Arts & Culture

Tacoma artist Jennifer Chushcoff celebrates Washington’s water

Jennifer Chushcoff’s water photography will come together in her new book project “WA is Water.”
Jennifer Chushcoff’s water photography will come together in her new book project “WA is Water.” Courtesy

Creating a book about Washington’s famous water during its hottest and driest summer might seem ironic. But for Tacoma artist Jennifer Chushcoff, it’s actually perfect timing. Supported by a grant from the Tacoma Artists Initiative Program, Chushcoff is combining her photography and poetry, plus a crowd-sourced “rain glossary,” into a small-format book, “WA is Water,” to be released early next year. The book celebrates our state’s water from rain to Puget Sound, and will, Chushcoff hopes, give a wake-up call about how precious that water is.

Right now, though, Chushcoff is asking Washingtonians to contribute to the book with suggestions for a crowd-sourced “rain glossary” — words that describe the many forms of rain we get for most of the year (when we’re not in a drought, that is.)

While the Inuit have a hundred words for snow and the Welsh around a dozen for rain, says Chushcoff, “we don’t have very many words for describing our weather.”

So now’s your chance. What do you call it when it rains while you’re swimming? Or the kind of rain you can hike in for hours and still not really get wet? Or maybe the rain you get in summer just after you spent an hour watering your thirsty garden?

Chushcoff’s put out a call for submissions via Facebook, Instagram or email. So far she’s had about 20 submissions, which she’ll publish on Facebook and in the published book. One example is Dusty Stepp’s “Homecoming: rain over a body of water, continuing the water cycle.” Another is Sam Hranac’s “Irish Spring: a light spring shower during a sunny day, just enough to create a rainbow or two.”

“I’m looking for at least 50 definitions,” says the artist.

Chuschcoff grew up in drought-stricken California, and was fascinated by Washington’s rain and water bodies when she moved here 16 years ago after college.

“I actually do love the rain,” she says.

Combining that with her life-long passion for photography and poetry seemed a logical step. Chushcoff’s photography is highly atmospheric, edited for misty edges and emotional saturation. But for the WA is Water project, she’s exploring close-up nature photography with a macro lens, purchased with the help of the grant.

“This project will be a way to bring a different voice to my photography,” she says.

In the 30-page hardcover book, she’ll intersperse full-color photographs with poetry and facts about Washington’s water.

And the timing, just after the state’s driest summer on record and the Earth’s hottest month (July), is exactly right, she says.

“Here in Washington, we take water for granted,” Chushcoff says. ‘I grew up with water rationing, and to see that here is frightening. ... I want this project to help people become more aware of water, and how to (conserve) it.”

FIND OUT MORE

CONTRIBUTE: Add to the rain glossary in “WA is Water” by submitting definitions of different kinds of rain to facebook.com/waiswater, tagging Instagram photos with #WAisWater or sending an email to contact@byjenn.com.

CHECK IN: Follow the book’s progress at byjenn.com.

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