Come for the literary fiction and enjoy some fine photography while you're here. This issue is worth the cover price just for Adam Peterson's award winning story “It Goes Without Saying.” The story follows a travel writer as he navigates a personal crisis while attending a conference abroad where he is the guest of honor. Peterson incorporates apothegms of travel wisdom, without pretension, and avoids the pitfall of didactic lecturing while incorporating just the right amount of comic relief: “The world went on around him, he just wasn't home to watch it. This was another mistruth of travel writing. The distance one felt when getting away was an illusion. Everything, including the traveler, fell hopelessly forward.”
Apart from Peterson's story, which is by far the most accessible to a mainstream audience, two notable pieces of fiction include Barret Baumgart's “The Landfill” and J. Caleb Winter's “Faith and Burning.” Baumgart's troubling, short piece involves two men working as security guards at a landfill and is along the lines of a modern tale by Edgar Allen Poe. Winter, however, takes the reader to a rural setting in a world of vices. In “Faith and Burning,” the narrator relates: “I had buzzed my head for boot camp, bought a .22 rifle and shells from the bulletin boards, and wore a shirt that said, Meet new and interesting people, and kill them, in the Marines.” Though at odds in approach, both stories force the reader out of comfort zones and into terra incognita without leaving the States.
One look at Camera Obscura and you can tell nobody was pinching any pennies in its production. This reviewer is not the first to point out that the photo quality is impressive. The color is intense, so vivid, in fact, that it easily compares with the quality of Taschen or related art books. Each photograph in this issue is evocative and can stand alone. Still, sometimes they play off each other: Matt Walford's light and playful “Pink Dresses” contrasts well with the sincerity of Claudio Allia's “Flower Pots.”
Camera Obscura's artful layout and presentation make for an enjoyable reading and viewing experience just as a good notebook adds to the weight of each word the writer pens.