Fotoeins Fotografie

faces of home & place-story

Posts tagged ‘book’

Burning through books like they’re out of style

No, there will be no burning of books. My optimism and caution for history say we’ve learned that particular lesson … hopefully.

I am however reading books at a rapid pace. I’m guilty of reading little over the last ten years, and I’m trying to make up for lost time. With the tracking of reading lists at the Vancouver Public Library, I’ve managed 50 books in 15 months between June 2013 and September 2014. I’ve slowed down some, and I’m in the middle of another 10.

Books and readers, by memyselfaneye on Pixabay

Books and readers, by memyselfaneye on Pixabay (CC0 license)

In the absence of limitless funds, it’s simply not possible to buy all of the books I want to read. Obviously, a public resource for the public good allows residents to borrow. For that, I have once again a debt to the city’s public library; the debt stretches back to childhood when I discovered brand new worlds through books.

Now, I read mostly from two categories: travel and photography.

I’m reading everything I can get my hands on travel, from guides written in a range of styles by various authors to travel memoirs. I’m learning about voice, vocabulary, and delivery.

I’m devouring books on historical and contemporary photography. Like other human enterprises in the 20th-century, much of the art and business was male-dominated. It’s easy to learn about Atget, Brassaï, and Kertész, but I’m taking my time with the work by Burtynsky, Erwitt, and Salgado. I’ve been reading about Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, and Lee Miller; about Bettina Rheims, Vivien Maier, and Francesca Woodman. Recently, I’ve been turning my attention to Laura Gilpin, Jodi Cobb, and Herlinde Koelbl.

Who Cares About Books? Isn’t Everything Online Now?

Aren’t I already reading travel and photography blogs? I’m reading them all the time, so why would I bother to read something as old-fashioned as books?

I’m not looking for specific details directed to a particular niche in mind. I’m on the lookout for a little different, for something on the old we haven’t seen in a long time. If everything’s been done before, I want to learn what we’ve done.

It’s the same kind of attitude and method I once applied to research. I’ll go back to what it was like in the wayback, thrilled with the wait and anticipation, that nuggets of knowledge and wisdom were going to arrive slowly, flipping from one page to the next.

I’ve entered all sorts of bookstores. I’ll pick up a book, and leaf through the contents quickly. Then it’s another, followed by three, four, and more. Ideas pour over me this way, and I’ll let my mind slowly filter and figure things out later.

With books, I don’t have “easy-tech” distractions. A book does not have an audio bell, signaling new mail, a new post somewhere, or a comment on social media. With a book in my hands, the only distraction is not knowing what’s on the other side of the page.

If I’m reading about Estonia in a book on northern Europe, my mind might choose at an inopportune time to know: “well, what about Latvia? Or Lithuania? Or what about a quick ferry across the Baltic Sea over to Helsinki, Finland?” Or I’ll be staring longingly at a famous photograph, and how various circumstances and a thousand random details converged to that one place and single moment in time.

That’s the kind of internal distraction I’m looking for.

Externally, the book is almost a complete experience. The feel of holding a book in my hands. The subtle touch of grasping a page between my fingers, and the delicate circular motion of turning the page over from one side to the other side of the book.

Slow reading, steady dreaming, a lengthy thoughtful process.

I lean back across the couch, book folded over my chest like a wae paperbound tent. I close my eyes, and I let my mind wander, traveling effortlessly from one desired imaginary place to the next.

I’m grateful to memyselfaneye on Pixabay for the use of their photo with the CC0 Creative Commons License. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at

Photobook 1: “Basilian Days”

Basilian Days, photobook,

Basil is one of the oddest felines I’ve ever met. As an aging cat, he’s slowed down some, but what’s always true is he’s unique. He allows very few into his personal space, and I’m honoured I got to be one of the selected few. For friends and caretakers, I wanted to make this short 20-plus page photobook highlighting his “ornery” character and how he spends his sleepy days. I wanted something tangible and on record showing he was around to enrich my friends’ lives for many years. I photographed Basil in Sydney, Australia from March to May 2013.

The first time I met Basil was in 2002 in the German university town of Heidelberg. Whenever my friends were on travel, they asked me to stop by their apartment and to ensure Basil had enough food and water. Occasionally, the encounters were fraught with uncertainty: he’d sit in an inconvenient place, and suddenly leap across to “attack” or “bat at” my feet as I walked past. I thought I was the only one to whom he’d react in this way; clearly, he sensed danger in my Canadianness. Eventually, we realized other visitors witnessed and experienced the same thing. I admit I was a little disappointed.

Basil is a well-loved cat, and he knows it. He’s lived in the U.S., Germany, England, and Australia. Through all of the moves, an important change over time has been the availability of a backyard, an open space into which Basil can roam and monitor his domain. After a number of visits with friends, Basil and I have come to an informal yet “mutual and beneficial understanding”: I ply him often with canned tuna, and he agrees not to draw blood from my legs. It’s really quite simple, but I know he’s free to change the terms of the agreement at any time.

Basil is now 16 years old, and he’s beginning to show signs of his age: overall appetite has diminished, he’s slowed down, and he’s sleeping a lot more. But tap a fork against a can of tuna, his eyes light up, and he’ll rush into the kitchen for a round of “furry figure-8’s” around my legs in anticipation.

Thanks to MB and DZ, for giving this hobo a place to stay, and for trusting me to ensure Basil’s well-being over the years. Basil, I know you don’t trust easy, but when you finally allowed me to pet you on your fuzzy head, I knew it was a big deal; I just never realized I’d learn something new about my own trust issues from a cat.

This photo-book is for you all, a family of three.

Basilian Days

I produced and published the photobook, “Basilian Days”, in June 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

PostScript: Basil passed away in Sydney, Australia on 18 December 2015 after 18 years, surrounded by hairless bipeds who loved him.

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