23 September 2008

Norio Matsumoto

Well, forcing myself to stay up sure didn't work since my last entry, even though I am doing that very thing right now. Hi again. Still on the super cool project, still no time. Enough excuses and onto the point though, yeah?

So, Theme Magazine. It's a magazine that I got an issue of for free at a conference, adored every single page in and kept forgetting to pick up again at newsstands. I have been thinking about one feature in particular in the summer 2005 issue every few weeks for years now: an interview with a guy named Norio Matsumoto.

Matsumoto is a photographer who lives in Alaska. And not just in Alaska, but in a tiny, tiny little tent for half of the year (in the summer) and in a tiny, tiny little igloo for the other half (in the winter). He spends his life taking pictures of the things he sees there: mostly the Alaskan range, whales and the Northern Lights. He stumbled upon photography (and more specifically: nature... even more specifically: Alaska) during a quest to find something he found more interesting than anything else; something that he would want to spend his life doing.

Here's a chunk from the interview about what he eats and how he spends his days:
How and what do you eat? Do you carry all your own food out there?
In summer, I eat angel hair pasta, twice a day, all summer long. I add seasoning packets from ramen noodles to add flavor. For lunch, I eat energy bars. I also drink V8. In winter, I eat ramen noodles with veggies and sausages for breakfast and dinner. I eat rice crackers for lunch. I have all the food brought in by boat in summer and by Cessna in winter.

Describe a typical day for you, from morning to night. Both summer and winter.
Summer: Get up at 9 a.m. Cook pasta and eat. Pull the skiff (ten-foot inflatable) down to the beach. Go out to look for whales by 10 a.m. Go around the ocean and photograph whales all day. Go back to the island as the sun goes down, around 10 p.m. Put skiff back on the island. Cook pasta and eat. Write in journal. Go to bed by midnight.

Winter: Get up at noon. Cook ramen and eat. Take some pictures of the alpine glow as the sun goes down, around 3:30 p.m. Go back to the sleeping bag and take some rest. Wake up at 8 p.m., cook ramen and eat. Stay outside from 9 p.m. to 4 or 5 a.m., to wait for/photograph the northern lights. Eat rice crackers, write in journal. Go to sleep at 5am.
Now, I'm not that huge of a nature person. I have definitely begun to appreciate (and enjoy) it as of late, but I could NOT see myself living in a tent and igloo with such little human contact. So I couldn't figure out why I kept thinking about Matsumoto so much over the past several months.

This is what I think: it's because he is someone who seems to have found the one thing that he loves THAT MUCH to make such a drastic life change for. Something that he is perfectly content to do every single day and has so much patience for. Matsumoto has gone up to two months without seeing any other people before, and sometimes he can go an entire season without getting any decent shots – "Out of sixty days there may be only two or three with the right conditions. It sometimes happens that I don't get any of those photos after an entire winter." Whaaaaat. How does he do it?

I don't know at all how I could incorporate this type of outlook and sentiment into my life – which seems so different from his – but I hope I figure it out.

[all images from noriomatsumoto.com]

12 September 2008

The Arrival

I wrote this last night while half awake and just remembered about it! Yes, I'm alive. Hopefully the next time I'm this busy, I'll force myself to stay awake again and write. In short, the past two or three weeks have been solidly filled with a new and super exciting project. In between, I took a long weekend for my birthday! Speaking of, let's talk about one of the coolest gifts I got this year.

The Arrival

The Arrival is a graphic novel. Though: there are no words in it. Shaun Tan drew this entire thing with pencil, and makes one feel like they're looking through a photo album rather than reading a story; check out these clouds he drew in 60 different ways:

The Arrival

The book is about a man who travels to another land to make a better life for himself and his family. The journey begins with their tearful goodbye, the train and ship that take him to the new place, and the immense line of fellow immigrants waiting to sign their way into their new lives.

The Arrival

The man gets lost and confused, can't read the new language, draws pictures to communicate with others, is befuddled by strange-looking foods and creatures, looks for work and meets other people who have come to the same place with similar stories of finding a better life. You see him gaze at the family portrait that he has brought with him while alone in his room, and the loneliness /longing for his family is palpable.

The Arrival

My boyfriend told me that he had read about The Arrival in the New York Times some time ago, so I looked it up and found a review. They put it well:
“The Arrival” tells not an immigrant’s story, but the immigrant’s story. ... By borrowing American imagery to communicate an otherwise universal story, Tan highlights just how central the immigrant experience is to the way America defines itself.
Something about this book feels so real, even though the fantastical gadgets, food, animals and alphabet in this unnamed land are completely made up. Tan's thank-you in the back of the book talks about how he was inspired by things like photographs taken at Ellis Island, and a famous shot of a newspaper boy announcing the sinking of the Titanic. But maybe even more than this, it's because this is how anybody must feel when traveling to a completely foreign place. Even though I had the luxury of the Internet and some prior knowledge of Japanese culture before going over there in the spring (for example), I can identify with this main character a lot of the time in his confusion and feeling of homesickness in a sea full of people. Conveying all of these feelings without even writing a word is truly awesome.
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