Life Around Us, a photo book.


A backpacking trip to Seneca Creek, West Virginia on November 8, 2019 brought back a roll of black and white film, a small notebook filled with writings by new friends, and a story created between people, nature and the experiences in between.


Before we embarked on our adventure to hike the blue section of the Allegheny Mountain Trail, I used my mom’s old Pentax camera to capture portraits of each of my 8 group members. The portraits, along with pictures taken from the van as we rode from Ohio to West Virginia, exposed the first 36 frames of my Ilford film.


Once I took the exposures, I reeled the film back into the place of the first frame inside the camera as we sat on the bus still moving towards the campsite. Over the next two days while we hiked and camped the 13 mile trail, I shot 36 new exposures over top of the original portraits, creating a full roll of random in-camera double exposures.


During our hike on the final day, as we descended from the top of the mountain range we had camped the night before, I wrote a memoir of my thoughts and feelings. Once we reached the bottom, I passed the notebook to my group members for each of them to fill a page with their own thoughts.


Life Around Us holds within a look and feel into the trip itself, presenting and preserving human perspectives of life as we traveled through the life of nature around us.

Front cover

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Life Around Us by Joe Timmerman

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"Take a moment to close your eyes and feel our Earth breathe. Think about the life around us. Be present in your reality. Dream of the possibilities in the world and create your own reality. Have some love, enjoy the journey and be forever thankful for what gets you there." - Joe

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"I don't know if there's any place better than a trail to make fast friends. Whether in the literal sense or with the trees and the trail and the things that stir in the night. Everybody's ugly. Everybody's weird. Things maintain themselves." - Noel

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"There are no friendships that compare to friendships made in the woods. Everyone gets 10x weirder in the woods. This is a known fact. When nature gets quiet and the hiking starts to feel endless, questions like 'what would be the weirdest thing to see your uncle pull out of his fridge?' Answers: hand, ice cream, frozen cat, Glock, etc. Then cramming into a 3 person tent to play cards and stay up 'late' aka 8:30, now that is bonding."  - Jenna Hyman

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"Taking a weekend trip allows for three great things. 1. Taking a mental break from life 2. Lots of Laughing 3. Talking about poop" - Erin Beurket

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"Getting outside always reminds me how good simplicity is. When life gets complex and chaotic, an escape surrounded by good views and great company is all you need to get your mind back in the right place. Laughing about poop and cuddling a warm bottle every once in a while is good for the soul." - Elle

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"Its always nice to take a break from everything and go into nature. Its important to look around and enjoy your surroundings, whether its people or nature. Im excited to eat fruit" - Allison

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"'Climb mountains to get their good tidings, and learn what they have to teach' - John Muir. I strive to live simply. The woods provide me a place to live as simply as I can. What is more simple than everything you need all on your back" - Zach Young

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"No matter what you go looking for, the trail provides. You may not be consciously aware of what it is you need, but you'll find it out here. All you have to do is keep and open mind. Most people never do anything great with their lives because great things don't feel great when you're doing them" - Alyx

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Special Thank You to: Noel, Jenna, Erin, Elle, Jenna, Allison, Zach, Alyx, & everyone who helped along the way <3

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Back cover

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The Process


The story of our backpacking trip, while each different in our own minds and perceptions, became exposed in a single roll of film and a small, handheld notebook.


Throughout the hike and upon our return to Athens, I collected trash, paper, fallen trailblazers, a map, and any pieces of material from the weekend to recycle and use for the creation of my photo book.


When we got back to campus, the trip had ended in a physical sense, but in a mental sense the trip lived on in my mind as I continued to put the book together for the next month or so. From developing the film to scanning and editing the digital files to choosing selects and going in the darkroom to test and print and test and print and test and print some more, each photograph spoke its own story.


The physical state of the book itself began to come together as I headed into Thanksgiving break. My mom and I spent a day tearing a variety of paper mediums and mixing them with water to go into a blender, then a frame, followed by a mix of air drying, hot iron pressing, and blow drying to create tens of unique pieces of homemade paper.


The book was shaped to be the same size as my personal journal that I have been writing and drawing in for the last two years, and was in my side pant pocket as we hiked in West Virginia that weekend. The hardback covers and base for the recycled collages was made from a shoe box, with the cardboard and handmade paper all hand-cut with an x-acto knife. Once I finished the sizing of the cover and paper, I hole-punched each material to weave a string we found from a balloon alongside the trail to bind everything together.


The inside cover shows the beginning half of the blue Allegheny Mountain Trail, and the inside of the back cover shows the second half of the trail, with the story of the hike in-between.

Just as the photos and writings carry their own weight of emotion and nostalgia, everything from the collaged covers and handmade paper embody the complete story of the weekend we spent on
a mountain.


I created this book in partial fulfillment for my freshman year photography final project at Ohio University (VICO 1421).

Life Around Us, a magazine

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The Story behind Life Around Us

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The Process behind Life Around Us

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