Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our friends and neighbors

We had just arrived to our cozy, if tacky, 90s resort at the foot of the mountain and were having our first glass of wino, when one of our travel companions suddenly exclaimed:
"That book, I'm in it!" And so she was, once the book was taken down and leafed through, 18-years-old, hiking over a pass in Alaska.
It's her!
I've discussed my love for 60s-70s photo books before and this one is both gorgeous and profound. It features folks on both sides of the Canadian-American border, spans across the two nations from West to East, and focuses mostly on working class people, odd balls, back-to-the-landers, and roaming free-spirits.
Girl With Goat
Blue Ribbon
Homestead in the snow
It strikes me how terminally cool these people look now, straight out of a fashion spread in some magazine, but instead of being a simulacrums, they are very real and genuine. They are inspiring in a wholly different sense, that of being true to yourself, sticking to your guns, so to speak.
Bar Tender
Many of them in fact look a little like folk I know (even though only one of them actually is;).
On the road
The landscapes, still desolate, unpeopled hold a promise of getting away. Hitting the road like the young man in the above picture, lighting out for the great wide open and never looking back.
...and a calf
And so are we!
And yet on the very next page, there are people rooted to the land, steeped in tradition, sure of themselves and their small place in this world.
We are Canadians!
Amber waves of grain
This to me is what's good about this continent, young in terms of geography and movements of people; the possibilities one has are seemingly endless, as are the opportunities. There is an optimism here, and though it is sometimes unfounded, it is heartening all the same.
These are ordinary folk. They are extraordinary only in the sense that their every day life was for a moment caught, suspended for the future generations.
Blame Canada?
Dance if I must
A traveller
And yet, like each of us, they are all unique, peculiar, human. Looking at them you can't help but feel as though you know them intimately.
America and Canada
Like they were your neighbours waving at you from their window.
Or fellow travelers across a great divide.
Fog Nag
And they know everything that means something in this world.
So it is.


  1. Gosh Milla, these wonderful photos are made even more so by your thoughtful musings. What a crazy coincidence that you were with someone in the book! Really, a beautifully written post, loved it :)

  2. That book looks fantastic, I wish I could get ahold of a copy. I loved reading that btw :) You had me falling into the photos.

  3. wow, you really captured in words the spirit of those photos. beautiful. have i mentioned lately how much i adore reading your posts? i sure do.

  4. how wondrous to be transported, by photos, places, faces, time. i love the girls, their laughs and mischief. and the proud man in his western wear, and the round little children in costumes strange and darling. what a book! obviously out of print, i hope it passes through the good old bookery someday.

  5. Sigh, I love that book. And the way you expounded upon it, double sigh.

  6. The folks in books like the ones you showed remind me why I live in the country. People are so fresh faced (must be the air!) and more attuned to their life path than folks who get lost in the city smog. Lovely post.

  7. I forgot to mention to girl in the long skirt and headscarf carrying wood in the snow. I feel such a kinship with that photo. I love to think of how many women have done these same things, chopping and carrying wood, weeding and tending garden beds, hanging the laundry out to dry. We do these things because they are a necessity of live- we do them in a pretty skirt because we love life.

  8. What a find!
    What is it about anonymous photos that is so poignant? I too have a thing for them. So much so that my very favourite present I received this Christmas was a book my man gave to me called Haunted Air by Ossian Brown, which is simply a collection of anonymous photos of people in Halloween costume, taken mostly, as far as I can tell, in the 20's and 30's. It is a strangely moving thing. I actually cried reading the intro by David Lynch.

    Do you know the work of photographer Mikael Kennedy? Stunning work, do check him out. But he has a polaroid blog where he posts photos of his friends and places he travels, and it has a similar feel. Really beautiful.