Category Archives: photography

CHW Publication: Arahura

A new poem on Coffee House Writers makes reference to someplace I’m missing dearly right now: Aotearoa (New Zealand).

The Arahura River is a living, breathing thing with a soul unto itself.

It is also subject to some heartbreaking history of the colonial Gold Rush era. The Ngāi Tahu or Kāi Tahu iwi made a treaty with the British Crown that allowed resource mining, while still retaining iwi ownership and rights to the Arahura. These rights were ignored.

I’m lucky enough to have seen the majesty of the Arahura. It is very recent that amends began to be made. Please take a moment to visit Arahura Dreaming to learn more about the Arahura Pa and what you can do to support the iwi that make the country of Aotearoa (New Zealand) so great. If you visit, please do so with the utmost respect and treat Arahura with the same innate rights as any other human being would have.

Thoughts On Mary Wollstonecraft’s Statue

circa 1797  english feminist writer mary wollstonecraft godwin 1759   1797, author of 'a vindication of the rights of woman' and mother of mary wollstonecraft shelley  a drawing by a s merritt after the painting by opie  photo by hulton archivegetty images

Born in 1759, Mary Wollstonecraft was an early feminist and I learned of her first as the mother of Mary Shelley, the mother of Science Fiction. While she was born to what many would call an abusive family by modern standards, what she experienced as childhood was common for women at the time. By a combination of being lucky, her own craftiness, and wielding her unhappiness through rationality, she gained an audience upon publishing her works.

Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; – that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.

Mary Wollstonecraft

That was her reality. She had the benefit, by all accounts, of being pretty enough and educated enough. She worked as a translator when she realized that being a housewife would drive her, and those around her, insane. And this lended her the opportunity to write her book, “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women.”

I do not wish women to have power over men but over themselves.

Mary Wollstonecraft (arguing something that women are still arguing hundreds of years later)

Her arguments can be summarized here:

  • Men and women should be provided equal education in a coeducational environment as they are expected to marry each other and should thus be educated equally as well.
  • Men/those with power in society should be the primary leaders of a feminist liberation movement.
  • Women must choose rationality over sensibility (sensibility being defined as whims and emotions). This has been used to argue that her opinion was that sex and romance were distractions for women. This has also been subject to numerous criticisms.
  • Further addressed in “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Men” she argues in favor of constitutional monarchy and republicanism based on its distribution of power and the negative impacts that charity has. This plays into views on the church.
  • Utilitarianism makes constant appearances in her views. This may explain part of the union between herself and her husband/fellow philosopher William Godwin.

As with all historic persons, we must consider her works in the context of her time period and life experiences. While she was considered radical for her time period, she was radical for arguing that women were capable of being creatures driven by rationality and sharing responsibilities with men as equals with independent interests in self direction. Sadly, she died 10 days after giving birth to her second child, Mary Godwin (Later, Shelley), in 1797. When I heard a memorial statue to her was going to be done by an artist I really like and everyone I know hates, things got exciting.

Don’t worry, I’m okay with people hating the art I like.

Maggi Hambling had no small feat ahead of her as she designed a statue to honor Mary Wollstonecraft. Her past works include A Conversation with Oscar Wilde , Scallop (for Benjamin Britten), and so many more. She has constructed art dedicated to some of the most eccentric and extreme of individuals made famous for how their existence and identities coincidentally fell into history. I have a few favorite pieces by her including War Coffin and her paintings of the North Sea. She’s a talented artist with a very unique style.

In my opinion as a fan of her work, Hambling designs her memorial pieces with the full context of an individual’s life in mind. She works hard to include the ugliness with the beauty and as I mentioned before, Mary Wollstonecraft was gifted with a rather lovely physical form. This meant that to communicate her concept of the woman emerging into a future society as a rational being from one ruled by the senses might be a difficult design challenge when there are other creatures with penises in the room. Additionally, Hambling’s statues are interactive. Each of her sculptures is designed with considerations to their orientation in their surroundings and how each person is going to sit, touch, lay on, and feel each sculpture to interact with the memory of the person she is representing.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of her statue. It reminded me of the 35th Anniversary Edition cover of Atlas Shrugged. [I’ve been encouraged to add that this deeply bothered me because I did not at any point think I would associate feminism and anything relating to Ayn Rand at the same time. But here we are.] Admittedly, this was the first picture I saw:

Image

Then I saw more of the sculpture…

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But here’s the full statue….

Mary Wollstonecraft

The “naked lady” portion is maybe 1/8 of the total height and is in no way provocative. Why was I reminded of the cover of Atlas Shrugged? Probably the borderline brutalist take on the architecture of the human form that strips it of sexuality and focuses instead on its utilitarianism; this feels post-modernist. Yet we’re talking about an 18th century rationalist woman asking for the right to individual agency and purpose derived from the self in a way that is equal to men of equivalent status. Hmm… This actually looks spot on for the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and I can’t argue with it.

