Oregon photography

The eggs and I: a love story

Art of the stovetop, art of the camera: for photographer Mike Zacchino, a daily gift of fried eggs becomes a portfolio of variations on a theme

Art on the grid: a series of 49 of the first 52 eggs in the series, arranged by choice, not sequentially. Photo montage by Mike Zacchino

“Everyone loves a good love story.”

That’s what Anne said to me this morning as we ate breakfast on our 15th wedding anniversary. Anne loves eggs, and I love her, which is why I have been making her breakfast daily since sometime last year.

Earlier this year, I began photographing the process of frying an egg. Since then, I’ve photographed every egg I’ve fried; today, I fried and photographed the 59th egg.

Recently, I told Anne I could find myself wandering down a rabbit hole with this project.

“Honey, I think that day has long since passed.”

She’s correct; what began as a lark has developed into a routine endeavor that feeds my soul, and keeps her sated until lunch.

Once the egg lands in the pan I begin shooting and don’t touch the egg until I am ready to flip it. Earlier, I may have popped an air bubble or two, but no more; now, the egg continues its journey without intervention.

Sometimes, I find myself heating the pan longer or changing the amount of oil I use to see how it impacts the cooking process, and ultimately, the image.

For each day, I choose just one frame to represent the day. Some days are easy because one image speaks to me more than all the others; on other days, I’m deleting an intriguing image because another feels like the proper choice.

Regardless of whether I cook them hotter or with more oil, they always taste good, according to Anne; I try and not lose sight of the fact that this is still about feeding her.

I posted the first nine singles on my Instagram feed so they would appear as a 3 x 3 grid. Seeing them grouped together inspired me to continue photographing them.

Recently, I compiled a 7 x 7 grid of 49 of the first eggs I cooked. Instead of arranging them chronologically, I arranged them in no particular order but for how I thought they should lie. This was the most satisfying display I’ve compiled, and am looking forward to many more.

So far, the images have been shot on my iPhone X, but I am in the process of figuring the best way to consistently photograph them on my DSLR.

Where this takes me and when I’ll stop is anyone’s guess. For now, I’m having fun, and keeping Anne fed.

The first nine, sequentially from lower right to upper left. Photo montage by Mike Zacchino

I wrote the following on the day I photographed the ninth egg, which helps explain how this all began:

***

WEDNESDAY, 7 APRIL 2021–Lately, the egg has become my muse.

As some of you know, I make Anne’s breakfast every morning, and eggs are a constant.

Often one, with two on Saturday, and sometimes none on Sunday.

We’re into a routine.

I believe it was Jolie Wilson who remarked that it was so romantic, my daily ritual of making breakfast before Anne dashes off to work.

Some men bring roses. I fry an egg and slide it onto a quesadilla.

What is love, after all?

This morning, I slept in.

Anne had been awake for three hours, and my first words to her when I came into the livingroom were, “Please tell me you didn’t make your egg this morning!”

“No honey, I waited for you; but I‘m starving.”

Recently, I took a photo of an egg as it cooked.

Today, I photographed the ninth egg before serving it to my starving spouse.

She said it was perfect, but they never look perfect, and that is why I photograph them.

They are never the same, but they are always perfect as they are.

I use the same cast-iron “GRISWOLD SQUARE EGG SKILLET”, given to me by my brother-in-law. I much prefer the square skillet and one egg option. They cook better.

After moving to Southern Oregon, I’ve struggled to find that daily inspiration to make pictures.

For now, it’s eggs.

Now, I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 37 years and will only consider eating eggs if they are disguised in pasta or baked goods, but never as the lead act.

Still, they have a special place in my heart. They are always beautiful, even when they are broken; and they never lie the same way twice.

Their imperfection is pure, as is my love for Anne.

Tomorrow, we’ll try again.

One egg, at various stages of cooking.. Photo montage by Mike Zacchino

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‘Our Diversity Is Our Strength’

In a divided nation, a photography exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery celebrates the many faces and stories of immigrant Americans

A ballerina. An artist with an alter ego. Jewish refugees on a train. Kids playing at home while their mom works. A psychiatrist forced out of his homeland. Black Lives Matter marchers. A vineyard worker, a winemaker, a chef. Just people, with remarkable stories, told in a remarkable series of photographs in the collection Our Diversity Is Our Strength at Portland’s Blue Sky Gallery.

The images, by a broad selection of photographers, are of immigrants and the children of immigrants – part of the panoply of people who make up the large and diverse American multiculture. They are people who have brought the world with them, enriching and expanding their new homeland with everything from food to art to ideas. And they are here at a tense and crucial time.

