Stoking the Embers

Note: I was preparing this post on March 10 with the intentions of posting it on the 12th, but the earthquake and subsequent inconveniences put this post on hold. Here it is almost 2 weeks out of date.

I lived alone for six weeks while my wife and son stayed with her parents during the days leading up to and the first few weeks following the birth of our daughter. My day job kept me pretty busy and as usual I was rarely home before 10:30 p.m. on work days. During my weekends I went to spend a few hours at my in-laws’ house, mostly trying to keep my son occupied. The precious time I actually had at home was often spent slowly working my way through the great house cleaning project I had assigned myself. On the odd occasion, I simply sat down to watch a DVD or read. But in between I made sure to find time to work on the business side of my photographic pursuits.

One of the things I had decided to do was to contact magazines that still have material I sent out and see if I couldn’t stir up something that way. I contacted the following:

Outdoor Japan
They ran some of my photographs back in 2009 and they still haven’t returned them. Every time I send them a message suggesting ideas I could contribute to the magazine I tack on a reminder that my photos have still not been returned. The editor even told me over the phone last year that he would see about returning them to me but still nothing has appeared in my mailbox. I sent another message, proposing a few more ideas but after a few weeks I still haven’t heard anything.

Outdoor Photography Canada
After all the interest it seemed I was garnering in 2008 and 2009, and even the hint of a profile piece on me, the lines of communication had fallen silent. I sent a message to the editor a couple of weeks ago, asking if he could see about returning my photographs that he really felt he couldn’t use (he has five submissions of mine in total). He replied that he would like to get on with thinking about running something of mine and would try to be in touch later this year. I am still hoping for good news. I proposed another idea but haven’t heard anything more about that yet. And nothing has been returned either.

Outdoor Photography U.K.
After my initial success with getting published back in early 2006, I have since sent this magazine five more articles with photographs, and all but one of them have been returned with various reasons for why they were being sent back. My latest submission was about rocks and their photographic appeal. The submission went out in February of 2009. By May 2010 I decided to call and ask what was going on with the article. I asked to speak with a woman I always spoke to when I called previously. I was told she was no longer employed there but the person I spoke with said she would find out what was up and let me know. Well, no one called and finally a few weeks back I called them back to ask about my submission. A woman there said she would look into it. Two weeks later I got an email reply saying that there was no trace of my photographs or article in their office. Their data base had recorded receiving it on February 15th, 2009 and that it had come with an SAE and international reply coupons but that was all she could tell me. I sent a reply of gratitude for her efforts and then asked if the former employee I had known might be contacted to see if she knew anything. A month later and no reply has come.

Foto Kon / Foto Raifu
Two Japanese magazines received submissions from me between November 2009 and August 2010. Photo Kon actually returned my submission but Foto Raifu had said nothing after I sent them two submissions. I looked up their number and called them. At least, I thought I was calling Foto Raifu. I told the man on the phone that I had sent two submissions, the oldest being from November 2009, and he said someone would look into it and get back to me in a day or two. Two days later I received an email message saying that they had not received any submissions from a foreigner and before they really scour the office could I double check that I really had sent them my work. Immediately I recognized my mistake. I had called Foto Kon who had returned my work and not Foto Raifu who hadn’t. I sent my best embarrassed and apologetic reply. I hope they will be okay about future submissions from me.

I had every intention of calling Foto Raifu but this whole earthquake deal was responsible for a lot of temporary changes in my daily life. I must call soon though.

Canadian Geographic
Finally the surprise of the day was an email message from the former photo editor of Canadian Geographic, who chose over the years from 1995 to 1998 ten of my photographs in total for publication in that esteemed magazine’s pages. She also gave me my first assignment ever which took me to Winnipeg where I met that girl that changed my life and made me want to come to Japan. The email message was requesting a scan of a photo that was published way back in 1995. I rushed to a lab to have the slide scanned and emailed her the image the next day. It is nice to have that kind of thing happen, where an old business contact appears out of the blue and you rekindle the relationship.

I have also been working on my next Blurb book again, though problems with slide scans have delayed the project for over three months now. And I am still working through my next submission to my stock agency. So, even though I won’t be out photographing much this year, I am still trying to keep photographically active as much as I can.

Two of my photographs published in Canadian Geographic back in 1995. The gumbo evening primrose photograph on the right was requested again recently.

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6 responses to “Stoking the Embers

  1. Although it’s interesting, as an old friend, to follow your career path, I do think that “the earthquake and subsequent inconveniences” is rather insensitive wording considering how many in your adopted country are dead, missing or homeless. Contratulations on the new baby.

  2. Hi Shona. Since the earthquake, we here is Saitama have had rolling blackouts, though not as bad as what was originally scheduled because many businesses and homes conserved enough energy to cause the cancellation or shortening of the blackouts. Milk and bread were extremely scarce for over a week but if you knew where and when to go it wasn’t impossible to get them. Yogurt remains a challenge and while all stores have limits on bread and milk purchases per family, not all stores have one on yogurt. Twice I have seen women filling their baskets with yogurt. Gas remains in shortage but luckily for us we received a heads up early in the day it became an issue and I quickly scooted out and filled up the tank. We only drive to the supermarket so after two weeks we still have another 440 km to go before we run dry. Now bottled water is scarce as concerns over iodine 131 contamination in Tokyo became an issue, and we don’t buy vegetables or milk from Saitama or surrounding prefectures. many supermarkets have also shortened their business hours in order to conserve energy but that means they open when I start work and close before I finish and I can’t always get there during the day in time to purchase the rarer commodities. The trains aren’t running totally as normal and sometimes I can’t catch my usual train or I have to wait longer for a transfer.

    All these things make for inconveniences. But as Kozue and I agreed, they are only small inconveniences for us in comparison to what people are experiencing in the tsunami zones. Houses swept away, family members missing or dead, no electricity, no clean clothes, not enough food, not enough medication for those who are on it… The list goes on. We are just at the edge of disaster, feeling the ripples. We can’t complain. And we don’t. That’s why I said “the subsequent inconveniences.” We are not suffering. We are only marginally inconvenienced. Believe me, everybody around here is just eager to resume the normalcy of daily life as soon as possible – no food or fuel shortages, no blackouts, trains running properly again, and no radiation scare. But that will take a while.

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I owe you a message.

  3. That evening primrose is a masterpiece – Eliot Porter would have been proud of it. It’s obviously been a tough time, even outside the disaster zone. I wish you the consolation of some meaty photo contracts soon!

    • Given that my photo account is slowly sinking into the red rather deeply now and that my computer is starting to show signs of age, I could definitely use a couple of well-paying publications to get me in a comfortable position again, PH. I hope this year will be more favourable than last.

  4. Nice photos there in the magazine! I’m very passionated about outdoor photography , it doesn’t matter where i am , i always have my photocamera in the car, i take photos just where i’m sure i could take some good shots. Anyway back to what happened in Japan , i know the number of lost lifes is big, and the destruction too but i hope everybody is ok now.

  5. Hi David. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Sorry to reply so late. I would love to keep a camera with me at all times but unless I am actually out for photography I rarely have the time to stop and shoot anyway. As for Japan, well, people are trying to get through this hardship. we can’t really imagine what it must be like for those without a home and with lost loved ones.

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