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Book Review: Continental Obscura: From Birmingham to Bellingham by Ryan Russell


As a native New Yorker it’s not foreign to me to think about what it would be like to live in another part of the country. One thing I find myself talking about is the fact that it must be kinda cool to move here from another part of the country and meet other like minded people from other parts of the country in a parallel dichotomy almost like that scene from Forest Gump where he’s running down the names of the guys in his platoon. I find it endearing that folks from the Midwest are moving to Astoria and rooming with people from the south or that their next door neighbor is from Brazil and their other housemate is from Seattle. I feel spoiled living in NYC because it’s the biggest city in the world even though technically it’s pretty small in terms of actual space. Lots of stories revolve around NYC and it’s damn nice seeing a book that sheds light on other areas of the US of A. If you can make it here you can make it anywhere but if you relocate from your home into strange territory while documenting it then you can also make it anywhere. Life is about taking chances and making the most of things. Being a photographer is about taking chances and making the most of things too.


As a reader and photographer I really appreciate Continental Obscura because it’s about a dude moving from Birmingham, Alabama to Bellingham Washington. What? Who? Where? That’s Right. Ryan Russell documented his move across country with photos and stories. When I got this book I flipped through it with one thing in mind and that was “Why should I care?” After going through the book over and over again, reading the text, looking at the photos, holding the journey in my hand, I realized I care because Ryan did something that most folks only dream of. He moved.


He left his home and took a journey. While on this journey he took some great photos of his travels and his eventual destination. This photo book is endearing because Ryan not only documents his travels but he displays photos from his journey that include the everyman. The photos are moody leaning toward the positive and almost surreal as if to just say “Hey, I could tell you what I saw on the way but I’d rather just show you.” The photos in this book tell a good story. They tell an endearing story. They tell a story a lot of us wish we could have.


The photos in the book are a combination of landscape and obscure portraiture. My feeling on the landscape photos is that Ryan took portraits of the places he saw along the way thereby giving them a face if you will. The book itself is very well packaged and printed. It has a nice photo book smell and really displays the photos at great quality with room for interpretation. The photos on the page don’t over do the senses and instead delight the eye while keeping the journey in mind.

I really like this book and if you want a look into an endearing journey from one place to another that doesn’t present itself in a pretentious way then you’d probably dig this book. To me the photos are taken from the perspective of a person taking a deep breath and taking their new journey in. They are special.

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Continental Obscura: From Birmingham to Bellingham
by Ryan Russell

For more information and to purchase the book: www.ryanrussell.net/continentalobscura

About Richard Storm

Richard Storm is a photographer and writer based in NYC. You can see his work at nyphotony.com He tweets too @nyphotony

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