Monday, April 20, 2009


A grey drizzly day. No seeds or starts in the ground yet (our last frost can be as late as mid-May in downtown Toronto), but the ground is dug up, darkening in the soft rain, and looking expectant! I should get the snow peas in this week ... hmmm

It's perhaps predictable by now that these posts I'm writing weekly (more or less!) almost always seem to start with garden and weather updates. What is that? I wonder. Could be that old English thing of beginning conversations with the weather? I prefer to think that it's a way of anchoring where I am, what environment I'm in as I write. I know I like to picture where friends are when I am talking to them on the phone, or when they send an email. That's perhaps because my imagination is not abstract, but works with images, just like my memory.

How do we store these images? Somehow the brain sifts and sorts, by story and context, I guess. All that mental "muscle" will presumably start deteriorating with age (must have already, let's admit!). But there's still a remarkable amount in storage, and accessible.

I've been reminded of all these questions about memory and image in these last few days as I've been pulling photos for a talk and slide show at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson. Jeff and I are speaking there this Thursday, April 24. We're delighted to be invited and to have a chance to see the Center. The images we'll show are all from the Indian subcontinent, from India as well as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan. They glow on the light table as I look at them, each a reminder of the art and beauty there is in everyday necessity in the subcontinent.

As I troll through our slides (yes, we are showing slides rather than skanned images), peering at them through the loupe, each one I look at (really it's more like looking "into" the image) transports me to the place and moment when I "made" the photo. And I know which ones are Jeff's without looking at the label because I know I didn't take them. How is that possible, to remember each one so confidently, after all these years of photographing? The brain is a remarkable gift! And it all happens without conscious effort, this storage and recall.

The same cannot be said for the process of organizing digital images (originals or skans). And that is the task that lies ahead in these coming months: Now that my cousin Jennifer Read has set me up with books and patient instruction, it's up to me to develop reflexes and work my way into feeling comfortable and somewhat confident working with Photoshop and Lightbox. Argh! is my reaction right now.

I'm going to work with my laptop (the little Mac that I am writing on right now), but, on Jen's advice, with a large screen when I am doing photo correction, and using a hard drive connected by a firewire (the laptop is a little small so it's better to have the space on the hard drive for working with these layers of image, etc). The raw photos straight from the camera, and also the tidied ones, need to be stored on another hard drive for backup, and also on DVD's. It all feels cumbersome, as anything does when we have no reflexes.  

I've also been very encouraged by what I've heard from Barcelona-based Jeff Koehler, who writes imaginatively and engagedly about food and is a fine photographer too. He's the only person I know of who works in the same way we do. (Check out his website at and his first book: La Paella; his second, which should be fabulous and useful, exploring unsung corners of the Mediterranean through couscous, pasta, and rice dishes, is due out this fall.) He has just switched to digital, last August, and already seems to be well launched. He too uses the firewire with external harddrive to sort and work on his images. I'm so grateful to have his advice too, because it gives me some confidence that I will eventually make the transition without too much crazed-ness!
So here goes!

1 comment:

Linda said...

Hello Naiomi
I'm enjoying your posts and congrats to you and Jeffrey for your IACP award.
Will you be posting any details about how the cooking class went?