I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing this next interview with you. In June I invited Maria Vettese to share a peek into her creative life with us, and now she's back with her collaborator, Stephanie Congdon Barnes, because (trumpets please!) today sees the launch of their beautiful new book, 3191: Evenings. This is the hugely anticipated follow-up to their first book, A Year of Mornings, and as the publisher's website says, it's 'the second and final installment in a simple and intimate visual collaboration between two friends — one in Portland, Oregon and one in Portland, Maine.' For one whole year they shot a photograph of their evenings and paired them together on their blog, 3191; following their progress, I always found their appreciation of the littlest things provided a quiet space on the internet I could check in with every day - now I can do the same in the pages of their book.
Friends, meet Stephanie and MAV...
How does your new book differ from the first? What was your starting point and how did the book develop?
Stephanie: This book is a curated collection of our favorites from the year. The entire process of the making and distribution of the book was our own undertaking. I am really proud of it and am completely indebted to Maria as she did the majority of the work.
MAV: The biggest difference in our new book is that it's ours. You know how when a band puts out their first record with a big label and then their second independently? Well, that is just the case here. We are thrilled to have Other Books (which I am one-half of) publishing our Evenings book. It feels right to be able to make all of our choices as well as do all of the hard work. On this book we have done everything from choosing the paper to choosing which images will be shown in the largest size. We can't wait to share it with the 3191 fans and hopefully with those who may just find it on their own.
I love that you two appear to be kindred spirits in how you observe daily life - what was it that drew you to each other?
Stephanie: Well, I think our day-to-day lives are really quite different, but what we share a simple aesthetic and a reverence for daily life and the natural world.
MAV: It's so hard to know. I think we both respect a certain style of living. We don't, by any means, live the same kind of life though so it's more that we "see" things the same. We both find a rumpled towel calling to us in the kitchen or a night-light's shadow making us pause. I really do think we're kindred spirits, as you said.
Which was more of a challenge to capture – your mornings or evenings – and why?
Stephanie: Evenings for sure. My energy is just lower at the end of the day, and evening photos require more technical expertise. But I'm most proud of what I accomplished for evenings. There's a lot of emotion tied up in those photos.
MAV: Evenings for sure. Although now that I write that they both did have their challenges. I guess I say Evenings off the bat because it was harder to get a feel for. I felt a bit lost as we started because I am not my sharpest at night. I seem to fade around 3p and with Evenings I really had to sort of change that. It was a good thing for me though as I learned a lot in that year. With Mornings the biggest challenge was almost in making sure it was not too mundane. I can see beauty in some pretty strange things. When I would upload my one or two photographs I always leaned toward the simpler one but sometimes that was just too darn dull. In the end I guess I made the right decision because I picked mine and then Stephanie sent me hers and there was often, if not always, some fun magic happening.
Tell us about your evening rituals…
Stephanie: I cook dinner for my family nearly every night (there's a lot of food prep photos in the book!), and we sit together to eat. After dinner my husband and I help our kids with homework, play a game, build with lego, or we all just retire to our respective corners to read. I read out loud to my kids every night before bed, and then once they're tucked in, I pour myself a glass of wine or beer and catch up on work for the evening. I always read for an hour or so before I go to sleep—no matter how late I go to bed.
MAV: Mine truly vary. Some nights I am done with work at 6pm, head home to feed my cats and then head straight out to meet a friend or grab a bite. Sometimes I work till 7pm, pack my laptop up and make myself dinner while working. Thank goodness those are not as frequent as they used to be. All in all I tend to be sleepy by 10 or 11. I love the nights where I can get in bed early and have some time there before I really go to sleep. I can usually only make it through a few pages of a book before I head in that direction but it's lovely to have the time.
What do the 3191 projects mean to each of you? What impact have they had on your lives?
Stephanie: The most significant impact is the incredibly unique and meaningful relationship that I have developed with Maria. I also appreciate having these two incredible chronicles of years in my life. I miss the rhythm of daily photos a great deal now that those projects are over.
MAV: Well I wrote about some of this in the Evenings introduction so you can consult with that if you like :) but 3191 has been an awesome happy accident. We both feel even still sort of shocked when we find out how many people know about the project or when we get an email saying, "I just found the book in a bookshop in London!" ... amazing. We are very humble about our little project and it feels so good that it is so personal. And of course it's of the utmost importance that we were in it together. That is number one.
I’m really enjoying your weekly journaling on the 3191 blog – where do you see your collaborations going next?
Stephanie: I have no idea, but I'm excited to see what happens!
MAV: Well this is as far as we have gotten. In another universe we live in the same Portland and collaborate on art direction and styling projects but as it is I'll settle for knowing that Fridays is our time together and keeping the future open to whatever comes next.
What are you currently reading?
MAV: My Life In France by Julia Child
Stephanie: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout—it takes place in Maine!
What are your top three must-visit websites or blogs?
If you could photograph anything or anyone, anywhere in the world, what would that image be?
Stephanie: I'd love to photograph myself as a child or at least my childhood room, but that would involve a time machine.
MAV: Food. I truly love to take snapshots of the outdoors, people and moments but the preparation, eating and even cleaning up all surrounding food makes me the happiest. In my dreams I show up at dinners and just get to take photographs the whole time (maybe I get fed when I'm done). Or I get to sit in the kitchen of a chef, or even a Mom or Dad, preparing dinner for guests or kids and I get to not only chat to them while they are doing it but also take some snapshots of the whole thing.
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The book is available for pre-order now, and I simply can't wait to get a copy - thank you for putting your vision out there, ladies!