All posts tagged “ideas

Of Comfort.

com⋅fort [kuhm-fert]

–verb (used with object)
1. to soothe, console, or reassure; bring cheer to: They tried to comfort her after her loss.
2. to make physically comfortable.

4. relief in affliction; consolation; solace: Her presence was a comfort to him.
5. a feeling of relief or consolation: Her forgiveness afforded him great comfort.
6. a person or thing that gives consolation: She was a great comfort to him.
7. a cause or matter of relief or satisfaction: The patient’s recovery was a comfort to the doctor.
8. a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety: He is a man who enjoys his comfort.
9. something that promotes such a state: His wealth allows him to enjoy a high degree of comfort.
10. Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. a comforter or quilt.

That Friday, I woke up in the house of someone who I love and who’s absence in my life is felt in small but enormous ways every day. We came together like interlacing fingers, as hands folded in prayer, our words slow but flowing, like the 9 months that has passed hadn’t changed anything. When we ran out of words, we just enjoyed the shared silence, the sunlight, the hum of the truck’s engine, the birds, the heat.

K., in one of those long, layered conversations about life, mentioned that North Carolina is all around comfort for her. She lives in a house she grew up in and so I can imagine that it feels like a big hug or hand on the small of the back. Her personal aesthetics fit so perfectly into the house and I felt instantly calm and let go of whatever had been weighing on me from my everyday life. It was like walking into the house of a family member, an aunt, a cousin. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the small, strange histories that live in the rooms and the yard.

Is home that of a real, physical space or does it come out of something else? Does it offer comfort solely from it’s mere existence as a place to return to after a long day, a space to decorate and store or is it greater than an apartment, a house? Is it the people that are within it, that lets the nerves relax and brings the calm? How does one create the comfort of home? Does it take patience and time or paint and curtains? Is the combination there of?

Of Making Pictures: Then, Now, Here, There.

My thoughts on picture-making have shifted greatly over the last 12 months or so. School taught me to think about picture-making as a means to communicate some greater truth about your subject and relate to greater social issues. Coming home and working in a environment that is about picture making in another way, a way born solely out of aesthetic has made me re-evaluate what it means to pick up a camera. I work among those* who’s main purpose in making pictures is to make them fit into a mold of what pictures are “supposed” to be. It’s rare that I see a picture come through the lab that isn’t a take on some other example of what good photography is suppose to be. Macro shots of flowers, pseudo fashion shots, moody pictures of architectural and industrial decay, highly edited wedding shots are all common in my workplace and it’s hard, sometimes, to not roll my eyes while adding two points of density and hitting enter to move on to the next order.

And it’s not that either camp is particularly bad (although I do have trouble letting go of the high-art/important notions I learned in school, as in I try not to scoff at fluffy pictures of flowers and babies), but both camps have their place and merit.

Personally, I struggle with both of them. The high art camp takes things too seriously and thinks too much; the suppose-to camp doesn’t think enough. I’d like to straddle the line between the two, making photos that are highly pleasing to the eyeball (trying to, at least) and making photos that are compelling to think about. Though, making work at all is challenge for me lately.

The camera I shot with in North Carolina was a beast of a high end DSLR that was as satisfying to shoot with as a Hasselblad.** The body substantial and the lens crisp, the photos I took there are gorgeous but without much brains. I chalk this up to the novelty of the camera and the lens, because it’s hard for the novelty of a 14mm lens to wear off. I’d like to be able to reconcile this at a later date and blend the two ideas together.

I have also been more concerned with documenting my experience of life, no matter how minuscule. More than anything, pictures of my friends, family, and the beauty I see in the mundane details of living seem much more important and precedent than discussing some universal truth through photographs. I think that I am getting back to the reasons I picked up a camera and fell in love with picture-making in the first place.

*Though I am not saying they are bad at what they do, because they aren’t. I just can’t do photography that way. Also, most of them are making money from their work and I am not. In fact, none of my work has been even seen all that much with exception of here and my website.

** Film cameras. Sigh.

The Drive.

Secretly, I have always wanted to be a Southerner, one who is born from the South. Sadly, I was born above the Mason-Dixon line and don’t get to have such an honor but I figure I can always visit. Or live there as my stupid hopeful plans go for the next year or so. When I set out last Thursday for a 8 hour drive to Winston-Salem North Carolina, the sun was bright and the weather forecast was promising for the trip: 85 degree weather with clear skies. Car packed, lunch waiting for 1pm, plenty of liquids and music, I headed west on I-78 over dry asphalt and then south on I-81.

