archetypographia


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Farewell, Molina. Again and Again.

It’s been almost two years and still I struggle to find the words. We lived in this little apartment in the South End of Boston and I had taken to a habit of inexorably long showers – showers so long that I felt we really were getting the most out of the water which was included in our rent. I was in the shower, Ryan came into the bathroom and told me that Jason Molina had died. I sat down in the shower and wept. I cried as hard as when I lost an ex to an overdose. I sobbed like I would, months later, when my sweet old dog died. And I think, I never really left that shower because I have felt dampened ever since the light which was Jason Molina was extinguished.

Right after he died I wanted to write something to honor Jason. I read beautiful accounts of experiences recording with him or vivid memories of conversations shows. My favorite parts of these stories were descriptions of his idiosyncratic superstitions or preferences for particular things, like Will Johnson’s mention of his love for “black warrior pencils.” But I didn’t have anything like that to write about. All I had were a handful of shows and a couple of conversations. Like the time I was talking to Jason Groth outside the Grey Eagle, Jason Molina walked by and I leaned over and said “Jason, you’re amazing!” and he looked right at Jason Groth and said “yeah, yes he is.” Damn it, I’m a photographer and I didn’t even really have any decent pictures of him. All I had were feelings, and I thought it self-indulgent to write about those.

So I just listened to his records and felt the feelings. So it goes.

Months later, I booked a flight to North Carolina, mid-January for some strange reason which I have since forgotten. Serendipitously, the night I arrived, one of the four memorial shows in honor of Jason had been scheduled at the Mothlight in Asheville. I drove to a city which sits heavy in my heart, and attended Songs: Molina, a Memorial Electric Company.

Just as much of my emotional response regarding Jason’s music, his death, or the time following, is blurry and non-specific, this night too was almost dreamlike. I hadn’t been back to Asheville in almost a year after living there for much of my salad days, I had just driven straight from Charlotte and flown in from Boston. I had had a few whiskeys. I realized a bit too late that this was the last time I would ever hear these songs live. The room felt heavy and bittersweet and full of love and solidarity. There was an elephant in the room and skeletons in the closet.

The set was everything I wanted to hear. There were a few moments when I closed my eyes and could’ve sworn I heard Jason. Melancholy, mournful notes steeped in the greys of that January night tore me to pieces and stitched me right back together again.

Years later, I’ve moved from the North East back down South. I’ve booked a flight to Boston for two weeks to get some writing done in preparation for a residency I have coming up. A few days into my trip I find out that, serendipitously, the night before I leave the “Through the Static and Distance” release show is scheduled in Portsmouth, a city which sits heavy in my heart, and friends I’ve known for 20 years are playing it and are on the record.

I am without armour at this juncture. And yet I feel protected, prepared, Jason’s music so prevalent every step of my journey, his spirit an apotropaic force in my life.. Every corner I turn, there he is. At 15, a stranger I met on the internet sent me “Axxess & Ace” (don’t worry, I later bought it) and everything in my sonic space changed. At 18, I drove to Virginia to see Jason play solo at a music festival at UVA, and had the first real road trip of my life. At 22, the artist who did the tattoo on my left arm noticed my Magnolia Electric Co. shirt and confessed that his son’s middle name is Ohia. At 23, I repeated the “Listen… listen…. listen… ” from the last 30 seconds of the demo for “Farewell Transmission” like a mantra (I still do). At 25 I fell in love with a crew of drunks in Portsmouth simply because we could harmonize on “Just be Simple” together after 3am.“Captain Badass” has ended up on every mixed CD I have ever made for anyone I was enamored with. What seems like hundreds of late nights were charged by his howl, barely creeping through the speakers into the darkness. I am thankful for to have had him on this earth in whatever capacity we did.

And still I weep like I’ve lost a lover.

Here are some pictures and a video from the show in Asheville last year.

If you’re in the North East, see you in Portsmouth at the Red Door tonight.

