How Nature Can Answer the Problems of Human Experiences: Escapism: Words + Photos

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

When I first heard of the book Escapism: Words + Photos, by Candice Lee, I was excited. Nature plus poetry plus lived experience? YES! Then the book came in the mail, and I opened it and happily dug in. 

How Nature Can Answer the Problems of Human Experiences: Escapism: Words + Photos

This is a story of a life, of struggles and finding self and the beauty of life - and nature. For when Lee needs to think and heal most, she heads to nature, specifically, to our national parks and other outdoor spaces. A poet, photographer, a phenomenologist digging deep, Lee beautifully shares her life. 

In one of her poems, she writes:

I swallowed the betrayal
I made it something beautiful
I am an artist and so I created

This. This is everything - about life, about growing and relationships and change, about finding solace in nature - paired with extraordinary photos that show us the grace of our world. 

Wherever you are in your life, in both inner and outer journeys, this book will help you illuminate your own journeys. Highly recommended.

We were lucky enough to speak with Candice Lee, and ask about her book, inspiration, pairing photos with poems, our national parks, and more. Here's what she had to say...

Candice Lee. How Nature Can Answer the Problems of Human Experiences: Escapism: Words + Photos

Please tell us about your new book, Escapism...
Escapism: Words + Photos is a poetry and photography book. All the poems were based on actual events in my life, so it's a very personal piece. It's a reflection of my struggles throughout the grieving process of relationships. I think it will be relatable to anybody who has ever loved someone and had to let them go. 

What inspired you to create this book?
A lot of grief and losses that were concentrated into a short period in my life: two childhood best friends that are no longer in my life, a romantic relationship (actually, it started with my recent ex, but turned out to be a string of old relationships all at once since I didn't grieve them at the time it first ended), and my dog. I was struggling with accepting to move forward with my life as it was and I needed to make sense of all of it. I wasn't able to make peace with all the pain until I gave it a meaningful purpose with everything I learned, including my own failures in these friendships and relationships. 

The words you share so beautifully match the photos of our national parks - how did you collate this book?
Thank you so much! It's interesting you noticed the correlations and I appreciate your eye! I first drafted the book manuscript without any photos in order to layout the storyline. Then when it came time to add the photos, I went through my photo archives and integrated the photos according to what I felt as I read through the poems. And funny enough, I found that many of the photos and poems are related chronologically and were taken around the same time I wrote the poem.  Whenever I write and shoot, I aim to reflect what I am currently feeling. I'm so happy to hear that it shows in my work! Thank you!

What might people be surprised to learn, about your writing and photography processes?
I create my best work from periods of my life that were extremely difficult and painful. I believe most art and its inspiration is derived from heightened emotional states of mind. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's a bittersweet curse and blessing for me... When I am at my worst emotionally, I am at my best in creating. I use art to make sense of my feelings. So usually, the purpose is to find the beauty in my pain by transforming it into something that can be appreciated. I'm sure many can relate to this process for moving forward.  

What role do our national parks play in your life?
I love this question! None of my work could have been made possible without the national parks and monuments. Escapism, also the title of this book, is a recurring state of being that I often experience during times of distress. I think we all feel this, in different forms. It's any form of distraction from facing a reality that is difficult or overwhelming. For me, the national parks were my go-to during these times and they were my safe haven for the last four years. Nature offers so much to us and in many ways, I believe I found all the answers I needed through these lands. The perspectives that I needed at the time, were lessons I learned on my own, indirectly. 

Here's an experience for example: Right after my last breakup, I found myself somewhere in the Rincon Mountains, in Arizona. I was having a lot of difficulty processing what had happened and I wasn't able to let go. While setting up my tent, a Cardinal landed on a rock near me. It was beautiful, and so close to me! I've never seen one before so I really wanted to grab my camera to take a picture of it, but I knew I would scare it away if I made sudden movements. In the moment, I decided that I'd rather just enjoy the beauty of its presence and watch it for as long as it would let me. It was a bit crazy but I thought to myself--maybe if I send out positive vibes of trust and welcomeness, this bird will come back again and I can shoot it then, when it's ready and when I'm ready. So I went about the rest of my day and as expected, it flew away. But I stuck to my plan and thought, "He'll be back." A few days later, while I was packing up my tent, there he was. And this time, my camera was in reach. Here's the picture I took. 

Cardinal in the Rincon Mountains, Arizona. How Nature Can Answer the Problems of Human Experiences: Escapism: Words + Photos

I applied this experience to perspective on my breakup and the anger I felt towards my ex. I had an epiphany, "Oh, that's why he left. He wasn't ready. I went towards him and it scared him away." With this new understanding, I felt the anger release its hold on me. Through this lengthy story of my rendezvous with this bird, the moral is how subtly nuanced experiences in nature such as this can indirectly answer the problems to our human experiences. We already know the answers we're trying to find, and when we are ready ourselves, we can accept it, and make peace with it. 

Everybody is different, and I found that the most inspiring and rejuvenating environment for me is alone in nature. This is why I decided to donate all proceeds for the first year of publication to the National Park Conservation Association and the National YoungArts Foundation. I hope our future generations may continue to turn to our beautiful parks and have the resources to maximize their creative potential. 

What's up next for you?
I get to sleep! This book was on my mind 24/7 and now that it's finished, it's time to relax a bit and enjoy life! My friends and family are probably just as relieved that this project is finished, since I've been M.I.A. for most of this year. 

Over the next few years, I'd like to work on my long-term aspiration to visit all the national parks in the United States. My Subaru and I have a long road and many destinations ahead. The journey and itinerary is undecided and remains unknown, but that's the excitement of it! 

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
The book is now available in paperback and hardcover format on Amazon, B&N, and retail stores. (Purchasing info below)

I need help spreading the word and would like to give back as much as I can during the first publication year to the two non-profit organizations I selected. Reviews, recommendations, and shares are all greatly appreciated! I hope people can appreciate nature in all its glory (and its healing power) the way I have come to learn it. 

How can people find your work?
I'm not as social media savvy as I'd like to be for this day and age, but I'm getting there! I'll post updates on my Amazon author page where readers can keep up. Follow along on instagram:

You can also check out my website: for future projects I may be working on. All photographs on my site and in the book are available for purchase as prints! I can be reached at candiceleephoto[at] for more details on orders. 

Thank you so much for your time and for reading my book, Dr. Jessie! 




All photos courtesy and copyright Candice Lee