Tammy Strobel invites readers to consider a new perspective on loss and grief in her latest book My Morning View- An iPhone Photography Project About Grief, Gratitude & Good Coffee. Using her iPhone, she captures life as she sees it, seeking to work through her own grieving process after losing someone close to her. Her stepfather, Mahlon was not just family but a close friend. They shared a lot. And within her grief she decided to take a deeper look at two passions she and Mahlon shared; coffee and the great outdoors.
Living in northern California, Tammy has loads of opportunity and a gift for capturing images that make you want to head outside. She is one of a growing number of movers and shakers who are embracing voluntary simplicity and in 2012 she published, You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too. The book shares her journey of simplifying her life to the extreme, when she and her best friend and husband of 13 years, Logan, made the radical decision to sell most of their earthly possessions and build a 128 square foot tiny home on wheels. They’ve created a minimalistic, way of life that led Tammy to more meaningful time with those she loves, and greater intention in how she lives her life. And that included time with Mahlon. Their home is now parked on a farm owned by Logan’s parents where they barter rent in exchange for helping on the farm, the perfect location for exploring what Mother Nature has to offer.
My Morning View touches not only a loving relationship but shares an experience of living in the extraordinarily beautiful northwest. Her two cats Elaina and Christie make their way into many of the thought provoking, often whimsical images, some of which just plain take your breath away. In addition to it being a photographic essay, it is a how to, for folks who are interested in exploring their own story in images.
Tammy has been a writer as long as she can remember and in 2007 she began a blog called Rowdy Kittens: go small, think big & be happy. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and two Masters degrees in education and public administration, she did some writing as director of outreach for a local non-profit. But in 2010 she began writing full time. She teaches e-course on writing, photography and tiny living, that can be accessed through her blog www.RowdyKittens.com, that include audio, written lessons, webinars and Facebook groups.
“I consider teaching, a big part of my job,” says Tammy who has been featured on the Today Show, in the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and MSNBC among others. Like many creative spirits, she didn’t call herself a writer and photographer because she wasn’t making money doing it.
“In 2008 I realized I don’t have to make money to call myself a writer and photographer. This was a big perspective shift for me, a powerful shift. If you can claim that identity, you are more likely to pursue it.” And that shift was the beginning of her pursuit of a more creative, more simplified, more meaningful life.
Her stepfather came into her life when she was about ten years old. Her father was not, and still isn’t an active part of her life and Mahlon filled that void and so much more.
“Mahlon was an amazing person,” says Tammy. “He was a great Dad a business owner and very involved in the community. I’m so grateful he was part of my life.”
In 2010 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and in 2012 he had two massive strokes. Over the next five months Tammy helped take care of him as he was cognitively and physically impaired. He passed away in 2012.
“I was pretty devastated. The grief I felt took me by surprise. You can’t ever really be ready for the loss. For the first six months I tried to find a balance, taking long walks with my camera. In January 2013 I began my photography project, starting my day to honor his memory. I decided to do one positive thing each day to help me deal with the grief I was feeling.”
She decided to place a coffee cup in each frame, to represent one of the things she and Mahlon enjoyed together. Tammy enjoyed the challenge of integrating the cup into each photo in a way that looked good. She made a conscious decision to use her iPhone for the project rather than a traditional camera.
“My iPhone is amazing. You can do a lot with it,” she says.
Her conscious decision to simplify her life has affected her in many ways. She feels closer to nature and there is an overall slower pace to life when living in a tiny space. She notices the changes in weather patterns and is quick to notice an occasional rainbow. Life has become more intentional, more purposeful. She operates her business and does writing and teaching out of her tiny home. At the moment she is just enjoying My Morning View being out in the world and has no immediate plans in place for her next project.
“We all see the world differently,” writes Tammy, “so how you capture images depends on your perspective. I think this is where the magic lies.”
“This is especially true of writers and photographers,” she says. “We all have a story to tell. Slow down and notice things. It’s grounding and makes me appreciate ordinary moments. Life is short. If you can