Podcast: Three Announcements — Two New Books and a New Discord channel

Podcast: Three Announcements — Two New Books and a New Discord channel

In this episode of the Fine Art Photography Podcast, I’m happy to announce two new books — plus, I’ve launched a Discord channel

Listen to episode 87 of the Fine Art Photography Podcast here

Join the discussion on my new Discord channel

For my general channel click here.

The Fine Art Photography Podcast Discord channel is here.

Full episode transcript

In this episode: Three announcements — two new books and a new Discord channel


Hey everybody, welcome back to the Fine Art Photography Podcast. 

In this episode, I have not one, but two new books to announce and discuss — one of them is a major release by a famous historian slash documentary filmmaker that includes two of my photographs, and the other is my own project. And a side note — this is a discussion — not a sales pitch — but I will let you know how to buy either book if you’re interested.

Also, I wanted to announce that I’ve launched a new Discord channel and you’re invited to join. You can chat with me and other photographers about the podcast, or photography in general.You can ask questions, offer topic ideas, and participate in discussions.

If you aren’t familiar with Discord, it’s a chat forum that allows text conversations with me and other people, posting of photos and links, and there’s an opportunity for future audio and video presentations.

To be honest, I’m pretty new to Discord myself — and right now the channel is new so it’s a ghost town. If you’re interested, come over and join — it’s totally free — and if it thrives, we will keep it going. If there’s no interest, we will send it to the graveyard with my old MySpace page.

My only request is that we all be nice.

There’s a link in the show notes and also on my blog at I catch shadows dot com. I look forward to meeting you there!

And now — the really big news. It’s my honor to announce that two of my photographs have just been published in the powerful new book Our America: A Photographic History, by noted documentary filmmaker and author Ken Burns (of PBS fame).

Our America is a big book — over 300 pages — beautifully designed with one photograph per page followed by extensive notes and credits in the back of the book. Most of the photographs are historical and in the documentary style — befitting Burns’s career as a socially-conscious documentary filmmaker.

Work by famous photographers like Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Sally Mann, and Michael Avedon (grandson of Richard Avedon) are also featured in the book, alongside important and sometimes grim images from across American history including the periods of the Civil War, the Great Depression, and even back to the very beginnings of photography.

For me, the process began with a vague email in 2015 enquiring about a particular photograph, which did eventually make it into the book. Discussions continued periodically over the next six-and-a-half years, with a second photograph selected in the final months prior to the completion of the book.During the interviews of his book release press junket, Ken Burns said that it tells a visual history of the United States using historic photographs from the earliest days of the nation and of photography, leading up to modern times  Burns said that a history can’t really be told up to the current day because it needs the benefit of some distance, so, the historical photography ends somewhere in the 1970s, with the remaining pages being artistic or scenic . . . that’s where my photographs are presented, near the end of the book.

I worked with a really nice person, Susanna Steisel, who helped design and edit the book, and who I suspect was the champion for including my humble photographs in the book. 

The original photograph that piqued her interest back in 2015 was a simple little black and white photo of the front facade of a somewhat shabby old white clapboard house that I spotted in a small town in Wisconsin. It has a front door with peeling paint, and next to the door is a window with a US flag hanging in it like a curtain. The second photograph, which was printed on the same spread, is a dark landscape photograph focused on a thorny rose cane that curves like an arch through the frame, with sparkling raindrops dangling from the thorns.

But as big an honor as it was to have my work selected for the book, I was just as honored to have been quoted in the book.

The majority of the book is designed with one photo per page, with minimal text — just the location of the photograph typeset below the image. The main photography section is followed by a section near the back that includes detailed notes about each photograph. Graciously, Burns, et al quoted from one of my blog posts when writing about my raindrops photograph. The quote discusses the quiet quality of the raindrop photograph and it says “The grand sweep of a lifetime is made up of countless vague impressions, forgotten moments, and unnoticed instances of beauty.”

Much gratitude to Ken Burns and Susanna Steisel for choosing my work for the book. Whatever else happens in my photography career, I know that is one document that will outlive me and will preserve my work for future generations.

You can find the book in bookstores or online and of course at Amazon. I’ll include links to a couple of Ken Burns interviews about the book in the show notes. 

The second book I wanted to discuss is my own new book — The Wheeling Portfolio — which is my second self-published book. It’s a softcover book, it’s 48-pages long plus cover, and is available in print and as a digital download. In the summer of 2021, I made a stop in the city of Wheeling, West Virginia — more specifically — South Wheeling. As I exited Highway 250 and entered the historic neighborhoods of South Wheeling, I felt my excitement begin to build. A familiar fever came over me — the burning urge to grab my camera and see (and photograph) everything.