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Overcast Dusk on Route 1 // August 15, 2014

rt1-triptychI’ve been working on an ongoing series since my move back to MA in 2010 on the North Shore, and Route 1 specifically. In preparation for my trip up North for the next few weeks I’ve been sequencing some of my favorite pictures, and thinking about where I want to make photographs while I’m there. This triptych is from a section of Route 1 (Newbury St.) between Peabody and Lynnfield.

 


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My Full Heart on Blanahassett Island

This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Marshall High Studios on Blanahassett Island in Downtown Marshall, for the Marshall Handmade Market. I met some lovely artists, saw some familiar faces, and truly enjoyed every moment spent inside that completely captivating building.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Beth of Quill and Arrow Press (7 Ton co.) at her booth, and also to meet Amber of Sketchbook Crafts who has the most darling, ochre-saturated studio. It was so nice to meet such creative, dynamic business-lady-artists, and I left with a heart full of inspiration.

Here are a few shots of Beth’s booth and Amber’s studio, toward the end of the day as the light fell and became buttery.

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Fly Home, Everybody’s Waiting :: Tyler Ramsey in Asheville

[this post originally appeared 9.27.2011]

Tyler Ramsey has a formidable presence. Though outwardly regal and composed, when he sings, all the tiny and beautiful creatures come pouring out of him, amongst their stories, and wind their way out from behind the mane of chestnut curls which swing freely across his face while he plays. His arrangements are humbly alive, even the softest notes are electric, the absence of sound is heavy and substantial.

Ramsey has a singular sound, somewhere between Jason Molina and Mark Kozalek, and is able to hit notes on the higher end of the spectrum that could sound labored when sung by a less-resonant voice. Ramsey’s vocal mutability is characteristic of a seasoned musician who exercises his strengths while challenging his weaknesses. His Americana-infused finger-picking walks the line between delicate and complex, mathematical and fluid. The more complex his composition, the more effortless it seems, and yet, when playing the simplest of notes, there’s a strained beauty, a haunting quality to the sustained notes.

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The Valley Wind proves Ramsey’s skill at arranging sparse yet effective compositions to accent his uncanny ability to tell stories through suggestion. The title track features a heart-beat courtesy of Seth Kauffman, and the cascade which mirrors this rhythm feeds the image of long road-trips and borders on anthemic, while “Nightbird,”** with it’s layered tracks of increasingly incandescent guitars is monumental in it’s subtlety: “is it the ocean, the ocean or the sky that you are seeing, I know sometimes our eyes can be deceiving. Is there a reason for these disconnected feelings you are feeling? Everybody knows you should be sleeping.. you should be sleeping.”

The Valley Wind is out today.

Buy at iTunes

Buy at Amazon

Buy at Fat Possum Web Store

or at any stops on tour, info. can be found at tylerramsey.com or on facebook

11/21/14- The Grey Eagle: Asheville, NC http://bit.ly/1vXU8Jn
11/22/14- The Evening Muse: Charlotte, NC http://ticketf.ly/11ZnWc9

Here are a few shots from the Tyler Ramsey show in Asheville on November 18th 2010.

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**(“Nightbird,” is particularly resonant for me as I heard it the last time I visited Asheville, sitting in Tyler & Joti’s kitchen. The morning I left to drive back up North, we listened to the beginnings of this record, just after Tyler had shared a few of the newer songs at a show at the Grey Eagle a few nights prior, and for some reason this one stuck in so many ways. And now, eight months later, he is releasing the record as I am flying into Ashevile.. “fly home, everybody’s waiting.”)

 

edit: I’ve moved back to Asheville, and it’s even more timely now, somehow.


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the Hole truth

I am decidedly not a morning person. The shortlist of things which will pull me begrudgingly out of bed is very short, but it does include local, hot, fresh, just fried doughnuts. So, Saturday morning, I awoke before the dawn and walked directly to Hole.

