Making an Exception for Tradition…

This is my extended family. Every year we all meet at my Grandparents’ home in Carbondale, Illinois. This year for our family portrait, I wanted to emphasize how far we all travel in order to continue our Christmas family traditions. And to summarize for you: the total number of the miles traveled by all of my 17 relatives and their spouses in order to get to Carbondale, Illinois is: 31,327 miles (32,025 if you count the dogs’ journey) and 64,050 for a round trip.

Those are a lot of miles and that is a huge carbon footprint… and that doesn’t include all of the presents, and wrapping paper, and trips to the mall.

Being a person who cares a great deal about the environment… the crazy amounts of consumption that occurs in one week is embarrassing… but at the same time… I feel incredibly lucky. I feel lucky because:

  • I have an amazing family, and we have wonderfully bizarre family traditions that we have carried out for as many years as I can remember…
  • I know not many people have such a strong extended family, especially one that is so spread apart…
  • and because I know that these traditions will not last forever, so I better enjoy them while I have them.

So, for the spirit of Christmas and for the love of family, I try and contain my environmental gripes, and I wholeheartedly throw myself into the crazy seasonal consumerism as much as possible. But I still do little things to try and make myself feel a little better, such as shopping at the local Carbondale stores, instead of the big box stores and chains, and wrapping all my presents in newspaper and reused paper, and preventing my paper-plate-loving relatives from adding to the overcrowded landfills, just because they do not want to do dishes.

And in the end… traditions make it all worth while. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for bringing us all together for all these years, and for teaching us the value of family. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

486 Bomb Group

Perfect timing….my family decides to come over in the middle of the end of term two. So all the papers and projects that are due have to be put on hold as we go to Sudbury, England for my Grandfather’s WWII reunion for the 486th Bomb Group. No stress.

Because many of the men are in their 80’s and this was most likely going to be their last return to Sudbury where they were stationed, I felt it was a worthy excuse to add extra stress to my rapidly approaching deadlines. This trip meant a lot to my grandfather and it was really nice to be able to share it with him, which I would not have been able to do had I not been conveniently studying in London this year.

I used the trip as an excuse to practice with medium format as a reportage tool and for portraits. The reportage was slow…and some of my focusing was off….and the portraits would have been better if I used a tripod….but I really enjoyed using a new camera (many thanks to Ed Thompson who let me borrow his 6×6) and I discovered I like the square format, and I like the waist level view finder….important to know as I am on the hunt for my perfect medium format camera.

Here are a few….



It was my first British festival….I loved the obsessions people had….like minature tractors of course.


I discovered dogs are hard to photograph with a medium format camera….but easier with fat bulldogs.


My wonderful grandparents Bob and Sally Harper.

My favorite veteran to photograph.

For this portrait I learned not to assume….I assumed they were a couple….so I had them hold hands in the front for one pose…they were a little awkward getting into the pose and admitted they probably didn’t hold hands like that often, which made sense when I learned at dinner they were father and daughter…..opps.

One of the best aspects of the weekend was meeting the children who grew up in Sudbury and who spent time at the air field helping the soldiers and watching the planes fly to and from their missions in Germany. They came to share their memories with the veterans. The lady on the right was one of those children. She told us about a plane she built herself and how she believes it flew more missions than any of the planes these men flew.

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