This is Edna. She’s my great-grandmother. On the back of this photo, written in her husband’s handwriting, in 19freaking12 it says: the goddess of photography, shooting the world.
Let me tell you a funny little story about Me + Edna. We have to rewind the clock a couple decades, and in a long-story-short kind of way.
In 1996 I moved to Boise, Idaho from NYC. I was pulled to Boise of all places (I thought) because I had been born in Idaho, way up north in the mountains. I’d spent time in Idaho, and I was looking for a little direction in life (as usual), and I just sorta threw a dart on the map and thought oh hell, let’s see what Boise is all about.
To this day I kinda don’t get it.
Except that I do.
My time in Boise was quite short. It turns out I was an NYC kinda gal and did a pretty quick U-turn. BUT while in Boise:
I took my first photography class - and ZOOM SMASH BOOM a whole new world opened up for me. PHOTOGRAPHY DIVA FOREVER became my new trajectory. I spent the next many years exploring myself and the world around me through my lens. It’s not a side of me that is visible on social media so much, but if you’ve read either of my books you can see that I’m still pretty much a photo diva. It’s a more private, personal, reflective side …
… but I live through my lens.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: in the hallowed halls of Boise State University I fell in love for the first time, in that 22-year-old-in-love kind of way. That’s a whole other story. LOL).
I returned to NYC and became fully engaged (in my whirling dervish kind of way) in Real Live Actual art school, at the School of Visual Arts on E. 21st Street, where I studied to be a fine art photographer.
It was during this time I found out for the VERY first time:
Edna lived in Boise. She was a photographer. She and her sister Mabel owned a photography studio downtown. In 1908. Nineteen freaking oh eight, y’all.
Edna met her husband, Roscoe Allen, in Boise. From what I can tell through my obsessive research, they had a sweet little love affair. He eventually moved to Los Angeles, set up house, and sent for her and her parents. There are a few of his sweet love letters to her still hanging out there in the stratosphere. Edna lived out the rest of her days in LA, taking copious amounts of photos, raising children (including my grandpa Norm), and eventually passed on in 1949.
You need to know that Edna’s story is so much more than these few sentences. Isn’t that true for all of us? I’ll tell you more about her another day.
The Sonna Building in Boise, where Edna had her photo studio, is still standing. I visited a couple years ago.
I managed to discover the suite she would have occupied after significant research efforts.
So there I was, in Edna’s studio, which only happened due to a coinkydink unexpected path-crossing with the building owner, his avid appreciation for the history of the building, and a little pinch of pixie dust.
What was it like stepping into Edna’s studio 108 years after she clicked the shutter of her camera within its four bricked walls? Like the earth stood still and time collapsed as I stood in a shaft of incredible light utterly soaking the space, wrapping me up in a warmth that felt supernatural.
It kinda blows my mind that when my 22 year old self was whirling-dervishing through the streets of Boise, fueled by my discovery that photography was actually a THING and so was soulmate-love …
I was following in Edna’s footsteps.
I still am.
I can’t help it.
Join me in Rome where I will be guiding you, along with my soulfully wise and creatively brilliant friend Henry Lohmeyer, into a gentle way of seeing and being with your self through your lens …
I can think of no better place to be a goddess of photography, shooting the world.
PS - many years later I would discover that ANOTHER great-grandmother was an avid photographer and artist, too.
I really, really can’t help it.