One of my passions as a photographer is making images of abandoned or historic buildings that show the textures, character, and patina of time. For me, South Wheeling is a wonderland — a place seemingly unaltered by progress since the 1940s. That’s not true of course, but visually speaking, the city still exists in another time.

Sadly, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend in South Wheeling, but the time I had was well used. I made a lot of images. This portfolio includes my favorites from the day.

My promise to myself is that I will return to Wheeling soon, giving it the time it deserves, and visiting every fascinating corner.

Ultimately, this is a portfolio of images made in Wheeling. But anyone curious about my work can see many of those same images on my website, so why make a book? I wanted this publication to be more than a set of images. I wanted to give context to the photographs. I wanted to tell stories about the city and about the people who occupied these buildings. I wanted to describe my feelings of being there. I wanted to explain what prompted me to shoot these photographs.

For this publication, I’ve made a deep dive into the history of the buildings shown in the portfolio, and learned a little bit about the city that still wears its past in plain sight. I’m particularly indebted to a form housed on the website of the National Register of Historic Places, which describes in detail a large chunk of South Wheeling, and many of the buildings I photographed there. It’s meticulously researched and includes links to sources.

The cover was adapted from an 1884 fire map of Wheeling, West Virginia, created by the Sanborn Map and Publishing Co., Limited, of New York. The company published detailed and elaborately designed maps for the insurance industry from the mid-1800s until 1961. It features a gorgeous and ornate Victorian typographic treatment of the word Wheeling, modified to fit my book cover.

The cover includes Fingerprints and smudges that were part of the original scans of the maps made by the Library of Congress. They seemed right for the context of the book, so I included them.

One of my reasons for making photographs of abandoned and historic structures is to create a record of their existence before they’re gone. By their very nature, abandoned buildings are in danger of loss. After publication, I received news from a reader in Wheeling that two of the buildings featured in the book are scheduled for demolition. One of those buildings is already undergoing demolition.

The city of Wheeling has boosted its demolition budget and plans to aggressively remove between 80 and 100 derelict buildings. This makes a return visit to Wheeling to shoot more structures urgent.

According to Wheeling’s newspaper The Intelligencer, the historic Hobbs Brockunier house at 3530 Eoff Street (which is not featured in my book) was recently torn down. It had been bought at auction by an out-of-state investor and now the vacant lot is currently offered for sale at nearly ten times the auction price. The website Weelunk published a story about the old house with interior photographs.

It’s understandable that the city would seek to remove hazardous buildings, but this also erases visible signs of the city’s history and changes the character of neighborhoods. Charles Seybold’s old sign-painting shop at 3606 Jacob Street, built in 1891, is now being demolished. It had been deemed a collapse hazard. Located on the corner next to the Seybold building, 3600 Jacob Street will also be removed soon. Both of those locations are featured in the book.

The Wheeling Portfolio includes a brief history of the city of Wheeling, details about some of the historic architecture, stories of some of its most colorful characters, and of course a section with the black and white photographs with camera metadata of each image.

Of course, the book would be of most interest to people with a connection to Wheeling, West Virginia, but I have tried to make it a worthwhile read to anyone interested in history and abandoned places photography.

If you’re interested, there are links in the show notes and on my website at keith dotson dot com slash books. The Wheeling Portfolio is available as a printed book and as a digital download.

Well that’s all I’ve got for this episode. 

As always, full episode transcripts and links to content can be found on my blog at i catch shadows dot com.

Thanks for listening.

I’ll talk to you again real soon.

Written by Ken Burns

Buy a copy of Ken Burn’s Our America: A Photographic History

The book features two of my photographs and is available for purchase on Amazon here

Written and published by Keith Dotson

Buy a copy of The Wheeling Portfolio

Buy a printed copy from Keith here ($24 shipping included)
(U.S. addresses only)

Buy a digital download here ($4.99)

Buy a copy through Blurb here ($18.95 plus shipping)
(Buyers outside the U.S., please use this link)

DISCLAIMER: Includes Amazon Affiliate links. I may earn a small commission on qualifying purchases.

1 comment

  1. Congrats all around Keith!! Now you can add “historian” to your accolades!! And as a side note – thank you for recording history for future generations! And per your first book inclusion, a reminder that photographers should keep all of their photographs because you never know who might want them.

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