwest Colorado, start drinking cheap beer and whiskey, and maybe I’d finish writing this book I’ve started and see if I could sling that on Amazon while living in a motel. Unfortunately, I think I’m cornered as the consequences of leaving would be exponentially worse as long as I’m running from the court. If losing my job wasn’t in the equation I think that maybe failing probation might be a good thing as my sentencing guidelines are like three to nine months and I’ve already served like seven months. All-in-all I believe everything is going to work out. There are much worse positions in the world than where I’m at. I’m easily in the top third in regards to privileges in this country and top tenth in the world.

House Between The Oaks

I keep thinking about my black and white photography project. I’m definitely overthinking it. I’ve become too emotionally invested in the idea of this project. I’m gonna have to take a lot of photos to make up for the random ones I’ve taken so far. I really want to showcase the trees here in Traverse City through black and white photography. A part of me is considering giving up on this little Olympus point and shoot camera for a more controllable SLR. Then again, wanting to control every aspect of this project is what’s inhibiting me from actually taking interesting photos. I like the point and shoot because there are fewer settings. The last thing I need right now are more decisions in the process.

I believe I need to focus on something. Today I was thinking more how I’d place my attention on the trees in Traverse City and their interaction with the nearby homes. I think that’d be an original view and would take a stronger will to follow through with. But, then again, maybe I shouldn’t be trying to be original. Maybe I should just make something that literally anybody with a camera can make, like photographs of just the branches of the trees or the clouds. Because ultimately I want something ethereal.

There’s no doubt this project is evolving. The problem is I’m having a hard time deciding which direction to take it, which is the biggest challenge any art project faces. Art takes conviction. I hope all of my self-loathing pays off somehow.

Trees, Clouds, and Snow

Back when my family lived on an old red brick street in the old Central Neighborhood here in Traverse City, Michigan, there was a sign that read “Tree City USA”. This title actually came from The Arbor Day Foundation when they named the town such for our exceptional urban forest management. TC is tangled with beautiful old trees. A majority of them are oaks and pines. There are a couple trees that have been designated with plaques remembering them as waypoints for natives who used techniques to put strange bends in their trunks. One massive tree in the woods behind the old mental asylum was struck by lightning, split into several large pieces and has since been covered in graffiti and dubbed “The Hippy Tree”. The old oak trees of Traverse City have character, living through hundreds of cycles of hot, moist, abundant summers; and cold, frozen, hard winters.

I want a photography project to showcase the beauty of the trees of Traverse City. I want to show their symbiotic relationships with it’s citizens, many of whom the trees out-live. The trees in town are different from their cousins of the forest. They’re pruned, decorated with Christmas lights, gardened around, and kept alive through their natural life, avoiding being turned into furniture.

The clouds that come off of Lake Michigan vary splendidly here in Traverse City. The wind usually blow them in from the west. In the summer they’re fluffy and low. In the winter they’re grey and high. I’m remaking my list of subjects to include the clouds that float over our town.

Snow. What natural occurrence defines northern Michigan more than the lakes? The first snowfall of every year inspires feelings of merriment. It makes us thankful for the warmth of our homes and the food in our stores and restaurants. The last snowfall of every year invokes gloom. I want to devote a few rolls of film next year to fallen snow and the beautiful forms it takes.

People come to Traverse City for a multitude of reasons. Some come for the cherry orchards, some for the wine, some for the bars, some for the dunes, some for the forests. The people who live here, stay here for a feeling of peace, sitting on their porch amongst the trees and birds and people biking around. Or they stay just for the book they’re reading with their feet up by the fire as five foot drifts of soft white snow blows up around their car. This is a beautiful place and I believe there’s an infinite world of art to be created within it’s boundaries.

On The Move

I’v covered a lot of ground today. First I walked to my weekly Moral Reconation Therapy class, which is about a mile and a half. Then I walked back. Then I rode my bike to NMC (Northwestern Michigan College) to complete my orientation to deejay at the college station. I’m excited to be getting a key-card— to be the only person in a college hall in the middle of the night is strangely exciting for me. Rode back home. During these trips I exposed a roll of film to the “Oak Park” neighborhood. This project is raising my awareness of the intricacies of this town’s neighborhoods. Later, I walked two and a half miles to the AA meeting on Sybrandt Road. I think I travelled about a dozen miles under my own power today. 

