"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

one more

Here's another image I made at Stinson Beach. Before the fog burned off in the morning, the light was exquisite. On this particular morning, we canoed to the lagoon where the harbor seals lounge on the sand bars during low tide. Of course, my favorite image is not one of the harbor seals, but of the back of Eddie, who was sitting in the bow of the canoe.

Monday, July 21, 2014

stinson beach

I've been enjoying some family time at Stinson Beach on the California coast. Loving the light.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


These are stills from Pawel Pawlikowski's film "Ida." I saw this stunning film last night and have not been able to get the images, setting and characters out of my mind. Not that I really want to.

From the NYT review by David Denby: "We are so used to constant movement and compulsive cutting in American movies that the stillness of the great new Polish film 'Ida' comes as something of a shock. I can’t recall a movie that makes such expressive use of silence and portraiture."

Again, David Denby: "Clearing away clutter, Pawlikowski almost never moves the camera; many of the scenes are just long-lasting shots, fed by a single light source that often puts the faces in partial shadow (what we understand of these two women will always be limited). Sometimes the figures are positioned at the bottom of the frame, with enormous gray Polish skies above them, as if the entire burden of a cursed country weighed on its people."

These are only a few of the starkly haunting images that crushed me last night. Please go see the movie so you, too, can be moved and inspired by 80 minutes of gorgeous black and white photography on a movie screen. It's a sad, bleak tale - one that revisits one of the darkest moments in history and which raises difficult questions surrounding those who survived it.

You can read Denby's review here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

little and free

Can anything compare with receiving updated photos of the grandchildren? Actually, yes.

Photos of their latest little masterpieces absolutely make my day.

I wish I could have watched Henry create this drawing, but I think I know exactly how it went down. His pieces are kind of like "performance" art. He never strives for a clean, perfect presentation. Rather, while his marker, crayon or paintbrush moves around the paper, he describes what is happening. It might begin with a character getting onto an airplane, then flying off into the clouds, then making a stop on a particular planet, then cruising by the sun, then… well you get the idea. Usually by the end of the story, the paper has become a free and lively sea of dense strokes, circles or squiggles. If his mom can get a photo of it before the initial concept is completely obliterated, she kindly sends it my way.

This picture is "a house on wheels with many chimneys and birthday guests." It really isn't complete without Henry's ongoing narration, but it is pretty great nevertheless.

Abbie and Sam are giving their children, among other things, the opportunity to express themselves in endlessly free and creative ways. Each day seems to have a bit of magic in it. My sister once said she wished she could be one of their kids. I do, too! But I consider myself one lucky woman to get to be their grandmother.

"Dragon Family with Bugs"


(All photos were taken by Abbie.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

hipsta stuff

Here are some new photos I made with my iPhone.

Friday, July 11, 2014

clinton 39 years later

It was the winter of 1975, and I was an undergraduate studying photography and graphic design at the University of Wisconsin. I decided I wanted to travel through the mountains of eastern Kentucky to track down and photograph traditional bluegrass mountain musicians.

I drove through the hollers and asked anyone who'd hear me out: do you know any fiddle, mandolin or banjo players who've been playing for a long time? Making their own instruments, maybe?

One of the families to whose cabin I was pointed belonged to the Bailey clan. There was WR and Dahlia, who were in their 70's or 80's, their son Riley, and Riley's kids Clinton and Leon. WR and Riley made banjos, dulcimers and fiddles and played them well. I enjoyed this family so much I returned to their place two more times on subsequent visits to Kentucky.

So, I was on a search for The Baileys last week when I pulled into their town. I asked the first person I saw there if she knew Clinton Bailey. She said: yes, he and Leon live with their mother Ruby up yonder. 

I navigated the twists and turns of the holler, asking people along the way if I was getting any closer to the Bailey place. Up yonder can be hard to find if you haven't been there in 39 years.

Well, I did find them, and I spent two different days with them, meeting their family and their friends. I was accepted with warm, open arms. Sadly, Riley was no longer alive, but the next generation(s) greeted me kindly and were so appreciative of the photos I had brought along to give them.

I figured it would be fun to share the image I made of cherubic little Clinton, who was five or six at the time - and the photo I made of him last week with his granddaughter Makina.

So here they are.

Clinton, 1975

Clinton and granddaughter Makina, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

editing… or who’s your judge?

Once when grandson Henry was visiting, we drove by Eddie's office. We pointed it out to Henry and told him that’s where Zayde goes to work. Henry’s dad was (and still is) a clerk for a judge at the time. Apparently, my son-in-law refers to his boss as “the judge.” So, when we showed Henry where Eddie works, he promptly asked: “Zayde, who’s your judge?”

I tend to work in a vacuum. I shoot alone, I process images alone, I print sitting alone at the computer (or years ago working alone in the darkroom). Selecting which images are the most “successful” is usually a solitary undertaking, as well. Every now and then, I might meet with a group of fellow photographers to share work and ask for feedback. Once a year or so I might even fork out the money to attend a portfolio review.  But, mostly, I am making my own edits.

As I become a more skilled image-maker, a longer liver of life and a more “worn around the edges” kind of shooter, I’d like to think I’m also becoming a better editor. Back in the day when I shot film, I saved all my negatives, of course. (I still have them… many binders full of them!) Sometimes, weeks, months or even years after I’d make my selections and done my printing, I’d revisit the negatives and discover an image I’d ignored or overlooked. Occasionally, these images worked just as well as, if not better than my initial picks.

Fast forward to the digital age and the massive, overwhelming flood of easy-to-make, easy-to-erase digital captures. There comes a time when you just don’t want to continue saving everything you shoot, because there is such a thing as limited storage space (if not physically, then certainly emotionally!).  When I’m working with my Hassie, I do shoot more slowly and more deliberately than I do with my SLR. I try to make exposures only when I think I’ve got something special and not shoot randomly hoping for a lucky grab. But I still end up with too many files. Ultimately, I guess they just feel like clutter to me.

On my recent trip to eastern Kentucky, I found myself editing files each night in the hotel room. I actually dismissed (and deleted) some files, something I really had never allowed myself to do before. Was I too quick to act? What about going back years later and finding a gem I’d failed to recognize at first?

I guess I feel like it might be a new kind of discipline I’m imposing on myself.  Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. I’ll simply have to see how often I cry when thinking about files I may have deleted.

I am just being my own judge.

After revisiting my Kentucky images last night, I was happy to find these.  They didn’t make the first cut. Perhaps they should’ve.  I didn’t delete them on those nights in the hotel room them because I must have known I’d come back to them on a different day, in a different mood, after different experiences and thought processes - and see these versions in a different way.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


I am so happy to be featured on Aline Smithson's wonderful blog, Lenscratch, today. Please check it out here.

Monday, July 07, 2014

last day in the bluegrass

It's time to hit the road and head back to the midwest. Yesterday I spent time with my dad's caregiver who is from Breathitt County. She took me to her little church for Sunday services and then to her family farm for Sunday supper.

Here are the last of the images from my visit to eastern Kentucky.

Breathitt County

Breathitt County

Breathitt County

Breathitt County

Breathitt County

Perry County

Perry County