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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

good people doing good things

I would like to share some of the amazing work being done in simple but heartfelt ways by some amazing people who want to help the children at St. Mary Kevin’s. First up, an email I received the other day:

“Hello. Recently my 11-year-old son and I donated money to Change the Truth. My son sent $10 of his own money as a Mother's Day present to me. I would like to establish a pen pal relationship with one of the children at the orphanage so that we may get to know him or her personally. We will continue to help support the orphanage, as we are able. I'm a single mother and don't have a lot of extra money but want to do what I can. Thank you.”

Next… my niece is getting married in June. Guess what she and her fiancĂ© registered for, alongside dishes and bath towels? Right. An opportunity to make donations in their honor to organizations about which they feel passionate. They included Change the Truth on their wish list.

Last, but not least, my good friend who is a nurse put on her saleslady hat yesterday and schlepped all the beaded jewelry made by the kids at the orphanage to the children’s hospital where she works. There, in the procedure room, in the lab and in the office area, she modeled the necklaces and bracelets and talked about the kids in Uganda. She arrived at my house last night with close to $200, all of which goes directly to St. Mary Kevin’s. How cool is that?

Thanks to each of you who are making Change the Truth come alive.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

aeon

In the summer of 1999, I took a workshop in Santa Fe with Andrea Modica. One afternoon we were supposed to wander around town making photographs, which Andrea would later critique. I made my way to Las Vegas, New Mexico to see what I could find there and to avoid the crowds and clichés of Santa Fe. What I found was a natural hot spring just northwest of town. I hung around for a while, dangling my feet in the soothing water, and just as I was about to leave, a family of four arrived, removed their clothes and slid in. Turned out, the oldest son, who was around seven or eight, was very open to having me make pictures of him. With the permission of his mom, I set about getting to know Aeon with my camera. He was a willing subject, and truthfully, we became collaborators.

1999
1999
1999

Aeon is a wonderfully androgynous, fair skinned boy with a fierce imagination and a sense of adventure and drama. He has the intensity of someone much older and wiser. Before I knew what hit me that day, I was treated to a surreal encounter with a family that seemed to walk right out of the 60’s. Each was comfortable in his/her own skin, curious about the world, earthy, creative, trusting and loving. It was as if I was watching a movie, but really they drew me into their world in a welcoming way and let me be part of their little family outing that afternoon.

We exchanged addresses before parting. I would send them copies of some of the pictures I had made, and we promised to meet again one of these days.

In the winter of 2000 and again in the summer of 2001, I wound my way to their cabin in the woods just outside of Taos. Aeon’s mom said hello on my first visit by bestowing upon me a gorgeous poncho she had woven. Aeon and his younger brother donned capes and swords, then took me on a tour of their magical, wondrous playground that was thick overgrown woods, ponds, water snakes, a tree house, birds, burrs, and various little wild animals scurrying about.

2000
2001
2001


Aeon and I traded letters and drawings. I sent him some of Max’s old Pokemon cards. I made sure he got copies of all the best pictures we made together. I sent him exhibition announcements which featured photos of him and clippings from magazines in which his pictures appeared. His Mom told me he felt so famous.

I met up again with the family in 2004 at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu. Aeon’s mom told me he was looking forward to making more pictures, so that’s what we did. Even on the verge of puberty, he was comfortable and confident, while still maintaining his sense of wonder and innocence.

2004
2004
2004

It is time to find them again. I tried unsuccessfully to contact Aeon’s mom last month before I left for Santa Fe. I remember talk about some land they had in Colorado. This summer I plan to dig a little deeper and see if I can discover where they are, so I can continue my journey of photographing Aeon.

