Notes from Candice Ransom

Why I Blog . . . and Take Pictures

artful cover web

Sunday arrives and I remind myself, lugging a basket of laundry as dust mice scuttle ahead of me, Must post to blog.  On Sundays I often grocery shop, do laundry, vacuum, go out for lunch with my husband, and try to sort out the coming week.  Thinking of a pithy blog post is often at the bottom of my list.  Thinking of anything period is often at the bottom of my list.

That’s why I sit myself down and do it.  If I didn’t make myself think, yes, even on a weekend, even on Sunday, the day would be lost in dailyness.  This week I thought I’d simply put up the above photo and announce that I’m a contributor to the new issue of Artful Blogging.  Send up a flare, end of post.

Nope.  Not letting myself off the hook that easily.

It’s true, my blog, a new essay, and my photos are featured in the Summer 2015 issue of Artful Blogging.  If you don’t know this publication, it’s an feast of photographs and essays by bloggers who are artists, photographers, craftspeople, cooks, mothers, travelers, anyone who maintains a creative blog.

I’ve followed this magazine since its inaugural issue in 2008, before I began this blog.  I drooled over the pictures, poured over the essays, spent time at the authors’ blogs.  To say I’m gratified and flattered to be included is an understatement.  My work is bookended by photographers who do not use point and shoot cameras set on auto!

open artful web

By studying the magazine and other people’s blogs, I learned what makes an interesting photo and to include images that aren’t simply a visual “break” in my narrative.  Several times I tried taking my photography to the next level.  I bought books, enrolled in online and face-to-face classes, hung around with Donna Hopkins, a true photographer.

I ventured out into the world with my little Canon Powershot (and sometimes my Nikon), snapping pictures of old houses and cars and junkyards.  National Geographic did not call.  Good thing, because my camera is still on auto.

While my photos have gotten marginally better, the purpose of my blog has not changed.  It’s the place where I think and work things out.  I try to write shapely essays that anyone can relate to.  The best part of blogging is that I can create a post, put it up, and be done.  When you work on long-term projects, creating a blog post feels like a vacation.

My photography is stepping into my work-a-day writing.  I take pictures for those long-term projects and not just for research.  The camera has become another tool in my technique toolbox.  From other people’s blogs (notably Donna’s), I’ve noticed photo collages. These artfully arranged objects can serve as a sketchbook of sorts.

Photo by Donna Hopkins of Patchwork Photos
Photo by Donna Hopkins of Patchwork Photos

Instead of just thinking about what my character likes or has, I arrange objects that represent my character and photograph them.  As Donna told me, the very act of arranging—placing one object a half inch to the right and another a hair to the left—feels very zen.  More importantly, arranging a composition gives me time to consider my character in a tangible sense.

Often when we create characters, we assign background information—color of hair, height, favorite flavor of ice cream, etc.  Sometimes arbitrarily: my character loves blue and hates Brussels sprouts.  Does she really?  Or do we love the color blue and hate Brussels sprouts and transfer those likes and dislikes automatically?

By physically gathering things and then arranging them, the position of and space around the object holds weight.  These are the items that matter to your character, in this particular way.  I take the photograph of the collage and print it as part of my background notes.  My character comes to life more organically.

I’ll continue to blog because I enjoy writing journal entries from my little corner of the world.  And I’ll continue to take photos because it goes back into my work.

Magazine, paint chips, antique silver nut cup, duck egg shell.
Magazine, paint chips, antique silver nut cup, duck egg shell.

Yet for the next three months, I’ll be able to walk into a Barnes and Noble anywhere and pick up Artful Blogging.  I might even tell the person standing next to me that not only is my work included in the magazine, but two of my photos are featured on the cover.

For the next three months, I’ll feel like Dorothea Lange.

18 thoughts on “Why I Blog . . . and Take Pictures”

  1. I’m going to buy a copy today, will announce to anyone standing near the magazine racks that my beautiful friend Candice’s work is featured in one of my favorite magazines.

    “Why, yes,” I’ll say, as proud as can be, “I’ve followed her blog for a long while, now. She’s a gifted writer. And her photography…ohhhh, doesn’t it just sweep you off your front porch?” And if no one else is standing nearby, I’ll say it to myself as I head to the cash register.

    • I’m hiring you as my publicist. Right. Now. You have always supported my blog and now I get to support you. Can I Get a Witness will be snapped up and I’ll be first in line to buy a copy. And if there aren’t pictures inside, that’s okay–your words will provide plenty.

    • Hi! Who’d a thunk that our humble little blogs would get such attention? Yours is on every blogroll and list that I see that covers food, poetry, children’s books, or all things British.