I’m starting to get worried that I lost a verification sheet from last week. Nobody’s said anything, and if they do say something I’ll have to say I turned it in, turn the blame on them. I don’t know if that’s going to work. Even if it does, once they go over my sign-out times, they’ll see I haven’t gone to the mandatory six meetings last week. I’m on thin ice here (despite doing everything I should to really better my life), I’m on thin ice and I’m starting to hear the cracks.

God, I cannot fucking stand this guy’s snoring. I don’t understand how people who snore like he does hold romantic relationships. I have to try not having aggressive thoughts about it, because the aggressive thoughts always escalate, but it is difficult.

Dusty Sandpaper Brain

When I come home from work my hands are usually dry. I absolutely hate touching anything that’s dry like bare wood or dusty walls. I especially hate paper. The feeling of my fingers sliding across paper makes me cringe. Just the thought of it as I’m writing this is making me uncomfortable. And it’s becoming a thing even when my hands aren’t dry. If I hear someone shuffle papers in a video or on a podcast I recoil internally.

I downloaded Logic Pro X today. I don’t have any experience making music on a computer but if I want to, I suppose I can. I’ve been editing photos in GIMP on this computer. Photoshop CS5 is a program I have experience with and am confident using, so I reluctantly added that to this computer as well. I started looking into getting a MIDI controller, something small with a few sliders and knobs. Once I buy another Canon 5D, I’ll definitely get one just to be able to adjust RAW files with something more tactile than dragging with a mouse. I think it would be cool to learn how to make ambient music, specifically drone music, just for giggles. There can never be enough ambient music in the world.

Obsolescence Anxiety

I own the last MacBook Pro to have been made without a retina screen. When I was making this blog I had to decide whether I’d put full-size photos on this website. My first instinct was to not. To be honest, I was thinking about money when I first started thinking about doing a photography project. This was not even close to being my main motivation, but I did want control over my photographs so that if someday people wanted to use them or otherwise possess them, that they’d have to ask me to sell them full-size images. Not currently owning a high density display (other than my phone) I didn’t research thoroughly enough how small a 1080 x 720 pixel image would look on a large high-definition display. Tiny, as it turns out. Will I ever really have a real demand for these photographs? And, if I do, wouldn’t I want as many people to have my work as possible? Along with screen densities and permissions, the third problem with image resolution is storage. A free WordPress account allows the storage of up to three gigabytes. With an average size of three megabytes each, that’s about a thousand photos. If I shoot a roll of film every week for a year, that’ll put me at 1,872 photos or five and a half gigabytes. So at the very least I have to purchase a basic WordPress account to allow me six gigabytes. Which I have but after this, if I want to continue shooting a roll a week, I’ll have to upgrade to the premium account. These accounts are affordable, but paying to share my photographs on a website managed by another website, another website that is starting to feel more and more to me like a social media website bothers me. Do I really want to invest in this site to keep a snapshot of my life? First of all, one thing I’ve noticed about social media sites is that they tend to develop their own cultures, both from apparently intentional factors like Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms to apparently unintentional factors like simple graphical design decisions like Reddit’s “cuteness”. Ideally I want a website that is created and controlled almost entirely by me. I do have a fundamental understanding of HTML and CSS and theoretically could make my own site. Then there’s the problem of obsolescence. How long will WordPress exist? I understand this is a well-established company. But it’s possible that there will be a time when there is a radical shift in how the internet operates. It’s also possible WordPress gets into some kind of business ordeal that radically alters the way this site works. There’s also of course simply the possibility that WordPress simply fails at being a financially viable company. What happens to all of my thoughts and photos then? So what really clinched this whole dilemma for me is the possibility of migrating this site to another, more independent, host. Right now, I generally like my experience on WordPress and want to start interacting with more people’s sites. Today, I took an hour and a half break from work and updated all of the photos to full-size, so it should look good on any screen. And if anybody wants to download my photos, go for it, put them on billboards, office walls, textbooks— I’d be flattered.

I’m starting to get a little anxious at work. This is the longest I’ve held down a job for years. Every time a manager wants to say something to me, I half expect them to tell me I’m fired. It’s really unhealthy, mentally, to live in fear for one’s job. I feel like I need constant reassurance. But I think that slight fear is just part of the nature of being an employee in a ruthlessly capitalistic society. The only way to get rid of it is to stop caring about one’s job, which inevitably gets one fired.

