|Grand Forks, North Dakota 1981|
photo-journalism class at the University of North Dakota, cameras have been part of my life. Assignment 2: capture a ‘style of life.’ Exploring Grand Forks’ fading downtown I met this waitress. While on break, resting her feet, I took her photo.
Harley taught me how to burn the overexposed window, making print after print until I got it right. Counting seconds my prints were in developer, stop bath, fixer, then wash, hours flashed by.
As an English major, tussling with complexities of literature, this tangible language appealed. Now in my virtual darkroom I do nothing and the window pane is perfect. When I see this photograph, though, I'm back in that school dark- room with the smell of photo chemicals whiffing to the exhaust fan, the chatter and banter of fellow photog students, the sweep of the second hand on the large darkroom clock, and Willie Nelson on the tape player, for Harley instructed. ' he's essential-for-good-printing.' This quirky mix made magic of the developer’s oily slickness, swirling between my fingers, as a hint of exterior window frame finally appears.
I was born in Washington DC, moved to St. Louis at age nine, and in my mid-twenties, moved to England with my husband Jim and our toddler daughter. We lived near Jim’s family in Lancashire, then Cheshire for the richest period of my life. When the economy tanked--double digit inflation, miner’s strikes, rolling blackouts, terrible unemployment--we left England for North Dakota. At the rim of the American West I cultivated the seeds of the person I am today.
Leaving England was the hardest move we’ve ever made, as we struck out all on our own in a remote region, losing the tapestry of family and friends the likes of which I’ve never found again. I discovered what it’s like to be an emigrant from and an immigrant to my own country, finding surprising gains and profound losses, like migrantss everywhere.
|Road to Kief, North Dakota 2010|
|Jim collecting the mail and wildflowers, friend's farm near Kief, North Dakota 2010|
This was the road over which Antonia and I came on that night when we
got off the train in Black Hawk...I had only to close my eyes to hear the
rumbling of the wagons in the dark, and to be again overcome by that
obliterating strangeness. The feelings of that night were so near that I
could reach out and touch them with my hand. I had the sense of
coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man’s
experience is. For Antonia and for me, this had been the road of
Destiny had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which
predetermined for us all that we can ever be.
--My Antonia, by Willa Cather 1918
|Near Grand Forks, North Dakota September 1996|