  2. Congrats, Candice! Your posts are artful, indeed, and I am always touched by your wise words and the interesting images you choose to frame in your camera lens. It’s all in the details, and you contemplate life at that level of careful examination, noticing things that the rest of humanity would pass by in the rush of modern life.

    And I hope your new blog followers will also check out your wonderful children’s books , equally Artful!

    • I’m forever apologizing for my photos–the fact I don’t use a “real” camera and I process with Elements (barely). Photography is like illustrating–you can tell right away if something is good, even if it needs work. For me, this is both scary and encouraging. With writing, you work and work and work and sometimes *never* know if it’s any good.

      I will keep your observation that I contemplate life at a level of careful examination close to my heart. And I won’t feel quite so strange when I stare at something on the ground or in a bush or in the sky nobody else sees.

  3. Congratulations! Your friendship has had a profoundly positive impact on me. I don’t know that I ever would have mustered the courage to view my pictures as art, to write words to go with the pictures, to embrace the concept of visual storytelling or to let go of perfection were it not for you.

    Your photographs grace the cover of Artful Blogging because you take pictures from the heart rather than the head. All the technical know-how in the world can’t make up for a picture without passion. And, in your essay, you describe the story of working things out – and how we do this through our art – with careful intention – to enlighten.

    I am overjoyed for your success, and happy to see good things happen to a really good person!

    • We have both grown and changed in the last three years–a time of transition for both of us. Our different passions–photography for your, writing for me–intersect on many levels which keeps our conversations so lively we don’t let each other finish sentences half the time!

      I can’t wait to see your essay and photos in the Fall 2015 Artful Blogging. Yes, indeedy. We’ll both be Dorothea Lange for six whole months!

  4. I have my very own copy, in my hot little hands. It’s a wonderful article, Candice. So you, the text and photographs. Me, I am one happy camper. And a mighty proud friend of yours, to boot.

    • Only you would be sweet enough to run right out and buy a copy immediately, the mark of a true friend. It’s a gorgeous publication, one to enjoy with a cup of tea or glass of lemonade, outside in your lively garden.

      Thank you, Melodye, for being Melodye, sharing your big heart with someone you know only through a blog.

  5. Congratulations, Candace! I’m a big magazine fiend, but I’ve never heard of this magazine.

    My whole career has been in magazine publishing and it’s heartbreaking what the internet has done to the industry. But how ironic that online blogs have spawned a print magazine. I’ll definitely pick it up in B&N.

    • Mary, I began in this business in magazines and am also heartbroken at what the Internet has done to magazines, newspapers, and book publishing. I still want to page through a magazine, cut out pictures and recipes. I still want to spread The Washington Post on the floor and pore over the articles and features.

      And yet, when I go to the B&N newsstand, there are so many magazines! Just yesterday I saw one called Everyday Living. A magazine to tell us how to live our daily lives. Imagine that! Truthfully, I pant around the shelves waiting for very special magazines to come in: Orion, Oxford American, Writer’s Chronicle. I still buy print . . .

  6. I am so excited for you Candice. One of the coolest moments is seeing your work go into production like that. High five!
    I recently watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [the remake] and it is such a powerful story about photography. Ben Stiller did an amazing job directing the film. If you haven’t already, I recommend watching it.
    I think my computer was broken for a while. I kept checking for your new blog entries, but nothing new was popping up. But now it’s all there. So all fixed. And wow, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. 🙂

    • Melissa! I’ve missed you! I’m glad you’re back–computers are frustrating creatures, aren’t they? I’m actually considering buying a refurbished IBM Selectric to do first drafts on . . . yes, I’m daft!

      Thanks for reminding me of the Ben Stiller movie–I had it on my list for a while, then forgot about it. At the top of my list again!

  7. Congratulations and happy Independent Bookstore Day!

    It’s fantastic to hear about your article and photos being in Artful Blogging. I can’t wait to go to Barnes and Noble and get a copy. I have loved reading your blog for years and have read everyone.

    You offer such meaningful heart felt perspective in sharing your thoughts.
    Each one makes me think, feel and see the world in a special way.

    There was an article in the Washington Post today about how the Independent Bookstores are making a comeback after the 2008 financial crisis. They are offering a sense of community such as Barnes and Noble has been doing through the struggle.

    Keep writing and blogging. All of your fan’s are rooting for you.

    • Steve, send up a flare for those brave souls who are opening bookstores. I am thrilled to find stores that carry different books from Barnes and Noble. But at the same time, I’m so glad B&N has stuck it out. I wouldn’t have even known about such magazines as Artful Blogging if it weren’t for B&N’s newsstands.

      As always, thanks for your kind words. Hope you are having a great spring!


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