Tag Archives: Photography

Oregon Chronicles: A PDX Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 2018.

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We moved to Oregon on August 25th 2018 and were met by one on the mildest and most beautiful falls I have ever seen. Fall as in the season, not the water that drops over cliffs—although those are quite splendid and abundant in Oregon as well. We moved into a house off 18th and Killingsworth in the NE neighborhood of Portland. The neighborhood is extremely walkable and within a five minute walk we can walk to Hat Yai (Thai Fried Chicken), Pine State Biscuits, Proud Mary (Aussie coffee shop), Podnah’s (bbq), Barista, Handsome Pizza, Salt n’ Straw (ice cream), The Bollywood Café (Indian)—a plethora of bars I will probably never visit based on my current Dad situation—and a dog store called The Filling Station. I think we ate out every night the first week we were there. The eating out couldn’t last forever though, and so we started ordering a few Blue Apron meals every week to lessen the load of cooking w/ child.

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For the first month Portland felt like an extended Airbnb vacay. We didn’t really feel like we “lived” there. But once I started working and Cat started her internship at Randall Children’s Hospital two days a week, a routine began to develop. I had trouble finding work at first and though I am busy now and working more than I’d like to, I have already forgotten that it took me over a month to find a job and have almost forgotten how endless the search once was—a futile time suck of days spent emailing resumes and developing a CV for jobs you may never have a shot with. All the coffee people were confused as to why I was the owner of a coffee roasting company in Utah applying for barista jobs in Portland. I also applied for jobs at Nike and PSU on the whim that they decided to hire a completely unqualified person to do the job. They had no such whims. We’d like to buy a house soon but will probably need to wait until Cat goes back to work as she has the type of jobs that look good to lending companies, my barista job …. not so much.

I finally found work with a coffee shop called Con Leche and Smalltime Roasters—a Mexican-American owned coffee shop in their second year of business that was started initially to raise funds for Dreamers. My main goal has been to help build their wholesale and roasting operation, but I also work barista shifts four days a week at Con Leche—which is a shared space with Frank Wine bar in the South Waterfront district of Portland. I have to work weekends, but this also gives me some flexibility to take Tuesdays off while Cat works at her internship at the hospital.

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However, just last week I accepted a position at Sustainable Harvest, a green coffee importing company. I will be working with a woman named Yimara from Colombia as her quality specialist assistant in the lab as we sample roast, cup, and evaluate coffee from around the world—along with helping with some minor logistics. It really is a dream job come true and sort of the next level for me in the coffee world. In February I plan to get my Q Grader, which is like a sommelier or cicero certificate for coffee. I will still be helping Smalltime out on the side but probably drop my barista shifts. The new job at Sustainable will also be good for me because I think I will finally have to quit smoking…but we’ll see.

The move to Oregon has been a combination of excitement and adjustment. Exploring a new city (more so for Cat, less for me) and starting a new job, living in a new neighborhood, new house, new neighbors, friends, and most importantly, family. Though not new, this is the first time in ten years that Cat and I are living in the same state as family. And while the opportunities are exciting, a new move also brings with it a bunch of SLE’s, or Stressful Life Experiences (as this new book I recently bought at the Portland Book Festival called This is Your Brain on Depression calls them) and I still find myself lapsing into similar vices and frustrations I wish I could have left behind in Utah. But as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

IMG_7650 Cat misses her friends from Utah and is excited to start work again in the summer, but she is cherishing this time with Evangeline so much. Overall, she is adjusting to life in PDX beautifully.

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Evangeline turned six months on November 23rd and now is almost seven months old! Everyday she seems to get more and more active and interactive. She started pulling at our face and nose and glasses and my beard. She pulses her legs, laughs and smiles, and she can practically sit up (though not roll over, not yet). She has been pure joy. Her rosy red cheeks shine bright, and her brown eyes seem to emanate with a purity and light that must be beamed from heaven straight into her little soul. She is 99th percentile in height and whatever is in that formula must be good because she’s growing fast.

On Thursdays my mom drives down to watch Evangeline as both her and my dad now live an hour away in Hood River. Also in Hood River are my sister Alyssa, her husband Eli, and our two little nephews Eero and Bodie (who were born three days before Evangeline). I chose this picture because they both move so fast you can barely capture it!