Nestled right on the strip of uphill Haywood just above the River Arts District and Burger Bar but not quite to East-West Asheville spots Urban Orchard, Short Street Cakes, and Villagers is a tiny building with big potential. It is the home of Hole, a brand new doughnut shop with a simple but delicious plan to “serve up Fresh doughnuts and hot coffee.”

Co-owners Caroline Whatley and Kim Dryden have focused on the old-fashioned variety of fried confections, offering three flavors to choose from, all of which have sold out well before closing time through their first official week open. I opted for the Vanilla Glazed during my first visit, as I equated it to trying a new brewery’s IPA before anything else – start with the standard and work your way in.

If the last three days have been any indication of Hole’s already sterling reputation, their future seems bright even as the days get shorter and the mornings darker. The space feels cozy but not overly designed, with graphic, hand- painted signage by Tim Maddox at Mighty Fine Signs and lovely weathered wood on the walls of the main din ing room. Whatley and Dryden even thought to add an outdoor-indoor seating option inside their food-truck-cum-dining-car in the parking lot, which was decorated with a pitcher of what must be the last dahlias of the season and a tiny note inviting patrons to “dine in.” A warm spot to grab a cup of coffee, a quick doughnut, or sit outside and savor the last few nice days of the season, Hole is sure to welcome Asheville into fall in style.

Hole is open 7-1p, Thursday through Monday.

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wayfinding

For a long time the only way I knew how to get somewhere was through the use of wayfinding landmarks. Though I’m sure there were easier ways to remember and describe routes, I relied on the curvature of a road or its proximity to a body of water. In my adult (driving) life, I have discovered that this methodology only satisfies the desire to reach a location or locate oneself within a certain area, but not to find a way to or from a destination with any certainty.

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This uncertainty never bothered me, though. Because on some level I always knew exactly where I was and where I was going, just not its relation to anything else. The viewer with any connection to the material recognizes it: progress, change, evolution of the greater environment with relation to a tiny person becoming a larger person. A nomadic trajectory of inquiry invites a consideration onto each of our own relationships to the wayfinding of our youth. Signs, both literal and figurative, guide the way.

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On HWY 74 between Charlotte and Asheville NC, there’s a Psychic. Countless times I’d pass that sign heading one way or another, I even stopped once, knowing that when I saw that sign I had an arbitrary amount of time left in my journey: when it was on my left, more than an hour remained in the drive. But when on my right, just under an hour until I reached my doorstep, or my bed. My self was never lost but rather placed within the context of what was around me, much like the Wintu in north-central California, who, as written about by Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost, “don’t use the words left and right to describe their own bodies but use the cardnial directions.” As anthropologist Dorothy Lee wrote, “When the Wintu goes up the river, the hills are to the west, the river to the east, and a mosquito bites him on the west arm. When he returns, the hills are still to the west, but, when he scratches his mosquito bite, he scratches his east arm.”

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It has become increasingly important to me to photograph sites of significance in my life, whether something I passed in a car more times than I could remember and always wanted to stop, or a place my heart and mind knew more than my camera. In order to honor this compulsion as well as to try to understand it, these photographs are beginning to turn into an atlas. “The places in which any significant event occurred become embedded with some of that emotion, and so to recover the memory of the place is to recover the emotion, and sometimes to revisit the place uncovers the emotion” (Solnit).

This atlas, then, becomes a tracking of marks in time as well as place.

 

The drive that is done over and over seems different the day that old building finally is knocked down and replaced by a drug store. That building looks completely different with all the ivy torn down off its facade. I never knew there was a cemetery next to that gas station.

This Atlas of where and when is supplemented with photographic evidence but most of it is programmed into our memories: turn right at the pink house, if you’ve reached the river you’ve gone too far.

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(Fort Mill, SC  2014  //  Mamiya RZ // Portra 400)

 


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Via Taranto, Apulia

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unmowed, behind the fruit trees    //    Martina Franca, Taranto, Italy    //   2014

 

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