2004
2004

Sunday, May 27, 2007

graduation


So for the past few weeks, we’ve been hearing about how great it is that these kids are embarking on an exciting new chapter of their lives. Yep, they’ll each agree with you there. In a couple of months, the kids from Max's class will be heading off for Los Angeles, Denver, Miami, Tucson, Boston, Philadelphia and all points in between. They will have nice new “long” sheets for their new beds in new rooms with new views with new friends, studying with new books, getting to know new teachers, hanging out in new coffee shops, making their own decisions about practically everything, learning about sides of themselves they can only now barely imagine. Can’t get much more thrilling than that.

And what of those they leave behind? I know… get out the violins.

The risk you take when you let your kids go is that they will not return home. I know that. I know that because three of four of us Baker kids did not move back home after attending college in various parts of the country. I know that because most of our friends’ children have continued living in or near the places they went to school. I know that because our own daughter has not lived in Kansas City since she waved goodbye to us on a beautiful fall morning in New Haven, Connecticut eight years ago, turned and walked toward her freshman dorm.

This house will be very quiet next year. And I guess it will be quiet for many years to come.

There’s a pretty good quote that you can find on those gooey graduation cards, pink usually, with some flowery embellishment along the edges that says: there are only two lasting bequests we can give our children – one is roots, the other is wings.

I hope Max and his friends (these guys have become part of our family over all these years) will remember how to fly back to this nest on 58th Street.

Friday, May 25, 2007

anniversary



Eddie and I celebrate our wedding anniversary today. We've been together through thick and thin, as they say, but mostly for us, thick. It's been a wonderful ride thus far; we've basically grown up together, having met when I was just seventeen and he was twenty-two. Here we are back in the day, flower power all the way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

change the truth update


For the past two weeks, Michael, Rosemary and eight of the children from St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood have been touring in the northwest. They were brought over to the US in conjunction with the efforts of a non-for-profit organization called Sister Schools, which is based in Seattle. They have been performing in concerts, spending time at schools and sightseeing. Next year, if they are able to come again, Change the Truth will most likely be a co-sponsor, which means the group will come to Kansas City!

The kids will head back to Uganda with Rosemary next week, but Michael will make his way to Kansas City for a three-day visit. I am really looking forward to having him here and to introducing him to the people who are donating money to support the orphanage through Change the Truth, as well as groups that have expressed an interest in beginning long-term projects to establish lasting relationships with the kids in Uganda. While he’s here, we will make sure he gets his fill of Kansas City bar-b-que, good jazz, maybe a Royals game, a visit to Operation Breakthrough and the grand soiree that will take place as the Nelson-Atkins museum opens its doors to the much anticipated, glorious new wing.

Michael and I will also discuss immediate needs at the orphanage as well as long-range projects that could use our support. He has already given me the names of the next two kids who need help with secondary school fees; they are James Buyondo and Catherine Nanziri. Because of the incredible generosity of all of you, we will definitely be able to assist these two students. This brings the number of secondary school students who are benefiting from Change the Truth to eight! As my eighteen year old Max would say… sweet!

Another topic Michael and I will discuss is the pen pal arrangement. Some of you have heard from your pen pals, others have not. We will try to determine how to best make this work. If you or you child would like to begin corresponding with one of the children from the orphanage, please send me an email stating age and gender preference.

Michael tells me the children have been wearing their Change the Truth t-shirts in and around Seattle. He ended a recent missive with these words: “Gloria, I will try to change the truth.” Pretty powerful, given the work that he does day in and day out as manager of an orphanage full of sick, impoverished and lonely (but beautiful, bright and optimistic) children.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

book cover


A new book by Rupert Thomson will be released this summer by Random House, and on its cover will be one of my shredded pieces, Badlands. Here is a synopsis of the story:

"Rupert Thomson—'a true master,' according to the San Francisco Chronicle—now gives us his most powerful work yet: the story of a woman who, even after her death, inflames an entire nation, and of the man who comes under her spell.

