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

Friday, August 31, 2007

jane voorhees






The kids at St. Mary Kevin’s are in for a special treat when we arrive in December. We will have Jane Voorhees with us, which means art classes all around! Jane is an adjunct professor at the Kansas City Art Institute and an accomplished print maker and painter. She is represented in Kansas City by the Dolphin Gallery. She does beautiful work, which you can check out here.

Stuffed inside all our suitcases will be art supplies for the kids. Jane will give lessons for the week in one of the classrooms of the school. I am confident her attitude toward living and making art will have a huge impact on the children. Here is her artist statement:

“We all look at things differently. What I see is dictated by where I live and where I travel, dreams I have, who I talk to, music I hear, books I read. My work is shaped by daily life and the love of art that feeds and nourishes the work I produce. Considering these influences from this complicated world we live in, how can I make sense of it, how can I center on an idea? The answer always seems to be the same. Go home to myself.

I think it possible to make work that is as much about time, memory, wind, weather, smell, happiness, anger as it is about the way a place looks. I experience painting like a dancer experiences a dance. I feel it emotionally in my soul and physically in the muscles of my body. Rhythm and a sense of touch are a part of my work; the patterns in the markings mimic the physical processes in nature. I construct layers in this process, like the strata of the land that inspires me. I take common experiences and make them visible so that they may be shared and communicated. This is what artists do.”

Thursday, August 30, 2007

ed and al



Over the years, many people have told my husband, Eddie, that he resembles Alfred Steiglitz. I recently ran across this Alvin Langdon Coburn portrait of Steiglitz made in 1912; he was 48 years old.




Here’s Eddie at 55.

(And though my name is somewhat similar to Georgia’s, unfortunately, that’s where the resemblances between the two of us end.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

the jewish perspective on giving

Every Sunday morning as a kid, I put tzedakah money in my pocket to take to Sunday School. As I grew older, a tzedakah box for loose change found its way onto a shelf wherever I lived. Giving was always part of the formula in my family. I watched my parents and their friends do it; then it just felt natural to do it on my own. Finding causes to champion and support was/is status quo.

After a quick google search, I found the following information, which I felt was worth sharing:

"‘Tzedakah’ is the Hebrew word for the acts that are called ‘charity’ in English: giving aid, assistance and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes. However, the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word ‘charity’ suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word ‘tzedakah’ is derived from the Hebrew root Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due.

Giving to the poor is an obligation in Judaism, a duty that cannot be forsaken even by those who are themselves in need. Some sages have said that tzedakah is the highest of all commandments, equal to all of them combined.

Certain kinds of tzedakah are considered more meritorious than others. The Talmud describes these different levels of tzedakah, and Rambam organized them into a list. The levels of charity, from the least meritorious to the most meritorious, are:

Giving begrudgingly

Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully

Giving after being asked

Giving before being asked

Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but the recipient knows your identity

Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the recipient doesn't know your identity

Giving when neither party knows the other's identity

Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

change the truth - summer update


It's definite! On December 2nd, I am heading back to Uganda. I will continue working on my body of photographs and learning about ways we can help the children at the orphanage. I will also be bringing along some folks who will make their own contributions to the cause.

Ann is a social worker who is doing ground breaking work in the realm of “play therapy.” She plans to do therapy with some of the kids who have been traumatically affected by their situation, to the point where it is difficult for them to move forward. She will also spend several hours each day instructing a handful of teachers and staff members so that they can continue this innovative work after she is gone. Ann works at Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City, a not-for-profit provider of day care and social/medical resources for children of Missouri’s working poor.

Melissa is also a social worker at Operation Breakthrough. She will assist Ann and will also assess possible opportunities for building a partnership between the orphanage and Operation Breakthrough. She’s got a million wonderful ideas!

Lynne is a budding filmmaker from Kansas City. She will put her artistry to work by documenting the work being done at the orphanage. We will be able to use her film to tell the story of St. Mary Kevin’s at future fund raising events and presentations.

Carol is a dear, old (she’s not old, but our friendship is!) friend from New York who has asked to come along simply to learn more about the situation in Africa. She has been a solid supporter of Change the Truth from the very beginning and is especially interested in finding more ways to help. Carol has offered to assist in any way she can while we’re there, and I happen to know she is particularly good at doling out hugs and kisses to little kids in need!

Last, but not least, accompanying this mighty band of caring and talented women will an artist who will conduct classes in several different mediums for the children at St. Mary Kevin’s. We are close to finalizing this, and once the person is named, I will pass along the information. Our purpose here is twofold: the children will benefit mightily, and we will have very special artwork made by the children themselves to auction at future fundraising events!

