Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Herman | The Journey of a Million Pages



"Friends are like good books, few but well chosen." Herman is not sure where he read that quote but if there is any truth to it he should have about 2,000 well chosen friends.

Herman lives in a little one bedroom apartment in NW Portland, Oregon. If you ask him his age, he'll tell you he is celebrating his 50th anniversary of his 29th birthday. When I first met him over a year ago it was in our neighborhood bar, Serratto. I sat right next to him and he was drinking a Heineken and he turns to me and says, "So, have you read anything good lately?" We've been great friends ever since.

Herman told me that he has never completed anything in his life. Never married, never finished high school. Nothing. So he made a deal with himself to read one million pages before he dies. He made that promise to himself in 1985 and completed it in January of 2008.

He has kept a compulsively detailed log which he likes to call his "Legacy." It is of every book he has ever read from the beginning until now. The Legacy shows the year, the day, the number of days it took to finish a book and the amount of pages in the book. From his first book: O' God of Battles, which was 242 pages long and it took him 31 days to complete it. To his million page goal which ended with The Return of the King, the third and final volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. And it only took him 24 years to get there.

When he said a million pages he meant exactly that. He counts only the pages that are part of the story, and he doesn't count books that are under two hundred pages-he'll still read them, they just don't count towards his goal. He also kept a running log of averages, the average number of pages he reads in a day, the average number of books in a month and the average number of pages and books in a year.

His favorite book is October Sky. Says it's about a boy reaching his goal. Even if everyone is against him. Shows determination and perseverance.

I asked Herman if that book resembles him in a way, finishing a goal no matter what? He pauses for a moment "I never really gave it much thought."

View his complete story by pressing play in the middle of the slideshow screen.

Photographer's notes:

I photographed this assignment with a canon 40d and a 35mm f/2 lens. ISO remained around 400 and the camera was set in B&W mode.

Voice recording was done on my Mac book pro using the internal mic. Later edited with Garage Band.

I was inspired by a piece in the New York Times titled: One in 8 Million.



Anonymous said...

Fantastic-you should get his permission to send to PB or something.

Great documentary. Are you going to have it on your site? new heading-life stories or documentaries?

You are great.

What a neat person and a wonderful way to stay young and interesting!


Anonymous said...

Supposed to say


Anonymous said...


Friends are like good books, few but well chosen"

Sooooo very true!

Travis said...

Way cool man! This guy is fascinating. It's interesting how he felt such an anti-climax at the end of it all. I think this does deserve some form of fictionalized glamorification.

Top show!

thelaughingtree said...

Great work, D, a lot of heart! I'm casting around for my next book so I'll go find his fave, October Sky. The guy doesn't "remember anything", I love it.

Unkle Roy said...

Beautifully done. Fascinating guy. I have a thought: select 2 or 3 photos (give them captions) and take your written story to your local Portland paper. They'll love it because it's local (and inspiring). Be sure to get your website in at the end of the article––you'll get more biz!


Daniel said...

awesome shot and I love the story.. really cool thanks for sharing!


Aaron Stark said...

Amazing! You really captured the greatness of his story. Think if you never met him... such a good story would have gone unnoticed- you brought it to life.

Anonymous said...

Awesome job dewd! I wanna read 2000 books now


Mrs. Lindsay Stark said...

Beautiful story with beautiful pictures!

bethanncoria22@hotmail.com said...


I love this story and how your pictures... are celebrating one man's commitment to his goal and sharing it with everyone else. It makes me think, oh yeah i had a goal once too and i should get on that! It brought a smile to my face buddy.

Tom Paine said...

Well done.


Paida said...

This is amazing. Wonderful.

Erika said...

This is amazing! Your photos are great and the story is lovely. Now you are making inspiring me, as well as the New York Times!

wabowabo said...

Amazing Story... loved the photos. Well done!

sperry said...

This is great. Really great.

janell said...

Hey this is janell helseth I went to high school with you! Herman is my most favorite customer in the whole world! And I found out about this story you did by talking with him a bunch! So cool that you did this!!!! Herman is a one of a kind guy! And I must say I love him:)

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Viagra said...

His favorite book happens to be mine as well!

Elliott Broidy said...

Beautiful story