TRAVELS

2018

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I keep thinking of how to reflect on 2018 and the longer I wait, the less I have to say. I don’t know if it’s capitalism or comparison (or both) but somehow I’ve come out of another hectic year feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything.

This isn’t true, of course. I had more range in assignments than I’ve ever had. And as a photographer that hasn’t committed to one specific genre, it’s made me reflect on the privilege I have to even bear witness to these stories. From reporting on food insecurity in rural Oregon to shooting an entire cookbook filled with delicious (and sometimes expensive) seafood galore, flying last minute across the world to covering poverty in my new home state, how do I balance this spectrum of stories?

I hope I can always tell them with an honest lens.

I felt frantic most of this year, but the wake of what’s happened still feels right. I see it as a year having already found my voice, then learning what else it could do (forever striving for Mariah octaves figuratively and literally tbh).

My spirits soared in the most unexpected moments (BBC! Obama Foundation! cookbooks!), but my heart broke in a way that still devastates me.

I’ve grown to fear less when speaking up, or I’ve become numb to it. Advocacy will never not be exhausting, but it will always be necessary. I’ll continue to say no to unpaid labor, and speak up even though the system was made to silence us. And I’ll keep going, because I can’t bear the idea that it might never get better.

I spent a lot of this year angry. Which, to be fair, isn’t unusual for me (there is a lot to be angry about!), but the anger itself was from something new. I thought about all the time marginalized artists spend needing to be extra careful, extra good, extra everything to perform extra labor. To have the difficult conversations, and navigate a society and industry that was built by excluding them. But still creating, and still persisting. Because we can’t not, and these conversations are critical to both our art and our being.

And then I tried to imagine a world where the extra wasn’t needed. Where we could put our full hearts and equally distributed resources toward what we care about the most. Thinking outside any need to fight or contextualize oppression, and just create. Just be.

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The Los Angeles Arboretum.

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Outside Bonnie Slotnick’s.

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My first ever solo exhibit at UNA Gallery, featuring Portland in Color. By Vy Hong Pham.

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Making a home, and our first snow together.

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Marshall Johnson sitting for a tattoo by Alice Kendall for the Audobon Society.

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Da Vinci middle schoolers protest during March for Our Lives, a nationwide student-organized protest calling for gun reform.

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Part of the Racist Sandwich team at the La Cocina Conference in San Francisco, California.

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DeRay McKesson for Street Roots.

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Abdulah Polovina, imam of a mosque at the Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization in Portland, Oregon for Street Roots.

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Young girls in low income housing in Ontario, Oregon as reported for part of the Housing Rural Oregon series for Street Roots.

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DJ and activist Cay Horiuchi for Portland in Color.

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Michelle and Alex along the California coast in their van, Bobby.

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Food writer and host of A Hungry Society, Korsha Wilson.

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Angela Flying Eagle at First Christian Church food pantry in Ontario, Oregon; on assignment for Street Roots.

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Molly Woodstock, host of Gender Reval podcast, photographed for Portland in Color.

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Leaving Orcas Island.

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Halawa Valley, Molokai.

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The sand bar, Oahu.

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Penny Rawlins Martin, the first and youngest woman to sail between Tahiti and Hawai'i on the inaugural Hokulea voyage, for Misadventures Magazine.

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A poke picnic on Oahu.

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Across the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. We started in Barra and made our way north to Harris and Lewis.

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Behind the scenes for Yana Gilbuena's upcoming book, No Forks Given, due out September 2019.

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Morning in San Jose del Cabo.

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Summer in Portland and Stockholm.

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The oyster beds at Chelsea Farms in Olympia, Washington for the upcoming book Pacific Northwest Seafood by Naomi Tomky.

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Scenes from Calabria— Chianalea, Scilla, Tropea, and Civita— on assignment for Airbnb.

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Mama's first time in France, Villefranche-sur-Mer.

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Paris with my sisters, on film.

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Ma enjoying a moment on a tiny balcony in Nice— not only the highlight of my year but a forever highlight in my heart.


My days have blurred together, but I’m trudging forward, hoping that every little bit is adding up somewhere. Hoping that someone is keeping count.

Here’s to another year of doing our best.

In light and solidarity,
Celeste

2017

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If this 2017 recap feels late it's because it was a harder year to digest. I've always been anxious for a new start, and while the same is still true, this time it was harder to start again with so many lingering loose ends.

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This year I was my most proud when redefining what it meant to be an artist for myself. I spent three months in an artist residency, committed to a weekly portrait series, and dedicated more time than I ever have to personal projects. I shot weddings thousands of miles away, partnered with women to tell their stories, and tried my best every day.

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The privilege of being an artist and the responsibility of using my voice weighed on me heavily. 

But it also became clear that it's unrealistic for me to take on this weight alone. I'm so thankful to my community, especially the communities of color, that teach me the delicate balance of self care and self preservation (especially when the two blur together).

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It's easy for me to look back and tally up what I wish I'd accomplished, but as I think I once read from Bill Wurtz, "I'm working as fast as humanly possible." Because being human means leaving room for weeks of dreaming, the days you never want to see your work again, and the 2ams when you finally hit your stride. It's not just the work in progress, but the also the progress in work.

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As I continue to freelance, I'm becoming more patient with what I expect from myself and more relentless of what I want to see in the world. They feel impossible, but I think they can coexist.

Thank you to everyone who values my work, validates my voice, encourages me to stay angry, and sees me, even when I'm hiding behind the lens.