Having spent decades in prison for crimes gruesomely familiar to everyone in England, this murderer has finally died of natural causes but is no less notorious in death than she was in life. Billy Tyler, a career policeman, has been assigned the task of guarding her body—to make sure, he’s told, that nothing happens. But alone on a graveyard shift his wife begged him not to accept, Billy has occasion to contemplate the various turns his life has taken, his complicated thoughts about violence in himself and society, the unease that distances him from marital disappointment and a damaged daughter, and, finally, why it is that this reviled murderer, in the eerie silence of the hospital morgue, seems to speak to him directly and know him more fully than anyone else. In this dark night of the soul, his own problems and anxieties gradually acquire a new and unexpected significance, giving rise to questions that should haunt us all: Whom do we love, and why? How do we protect our children? And what separates us from those we call monsters?

A gripping revelation of crime, of punishment—and of what we desperately seek to hide from ourselves."

Monday, May 21, 2007

where have all the pictures gone?

They’re stuck in cell phones, compact flash cards and computers.

Remember the days when people actually had scrapbooks that contained paged and pages of snapshots? You know, the ones you can probably find in your mother or grandmother’s attic – the ones with pictures carefully framed by four small black paper corners… with thoughtful captions about who, where and when neatly scrawled below each image?

The other day I had lunch with an old friend I hadn’t seen since her grandchild was born. When I asked to see a picture of the little guy, my friend whipped out her cell phone, and voila! there he was, pacifier in adorable little (and I do mean little) slightly fuzzy face. I was disappointed. I mean, come on, isn’t is much more satisfying to hold a piece of paper in your hands and slowly linger on each dimple, run your fingers over baby smooth skin, study the eyes, the nose, the fat little legs? I felt robbed.

I guess it’s akin to reading a book on the computer. Sounds awful to me. I love the weight of a book in my lap, the texture and smell of the paper, the sound of pages turning.

I shoot digital snapshots now, too. But I do make myself go to Costco and have prints made (at a whopping $.14 apiece) so that I can add them to the scrapbooks I started when the kids were born, put them in frames or tack them to the refrigerator.

Can’t you just hear all those imprisoned digital picture files calling out? Print me! Put me in a safe place somewhere so years from now someone will know I existed!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

santa fe reviews

I am still standing!

My reviews were, for the most part, very good. The Uganda work seemed to win the most praise, and I even managed to sell one of the images. It will go into the private collection of a museum curator from the west coast.

My favorite meetings were with magazine editors. It is becoming more and more clear to me that doing editorial work is the path I’d next like to travel. Luckily I got great responses to the “story” work I’ve done thus far from both the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Mother Jones. I feel hopeful that, over time, something might come of both these new relationships.

One gallerist in particular was very enthusiastic about my work. We’ll see what happens.

I have seen some old friends, which has been nice, and have seen a lot of interesting work. It’s been exhausting, but inspiring to be here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

southwest take me away

By 10 a.m. I'll be in Albuquerque; at 12:30 I'll be sitting across the table from my first portfolio reviewer in Santa Fe. Over the course of the next four hours, I'll see three gallery owners, two magazine editors and one agent. It will no doubt be a grueling afternoon. Each session is twenty minutes long - not much time to try to share the breadth and depth of years of work. Tonight is the public portfolio sharing at the museum. Tomorrow morning I see two more gallery owners and one more agent; the afternoon is reserved for seminars, the evening for gallery tours.

These reviews are not for the weak at heart or the insecure. I've watched people leave them in tears. They're for serious fine art photographers who are determined to make it to the next level in their career, whether it be finding their first or an additional gallery to represent them, getting picked up for an assignment for a magazine, securing a book deal or getting a show at/selling work to a museum. It can also a good way to simply get advice and encouragement if you happen to be looking for that (aren't we all?).

Being a photographer means not only making pictures. I have spent hours and hours putting together the materials I will leave with each reviewer (articles, announcements, reviews, resume, etc) and more hours printing my portfolios, packaging them just so, rehearsing my "lines" and building up the confidence it will take to subject myself to the personal opinions of those who have influence and power in the photo world.

