The Whole Slow Story, Quickly

35mm photos of my cross-country adventure.

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

- Annie Dillard


Reader,

I’ve been hoarding my 35mm photographs. I have hundreds of them, in piles, all over the place.

Next time we’re together, I’ll show you the 4x6 prints. That’s the best way to see this stuff. Plus, I love the way they look, my photographs, in a pair of human hands.

I like to look at people looking at my pictures. I like sharing myself.

I’m still not crazy about sharing myself online, but I’m learning to let it not matter.

Here are a few of my favorites, chosen at random, with some additional context where it might be helpful.

Here is a look at my life.

At the beginning of 2019, I got rid of almost everything I own and I moved onto an RV named Sputnik.

At first, photography was just a hobby, a way to pass the time. I bought the camera used and, sure enough, it worked.

Without a smartphone, I had no other way to capture my memories, but I didn’t want the stress of needing the photographs, so I just snapped around casually: Sputnik on the inside, my plants, my books. Lots and lots of stacks of books.

E came to visit me in Boston. It felt like the official start of the trip, but by that time I had already been on the road for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, it just depends how you define “on the road.”

Film photography is a finicky endeavor. It’s easy to bork an entire roll, and I did that several times. But also, I’ve been on the lam for over a year, which is a lot of time to make a lot of mistakes.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

-Elizabeth Bishop

The pace of photo development is slower than slow. It’s glacial. Every individual print is a six-month process that starts with the purchase of film and ends with me sitting on Sputnik holding a little piece of my life.

I haven’t retouched a single image. They just popped out this way, with an uncanny Instagrammy-ness that both haunts and excites me.

Anyway, eventually I broke down, emotionally and literally, in one of the best places on the planet: Kansas City.

Thus, for a time, I drank beers in the sun and played frisbee in a hyper-competitive fashion, until I cracked my rib on a long layout. Then I was the team photographer.

I love these people. T, you’re the best.

Buena Vista, Colorado, living up to the name.

Here’s the recipe: Lots of iceberg, a can of tuna (drained), pine nuts, and hot sauce. Gogogogo.

I shot two and a half rolls of film at Biosphere 2, because why not? That shit was nuts.

And then this guy, R, mi novio guapo, showed up out of nowhere and landed squarely in my lap. And I, in turn, fell completely in love. ❤️

No mames, güey.

There is a scene in the novel I’m writing where the humans look up at the sky and they try to imagine what it looked like before the humans made it look like what it looks like. But nobody is allowed to say the word chem trails.

I think about how many times I flew over flyover country and I think: I’m a chem trail.

That’s the Pacific, covered in storm clouds. I remember that Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees was blasting on the radio, and I was just like, Fuck yeah, this is all so perfect. And really, reader, it was.

None of this is over. I’m still on the move, and I’m still not sure where I’m going.

Next time, I’ll zoom in on something. Maybe. But either way, I’ll keep on keeping it slow.

Vamos.

-Bill