All my very best,
Celeste

PS - Thank you to everyone who's supported and donated to keep my series, Portland in Color, running. I'm aiming to be back with new features come February.

PPS - I'll leave you with these few links:

Before a broadcast to 11 million people with BBC World Service
Portland in Color featured in local activist newspaper Street Roots
An interview on the privilege of freelance with Freelancer's Union
Commemorating the women who came before me in a piece about financial anxiety for On She Goes
 

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scotland in books

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Taking photos at Innerpeffray Library, Scotland's oldest free public library.
 

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Peggy Ferguson reads from a Gaelic children's book on the steps of her father's secondhand antiquarian bookshop bothy adjacent to their home on the Isle of Skye.
 

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The library at Brodie Castle near Forres in Moray, courtesy of The National Trust for Scotland.
 

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Volunteers Julie Lee (left) and Houida (right) with volunteer coordinator, Gabrielle Macbeth (center), at the Glasgow Women's Library.
 

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The home library of Hollie Reid, owner of Lovecrumbs in Edinburgh.

 

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A charity shop in Leith.

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Left: the home staircase of the owners, Joyce and Ian Cochrane, at Old Bank Bookshop in Wigtown. Right: from a home library on the Isle of Arran, the inscription of the first gift Stuart Gough ever gave to his now-wife, Heather Gough, to celebrate their first year of dating in 1971, including the orchid he gave her that same day.
 

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Morag Cuomo cooks with her son, Duncan Cuomo, in their home kitchen above their restaurant, The Pheasant, in Sorbie.

 

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Left: Caledonia Books in Edinburgh. Right: Better Read Books in Ellon, Aberdeenshire.
 

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Colin Dewar looking to identify a flower in his Collins Flower Guide in Wigtown.
 

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Captain watches a window cleaner early morning in The Bookshop, Wigtown.
 

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Right: Abigail and Zoey Stewart read in their mother's art gallery, Craigard Gallery. Left: some books in the home of author John Francis Ward and his wife Pauline Ward in Perth.
 

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Isle of Arran's mobile library and librarian Susanna Talbot at their Lamlash stop, parked in front of a memorial comemorating the Highland Clearances.
 

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Left: David Buchan stands with the phone booth he turned into a free lending library upon learning the booth would be decommissioned by BT. Right: owner Charles Leakey sits in the former church turned bookshop, Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness.
 

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Helena Cochrane reads in her bedroom above her parents' bookshop, Old Bank Bookshop, in Wigtown.
 

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A 16th century book on palm reading at Innerpeffray Library.
 

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Asif Khan, director of the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.
 

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Killie Browser, a bookshop and event space at Kilmarnock Station.
 

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Geordie Coles in his family's home library in Edinburgh.
 

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Left: Innerpeffray Library Manager and Keeper of Books, Lara Haggerty, shows some of the collection's miniature books. Right: a peek into the secret liquor cabinet at Dalmeny House, home of Lord and Lady Rosebery.
 

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Gilleasbuig Ferguson, a Gaelic and secondhand antiquarian bookseller, reads in Gaelic to his youngest son, Archie, at their home on the Isle of Skye.  
 

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Haddo House library in Aberdeenshire, courtesy of The National Trust for Scotland.
 

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For the past three months, I've taken photos of bookshops, libraries, and book lovers all over Scotland. I wanted to share the stories of people and collections as I met them from Wigtown to Inverness, from bustling Edinburgh to the quiet Isles of Arran and Skye, but here I am back home in Portland, breathless and ever eager to share what I can before it slips away.

Part of my automatic response to the question, "why?" is that I was Artist in Residence for Scotland's National Book Town, but the real reason is that books are so evocative and beautiful, I wanted to find a way to travel all over the country to see them. Not just in grand estates and charming bookshops, but in corners of homes and quiet moments in public. Despite an ever-increasingly digital world, I can look around and see that there has always been a subtle but strong lifeblood to keep and preserve physical books. I see it in the way we laboriously move from house to house with heavy boxes, the way our eyes light up when we find a book we recognize and love an unfamiliar shelf, and the way we continue to allow ourselves to be captivated by something which, upon looking, may very well only be a stack of paper with ink.

When first dreaming up this series, I acknowledged the potential of the stories and life that come from reading books. What I wanted to explore with this project was how the books themselves, in simply existing and taking up space, continue to be necessary and relevant in a world that's moving faster and becoming less tactile every day. 

My final exhibition includes 124 photos of books throughout the country, but in reality I could have shared many more. It's a work in progress. I could have continued taking more photos and visiting more places and people, hearing their stories and seeing how books are still alive and important. I could have kept going. And I want to keep going, but for now, here's this. 

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Scotland in Books is currently showing through May 14th, 2017
11 North Main Street
Wigtown, DG8 9HL
Monday - Saturday, 10am-4pm & Sunday 12-4pm

Free admission

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the first month

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The last time I was in Wigtown, I'd just lost my father. It was October and the town had begun to slow and quiet post Book Festival, and my quiet days in the bookshop were exactly what I needed.

But this time, it's different. This time I'm learning more about the people that make this town, what it means to prioritize art and culture no matter where you live, and finding a place in the community even if it's just for a little bit.

In the first month since I've been back, my heart still warms every time I come downstairs and walk through the shop-- whether to work down stairs or say hello or just pass on my way out. There's such a comfort in being surrounded by books-- especially when they're basking in low winter light and Captain has just come down the stairs and rubs his side along your leg to say hello.

It's just how I remembered it but also brand new, and exactly where I want to be.