I never took Marketing 101 in college, but perhaps I should have!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

one hundred contemporary photographers share their work

Center, formerly the Santa Fe Center for Photography, is pleased to announce a public photography portfolio viewing on Friday, May 18, 2007, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, 16125 Paseo de Peralta.

This free event provides collectors and photography lovers with a unique opportunity to view photographs from nationally-known photographers as well as those who are on the cusp of wider recognition.

Portfolio Viewing is a component of Review Santa Fe, a juried competition in which 100 photographers present their work to nationally prominent photography curators, art directors, publishers, editors and gallery directors. The 100 photographers were juried from a pool of 600 applicants by Steve Fitch, photographer and educator at the College of Santa Fe; Michele Penhall, Curator of Prints and Photographs, UNM Art Museum; and Janet Russek of Scheinbaum & Russek, Santa Fe.

Friday, May 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public
El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, 1615 Paseo de Peralta (across from SITE Santa Fe)

For additional information call 505.984.8353 or go to www.visitcenter.org

I'll be there showing my work! Hope to see some of you, as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

mother's day at the lexington cemetery


My sweet and very romantic father provided each of us with a velvety rich red long-stemmed rose to place on Mom's marker at the cemetery, and that is what we did on Mother's Day.

If you are ever in or near Lexington, take a drive or walk through this historic park-like place. The weeping willows, the lakes with ducks, swans and hundreds of huge goldfish (there used to be peacocks wandering about when I was a kid) and the flowering trees and shrubs are so beautiful. This so-called "garden" cemetery (it has an arboretum) is the burial site of many notable Kentuckians and was originally established in 1849. At the entrance is a Romanesque style gatehouse built in 1890. It's an impressive, peaceful and lovely place.

Monday, May 14, 2007

nice e-mail

I received this e-mail recently and loved what it had to say:

"I am sure that you get all kinds of emails from all
kinds of people - old and young - who have been moved
by your work. I am one of those many. If you were to
meet me, you would see a pendant of Africa hanging
around my neck. I lived in Africa as a girl, and ever
since have known that I will return there someday with
my own family. Africa is a place that you breathe in,
and it never leaves your lungs. Growing up there left
an impression on me more than any other part of my
life. Somehow, even living in Brookside, I long more
for those red dirt streets.

As I walked past the Leopold Gallery today and saw an image of Ugandan children, I
was stopped in my tracks. It felt like coming home -
looking into almost familiar eyes and settings. I was
pulled inside and looked further. It was so close to
what I was surrounded by in my childhood I almost
could have touched it. I have always dreamed of what
I would capture if I were to return with my family, as
an adult artist, and that dream was resonnating in
your images.

So, all of this to say thank you. I am not sure what
it was that drew you to Africa. But I was amazed and
blessed to be standing in the middle of a gallery in
Kansas City and having my heart go home as I looked at
each image."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

to all you mothers

my room, kentucky, may 12, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

max




Okay, so the lump that was in my throat finally got the best of me, and the moist stuff that was in my eyes turned into heaving sobs at the end of the final music program last night at Max's school. The traditional senior slide show put me over the edge. These are the two photos of Max that appeared on the screen, and they really did me in. The little drummer boy... and then the big one, parading in front of my eyes while the kids sang a song called "I Am Your Child." All that time in between these two pictures, well, those mental images are stuck inside my head and are constantly on fast forward and fast rewind these days.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

the sun

If you don’t already subscribe to The Sun, you might want to go to their site and read all about this wonderful literary and photographic magazine. It’s been around since 1974, and the editors have been very supportive of my work over the past few years. Eddie and I both look forward to receiving our monthly issue of The Sun because the writing and the photography always make us think about something or other in a new way.

I send the magazine piles of pictures every now and then. The art director usually pulls a handful from the stack to keep on hand for future use and sends the rest back to me. Then, a couple of times a year, I’ll open my new issue to see one of my photographs that has been kept in the “vault” of the magazine’s office!


