Finding My Way

Image copyright Fred FirstI have a place I hope to go and a vague map of how to get there, but I need your help.

Many people have been disappointed that Slow Road Home does not include the images–either based on their expectations from knowing Fragments, or to more casual browsers at places like my recent winery book table, seeing the full-color cover and sadly finding no color inside.

Whatever comes next in the way of printed matter will include color images. Now just exactly what form that will take is where I need some feedback. And I’m in the very early stages of this process so don’t even know what to tell you is on the menu. I do have some early ideas though.

Of course the images will come from Goose Creek mostly, from Floyd County exclusively. And there will be text that either seeks out an image after being written, or more likely, that springs from the images once they are brought home to be contemplated–much in the way I have been taking “ordinary” landscapes during the past couple of weeks and saying a few words about the where and the so-what of them (even though the writing is not terribly polished or for a book audience.)

The color-image book would also go back and select a few of the Slow Road pieces that already have images from my archives that I’ve used to illustrate those pieces in my “photomemoir” presentation.

It might be arranged seasonally, where one option for a part of such an arrangement would be to have 4 to 6 set camera points (here at home) with images taken from that exact camera position in each of the four seasons.

Another way to organize would be topically by chapters: the creek, the dog, the woods, the barn, nature, etc. (The image with this post, by the way, was taken facing south along the creek from just down on the creek from the place where this image you saw a few days ago was taken. Tomorrow, a view NORTH along Nameless Creek from the same tripod position.)

The book’s images and words should to tell a story, reach some destination, leave the reader with a sense of the whole of this little microcosm (both the outer and the author’s inner landscape). I should paint some of myself into the images and the narrative that goes with them. Just how to do that is what I’m thinking a lot about just now.

I just wanted you to know, and to think and feel along with me as I show you little bits of this process here from time to time. There is some kind of method to my haphazard madness–I just have to find out what that it is all about.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I like the idea of the story evoking an image. The safe genre might be to have lots of great pictures and let them drive the text, a coffee table book. Not that that’s bad, in fact, it is a worthy project. But if the idea is to be in keeping with SRH, then I would let the stories evoke the pictures. The only concern there is that getting pictures today to synch with the stories of yesterday would be a challenge. Anyway, some thoughts to toss in…

  2. The photos you take are or should be an integral part of any book you publish, and since the photos seem to be getting better and better – I really hope you will publish them – and I don’t care if it is a coffee table book or another version of SRH.

  3. As I have thought every time I look at, or experience the photos you take, Peace settles like a warm shawl on tired shoulders when I view a photo of your mountain ‘piece of heaven’. However you decide to share those photos with the rest of us, I will be thankful. Your photos come from the heart. Your words come from the heart. What more could we ask..

  4. I like the idea of a book that is arranged topically, with each chapter having multiseason photographs. It seems that this might allow an integration of the graphics and text in a way that they “drive” each other.

  5. I vote for the coffee table book that would act more as a companion to SRH rather than a re-telling. I have a very dramatic book that a customer of mine, a photographer living in the Cayman Islands, sent me that tells the story of the islands’ devastation from hurricane Ivan and the subsequent rebuilding process. The format is very compelling; that largely consisting of photos with substantial captions written by his friend, an author who also lives on the islands. You can borrow it if you’d like.

  6. I’m excited that the book of photos is coming closer to happening. I think a new edition of SRH with color photos would be great. If an entry could not be matched with a photo to illustrate it, omit it. If that is too big and expensive a book, select 20 to 30 of your favorite SRH pieces that you have great photos in mind for. However you do it, it will be beautiful!
    PS: I still can’t see the left hand word on your blog because my monitor is too small, but I decided today to read you anyway. I can infer the missing words.