As for the amorphous blob she is standing upon? Now, that’s evocative. Stare at it long enough and you start to see human shapes emerging in sensual, borderline lewd positions. It is glorious and, depending on how creative you are, rude. The rational woman is standing atop an amorphous Akira style faceless nightmare of irrational sensuality, like a freaking epiphany waiting to be seen.

As with all of Hambling’s memorials the sculpture was constructed “for” the person based on their life and life’s works. I’m not saying I love it, but I have no qualms with the sculpture. It gets the job done and creates a thoughtful conversation piece that brings Mary Wollstonecraft’s work into the twenty-first century.


Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you find it downright offensive? All of these are okay! Feel free to leave a comment below about what you think – that space is for you and I will work to get your comment approved as quickly as possible if you have not previously commented on the website.

New Short Story: Our Dearly Departed – My First Western Gothic

Martha Mallory of Butte, MT ~1900

Today my story “Our Dearly Departed” went live on Coffee House Writers. Thank you so much to my friend Seth for all of his help on the fact-checking and historical research for this story. He’s actually the inspiration for writing a western and has been a huge encouragement to me breaking out of writing in the American Gothic genres in more regions across the United States.

Family name unknown – Kirksville, MO 1890-1910s

This story focuses on the subject of post-mortem photography and how it was used in the era of westward expansion and Manifest Destiny. For those that could afford photography sessions in the territories, a luxury service not afforded to most people unlike in eastern states, it was all about creating a facade of preserved standard of living to share with the family back home. This involved false windows, painted backdrops, and curating a scene that matched what people wanted their families to believe, even in death. Given the expense, the photographer was called out to a home for births, deaths, and marriages only if they didn’t have a studio set up yet. Most photographers traveled until the 1890s – 1900s when the railroads allowed town populations to grow enough to sustain studio spaces, as opposed to the photographer traveling to each individual business request. These areas would later become “the flyover states.”

Family name unknown (this is also a hidden mother photograph) – Omehee, ND 1890-1910s

I will write more on the subjects of western cabinet card era photography (post-mortem, momento mori, mourning, etc), as well as how it differed across various regions of the United States, and how it intersected with American Spiritualism and legal fraud in the future. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short story inspired by my research so far with cultural and historic details assisted by a dear friend and someone I would consider extremely knowledgable on the West. Hopefully my skills at writing American Gothic style period pieces pertaining to this region of the United States improves.

Knute, Hauge, and Welhalle – ?, ND (I’m not certain I’m reading their names correctly as the handwriting is difficult to decipher) 1890-1910s

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a great day! Remember to breathe 🙂

Galaxy Rise Vs. Moonrise in Adobe Lightroom

In July we stayed at a cabin outside of Salmon, Idaho in a pocket of true dark sky. Before the wildfires started we had the benefit of high clarity photography conditions, giving us the opportunity to witness a “Galaxy Rise” as the Milky Way galaxy came into view after the moon set around midnight/1 am.

Under dark sky conditions, our exposure conditions were kept more constant. We weren’t having to worry about the changing light conditions associated with the moon even though a lot of light is emitted by a light sky. This is more a matter of human perception of light (I have better night vision than Jacob, he still struggles under dark sky conditions) and less a matter of the actual light produced.

The moon is a heck of a lot brighter. We’re talking the difference between a 30 second exposure maximum and a 6-8 second exposure maximum. The Milky Way was visible both during the photography trip in July and the recent hop over to Alberton, Montana to catch the moonrise. The issue is that the moon is so much brighter than many other celestial bodies.

With that in mind, there are techniques for getting around these issues. Dark sky photography has the unique benefit of being able to pick up details that can be missed by the human eye, plus you can take advantage of telephoto and telescoping lenses to capture celestial bodies that could otherwise be missed.

With the moonrise (waning gibbous inside Taurus) with Mars from 5 October 2020, I wanted to mention using Adobe Lightroom as my preferred method of photo editing compared to other photo editors. That said, this is not a free program. It was also all Jacob’s idea to invest in decent photo editing software that wouldn’t piss me off.

*Insert standing ovation to Jacob*

Often times I find that I turn up the “highlights” and “dehaze” tools the most in these pictures when editing all of the long exposure shots from the Canon Rebel.

I mentioned previously when I was giving an example of the moonrise picture edited using Instagram.

Comparing this to what I uncovered in Lightroom is a little stark. That said, Lightroom isn’t perfect. It won’t get rid of the noise that’s the result of us using a camera with limitations associated with the electronics. This is why some photographers use film, then a film scanner, instead of direct digital. There are also dual digital and film cameras that shoot film with a digital back up (though these have tended to have short lived generations on market).

It’s important to note that I don’t “photoshop” – I don’t add details to photos that weren’t captured with the original image.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed these dark sky photos! If you want to see more posts like this, please like, comment, or share.

Thank you for spending time with me today!

If you would like to use any of our photos from this post:

  • For unpaid projects, simply credit us by linking back to this website.
  • For paid projects please send me an e-mail and we can exchange a fair use contract with more details.