That was the case with the most recent issue. I opened it to find, to my surprise and delight, an image on the first page that I had sent to them over three years ago. I had actually forgotten all about the picture. It is a photograph I made of my parents when we were at the Mayo Clinic shortly after my mother had been diagnosed with leukemia. If you’ve ever been there, you know that there is a lot of wait-time involved in seeing all the various doctors. This picture is of my parents waiting.

The day after I received this new issue, I got the following e-mail:

“I spent a long while studying the photograph on the first page of the May 2007 Sun magazine. Before going off to write a journal entry about it, I thought I'd see about the photographer. How wonderful to find that you are a Kansas Citian. After visiting your website, I see that you will be presenting at the Kemper. What a joy it would be to see your work there within a week of being introduced to it from a magazine out of North Carolina! Thank you for the gift of your photography!

Another Kansas Citian,

K.”

Besides being blown away by the e-mail, I also decided to spend a little more time with the picture. I resurrected it, in a sense, by putting it at the beginning of my artist talk and using it as a excuse to dedicate the presentation to my folks:

“I dedicate this presentation to my parents, who, over all these years, rarely complained when I stuck a camera in their faces and who even came around at some point to saying with pride that their daughter is a photographer.”

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

make the world a better place

A young man named JJ has made the admirable decision to do what he can to help kids his own age who happen to have been born into situations wildly different from his own. This is the email he sent to me in which he describes the goals he has set for himself surrounding his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.

“I am a 7th grade boy and will become a bar mitzvah this summer. One of the commitments to becoming a bar mitzvah is to make the world a better place. I learned about change the truth.org from an article in the newspaper. I read it and knew that I wanted to help fix this problem, that there are millions of parentless kids that can't even afford to go to school in Uganda. If these kids do not have the opportunity to go to school, they are condemned to a horrible life.

It only costs $285 (about the cost of an ipod) to send one high school orphan in Uganda to one year of school. My goal is to send 10 kids to school for a year. To raise this money, I have planned to work various jobs and will donate my earnings for scholarships for these kids. I will also be asking for donations from friends and family by writing them a letter about this situation.”

You go, JJ!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

lump in my throat

As the school year draws to a close, there are numerous events held to mark the fact that Max and his classmates are graduating seniors. There has been senior ditch day, senior prank, the mother/son dinner and father/daughter dance, the final parent gathering, senior breakfast, prom, sports awards day and the senior processional at May Day. We still look forward to academic awards day, commencement dinner, final projects presentations, the final music program and then the mother of them all – the actual graduation ceremony.

Both of our children have attended this college preparatory school and both have officially been dubbed “lifers” – that is, they each made their way through all thirteen years of school there. I did the math while sitting through yet another may pole dance on the field hockey green last week, listening to the same scratchy Germanic folk music blare on the loud speaker, and it dawned on me that we have been parents at this school for twenty-one years.

I have adopted a tough guy kind of attitude about leaving this place. After all, I’m done with room parent meetings and fund drives. I’ve been on my fair share of field trips, worked at enough book fairs and sat through more than enough soccer games, lacrosse games, field hockey games, basketball games and wrestling matches. I’ve made plenty of cupcakes for Valentines Day parties and done my time as chaperone at school dances. I’m ready to bust loose, head for that freedom land where my empty nest is what I call home and my caller ID does not ever say Pembroke Hill School again.

So, why, when the seniors were parading across the green on May Day did I feel this funny protrusion in the way back of my esophagus – you know, the kind that makes it kind of hard to swallow properly? When teachers who know the eating, study and social habits of my children better than most of my friends came up to give me a hug, what was with that moist stuff that suddenly gathered in my eyes? I certainly did not understand the tug I felt in my chest when the little ones skipped - some more successfully than others, which is always very entertaining – across the field to present the May Queen with her flowers.