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My favorite part of the day (besides coming home to E of course) is when I bike to work downtown in the morning. The air crisp and cool. The sun slowly penetrating through the clouds. So far it has barely rained this fall and so I can bike most days. I bike from my house in Northeast down Going, a bike greenway, to Vancouver which is a mini-bike highway. I have found one of my favorite things is mobbing down Vancouver in the early morning with a pack of cyclists all commuting into work. Sometimes there are so many bikers there is even bike traffic and I am forced to weave around slower bikers as faster bikers simultaneously pass me. Often, as I cross the Steel Bridge in the morning, the Willamette River will be cloaked in fog and mist and it feels as if I am biking through the clouds. As I don’t have a gym membership yet, to either a climbing gym or regular old gym, and running with a dog and a six-month old in a stroller just doesn’t sound like fun, biking is my only form of exercise these days. It feels like too much to ask Cat to watch E while I hit the gym for an hour after work after already being gone for eight hours and so biking it is. And I need to do it. Biking = Happy Levi. Not biking= Angry and Depressed Levi.

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I write often but have still not had much luck getting anything published on the level I’d like to be at. I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years that is just not working for some reason (my friend Mike says it might be a movie, not a novel, but the idea of spending another few years turning it into a screenplay just sounds exhausting to me). I’ve also been working on various short stories, essays, and perhaps, who knows, a new novel, along with tweaking a memoir-in-the-works. So, lots of projects but right now they’re all iceberg status, as in, lurking large underneath the surface of anywhere public. While my craft is developing, I feel like I still haven’t found my niche, or my voice, or corner, of what to write about. I now know and am doing my best to accept however, that writing is a long journey. I am ten years in so far of seriously pursuing writing and it might be twenty or even thirty years before anything happens with it. I feel as if it’s best to look at writing (for one’s own sanity) not as a career choice or even art form, but as a form of meditation/asceticism/monkish pursuit. On my best days I can view it in this very zen way—as a practice I will work towards regardless of outcome. On my worst days I chainsmoke and drink myself to sleep because the world is a depressing place and rejections and false starts and wasted time in writing is also depressing. So, I am still the same old Levi, for better or worse (even know, I can sense a creeping melancholy in these words in what should be an otherwise happy and cheerful season/letter).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our moves is that our cat, Waffles, has really gained a lot of ground with this move and transformed from a scared, timid cat into a bold and adventurous one. She used to be afraid of everything, but this move has strengthened her resolve and moral character. Now she is the one who spends all day outside exploring and our other cat, Chicken, prefers the dry indoors. Both of them no longer hide when guests come over and are much friendlier than they used to be. Amelie, our dog, requires more attention and though I never thought I would say this, I find myself becoming quite annoyed with her at times as it seems a dog is the last thing I want to think about taking care of at the end of the day. It probably doesn’t help that for the past couple months her paws have been very red and irritable, and I find myself spending a lot of time soaking them in Epsom salt and shampooing them and making trips to pet stores to try and change her diet so we can figure out what’s wrong with them—yeast infection perhaps?

Anyways, it’s been an exciting year. For the first time in some time, I am looking forward immensely to what the New Year brings as we continue to explore the many opportunities Portland offers Cat and I as well as watch Evangeline grow.

Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season as the New Year approaches.
Hoping that whatever physical or mental demons afflict you will flee into the night like the spell from a Patronus.

Love,
-Levi (And Cat and Evangeline and Amelie and Chicken and Waffles)

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Life Without Filter Part II

I had one simple goal in mind when taking these pictures: to present life as ordinary as possible. To take pictures of all the things that consume our day but are not particularly interesting. To look at computer screens, office spaces, roads, cooking, T.V. screens etc. When I took the first picture my photographer friends Mike and Cole told me that the picture was crooked, saying something about “horizons.” I told them that I didn’t care. But they told me, out of either injury to their particular field of work or to simply give me advice, that you could still take bland pictures that weren’t crooked. So after the first one I tried harder to hold the camera upright. However, I did not manipulate the lighting, filter, or placement of such photos. I wanted them to exist in stark representation to the manipulation of appearance, because the manipulation of appearance was the essential point, i.e. how we manipulate and alter our appearance and image through technology.

The photo’s you’ll see are awful and not interesting in the least bit, or at the very least not very interesting.  My friends Mike and Cole could have done a photo project where they take pictures of bland or ordinary or mundane things, but since they’re awesome photographers they could still make them look “cool” in the gritty and low-fi sort of way. I wanted to represent life in its most ordinary and uninteresting state.

 

A couple thoughts: my house looks very yellow in all the pictures. It might have something to do with the yellow walls or the poor lighting, who knows. I debated about whether or not to take pictures of colorful trees wondering if they were too “pretty.” But then I decided that it would be dishonest to not take a picture of them since they were a part of my day while going for a run and I wasn’t going out of my way per say to try and find beautiful images of fall. The one time I took a picture of myself I immediately noticed a reflex in which my hands jumped up to straighten my hair. I had to forcefully shake off the desire to comb my hair and I also had to consciously think about how my face would look as it does throughout most of the day, not particularly sad, but not particularly happy either.

