What I Loved in 2018

Voss, Norway - July 2018

Like last year, I spent a lot of time listening to podcasts this year, to the exclusion of music / radio / television. I love the flexibility of being able to make dinner, shop for groceries, etc. while listening to something interesting. In narrowing down my list, I decided to only share books/music/etc. that came out in 2018.

I read 53 books this year, leaning heavily towards fiction. I had no clear favorite, but a few that stood above the rest. The first being Florida by Laura Groff. Her Florida is a dark, complicated place that reveals itself in fits and starts. But the real draw of this book is the language—the sentences that seem to find their own path as they’re being written, to somewhere darker and more unsettling than where they started.

I just finished The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai. The book, set in 1980s Chicago and the present day tells the story of the coming of the AIDS crisis in the small LGBTQ community in Chicago. It’s a quietly devastating book that brings you into the character’s lives as this mysterious virus shadows the joyful, complicated lives of the characters. As someone who was too young to really understand the rise of HIV in the Reagan years, this book is an affecting reminder of what was lost.

Lastly, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan begins as a slave named George Washington Black serves under a cruel master on a sugar plantation in Barbados. The story then takes a fantastical turn involving a hot air balloon and begins to feel like a Jules Verne novel. Black’s story follows no traditional path and its plot twists and deeply insightful and haunted main character forms the ballast that keeps the reader connected to the story.

While not published in 2018, a few other books this year that I loved were The Power by Naomi Alderman, Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin and Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman.

My list from last year is more or less unchanged, but I also listen to Slate’s Political Gabfest, The Flop House, and 538 Politics.

I’m listening to more podcasts than music when I exercise, which means I’m not hearing as much music as I used to. But also I’ve been thinking that Peter Sagal makes a solid case for running in silence.

That said, my favorite song of 2018 was Thingamajig by the wondrous Myra Folick.

The new Phosphorescent album is so great and my kids love singing along to this one.

Lastly, Gold by Sister Sparrow is my pick-me-up song for 2018.

Worth it, sans category
This Twitter thread of “everyday cosplay” Halloween costumes is wonderfully earnest and life-affirming.

Minding the Gap (Hulu) is one of the best documentary films I’ve seen in a long while. The filmmaker Bing Liu had been filming his friends skateboarding in Illinois for years and this film starts with these young kids doing what young kids do and tracks their turbulent path into adulthood. Liu is absolutely unflinching with his camera work even as he revisits his own painful childhood with his mother.

One of my favorite artists is Jenny ODell who goes down these crazy e-commerce wormholes that take weirder and weirder turns, like A Business With No End, and There’s No Such Thing as a Free Watch.

Havana, Cuba - August 2018

If you’ve made it this far, perhaps you’ll indulge me in a bit of promotion. I’m beyond thrilled to have my photo chosen for the cover of American Photography 34.

I really enjoyed talking to APA about my work.

I photographed a few potential 2020 presidential candidates like Cory Booker , Kirsten Gillibrand and Sherrod Brown. I covered Mark Zuckerberg testifying on the Hill for CNN. I loved photographing these gospel singers, this author and this inspiring woman.

I started a site called Past & Present Tense where I write about photos. You can follow it on Instagram to see when it’s updated.

In closing, I work in a business where trust and making connections with people is my stock-in-trade. I feel very fortunate to the subjects who have entrusted me to make their image as well as the wonderful photo editors who continue to support my work. Thank you.