I started watching the young ones - the pre-schoolers, kindergartners and first graders. They hammed it up as their parents snapped just one more shot of them in their May Day clothes. There was one moment when I instinctively started to reach for my camera and look around for my little ones so I could make some pictures to stick up on the refrigerator.

And then, of course, I was forced to wonder where they went.

Friday, May 04, 2007

child soldiers

Some of the children who find their way to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood come from war-torn northern Uganda. It is there that a civil war has raged for twenty years. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), formed in 1987, is a paramilitary group engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa's longest-running conflicts. It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself a spirit medium. The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations, including mutilation, torture, rape, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers and a number of massacres.

An organization called Human Rights Watch (HRW) is highlighting its work this month on the campaign against the use of child soldiers. It has produced a short video and supports the recently proposed Child Soldiers Prevention Act in the US, which would eventually cut off US assistance to countries known to use child soldiers – nine out of ten of these countries currently receive US military aid: Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Cote d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.

HRW notes that the act would not just cut funding off immediately: “Countries that are seeking to implement demobilization measures would be eligible for assistance in that process and in the professionalization of their armed forces for up to two years before prohibitions on assistance would be imposed. Moreover, the bill provides the president with the authority to waive restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the national interest.”

You can find out more and also watch the video, featuring former child soldier – and author of A Long Way Gone - Ismael Beah.

(Thanks to Katie from VolunteerLogue for this update on HRW)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

slideshow at the kemper museum

I will be presenting an overview of my work at the Kemper Museum in Kansas City on Wednesday, May 9th. Molly Lesher and Katie Watson will also be showing their work. The program is from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

invisible children and change the truth

Invisible Children’s "Displace Me" event was held this past weekend. The goal was to raise awareness generally about the war in Uganda, and more specifically about the plight of children who travel away from home each night to avoid being recruited as soldiers and that of internally displaced people. Participants in the Displace Me event – over 5300 in Chicago, 7000 in Los Angeles and 67,000 altogether in the US – were asked to arrive at a pre-arranged location in each town where they would camp for the night, bearing enough cardboard to build a small shelter, one bottle of water and a box of saltines. These requirements were set in order to simulate the conditions under which refugees in Uganda live: in simple structures, and reliant on others to distribute food aid and water. The saltines and water were collected from participants upon arrival and redistributed later to give insight, however brief, into what refugees experience.

In a related event, and for a related cause, a J-Serve group in Kansas City held a fundraiser over the same weekend in Kansas City. The proceeds were split between Invisible Children and the Change the Truth Fund; you may remember this fund started by photographer Gloria, who spent three weeks in Uganda documenting the story of children in different orphanages in the country.

(The above post was lifted directly from Volunteerlogue.com)

PS - I did participate in the J-Serve rally on Sunday by giving a presentation about my trip to Uganda and selling the beaded jewelry made by the kids at St. Mary Kevin's, as well as Change the Truth t-shirts and CDs of the children singing. I received the following email on Monday morning from one of the high school students who came up to me after my presentation to tell me she wanted to have a pen pal from the orphanage:

"thank you very much for the information about my new pen pal! i'm very excited to start writing to her. i will let you know when i get something back. the rally really opened my eyes and made me more aware of what's going on.. again thank you very much!"

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

review santa fe



In a couple of weeks I'll be heading to the high desert of New Mexico to participate in Review Santa Fe. Since I wasn't able to go to Portland for Photo Lucida last month when Eddie's mom passed away, I was happy to have been notified recently that I was moved from the waiting list to the "get to go" list in Santa Fe. This portfolio review takes place every year, and for the past couple of years entry has been juried. There will be about 100 photographers and 40 reviewers there, the later consisting of museum, gallery, publishing and collecting gurus from all around the photo world. Since I will be showing the Uganda and Shredding projects, I have been busy polishing both portfolios. This is one of the newer Shredded pieces I have completed.