Friday, September 2, 2011

Birthdays and Photography,

Today is my birthday, and I officially hit my mid-thirties. When thinking about such things as age, I ponder that the reason the blogging world on all topics is so huge is because my generation is struggling to hold the rapidly increasing technology at arm's length. We want to embrace just enough of it to fully bear hug our pasts, which when you hit your mid-thirties seems like it's rushing away from you in a hurry.

I will remember always that my Gram's favorite age was 35. Her kids (4 of them at the time, my last uncle didn't come along until she was in her 40's) were older and she could do more of what she loved: gardening, raising sheep and goats, experimenting with cheeses, wild yeasts and vinegars, and knitting with such productivity that I sometimes feel slovenly by comparison. She was able bodied and strong. I remember her carrying 2 water filled 5-gallon buckets at a time down to her animals when she was well into her 60's, and with nary a grey hair on her head.

I feel so much like her sometimes that it makes me teary. That the woman I knew when I was a kid and the woman I know her to be now is essentially the same, but I am not. I can appreciate my elders now like I couldn't then, and more than once my Mom has told me that she wishes my Gram was in good health now that I've hit my stride. When thinking of aging, I can only hope that I do so with as much dignity and grace as my Gram. She is now unable to speak, not really able to see, and spends most of the day with her eyes closed, reclining in a chair - but she has a memory that is long and sharp and no one has ever once heard her complain.

A few weeks ago I got an email from Easy Canvas Prints asking if I'd like to review a photo canvas using one of my photographs. I was really surprised actually, since I feel like I really love photography, but that my particular style isn't really mainstream, and maybe doesn't appeal to so many people. I have very limited equipment (my standard gear is an old version iPhone with lots of photo apps and my Canon PowerShot S5IS, which in digital years is ancient at more than 4 years old), and I have to exploit what they do best, like micro-photos. Fortunately for me, micro pics have always been some of my favorites. I feel like the world is a huge place and now that the Internet has invaded it is even larger, and sometimes strangely impersonal. Looking at something small and up close so that you have to stop and examine it appeals to me. You may not know what a micro pic subject is right away, but that's part of the point the photographer makes. That extra time required makes me nostalgic for simpler times.

I figured I'd consider 5 candidates of recent photos I've taken for translation to canvas, five that I picked for their appeal and their story to me personally, and 5 that just happened to be micros. I'll let you in on my process, and early apologies if I get long-winded...

Samco Radishes. I was hit hard by the radish bug this early Spring. I couldn't eat enough of the them, I couldn't wait for them to grow in my garden. I couldn't get enough of their shocking pinkness or of eating them plain or pickled. I took this iPhone pic using the Instagram app. My Instagram stream is private, but I upload some of the photos to flickr from time to time. If you are looking for watery pinks, I like the filters on Instagram a great deal. I am also a total geek for old canning jars like this Samco. I have a few that are very special to me, and likely this one came from my Gram.

Orange Liqueur. I think every year I will tackle some kind of liqueur using the proportion of the Rhubarb Liqueur by Deena Princhep. I read a lot of recipes for infused vodkas and brandies, but I am fully convinced that Deena's method of extraction by nearly lethal grain alcohol (a.k.a. Everclear) is superior. The flavors are pulled more fully, and develop better I think, and when you age them they morph into something completely mellow and amazing. This liqueur is coming along nicely. It bears a strange resemblance (albeit stronger) to Aperol when the bitter sting of orange peel is left on your tongue. I have a feeling it will continue to change as it sits. I took this photo with the Camera+ app which is probably one of my favorites for editing. I usually shoot all iPhone pics in it, then transfer them to other apps for filtering.

My Gram was a collector of old jars and bottles, but not really just for looking at. She loved usable things, and most everything in her home was not only nice to look at but was also functional. Except this old milk jar. The front of this bottle says in red script letters "Dee's Dairy", and my Gram's name is Dolores (she goes by the nickname Dee). Her last name is Mendez, and when she found this bottle with this milk tab stopping it up she never removed it. You can read a little more about it here, by rolling over the image to read the note. This was a Hipstamatic pic, and I liked the fairytale, float colors for this story of the bottle.

Kombucha(s). This was the second bottled batch of kombucha that I made. I was pretty excited, and bottled 4 or so different flavors out of first batches just to see how they differed. Now, I've gotten pretty lazy and like to just bottle a single flavor, usually whatever fruit I have around that needs using or jam which also works too in a pinch. I'm always envious of photographs that are back lit to showcase the color in transparent foods or drinks. This photo isn't really perfect, but it came close enough for me, and reminded me of the obsessions that happen to me in the kitchen.

Atlas Strong Shoulder. This was the image I chose to have reproduced, and it was because it embodied everything about photography: memories, family, technology and the aesthetics that I love. Strong shoulder jars are my favorite. They differ a bit from plain wide mouths, since they do indeed have shoulders that are a bit more pronounced. I love Atlas jars in particular, too - and this one is very old and blue and I don't preserve in it. I likely had taken it filled with crackers or something to my Parents' house and then we ate what was in it and the empty jar caught my eye in their kitchen. That is the green of last Summer out the kitchen window that overlooks the rolling hills and farmland where they live. It looks like a painting to me, the way the greens move within the blue jar. I think of the strength in the preserving, in the strong shoulders of my Mother and Grandmother who instilled in my the abilities to be independent and productive, to be strong and useful with myself, the hard workings of my Dad who led us all to the country, to his dream home, our old farmhouse. This was the image I wanted in my kitchen, and thanks to Easy Canvas Prints, it now is.

before: Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66

after: Atlas Strong Shoulder

This baker's hutch that stands in the corner of my dining room came from my Mom's kitchen prior to it's remodel with ample cabinets. It has an enameled worktop that pulls out which in addition to being an extension of my counters serves as the place where most of my photos are taken. A defunct flour bin on the upper left conceals my cords enabling my near-vintage stereo to work with my iPod. It houses my kombucha and currently my Bachelor's Jam behind sliding wooden doors, and teas and miscellaneous clutter hide cleverly on shelves behind closed doors. Though not in my kitchen proper, it is close enough and I consider it an essential part of my kitchen kit.

My canvas arrived the day before my birthday, a surprise that the Easy Canvas people probably didn't calculate but one that I appreciated very much. I was very happy with the color translation, and the quality of the print, especially since I chose a photo I took with my iPhone. The website is simple to use and the print shipped quickly. It even had hanging hardware attached so I could hang it immediately on the wall.

It causes me to think about art and what qualifies, how I personally am drawn to images and colors like the one I chose to have hanging in my home. It will stand as a marker for my 35th birthday and those things I felt when I picked it, should my memory start to fail me. Not that I'm counting on that anytime soon...


  1. Happy Birthday!! What a great day for a birthday!

  2. Happy Birthday, Rebecca! And what a lovely post, and gorgeous pictures. I love my Atlas', too! What a beautiful photo to have on your wall, and even better, it's providence.

  3. Though I'm a few days late, I just wanted to stop in to say happy birthday. I think your photos are beautiful!


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