Nat’s

Last night I bought Discourses of the Withered by Celer. Celer is proper drone music, and there’s enough of it to last a long time.

Unfortunately for me and my unhealthy, autistic obsession to have this Black and White project be as organized as possible, the Camera Shop’s scanner is broken. They didn’t get the right part they needed to fix it so it’ll be another week before I’m able to see my photographs. I stopped into the shop to just pick up the film. I was going to have 4” x 6” prints printed at Meijer and scan them at The Copy Shop but they didn’t even have the film processed yet. I don’t necessarily trust Meijer and the resolution of the scans wouldn’t be as good as the rest of the rolls. So I guess I’ll just wait until next week and post Roll 4 & 5 together. It’s bothering me. So it goes…

I took yet another walk to the AA meeting on Sybrandt Road. Instead of just walking up the railroad tracks like I usually do, I walked along a path near Boardman Lake. There are some really nice condos on the lake and a couple really nice houses.

On my way back I stopped by the Marathon station to get some cigarettes and I noticed they finally had Nat’s. I love Nat Sherman Classics. When I was living downtown in The Whiting Hotel, living off of student loans, I’d buy Nat Sherman’s from Nolan’s cigar shop. I loved those cigarettes. The smoke from a Nat Sherman Classic is slightly ashy and sweet, not to mention the design of the packaging and filter is wholly debonair. So as soon as I saw the gas station advertising Nat’s “coming soon” I knew I’d be getting a pack. Right now, they have the promotional price of about five dollars although I think once that’s over they’ll be more on the level of Parliaments. I don’t know yet if I’ll make these my go-to cigarettes, besides the price, I don’t believe they’re going to be sold everywhere and I like to buy a brand I know I can get at any gas station in America, because, you know, cigarettes are a comfort, and you grow to love your brand like you love your wife. Maybe you have an affair with another brand but you need that one brand to always be there for you.

Ambient Light

I got a few albums today, including In Motion by Memorex Memories and the absurdly named SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs by the absurdly named SHXCXCHCXSH. I also got Endless Falls and Bonockburn by Loscil. I get very nostalgic listening to Loscil’s music, it never gets old even after having had listened to every one of his albums over and over for years. I was living on Mackinac Island with an iPod nano and no computer with his entire discography, I don’t remember where it came from. On that same iPod I had Drift and Home by Nosaj Thing, both of which are now back in my library. 

Andrew Borowiec says at the end of an interview that he would love to investigate a European town in the same way he investigated Cleveland. I’d love to have his same spirit with my town. His photographs of the rust belt are without discrimination or distraction. In a way, I often make shady symbols with my photographs in a manner that seems to purposefully dissuade anyone from seeing them for their subject’s real nature. I want the photograph’s identity to be anonymous. I want the photograph to see the forms without projecting any lust or aspersions.

Boring As An Aesthetic: The Merits Of Mediocrity

Jacob is sitting in the living room of an empty house on a Sunday afternoon. The lights are off, the TV is off, and it’s quiet except for birds chirping in a tree just outside an open window. 

He’s drawing a picture of a cliff with a pen on a sheet of notebook paper, copying it’s shape from a copy of National Geographic, sometimes adding cracks that aren’t in the photograph, and filling in the background with swirly clouds above the horizon and little triangular trees below. He kills thirty minutes making the little pine trees, leaving a space open, where he adds little swirls to depict a lake reflecting the sky.

Jacob signs and dates the paper in the top right corner and folds the sketch into his bifold. He puts on a dark red sweater and grabs his 35mm point and shoot, filled with black & white film, and goes for a walk around the neighborhood. 

His subject is always the same— houses, houses without anyone in the garden or on the porch, no dogs in the yard. He never goes outside of his own neighborhood, never goes out into the woods or to the city or even just to the park. The only thing easier to photograph would be the inside of his own house, but that would be too interesting.

Jacob doesn’t have any purpose for photographing the houses. He isn’t documenting anything about them. If there was something less interesting and easier to photograph he would photograph that. He just likes the process. 

