Washington, D.C., native Michael Cantor lived in Baltimore City for the majority of his adult life, working as a full-time photographer, before moving to the Annville area about three years ago. He now owns Salamander Books and Music, 701 Cumberland St., Suite 103, and works as a full-time magician.

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Between his sleight-of-hand performances and selling used books, music gear, and more, Cantor has kept the dust off his camera. For the past three to five years, he has been photographing clouds for his meditative book titled Looking Up: The Language of Magic, Part 1, which was published on Aug. 13 through Lulu Press.

“The clouds just came about, sort of, I found myself looking up a lot and the subtle movements, and all the patterns, and the transitory nature, and the fact that nothing will be repetitive,” Cantor said. “This is a sacred moment that will not repeat. And maybe they’re saying something, maybe there’s something there.”

Cantor himself collected and arranged the photographs, creating space for introspection, in a digital document that was eventually sent to Lulu Press.

“I didn’t want it to be just a book of pretty pictures,” he said. “I wanted it to be more of an interactive experience, almost like a deck of tarot cards, almost where maybe you just sit, and you turn to a page, and you see the cloud, and you kind of go, ‘Did I feel anything here?'”

Cantor hopes the book can be used as a way for people to metaphorically open their eyes, which is of great importance to him. This is echoed by his interest in different avenues of communication, including potential unexplored avenues, nonverbal signals, and extrasensory perceptions.

“I have, I guess, a strong interest in sort of our connection with nature. And I believe that, at one time, we were very intimate with nature. And nature has communications,” Cantor said.

“Most of us have lost that connection and, you know, we put everything in words. Now, it’s been up to two-dimensional life in cyberspace and whatnot. And I feel that a lot of our reason of who we are is our connection with our natural environment. And I believe that there’s certain sensitivities that we all have that have probably atrophied.”

Anything that comes to mind when viewing the photographs can be written in the designated area of the page below the photographs, much like a journal.

“Especially in our society, our brains are so full of the to-do list. I got to do this. I got to do that. We’re not really that present, most of us,” Cantor said. “So, maybe there’s something, once again, right in front of our face, right at our door, that reminds us of some very, very, very baseline identities. I mean, who we are, what we are, why we are, and that kind of transcends words.”

When asked if part two is in the works, Cantor said the idea is to create additional books with the same meditative approach but different themes: “It could be trees blowing in the wind. It could be ocean waves. It could be reflections in water. It could be anything.”

Cantor said he has a “tremendous amount of material” on trees but is currently brainstorming how he can emulate the opportunities in part one for epiphanies and experiences that words minimize.

“When I used to do a lot of photography, even professionally, when I was out there, my mind was totally immersed in paying attention,” Cantor said. “It gets you out of your own head, and so, I’m definitely looking for projects.”

To learn more or purchase the 224-page square paperback featuring 216 black-and-white photographs of clouds, visit Lulu Press’s website to purchase on-demand. Cantor has also ordered many copies to sell at Salamander Books and Music.

This is Cantor’s second published book. His debut, titled Herrmann the Great – A Journey through Media, is a 379-page biography on one of the most famous American magicians from the 1800s, which has a much different target audience from this meditative series, according to Cantor.

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Lexi Gonzalez has worked as a reporter with LebTown since 2020. She is a Lancaster native and became acquainted with Lebanon while she earned her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.


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