The Photo Album

Winner of the Eric Hoffer Book Award

National Indie Excellence Book Award Finalist

“Highly Recommended. Unexpected, imaginative, quirky, smart and funny.” Nancy Horner–Bookfoolery

The Photo Album is “the kind of book that makes you feel smarter once you’ve read it and makes you laugh to yourself during the process” Kirk Tuck–The Visual Science Lab

“This charming book summons your imagination.” —US Review of Books

“Dixon is on the mark, you’ll be smiling to yourself… A clever and entertaining read.”  Megan Sweeney—Leafing Through Life

A tender and engrossing meditation on the nature of human connection and a fascinating probing into the intricate, sometimes mystical role of art in our lives.” Chris Faatz–The Oregonian 

Excerpt from The Photo Album:


          This collection of photos is in a sense a memoir. It is the story of a photographer—a very amateur one: me—yours truly, the chronically conflicted Michael Quick. As you will soon discover when you turn the page, I am new to the medium—or, more accurately, I should say I am new to it again. I have flirted with photography both regularly and inconsequentially in the past, but as I suspect my expensive new camera will suggest, I seem to have gotten more serious about it lately.

One of the problems with getting serious (or semi-serious) about photography is that at some point in the process after you have mastered the various manuals and looked into the basics of making competent images, you will find yourself thinking more than you would like to about the subject of photography in general—about the recalcitrant mystery of it: what it is, what it should be, how it should best be done. It is grueling and ultimately profitless, this noetic gum-chewing. The only thing I feel I can say with certainty right now about the camera is that there doesn’t seem to be anything it cannot make interesting—a verity that is in equal parts both worrying and wonderful.

If you would like to jump over to Plate 4 and take a quick look, you will find a photo that is pretty typical of the sort of thing you can expect from me. I have for the most part eschewed the “art” shot as well as the emphatically vernacular one. I have taken a sort of middle way, a way in which there is no glory, but with which I am (at the moment anyway) comfortable.

Plate 1

          This is a photograph of my mother with her mother taken I don’t know how many years back. It might not glow with the allegorical meaning of some, but still it fixes us. The women, elegantly dressed, sit primly side by side holding each other’s hand. Just minutes before there was, I think, a violent argument from which my mother’s mother has not backed down—an argument about the man who would one day soon become my father.

My mother and my mother’s mother share the same mouth and the same slight build, but they do not look alike. The emphatic bulbousness of the older woman’s head alludes phrenologically to the size of her impressive brain while the dourness of her expression suggests it has not been much of a comfort to her.

My mother, who wears her rings on nontraditional fingers, is clearly still very much interested in looking pretty. Her hairdo is complex—a small braid rings the center of the creation like a halo separating the severity of the center-parted bangs from the relative voluptuousness of the pompadoured crown. The dress—which is quite obviously silk—leaves her shoulders bare. And in her eye there is a girlish glint I do not recognize; a glint that disconcerts me; a glint in which one can see an intimation of the wildness that will one day overwhelm her.

 Plate 2

          The man on the left is my mother’s mother’s husband. He has been dead for a decade now.  A business person of some repute, he was one of those go-getters who went and got. A man whose ethical compromises were thought to be fewer than those of the egregiously compromised norm, he was considered by many to be a representatively resplendent example of the top something-percent of his generation.

The taller, balder figure on the right (with his hand stuffed deep into his suit coat pocket) is James McBain. Not as much is known of him as should be. A silent partner in a number of my mother’s mother’s husband’s enterprises, he is today something of a mystery.

If I were to give this picture a title, it would be something like “The Distinguished Conspirators.”

Plate 3

          I have never been an advocate of the “snapshot” aesthetic. I have some sympathy for it—especially insofar as it is a reaction to the contrived and airless alternative so popular with a certain downtown crowd—but I find most of these sorts of pictures interesting only as illustrations of a theory, a theory that seems to me conceived in desperation.

This particular shot is a bad one (disorganized, the focus uncertain, the highlights blown out) because I was in a hurry—not because I was trying to make some statement about the oppressive orthodoxy of traditionally-done “good” ones.

This bridge—whose name I do not remember—is wedged into a heavily-timbered hillside of the Coast Range. You cross it on the way to Cannon Beach where—if you time it right seasonally—you can find a remarkable breakfast of gingerbread waffles.

Plate 4

          I bought a new lens—a wide-angle zoom. This is the second shot I took with it. I have included it here as a sort of salute to my equipment. I think I have for the most part avoided the obsession with gear that afflicts and addles so many of we dabblers. That does not mean, however, that I am entirely without envy or that I am above the occasional flaunting of whatever technical resources I may have at my disposal.

The man in this picture with the golf clubs is my neighbor, Thomas Lockhart. He is a lawyer. He specializes in getting drunk drivers back on the road—on getting them out of jail, getting their records expunged, getting their licenses back in their hands. This lens—a 12-24mm—is not considered a good one for portraiture because it tends to distort. I didn’t care in this instance. I wasn’t trying to flatter the man. What I wanted was a broad, environmental shot— a shot that recorded not just Tom but the conventional ostentatiousness of Tom’s defining upper-middle-classness. (Note the convex profile of the status symbol parked on the periphery.)

Available at your local bookstore or online at: