Remembering Summer: A Photo Essay Of Sorts

*All photos in this post were taken by me, Vanessa Friedman, on 35mm film (just FYI)*

Fall hit sort of suddenly in Portland this year, and it’s not that I mind, it’s just that I was surprised. Last year summer seemed to drag on infinitely, to the point that by the end of October I was silently begging for the shift to occur, for the actual earth to catch up with my conception of “autumn,” for some chill to enter the early morning air and some heat to disappear.


This is what the next 7-10 months will look like in Oregon now that summer is over. (February on the Oregon Coast, 2016)

This year it seems as though I went away to Montana for a week and came back and summer had up and left, vacated the premises with no intention of coming back, boom, September 1, hello new season. I’ve eked out one more river day since then and my tomatoes are chugging along, trying their best to ripen with the 2-6 hours of mediocre warm sunlight they’re getting these days, but basically autumn arrived at the very beginning of this month and as it winds down I have to face facts: summer has been over for a little while and it will continue to be over until, well, next summer. That’s how it works.


Courtney, on our last summer day at the river

Lucky for me, there’s nothing like summer in Oregon to encourage me to grab my 35mm film camera and actually take photos with something other than my iPhone, so at the end of each summer season I’ve got a few rolls to develop and then I can relive summer a tiny bit through the magic of photography. Also lucky for me, my friends are total babes and Oregon is a show-off drama queen when it comes to landscapes and natural beauty, so it’s not hard to shoot a bunch of perfect images that I can gush over for forever.


Danielle with the Rogue River, July 2016

I’ve had my camera, a simple Canon Rebel SLR, since 2003. My dad bought it for me from B&H in Manhattan, because he was working in the city at the time and one of his co-workers told him that was the best place to go for all photography-related things. Also, it’s entirely staffed by Orthodox Jews, and he liked that. I needed the camera for the photography class I wanted to take at my high school. I mostly wanted to take the class because it would provide an excuse to hang out in the photo lab, which I thought was the coolest and also the most intimidating place in the world. I was 13 when I had those thoughts, but looking back as a 27 year old I can confirm to my tiny tween self that it was, indeed, both the coolest and the most intimidating. In 2003 I didn’t know that it would become home, too, but places that eventually become home rarely present themselves as such at the beginning. That’s why we’re all always searching for home(s) all the time, I think. You never know when you’re going to find it.


L-R: Susie and Ricky, Barb and Mini, Robin and Pudge

In 2014 I left my home on the East Coast and started wandering, no destination in mind really, just an intense desire to do something different, be somewhere else, maybe even be someone else. I don’t know where that came from. I mean I do, kind of, I’ve written so many words about wanderlust, about the desire to just get up and go, about why some people are content making routines and putting down roots and other people always want to get going, get gone, but I haven’t answered any questions about myself with all those words, not really. The thing is I do want to make routines and put down roots, I just also get itchy feet. How do you combine all those desires? Maybe you never get to “have it all,” at least not at the same time. But maybe that’s more okay than the sensational headlines at various media outlets would have a woman believe.


East Oregon, July 2016

About a year ago I took a writing class with a local queer writer wherein at the end of the class we were instructed to do a short exercise. We were to make a graph and pinpoint where “writing” fell as a priority in our lives, if “watching TV” was a 0 and “breathing” was a 10. I decided to make a bar graph, and because I’m me, I included many activities, not just writing. I wrote “watching TV” (0), “breathing” (10), and “writing” (10) as instructed, but then I also included “cooking” (10), and “Alley” (10), and “friends” (10), and “hiking” (10), and “family” (10), and “traveling” (10) and…you get the picture.


Alley in Vernonia, June 2016

Once we’d all completed our graphs the woman running the workshop encouraged us all to share what our graphs looked like. When it was my turn I admitted that the exercise had been challenging. The leader asked if I’d had trouble making the graph, but I explained that the trouble wasn’t in making the graph – I’m a Capricorn, I’d organize my entire universe into a graph if I could – but rather I had included too much information in my graph, had too many 10’s in my life, definitely did not have enough hours in a day/week/month/lifetime to prioritize all the things that were/are important to me.


Upper Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, August 2016

After listening to my explanation, the women leading the class nodded and then made a suggestion I think about once a day, minimum. “What if not everything in your life can be a 10 all the time? It’s okay to care about everything enough to want to make it all a 10, but that’s not physically possible,” she said. “What if sometimes some things have to be a 4 or a 6 to make space for other things to be a 10?” Hmmmm. See, it’s not set in stone. The things that are 4’s or 6’s today could be 10’s next week, or they could be 0’s next week. It’s a balancing act. I hate having to choose, but I think that’s the only non-negotiable. Life is so long, and we have so much time to do so many things. You just can’t do them all at the same time, which sucks, and is tough to accept. I think accepting that, really accepting it, might be the key to being a functional happy adult.

I’ll let you know when I get there.


Danielle and Ni in Southern Oregon, July 2016


Eastern Oregon, July 2016


Painted Hills, July 2016


Painted Hills, July 2016


Danielle at Rainbow Beach, July 2016


Courtney at Rainbow Beach on the Fourth of July


Fox and Hazel, July 2016


Danielle and Courtney, July 2016


Copperland, July 2016




On the Road: Feminist Edition, July 2016


Danielle, July 2016


Diana and Danielle, July 2016


Nate and Diana, July 2016


Diana as Harper Lee, July 2016


Vernonia, June 2016


Hadley at Rainbow Beach, July 2016


Avalon, July 2016


Vernonia, June 2016


Columbia River Gorge, May 2016


Courtney at Dougan Falls, September 2016


This is my very favorite of Alley’s tattoos – it’s Portland


Courtney at Dougan Falls, September 2016


Sky and Ada at Lesbian Lake, August 2016


My love, July 2016


Martha at Illage Summer Camp, August 2016


Me at Illage Summer Camp, August 2016 (photo by Alley Hector)

6 thoughts on “Remembering Summer: A Photo Essay Of Sorts

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you, Beth! I would so love to catch up properly soon. I hesitate to suggest email because I know what a depressing black hole of obligation that can become, but maybe just a few DMs on Twitter or something…I think about you often and would love to hear what you’re up to these days (and if you have any plans to visit the US in the near or far future!). XOXO

  1. Megan says:

    I love your ode to summer and the adventures it brings. I especially liked the pic of the girl on the swing in Vernonia and the woman posing as Harper Lee. What a great idea! Looking forward to next summer’s pix already.

    • Vanessa says:

      A very belated thank you for this comment, Megan! With any luck next year’s summer pictures will be very exciting…stay tuned 😉

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