Many of my books take months or years of gestation before becoming concrete. I’ve been thinking for a long time about this one, which I call “Blast Zone”. Part of the series I have been creating about the climate crisis it deals with oil train explosions and derailments. Since I always try to use my own photos I was stymied. I haven’t had an opportunity to photograph a train derailment for which I am grateful, so I couldn’t figure out what to do.
Before I ever went to Scotland the title of the workshop, Mapping our way in these dystopian times, inspired me to think about the train derailments in terms of maps. I collected information about oil train derailments beginning in 2009 and using a website, http://explosive-crude-by-rail.org I created a map for each of the oil train derailments I was able to document. The blast zones show the areas half mile to one mile that are (or would be) evacuated.
Unlike most of my books, which are one-of-a-kind, I’m looking for wider distribution of this one. I am working with a friend to call attention to the oil trains that run through Pittsburgh. They go near the Convention Center downtown, the sports stadiums, most of the hospitals, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Google offices and the apartment buildings where my friend and I live. I have created a pdf of the book that I gave to the Sierra Club and the Fracktracker Alliance. You can download a copy here. Oil train derailments You might live near one of those blast zones too.
The second book inspired by the workshop and nothing to do with Scotland is about my hearing loss. This may also become a best seller (at least 3 copies). All of my hearing aid wearing friends are interested. Tana, the leader of the workshop, has a heavy Slavic accent and speaks in low tones almost without opening her mouth. I had a terrible time hearing and understanding her. She was very good about it and the other participants were helpful so I only missed a few things. Several days into the workshop I was looking for inspiration. Tana suggested I use text in my work. I played with a rubber-stamp alphabet them came up with a small verse and hand-printed it. Altogether not artistic, but somehow satisfying.
One of the participants suggested I make a book about my hearing problems. I took the suggestion and ran with it. Problem: how to visualize hearing loss. I revised my lament:
I can hear birds sing
I can hear bells ring
But words, words are a different thing.
I used several poems found online, in particular a plea written by a mother to her preteen daughter. So much of what she wrote resonated with me. I added photos I took in situations where I couldn’t hear or understand what was being said. Below is a sample page and you can download the pdf here. hearing book
Each of the pages are double page spreads and are bound accordion style between simple covers with only the drawing of my ear.