Film Is Not Dead: Chicago

With this July came the culmination of a long-standing goal for me. I attended the Chicago edition of Film Is Not Dead, an intensive, three-day workshop all about (you guessed it!) shooting film. When I first started hearing rave reviews about the workshop a year ago, I worried that I’d be crazy to sign up—that, as an amateur shooter, I’d be outclassed by the other participants, that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, that I’d embarrass myself by tripping over my own feet (figuratively—or perhaps literally, as I’m often wont to do). But I was hungry to learn more about the art I’d become fascinated by, intent on investing in myself, and frankly, disappointed by the myriad other photography classes I’d been taking. So I got over the churning feeling in my stomach, and I signed up.

Spoiler alert: I’m so happy I did. Over the course of three days, my brain was stuffed full of information about film stocks, camera types, exposure, posing subjects, and the practice of meaningful personal work. The participants that greeted me that first day were egoless, and though their collective talent and experience absolutely lit up the room, they accepted everyone from the most rank beginner to the most seasoned pro into their fold. At the start of each day together, we’d collapse on the living room sectional of our rented townhouse, coffee in hand, listen with rapt attention to the day’s lecture, and then run out into the blazing afternoon heat to put our lessons into practice.

What follows here is a collection of images taken over the course of those three days. Jonathan, Catherine and Albert: thank you for imparting your peerless knowledge and systematically putting together the most instructive photography course I’ve had the pleasure of taking. Barry, Chris, Eric, John, Jonah, Tai, Abbie, Annie, Becky, Kate, Melissa, and Naomi: thank you for working alongside me as equals, for inspiring me with your creativity, for being part of an amazingly nerdy community, and for continuing to share your wisdom long after our work in Chicago was done—this was clearly the beginning of something cool for all of us.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Ektar 100, Tri-X 400, and Portra 800, 400 and 160

Carolina In My Mind | Raleigh-Durham, NC

In late May, I took a long weekend and flew to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Above all, the trip was about seeing my oldest and dearest friend Anna, a sage advisor and pixie fashion plate with a fantastically inappropriate sense of humor. (She also consistently beats the boys in road races…it’s kind of amazing.) She baked French lemon-yogurt cake for breakfast; that’s how we started each morning, along with gossip and multiple mugs of Counter Culture coffee.

We filled our days with food, drink, music, food, road trips, yoga, food, Carolinian landmarks, and food. We drove out into the country to the strains of Beach House and Real Estate on the stereo, getting lost and cold-calling U-Pick farmers along the way, then labored in the strawberry fields and baked incredible pie. We inhaled Asian-Southern fusion appetizers and seafood hot pot at can-we-really-afford-to-eat-here? Lantern. We lay on the grass and stared up into the branches of ancient trees at a concert on the lawn of the Carolina Inn, and marveled at the revitalized buildings of the American Tobacco Campus. For four days, all my big-city cares fell by the wayside.

We were so busy exploring the Research Triangle that I neglected to document each second of our visit on film—a hazard of being in good company, I guess. (Admittedly, I was also distracted by the call of vinegary shredded pork and crisp-melty hushpuppies.) Fortunately, that gives me one more reason to return, perhaps when the weather cools but the foliage is blazing—as if I needed one.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400

Surfaces | Pilsen

In 2007, during a springtime jaunt up to New York City, I wandered into the International Center of Photography and discovered Stephen Shore for the first time. On exhibition were his landscapes of small-town, roadside America in the 1970s, and I was instantly smitten with—and inspired by—the idea of what he called “American surfaces.”

To this day, whenever I find myself wandering a new city or neighborhood, I’m drawn to the surfaces of the place. (Thanks, Stephen!) Below are the uniquely colorful and lively surfaces of Pilsen, a Mexican enclave on the southwest side of Chicago. Next time you’re in town, take the Pink line to 18th Street, and get your fill of sweeping murals, religious iconography, and freshly-fried churros—you won’t be sorry you did.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Ektar 100, Kodak Portra 400

Hello, Again

Hello there! Welcome, again or for the first time, to my little corner of the Internet. Sit down, make yourself comfortable, and I’ll brew up a figurative pot of coffee.

Ever since taking my first darkroom photography class in seventh grade, I’ve been recording stills from my life for posterity. Recently, I’ve became more serious about the medium, and have fallen deeper into a romance with Kodak film and old cameras.

I’ll be getting back to this space by sharing images of the faces, places, and flavors that compose the string of days I call my life. Whether I’m exploring my home city of Chicago or traveling someplace new, you’ll be sure to find colorful stories on these pages told in photos, and perhaps a bit of prose!

Welcome again—I’m very happy you stopped by.

Location: Chicago Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Camera: Yashica Mat 124
Film: Kodak Portra 400

DIY Furniture Makeovers

Today, I come bearing gifts: the outcome of four furniture refinishing projects completed over the course of a few months. The process introduced me to skills (and muscles) that I didn’t know I had; apparently, they were lying dormant, only to be revealed when my need for attractive home furnishings became too much to bear.

First on the project list was this cherry-colored mirror, which I thought would look more modern in a darker mahogany stain.


Little did I know that tackling this project might break me before I’d really gotten started. Unfortunately, the process of sanding and staining is much more onerous than sanding, priming and painting. When you’re getting ready to paint a piece of furniture, you just need to sand it enough to rough up the surface for proper paint adhesion. When you want to stain a piece of furniture, however, you need to sand it first to the bare wood (see below). And that process, my friends, is no walk in the park.

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