The camera I brought with me was a rental from a work, a Nikon D3 with a massive 14-24mm lens. It is a bulky and heavy set-up and though I was tempted to shoot on the way down through my car window, careening into the side of one of the many tractor trailers that I was traveling with wasn’t exactly appealing. Which is why there are no photographs until I actually got to North Carolina.

That said, crossing the Mason-Dixon line was strange and anti-climatic. It is marked mostly by the Mason-Dixon Auto Auction, the Mason-Dixon Road and a rectangular green sign, posted on either sides of the highway. While I have been south before in my life, I was less cognizant of the impact of that line and when I did finally cross it for the first time in my adult life, the impact was underwhelming. The changes in the land didn’t come until I was well into West Virigina and even then they were subtle; from the change in land use by the sides of the highway (rolling, wide fields versus rocky, steep pastures) to the blue highway signs advertising fast food (Wendys’ versus Bo’jangles) were the only indicators that I was below the line of demarcation between North and South.


I find comfort in the menial tasks of domesticity, where my life floats beautiful around the mundane. In small housekeeping based tasks, I find satisfaction in keeping a clean space, a clean house, meticulously organized and put together. It is no surprise that upon coming home, I have found myself more willing to put up with and maintain my mother’s expectation of order that has been established long before I was born, long before she was even born. In washing dishes, I find time to mediate. In making my bed every morning, I find a routine that keeps me grounded. In dusting, I am comforted by the way the rag clears the pale floatsom from tabletops, from nooks and crannies in furniture.

Admittedly, it’s akin to a nervous tick.

When I am worried, I straighten. When I am listless, I dig into the world that is my stuff and discard the unneeded, the extraneous, the superfluous. When I am sad, I find myself scrubbing a bathroom from top to bottom. When I am alone, as I often am, I find myself deep in the silence of cleaning a floor by hand, on my hands and knees. Often, as extra income, I find myself in other people’s houses, polishing their hardwood staircases with hot water and Murphy’s oil soap, hands wrung dry and knees bruised. I find a calm in not only cleaning my living space, but other’s as well. The world is a better place when I can organize and put things where they belong.

Housekeeping, in a way, is a representation of moral character. The matriarchal family in which I was born into has taught me the responsibility and need to maintain a clean living space in an intense, obsessive manner. Before I moved out, away from the life I lived under the gaze of my parents, my room was a place of chaos, of collaged walls, of piles of clothes, of stuff. I clung to disorder as a means of rebellion, to not only irritate my mother, as all good teenagers do, but push against all that I was brought up to believe, what I should be. I tried to ignore the uneasy feeling I got when I went into homes that were less clean than the one I lived in, whose blatant filth forced me to be careful about touching things, about stepping lightly. I tried so very hard to ignore the dust on the baseboards, the dirty kitchen floor but I could not.

So, when I moved out, when I got to fill an apartment with my things, my tendency and my need to keep house crept up on me and the one day smacked me across the back of the head. I dreaded using the dirty bathroom so I cleaned it. I hated walking barefoot across the dirt-speckled wood floors so I vaccumed. The disorganization of the kitchen made me nervous so I straightened. By the time I moved into my third apartment in 2 years, I was willingly and happily scrubbing the dingy linoleum kitchen floor back to it’s former white glory once a month while my roommate was out. I swept the back porch in the summer time, pulled weeds from the sad patch of dirt in front of the house, wiped out windowsills after rainstorms.

I often think of not keeping house a sign of something amiss. I have noticed, as I go back through the short stories I have written, that when ever something is wrong, the house is a mess, the dishes aren’t washed, there are no clean clothes, the floors are dirty. Despair is eating in bed, leaving the dishes on the nightstand. When the future is bright, the characters (or myself, since I think it’s hard to write something about someone else without you in it) live in a world of order and immaculate baseboards. Love is washing dishes together. I see the decay of personal space as internal conflict in other people’s writing too; off the top of my head, Housekeeping by Marylynne Robinson is one, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates is another.

Today, while I am alone in a big quiet house, I am listing the things off in my head that I need to do in order to maintain that moral character. There is a vacuum to be run, a kitchen floor to be cleaned, counters to be bleached, laundry to be folded and put away, and as an extension of personal space, a car to be cleaned out. Granted there are other things I need to do but before I leave the house, before I even bother getting dressed, the housekeeping comes first. It is only after I do these things, only after I have made my world a better place, can I deal with the world outside, in all it’s dirt and disorganization.