A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy shares a little-known and highly-photogenic place in the South-Central area of Washington State.
Recently I had the enormous pleasure of being invited back to teach at the LITFUSE Poetry Festival, which takes place annually in a tiny place nestled among the apple orchards near the city of Yakima in the south-central region of Washington State: Tieton. In the non-photographic half of my life, I’m a poet and poetry professor—hence the invite.
About 3 to 3 1/2 hours drive from Seattle, Tieton is surrounded by orchards and was a warehousing hub for the fruit industry. New technologies and faster pick-to-truck times put some of its enormous warehouses out of business. The town struggled to sustain its services and infrastructure. One day, quite by accident, an entrepreneur from Seattle literally stumbled into Tieton, lost during a bike ride. He fell in love with the place and started investing heavily in its re-flourishing, creating an incubator for artisan businesses called “Mighty Tieton”—15 businesses, at last count, a lot more than when I first came to Tieton in 2010.
Like many small towns in the central Washington area which are heavily agriculture-centered, Tieton has had a sizable population of migrant workers for decades. With time, migrant workers have settled and there are now several generations of people whose families came originally from Mexico. This gives Tieton a lovely mix of flavors, as there are many businesses that cater to families of Latin American descent, as well as a decidedly more colorful main street than one would expect in a small town so far North in the hemisphere! Needless to say, that main street is a color photographer’s delight.
Scattered around town are remnants of the past in the form of old farm machinery, antique tractors, old oil drums, sometimes as decoration, sometimes heaped together to be sold as metal scrap or hobo-chic accents for your living space.
One of my many memories of my first time in Tieton, six years ago, had been of the delightful drive, with birches and maples in full Autumn color. I had driven there in sunny weather and come back in the rain, so I was able to get some decent Fall color with my Holgas and the one Diana I ever had. I had also loved the fruit-and-sundries shacks in nearby Naches.
On both trips, even though my focus was primarily on the job of teaching and reading poetry, I took my usual excess of cameras just to see what I got. This time around, I was shooting the 3rd and 4th rolls of film on my new LCA 120, trying to get used to the wide lens and its zone metering. I loved having the Lomo’instant wide for instant shots, especially interiors. The outside ones came respectably okay, I thought, when using EV-1. The Sprocket Rocket and a Pentax K1000 covered the 35mm range. I think I have been on a real wide-angle kick lately, most unlike me. I would never have suspected how it would force me to such a radically different way of seeing, and I’m still getting used to it.
I drove back from Tieton on a Sunday night and left a few hours later on a three-week roadtrip through 18 states, so there was no stopping to get the foliage this time around. Still, thinking about Tieton, this dot on the map of Washington State, made me wonder how many places like this that I don’t know about.
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.
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