Part of me wishes the images were grittier or more low-fi but that would have required a certain amount of manipulation. In fact, another thing I noticed while scrolling through the images is that as much as they are ordinary and uninteresting I still feel a particular since of gratitude while viewing the photos. My life, I found myself thinking, is pretty good. But then it caused me to question whether the act of taking photo’s itself isn’t manipulation. Because photo’s (even mundane ones) like movies or ad’s still present a “compression” of life that is not accurate in a time/experience sort of way. Although all the photo’s were literally things I was either doing or noticed throughout the day with no going out of my way to capture certain images, I wondered if the recording of life itself causes one to view life unrealistically. In the best possible sense photo’s capture memories. Memories than can give us nostalgia or feelings of warmth and happiness. Some of the photo’s I took did this—such as pictures of nature or my wife or dog—but others warranted no emotional reaction at all—such as images of computer screens. Which cause me to think that technology can exist in the best possible way—such as to provide us with memories of past or meaningful events—or, in the case of movies, to present us with an inspiring or challenging narrative that cause us to engage with life. And yet, technology can also exist in the worst possible way providing unrealistic images and worldviews that damage our souls. Much of this thought process was based on a troubling Vanity Fair article entitled “Friends With Benefits,” where Nancy Jo Sales explores how social media and sex are influencing young women. Check out the article here: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/09/social-media-internet-porn-teenage-girls.

 

Once again, the point is not the pictures, they’re remarkably bland. But rather questioning in what ways we live a life with filter. 

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Life Without Filter Part I

800px-Instagram_Filters_2011-partialLife Without Filter
Part I

On Wednesday October 16th I woke up groggy—not motivated to go to work or put on pants or do anything that involved the concept of motion. I turned the alarm off my phone and unconsciously opened Facebook and began to flip through status updates and pictures. I hated this unchecked instinct that always seemed to be a huge waste of time, but it kept me in the warm sheets covering my body for a few seconds longer so I allowed my mind to glaze over and not think about the evils of such technology. I saw all the usual—political rants, memes, photos of summer trips to Europe, vacations in Cancun, personal updates, selfies, etc. And it was all incredibly exciting looking and at the same time, incredibly strange.

It’s no secret that Facebook exists as a sort of alternative universe where one can present an idealized (or even fictionalized) version of oneself to a broad community of “friends.” We all know that people only really want to post photos of themselves when they are eating the best, looking the best, and living the best.

I have no problem with this. It’s human nature. And we definitely don’t need another article about how Facebook is ruining the world or how it is redefining our concept of community, or the psychological damage done to thousands of kids everywhere by online bullies—though to be fair, all of those things are probably true. It’s a bit dreary and tiresome to hear criticisms of Facebook (I’ve heard enough slam poems criticizing it to last ten lifetimes). But I do have a “beef” if you will, if the kids of F book still use that term, with the social media outlet and technology in general.

Technology in general has allowed the possibility of an alternative universe, not just through social media outlets but through our experience of space and time as presented to us through movies, ad’s, and “invisible” online platforms. A nerdy example please: I love Lord of the Rings. LOTR all the way. I grew up reading the books and watching the movies and thoroughly enjoyed all of it. However, whilst watching movies like this and Braveheart and Gladiator in high school, I began to develop a view of life that was something like unhealthy. I wanted all of my life to be epic like it was in the movies, but alas it was not so I got very depressed. I blamed myself at first and I wasn’t totally off. But eventually I came to realize that all movies, even arty, dark, indie ones, are unrealistic representations of life because they compress days or even years into a two to possibly four hour viewing. They provide a narrative structure (however loose) that ninety percent of the time wraps up life in tidy ways, or at least gives meaning to chaos.

In some ways we as the modern viewer can attempt to translate this to our life. Thus, we want our life to be like a movie and so we take photos and post statuses to complete this image. Thanks to Instagram we can slap a funky filter on any image we take and make a toilet look like something we’d like to eat. We highlight the good and downplay the bad. There are obviously those “friends” who complain a whole lot on Facebook. But it never seems to be true and honest communication, merely commiseration about traffic or the weather or the many daily things that frustrate us.

In essence, we put filters on everything. We filter our life through mediums of social media to present a movie version of ourselves. Once again, it’s not evil, it’s human. But just for a day I wanted to present a picture of real everyday life photos. So I did. I am very obviously not a photographer and care about it more as a sort of writing exercise. So, you can check them out below with featured commentary by yours truly. (or above since this will be an older post).

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