“Never has it felt more important to share photographs and stories of people who have come to this country for the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families and who have given so much to our country and communities,” the show’s curators, project director Paige Stoyer and Jim Lommasson, wrote in their exhibition statement.

Our Diversity Is Our Strength arrives at a time of deep national division, with fear of the Other fanning the flames. One of Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s first acts as the 46th president of the United States was to declare a moratorium on construction of The Wall, his predecessor’s high-profile and intensely controversial barrier across the Mexican border that’s been pegged at a cost of roughly $15 billion.

The greater cost has been both symbolic and substantive. Donald Trump’s demand for a border barrier played on fears in much of white America of a rising demographic tide of color. It emphatically rejected the nation’s aspiration to embrace newcomers, as voiced in The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus’s 1883 poem etched on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled massesSend these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” The push for a wall was a calculated statement that outsiders were not welcome in the United States – that they were interlopers, and would be forcibly blocked from entering, especially if they were not white. Soon children were being separated from their parents and detained in cages, and violence against people of color, by police and others, spiked.

Biden’s moratorium suggests a rational shift from the extreme racially based isolationism that gave the Trump movement so much juice. Yet we are also only three weeks removed from a riot in the nation’s capital that felt very much like a failed attempt to overthrow the elected government. “With the increasing hate speech we are experiencing, often against immigrants, and which dehumanizes entire groups of people, we are grateful to share these stories as an antidote,” Stoyer and Lommasson continue. “When we allow ourselves to stop and really see each other, to be willing to hear someone’s story, to see our common humanity, we understand we are not so different. It opens the door to mutual understanding and empathy.”

The photographs in Our Diversity Is Our Strength stop and see. They come in a variety of styles, from carefully posed to verité captures of moments in time. They come in rich colors, and in black & white. Their framing, balance, and technical quality are excellent. And each helps tell the story of a life, offering viewers an encounter, however briefly, with a human being they had not known. In Stoyer and Lommasson’s words: “We must find a way to first, always see the humanity in each other. It is the only way we will start to heal the deep wounds and divisions in this country.”

The entire portfolio of this year’s Our Diversity Is Our Strength project includes 37 photographs. The exhibition is on view through February on the community wall of Blue Sky’s library, and additional images will be available to see in the gallery’s Community Viewing Drawers through the end of 2021. (Blue Sky is open by appointment; you can schedule a visit here.) Below you’ll find a healthy cross-section of images from the show, each accompanied by a brief story about it from the photographer.


ESTHER PODEMSKI


“Heading for America, 1952. Leaving a displaced persons’ camp in Hanover, Germany – Esther, father Max and brother Ben depart from the train station. In the early 1950s the family left Poland illegally, traveling over-land to Israel with a paid guide. Traumatized by the fighting in Israel, Max and family headed back to Germany, again traveling illegally. In Germany, we lived in a displaced persons’ camp until the U.S. immigration barrier for Jewish refugees was lifted in 1952. Heading for America from Germany, final destination Portland, Oregon.”

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XMas 2020: Neo-Elizabethan Edition

To decorate, or not to decorate? Photographer K.B. Dixon and a Guy Named Will collaborate on a winter's tale of baubles and figurines


TEXT MOSTLY BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


To decorate, or not to decorate, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to down a quart of nog against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. 


OLD WORLD SANTA, 2020


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Weathering the Storm

Portland’s innovative photographic arts center Blue Sky Gallery rides out the pandemic

In his book The Gathering Storm Winston Churchill wrote, “The veils of the future are lifted one by one, and mortals must act from day to day.” He wrote these words about a time of immense danger and extraordinary uncertainty throughout the world, when fear, anxiety and hopelessness gripped nations and paralyzed faith and optimism for the future. It was a time of seemingly insurmountable crisis, much like what the world is experiencing today, when many of us feel powerless as events outside of our control threaten our security. In our own time of peril most of us are somehow finding the courage to soldier on and take some kind of action to move our lives forward as the coronavirus pandemic continues. But there is no roadmap for moving forward. We must all find our own paths through the crisis.

Many of us seek solace in the exploration of beauty, art and creative expression to help ease our feelings of stress, loneliness and sadness. Art galleries have often been treasured destinations for those who trust in the healing power of the visual arts. However, since the pandemic has compelled many galleries to close their doors, in some cases permanently, art has become largely inaccessible to the visiting public. The crisis has required galleries to re-examine the relationship between art and the ways in which viewers experience it. Since the quarantine started in late March, many galleries in Oregon and elsewhere have likewise had to rethink strategies for sharing art with their patrons.