Most of this is being made possible by a very generous donation from a friend of Change the Truth, an amazing friend at that.

If you would like to follow along as we make our way in Uganda, we will be posting daily journals here on the blog.

Also, if you have not visited the Change the Truth website lately, please do so. The store is up and running! Check it out here.

Rose Mary, the founder of St. Mary Kevin, recently wrote in an e-mail to me, “Indeed my dream of helping the needy has come true because of your support.” She is so grateful for our help.

Friday, August 24, 2007

ordinary language

In yesterday’s obituary for Grace Paley on NPR, Neda Ulaby wrote:

Paley told her students at Sarah Lawrence College that writers need two ears: One ear, she said, for the literary canon, the stories and poems you study in school, and another for “family and childhood and specifically the ordinary language of your time — which, though I use the word ‘ordinary,’ is always extraordinary, I think.”

early 1950's, from my family's photo album

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

elizabeth


As I continue to work on the 2008 Breast Cancer Awareness calendar, I relish meeting such strong, courageous women - women who are willing to share their faces and their thoughts with those who are newly diagnosed (this is who the calendar is distributed to). Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth, a striking and kind woman with a good sense of humor and who is exactly my age. I liked her right off the bat, and we made a nice connection. I love her portrait and what she had to say about having cancer:

"When I felt ‘the lump’ I knew exactly what is was. All I needed was the diagnosis, to have it removed, and to begin treatment. In the beginning it was all so unreal. Sometimes, even now, I find myself thinking I can't believe it. The sky has never been as blue as it is now. The stars shine brighter than I can ever remember them. In all honesty I can't say this is what I needed to change my life. I can think of a million other experiences I'd prefer. Since it did happen, I value life, and I know that I will never take it for granted as I did before. I want to love more, to feel less fear and enjoy the time I have to the best of my ability. Oh yes, and I promise, God, if you'll let my hair grow back the way it was, I'll never wear a hat, scarf, head covering again!"

Elizabeth

Monday, August 20, 2007

why?

As I have schlepped my camera around – in Africa, central Europe, Mexico, Missouri, Kansas, my own neighborhood – I have discovered over and over again the sheer joy of making pictures. Each day I get to photograph, I feel enormously blessed, both because of the opportunity to make pictures and the opportunity to meet fascinating people along the way. Sometimes I wonder if non-photographers understand what motivates and drives picture-makers. I love this passage from Robert Adams’ book “Why People Photograph” written in 1994:

“Why is photography, like the other arts, a kind of intoxication? And a quieter pleasure, too, so that occasionally photographers discover tears in their eyes for the joy of seeing. I think it is because they’ve known a miracle. They’ve been given what they did not earn, and as is the way with unexpected gifts, the surprise carries an emotional blessing. When photographers get beyond copying the achievements of others, or just repeating their own accidental first successes, they learn that they do not know where in the world they will find pictures. Nobody does. Each photograph that works is a revelation to its supposed creator. Yes, photographers do position themselves to take advantage of good fortune, sensing for instance when to stop the car and walk, but this is only the beginning. As William Stafford wrote, calculation gets you just so far – ‘Smart is okay, but lucky is better.’ Days of searching can go by without any need to reload film holders, and then abruptly, sometimes back in their own yards, photographers use up every sheet.”

The scariest reoccurring dream I have is the one in which I can't see anymore.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

change the truth

There is a lot of excitement in the Change the Truth part of my house these days. (You have to picture this: the CTT office is in my kitchen, the storage room for jewelry, crafts, CDs and t-shirts has become the TV room, the photographs are printed in the digital darkroom and then kept in frames in the basement!) Besides all that, we just received a shipment of forty-five toy balls made by the children. These are toys the kids make because they have few options when it comes to finding something to play with.

They use found plastic bags, wrap them up tightly into a ball, then wrap/weave banana fiber tightly around them. Once the ball is covered in fiber and tied off, usually a little extra fiber is tied onto it like a string. The kids then use the balls for kicking, holding the string in front of them as it moves about. Others have no string; these are used for tossing around with friends.


These balls are little works of art. When Michael (orphanage manager) was in Kansas City, friends of Change the Truth were here in the CTT entertainment section of my house (dining room) and saw a couple of these balls Michael had brought to me as gifts. They thought it would be a great idea to get more. My friend Mary came up with lots of wonderful ideas for packaging them and offering them to folks who’d like to make a donation. She herself is planning to give them to her children and grandchildren with a note explaining how they were made and why. She will then explain that money has been donated in honor of her kids/grandkids so that the lives of orphans in Kajjansi, Uganda may be improved.