He collects thirty-six impressions of focused light, takes them home, develops them in his chemicals in a makeshift darkroom in the basement, then uses an enlarger to make 4” x 6” prints. Jacob isn’t making photographs that’ll be featured in a gallery or magazine or blog. He doesn’t even share them with anyone close to him. 

Jacob sits back down in the living room, puts the photographs in the sleeves of a blank white photo book, and kills an hour looking through the whole book until the last photo he took, studying for any subtleties that he hadn’t noticed before. When he does notice something, like a cat in a windowsill, he doesn’t get excited, he simply acknowledges it exists.

Black and White | Roll 3

I’ve had the same nightmare over the past few days, or I guess they’re better described as night terrors, where I’ll see some pattern on a wall or screen, I don’t know what it is, and I’ll wake up panting, “that was weird, that was weird”

One of the worst things about living with a multitude of different people is snoring. I’ve been here the longest and the first half of my stay was fine. But a few weeks ago we got this man who, while he is awake, is generally obnoxious to everybody. Though, when he’s asleep is when he’s most disruptive. He snores so loud that one other mental patient here claimed he was rattling the change on his night stand. One night I couldn’t stand it any longer. I got up and started pounding his wall. He’d stop snoring for about twenty seconds then be right back into it. The third time I rapped on his wall his neighbor came out, our newest guest who’s only a year younger than me, he comes out and starts yelling at me saying I’d better stop. I told him I’ll do whatever the fuck I want and he isn’t going to do anything about it. Now, I’m not a fighter, this is against my character, but I’m not going to let someone younger than me tell me what to do like that, try to intimidate me physically. If he hit me he’d go to jail, and I know he knows this. The next day, after all had calmed, I extended an olive branch and told him about how he had better be careful what he does on the wi-fi as one of the employees used to work in forensic data recovery and how I’ve noticed some strange behavior on my devices. He gave me a cigarette. So we’re all good I think. Except, of course, the snoring persists.

I actually picked up this roll last week with the previous roll. I’m not too proud of this roll. The first half of the roll was taken around the Hagerty Insurance (a company that insures vintage cars) campus and was taken a little hastily. I still haven’t really found the spirit of this project, and the roll that I just turned in today is still a little random. But I have made a list for the following forty-eight rolls so at least they will be a little more organized. I like to think the list I’ve compiled is well-thought out and includes different neighborhoods, nearby villages, clouds, and Lake Michigan. I don’t want to push anything too hard, I want these photographs to make themselves. I don’t know exactly how a photo will look when I take it, especially because it’s black and white. I feel like I could take a photo of just about anything and as long as it’s composed ok it will present itself to me as being something interesting, reveal aspects that I didn’t notice or anticipate when I took it, like how the light coming off the water reacts (or doesn’t react) with the film.

My favorite on this roll is 31A. I like how the street curves. This was taken on one of the first decent spring days of the year and some people in the bottom-right corner of the image had taken up seats in their driveway to absorb some rays.

Olympus Infinity Jr. 35mm Ilford Delta 100

edit: I deleted most of the photos from this Black and White project due to storage constraints on WordPress and the fact that I prematurely quit this project.

The List

Today I learned I was almost booted from the program I’m in. I don’t know what exactly caused the director to have mercy on me, but I was terrifyingly close to going to jail, maybe prison for missing my classes last week. If in the next thirty days I’m caught not going to classes or appointments or being anywhere I’m not technically supposed to be, I’m finished so I guess my pre-work coffee is on hold for the next few weeks (or at least I’ll have to go in the back room and be discrete about it).

I looked into Boardman Flats apartments. If I was able to pay for the first year, I’d almost be guaranteed acceptance.

I called WNMC. They should be setting me up for training next week…

I got The Oregon Trail in the mail. I’ve never played The Oregon Trail and always felt out of the loop. Well I made it to the Willamette Valley with my four siblings. Okay well three of us made it. One died and I missed it and Molly drowned in the Columbia River after our raft hit a rock. I preordered The Oregon Trail handheld game a few weeks ago on Best Buy’s website.

I got a bike today. A Schwinn “Sportrock”.

I’m going to say this again on Thursday— I am not proud of this week’s roll of film but I have made a list of forty-nine of the next rolls’ subjects and they range from different streets in Traverse City, different neighborhoods, nearby villages, to clouds and Lake Michigan. I like to think it’s a sophisticated, well thought-out list and I really look forward to carrying it out.