The Road Rarely Traveled surveys those secret lands near all of us, the ones that are so easy to walk past and not notice. There is an adventure around us everyday, and I’m fortunate enough to live in a place with an old industrial legacy and countless miles of natural beauty. In this series, as a writer, I’ll try to bring some small glimpse of this wonder to you the best I can.
Photography went into a coma in my life about six or seven years ago, a bit before I moved to my present home in Upper Michigan. My camera, a waterproof Canon Elph Sport APS I used while kayaking, was left with few places to buy or develop film. I live in what is called a city but would barely count as a village in most places. It seemed like it was overnight when the photo center of the local big box store closed up, APS film no longer available, and a few scraps of 35mm to be found here and there. My camera seemed to lose its soul.
The pictures from this camera are amazing. Blasts of colour, some wonderful panoramas, the most elegant pile of memories from early in my marriage. In Oregon. On Lake Superior.
The digital toys that flooded the marketplace over the last decade and a half have never captured that same joy for me. I would fill a memory card, remove it, find the right device with the right cables to transfer files, rinse, and repeat. There is no soul to that little card, pack mule of pixels, forever a vessel to be filled and emptied.
I believe every roll of film is a battery; it’s charged, waiting to capture those moments in our lives we need to last forever. That campfire on the beach. The last time all of the college friends got together before spreading out around the world. That night the two of you met. Like a seed, it’s planted with our memories and bursts forth, bringing us the best of those times, those moments we clutch near to us.
The digital doesn’t have that kind of soul. The screen has its place—after all, you’re reading this on one—but what we must always remember is that we own it, it does not possess us. It is a tool, another connection, a way for us to stay together. But it can never substitute for our stories, found out in the world, when we meet, when we smile, or when we just pass in the aisles.
We all owe a debt to those who keep the analogue alive, whether it’s the mad chemists who make our emulsions, the designers who imagine the impossible and then make it happen, or our fellow wanderers, the ones who have looked up, gotten up, and devoured life to their fill every single day. That is why I’m producing this series for Analogue Lifestyle: maybe my exploration of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will get some more of us analogues on board. We move ahead by paying forward.
Now that I’m living in this land of splendour, photography is back for me, awake and a welcome companion. I live in the most amazing place, with four incredible seasons, loads of good friends, and more sights within a bike ride than I could fully take in within a lifetime. A friend’s Canon AE-1 goes with me most places; there are friends to gather and parties to throw and a world to explore and people to meet.
I remain first and foremost a writer, both professionally in my day job and as a novelist. This series was inspired by the way words stitch together our very best moments. Photography is what captures everything, all of those colourful evenings and amazing days, tenuously captured on these thin strips. Our memories hang in that balance.
This series will flutter in monthly, sharing discovery and rediscovery, gathering together some frames you might like along with words. It’s what I know to do. I hope you’ll come along for this voyage, finding those secret places and sharing them with us. There are some amazing roads rarely traveled around us all.
This is who we are. We are analogue. Because we know there is so much to explore beyond 0 and 1. Let’s see what we can find.