Portland’s Blue Sky, the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts has been in the vanguard of local galleries that have adapted successfully to the demands of the pandemic. As its patrons began sheltering in place, Blue Sky got to work figuring out creative ways to bring art directly to its audience. This is the story of how the gallery has weathered the coronavirus pandemic.


OREGON ARTS: COPING WITH COVID


Blue Sky Gallery, in the DeSoto Building, on Portland’s North Park Blocks. All photos courtesy Blue Sky Gallery.

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Still Crazy After All These Months

K.B. Dixon's Still-Life in a Time of Sequestration, Part 3: An Uncommon World of Common shapes


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


It has been months now since my last foray into still-life, and I am still here sequestered, hiding as best I can from the prowling plague known as Covid-19. The people I am sequestered with are still not interested in being photographed, and the places I am sequestered in still remain private rather than public—so, as a photographer trying to stay photographically fit, I am obliged to turn my attention yet again to the charm of “things.”

In previous installments I focused my attention on household goods, on objects near and sometimes dear (the utilitarian, the talismanic, and the decorative): here I am taking a look at something more “abstract”—the basic building blocks of visual art, the meditative mystery of form.

My hope has been to produce a moment of order and quiet at a time of disorder and noise, and to offer a sort of half-assed homage to art’s essential elements and to the great Italian painter, Giorgio Morandi, one of the still-life genre’s most gifted obsessives.


BALL, CYLINDER, CUBE, 2020



BALL, CYLINDER, PYRAMID, CUBE, 2020



CYLINDER, PYRAMID, CUBE, 2020



CYLINDER, PYRAMID, CUBE (ALIGNED), 2020



BALL, CYLINDER (BACK), CUBE, 2020



BALL, CUBE, 2020



BALL, CYLINDER (FRONT), CUBE, 2020



BALL, CYLINDER, CUBE (ALIGNED), 2020



PYRAMID, CYLINDER, CUBE, 2020



Photographer and writer K.B. Dixon is a frequent contributor to ArtsWatch. His earlier piece in this series are:

Among several other projects for ArtsWatch, Dixon’s series of portraits of Oregon writers and visual artists is ongoing, including his most recent:

Focusing in Isolation: Part 2

Portland photographers reflect on their work during the pandemic

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” These words were spoken by the celebrated human rights activist in a very different place and time, but they seem very apt in the present moment.  I can think of no more fitting words to cling to at this point in time. Still, it feels like a tall order. With the ongoing unrest surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent uptick in coronavirus infections worldwide, it’s hard to see any light in these very dark times.


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Although everyone has no doubt been affected by all that’s happening now, each of us will react in our own way. Some of us will experience a kind of paralysis and fall victim to anxiety and depression. Others may experience a newfound freedom to explore new possibilities in their lives. No matter the reaction, it is an important time for self-reflection for many. As I consider my own reactions to the current crises, I’ve been wondering how these events have affected some of my fellow photographers in the community. So I caught up with a few of these artists and asked them how the pandemic and other events have influenced their own creative work. The following is the second in a two-part series based on my interviews with ten of Portland’s finest photographers.  Today’s report features the work and voices of Zeb Andrews, Susan de Witt, Julie Moore, Motoya Nakamura and Deb Stoner.


ZEB ANDREWS


Zeb Andrews, “Multnomah Falls”

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Focusing in Isolation

Portland photographers reflect on their work during the pandemic: Part One

When I think about how the world has changed so fundamentally over the past few months, I find it hard to accept that I won’t suddenly recover from some crazy Alice in Wonderland Syndrome and come out from behind the looking glass. Time and space seem so distorted right now that navigating my way through each day is like moving through a perceptual minefield. And as more recent events seem to have supplanted the pandemic scare, my feelings of fear, sadness and loneliness have lately given way to feelings of anger, outrage and disbelief. 


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


But unlike so many others, I am fortunate. As I remain vigilant about practicing self-isolation, all that is happening now has affected me more emotionally than practically. As a photographer I can still create work, even though the nature of that work has changed since the start of the pandemic. As I continue my photography safely at home, I’ve been wondering how the lockdown has affected other photographers in the community. So I caught up with a few fellow photographers and asked them how the current crisis has influenced their own creative work. The following is the first in a two-part series based on my interviews with ten of Portland’s finest photographers. Today’s report features the work and voices of Ray Bidegain, Jamila Clarke, Jim Fitzgerald, Heidi Kirkpatrick and Angel O’Brien.


RAY BIDEGAIN


Ray Bidegain, “Becoming Invisible”

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