I almost cut off my thumb in 2001.
I was making dinner for my girlfriend, and almost sliced it off on the jagged-lid of a Muir Glen tomato can. (Sorry for putting that visual in your head.)
After the blood spurted on the wall, and after I called my landlord who told me to go to the hospital, and after I almost got driven across the city by a couple of drunk-guys, luckily, Jessie got home and drove me the half-mile to the closest ER.
It’s 2018 now, and I’m only just getting my range of motion back in my hand, after the surgery.
Most of us know it’s the difficult times in life that make us better and stronger. We grow though challenges, even though most people will go pretty far out of their way to take the easy route.
(Go with me here.)
I never, ever would have chosen to almost cut off my thumb. But doing so meant that I had to defer graduate school a year, and move to NYC in the summer of 2002. (Rather than July 2001, if you catch my drift. 9/11.)
Not only that, but Jessie told me she wasn’t ready to move in 2001, (even though she’d previously agreed to go if I got into art school,) so had I not sliced through my thumb-flesh, I would have been forced to choose between my education and my girlfriend. (Now wife.)
Instead, we both stayed on in San Francisco another year, and then went East to get bitch-slapped by Gotham City for three years. (Again, growth through difficulty.)
In retrospect, from the vantage point of a 44 year old with two kids and a mortgage, those years when Jessie and I were in our 20’s, carefree, partying late into the right, relaxing on beautiful beaches each weekend… it seems pretty quaint.
We used to drive around the Bay Area all the time, and one favorite spot in particular was Guerneville, on the Russian River.
Everyone has a favorite California spot, (or two, or three,) but Western Sonoma County was always high on my list. Green hills in winter, golden colored in summer, with the winding Russian River valley cut with vineyards.
I haven’t been there in ages, but I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of place that was a raging inferno this summer, due to wildfires.
Or was it last summer? Or next summer?
Dealing with mega-fires will obviously become the new normal out in the Golden State, but people will continue to move there because the economy offers opportunity, the nature and culture are world-class, and the weather is impossible to beat.
The California lifestyle is as good as it gets, (minus traffic and pollution,) if you can afford it.
Today’s book embodies that glossy, shiny California dream almost perfectly. And it allows me to get out of my comfort zone, (something I’m always preaching about,) by showing the kind of book I rarely review.
Almost always, I review fine art and documentary photography books by established publishers.
Sometimes, I review self-published publications that look like they were made by established publishers.
But rarely, almost never, do I review self-published photo books that look like something my uncle made to give to his stock-broker clients as a present at Christmas. (Sorry, Uncle Keith. Hate to through you under the bus.)
Rarely, but not never.
When we became a submission-based column a couple of years ago, I was essentially agreeing to look at what you send me, and write from this selection. (Of course PR agents do offer me books, and I can’t write about everything.)
But I felt it meant I needed to be willing to write about things that didn’t fit my normal set of expectations.
Like “View from a Bridge, photography by Ron Koeberer: The Russian River, Monte Rio, California, USA.”
Ron tucked a letter into the front cover, so I read it first, in lieu of any statement or foreword. Apparently, he’s a commercial photographer who shoots for film, tv and stock. The book is a collection of images from a personal project he does for fun.
The colors and flattening of the picture plane scream hyper-digital, and some of the crops made the photo professor in me want to stick cocktail toothpicks into my eye-sockets.
But I kept turning the pages.
I won’t keep you in suspense here, nor will I make poor Ron think that I’ve chosen to review his book only to be snarky and ironic.
I like this book.
And that’s the one part of the art-making process that should be absolutely necessary, on some level at least, but that often gets lost in our sense of mission, or journalism, or commercial profiteering.
Making art, whether you’re cooking, knitting, drawing, taking pictures, making videos, or songs, should be an inherently creative, positive experience for the maker.
Hell, even people who dredge up their worst bits for their work still benefit, because we feel better once the basement is clean of those nasty cobwebs.
I wanted to show this book today because this column is a part of my art-making process. You guys know I’ll show up here each week, each year, and that I’m trying to stay sharp for you. (If this place gets boring, there won’t be a place.)
So today, one week after I froze you out with some winter hunting, let’s use Ron Koeberer’s book inspire us all to get out there this month, while the weather is good EVERYWHERE, and enjoy ourselves.
Bottom Line: Cool, fun, personal project about the California good life
If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at email@example.com. We currently have a several month backlog, and are particularly interested in submissions from female photographers.