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Part 2 of 2: In the Fading Light

Texas: Arnold Samuelson’s Twilight Hour

Interviewer: (Q): In Part 1 of this article, you described how this photography blog got started by reading a review of a book about Ernest Hemingway. But you also said the blog’s idea progressed by you buying some photo frames. How did that happen?

Blog Writer (A): My partner Elena and have lived in our house in Colorado for over two years. For one reason or another, one room never was decorated. We couldn’t figure out what to do with that room so it sat vacant.

Recently, we decided to complete that room’s decoration, and we wanted to display some of my photos but we wanted out-of-the-ordinary photo frames, and after a long search found them at Room & Board. We wanted the frames to be as interesting as the chosen images. After our frame selection was completed, we started the process of finding images that would work well for the frames (yes, a rather backward process). As we started looking through my photography catalog of travel, event, garden, nature, and quilt/textile images over the last ten years, I realized that perhaps I had something to say about photography.

A Frame Up in Black & White

The other reason for this blog was to honor a nearly forgotten author, Arnold Samuelson and his book, With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba. That book started my reading love affair of great literature. (As I said in Part 1, sometimes major changes in one’s life occur with small and at the time, inconsequential actions such as me glancing through Esquire magazine and then reading an article that changed my reading life.)

What was most intriguing to me in Samuelson’s book was he showed up one day, without notice, at Ernest Hemingway’s doorstep. He wanted to talk with “Papa” about his fledging writing career. I’ve often thought of the guts to approach a world-famous writer and announce that he would like to take the author’s time to help improve his own writing. Amazingly, Hemingway took him on as an apprentice and soon called him “The Maestro.”

In all my reading about Hemingway, I’m struck on how seriously he took his writing (and his reading). He constantly worked at it. His career goal was to be a great writer—writing one true sentence after another true sentence. He consistently read the giants of literature to better his writing craft. For almost a year, Hemingway schooled Samuelson on how to be a better writer (and reader).

Q: So what happened to Arnold Samuelson? You mentioned to me that his book was not published in his lifetime.

A: Ah, it’s a sad tale. Paul Hendrickson, in his new and excellent written book, Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 devotes a long chapter to the tragic story of Arnold Samuelson’s life, a life much like Hemingway, whom both shared far too much depression, wasted dreams, and unattainable self-imposed goals. But in those tortured lives, they also accomplished their goals of being writers, one becoming world-famous while the other was nearly forgotten. Their dedication to their craft impressed and influenced me.

Walking in Papa’s footsteps

Q: So then, what do you hope to accomplish in your photo blog?

A: I teach numerous classes in digital photography at international quilt and textile events and travel photography classes and I often hear the frustration of the students wanting to be better—fast. I often think of Hemingway’s strict devotion to his craft of writing and the patience needed to go the distance. I try to remind my students it takes a lot of dedicated effort to be better. I hope my blog will inspire and teach readers to improve their own travel and/or quilt and textile photography.

Finally, I also hope that they, the readers, believe that the world can make room for yes, yet another photography blog. And if so, then dear readers, even as might James Kaplan warn you, put your sunglasses on, zip your jacket tight, and hold onto your hat. It’s windy and cold out there on the crowded blog beachfront. The sand’s swirling fast and there’s a rising tide.