Finding Magic The Book (Pine Island Press. Portland, OR. 2013)
Finding Magic is a non-linear journey that crisscrosses the United States and Canada. The story of a life that is sometimes alternative and isolated, it is a strange resume of unrelated work experience: from tree planting in Northern Canada, to long hours spent in a cubicle at a homeless shelter in Portland. It is the fragments of homes collected in and between a transient lifestyle, those that stay for years, and those remade every night on various couches in new cities. This is a story threaded with old loves, family holidays and meandering highways.
In the last three years, I have split my time between the Pacific Northwest, Helena, Montana, and Montreal. Most recently I toured the southern US while living in an old converted Toyota truck named Mort. Mort and I journeyed down to the swamps of Florida, over to the anarchist art houses of New Orleans and through the dry, desolate landscapes and communities of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Mort and I ended our tour in Burns Lake BC, near the panhandle of Alaska, where I joined a small camp of transient tree planters.
Every summer for the last six years I have returned to the woods of Burns Lake, British Colombia to join the vibrant community that makes up Hybrid 17 Contracting Ltd., an alternative company even within its own industry. A group of 30 to 40 of us spend our summer reforesting cut blocks, burns, and the ghostly pine beetle-killed forests of northern BC. We work long hours, often times without breaks or lunch. The conditions are often horrible with wind, rain, snow, extreme heat and swarming bugs. It’s a hard job. We live in tents and vehicles off the grid and eat our dinner and breakfast in an old wedding tent. An 80’s school bus serves as our kitchen. Aside from the money, the community of friends and artists is what brings me back each year. In all my travels I have yet to run into a community as tight-knit and alive as this one; they are like a second family. Tree planting attracts a certain kind of individual: sometimes tough, usually adventurous, creative, and open-minded, people interested in and capable of a freedom not afforded by normal society. A freedom that is frightening to some and unfathomable to many. At the end of the summer we all scatter across the continent often integrating back to normal life in the city: school, day jobs, etc. But for the entire summer hidden miles from any civilization, this tiny community and culture thrives. With no outside distractions, no Internet or Facebook, this community is based on story time around the fire, themed costume parties, and our very own humble entertainment such as iPod karaoke.
This body of work also dives into my intimate personal life. Everything from trips with old friends in Montana to pictures of the office at that homeless shelter in Portland; pictures of my neighbor’s cat and my small bedroom in a rented home, portraits of old lovers. A documentary and photo-journal of sorts, this collection ties together the pieces of a scattered and inconsistent lifestyle. A lifestyle that is constantly searching. When asked by an acquaintance what I was in search of, my reply was "finding magic." It seemed fitting and true later, after I had thought about it. And I think that I was successful in finding it. Because finding magic is all kinds of uncertainty, and implies a non-scientific route that avoids the usual, practical answers. Searching for something beyond explanation. Though I take these photographs for myself, I like to think that this specific series is intended for the future. So both you and I can look back and remember what it was like to go searching for something not quite explainable, just hoping to catch a moment of magic.
I now only use two specific 90’s era cameras and a discontinued 35mm film stock. Most of my equipment has been sold over the years. No tripods, extension cords, assistants or models. In many ways it’s a freeing experience: point and shoot, rangefinder and myself. I’m so attached to one of my cameras that I often sleep with it. Much of my money is devoted to keeping my camera stocked with film. Film is expensive and at times I wonder if it’s a worthwhile pursuit and passion. It’s not until I have the film developed and scanned that I remember why I continue this journey. These photos give me a sense of purpose and place at times when I’m at a loss for explanation, a focus while I continue the ongoing search.
This book is meant to be viewed with music. Because behind each photo there is music; blasting, distorting through car stereos, sunsets, 80’s boom boxes, headphones, iPods, radios, whatever. I want the viewer to get lost, as I did, in the photos, landscape, and cultures with the levels pushed to the max.