jon raymond

Interview in a Time of Sequestration

A Photographer Talks to Himself About Shadows and the Mysteries of Black & White


It seems much of your work is focused on the cultural life of your city and state?

Yes, it is. To paraphrase that much revered Southern snake-charmer, William Faulkner, I discovered my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth photographing and that I would probably never live long enough to exhaust it.

So why black and white?

When I am obliged to talk about my photography—which isn’t that often, thankfully—I almost always start off with a discussion of my antediluvian preference for black and white. I do this because the question “Why black and white” is almost always the first one asked in the Q&As that invariably follow these talks, and I am hoping to preempt it, to cut it off at the pass as they say in Cowboy, because more often than not it is asked with an antagonizing hint of disapproval. It is a question that used to catch me by surprise. It doesn’t any more. My answer to it is always short. Black and white are for me—as they were for the famously crusty Robert Frank—the colors of photography.

Omar El Akkad, Writer, 2019.

Where Frank saw black and white as symbolizing hope and despair, I see them as augmenting our perception of form and content. Color, as we commonly think of it, is information. Lots of it. Black and white is an abstraction. When you subtract color you focus attention on form and content—on graphic order and psychological subtlety. For me black and white simply has a greater emotional and intellectual impact.


The Artist Series: Writers

In the first of a new series of portraits, K.B. Dixon concentrates his lens on the faces of 10 leading contemporary Oregon writers.


This is the first in what I hope will be a long series on local artists—in this case, writers, the unusually talented people who work in words, the most common and most difficult of mediums.

The writers here are some of Oregon’s most accomplished and decorated. Their work offers the reader that unique adventure that only the evolutionary miracle of language allows—access to other worlds, both real and imagined.

The visual approach to this new series of portraits differs greatly from my previous series, In the Frame. Here the environmental details are kept to a minimum. The subjects have the frame to themselves and do not compete with the context for attention. This provides for a simpler, blunter, more intense encounter with character.


Oregon’s Poet Laureate, and Director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis &Clark College. His latest collection of poems is Wild Honey, Tough Salt.

“Among the many forms of wealth,
in the catalog of luxuries, I choose
the right to be forgotten on a quiet
morning such as this….”

– Excerpt from the poem “The Right to Be Forgotten,”
in the collection Wild Honey, Tough Salt


Jon Raymond

By Brian Libby

It’s a bright late-May morning at southeast Portland’s Stumptown Coffee as Jon Raymond is interrupted from eating his bagel by drummer Janet Weiss of the great alt.rock/riot grrrl band Sleater-Kinney and its successor, Wild Flag (each fronted by Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein). “We were doing a show at the Crystal [Ballroom] across the street that same night,” she says about Raymond’s recent reading at Powell’s, “and  I wanted to peel back the curtains and listen for you.”

Raymond, the writer behind such acclaimed books as Livability and acclaimed movies like Meek’s Cutoff and Wendy & Lucy, embraces the friendly conversation, but after Weiss leaves he discourages my suggestion that this was a quintessential hip-Portland moment, or that together he and Weiss represent creative-class royalty in a city teeming with young musicians, artists and writers eager to make their mark.

“It’s funny: when we first moved here in 2005, Emily had not lived here before,” Raymond says, referring to his partner. Raymond, a Lake Grove, Oregon, native, had lived with her in New York while receiving a graduate degree in creative writing from The New School. “She said, ‘I can’t believe how much people in Portland talk about Portland. I think this may just be an exceptionally navel-gazing small city.’ I’ve definitely gotten bored of the whole creative-class conversation. The world has become interested in Portland. It’s not fun to talk about something being talked about that way. We’ve lost whatever underdog status we might have had.”

But don’t expect the author to leave anytime soon. “I’m too West Coast of a person,” he explains. “I feel sort of entrenched here. But it waxes and wanes. Portland can be that way. Now that the summer’s here people are out and it’s more exciting. But you can go through experiences where the walls close in. I think that’s the way it is with one’s home.”