Mary feels that the ball itself could serve as a stark reminder to her family that the excess with which most of us Americans live is really something to think about. The ball, in all its beautiful and primitive simplicity, becomes IPOD, X-Box, computer, TV and cell phone all rolled up into one beloved pastime for these children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

So… this brings me to the STORE! Not that the balls have made it to the website storefront yet, but other goodies have. If you have not shopped there yet, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the beaded paper jewelry made by the teachers and kids at St. Mark Kevin’s. We also have CDs of their angelic voices singing traditional African songs. Oh yes, and Change the Truth t-shirts!

You can go shopping here.

The other exciting news deals with the upcoming trip to Uganda. I can’t fill you in on it yet, but just know that I probably won’t be traveling alone and that a very generous friend of Change the Truth is helping make that happen. I promise to explain all when the details are worked out

Thursday, August 16, 2007

smoke bombs and undies

More images from the MO-KAN project. Color, color everywhere.



Tuesday, August 14, 2007

college bound


Max used to wear these.

Then, all of a sudden, he wakes up and his feet are big and he knows calculus and CPR and how to change a flat tire and a thing or two about physics and music and being a trusted friend and a good boyfriend, and his arms are so strong that I can’t wrestle with him and win anymore.

Where the hell have I been? Why am I so surprised by this?

On Thursday morning, he’ll put on his flip-flops, cargo shorts, his new USC t-shirt and a ball cap, walk out the door, get on a plane and fly from this nest to Los Angeles to begin the next chapter of his life.

When, exactly, are birds ready to leave the nest, you might ask? I have been turning this question over in my own mind lately. Apparently it has to do with surviving predatory attacks. The sooner a little birdie learns to fly, the safer he/she will be.

“Most birds cannot fly until their muscle structure has had time to develop. In the meantime, the nest becomes their entire world. Baby birds are not responsible for food gathering or protection of the nest, so they generally develop a psychological dependence, which must be overcome. Parent birds begin to teach their fledglings the importance of flying by remaining a short distance away from the nest during feeding. If the young birds are to survive, they must step away from the nest. Frequently, this means a few hard falls to the ground followed a long trip back to the safety of the nest.

All of this practice time, awkward as it may seem, does teach the fledgling about the mechanics of flight. Falls to the ground become more controlled as the young bird stretches out his or her wings. Short hops back to the nest become longer flights. Bird parents continue to encourage their brood to leave the nest for longer periods of time. Some species actually adopt a tough love policy, leaving the fledglings alone to develop their own flying instincts.”

- From Wisegeek.com/ How do birds learn to fly?

Okay, so Max has pretty much mastered the mechanics of flight. He’s suffered through the awkward stages. He’s had his share of hard falls to the ground. He’s done the short hops and the eventual longer flights. I guess it IS true that he’s moved on to the point where he glides with a fair amount of grace, poise and confidence. But, wait, what about me? The mom he’s leaving behind - the one who’s still willing to do the food gathering, the protecting, the nurturing? (I’ll even continue to throw in doing his laundry, laughing at his jokes and pretending not to notice when he hasn’t bathed for a few days!)

And, by the way, I haven’t detected any potential attackers lurking around the neighborhood.

Is it really possible that this nest of ours on 58th Street is no longer his entire world?

I know, get out the violins. Get a grip, Gloria, you say. I can guess what you’re thinking: lots of moms have already gone through this and survived it beautifully - with dignity, a minimum of tears and only a slight weight gain. Many courageous women before me have been able to say good-bye, then turn around and convert their kid’s room to an office or weight-room, pilates or yoga studio. But, this is MAX we’re talking about!

He had such cute little feet and, and when he padded about in his beloved Mickey Mouse shoes, his big sister chasing after him, this nest was bustling and full and noisy and fun and challenging

and complete.

Monday, August 13, 2007

billboard

Missouri sits in the bible belt of the USA. While driving on this road or that, traveling through small towns, I have been entertained by the signs in front of churches. Sometimes they are even just homemade signs planted in the dirt by the side of the road. I scribbled down a few of the more quirky quotes that I saw, and then later did a quick google search to discover them again... and oh so many more.

Read the bible. It will scare the Hell out of you.

For all you do, His blood’s for you.

Stop in the name of love and meet the Supreme.

Are you wrinkled with burden? Come to church for a faith lift.

Warning: Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.

Prevent truth decay. Brush up on your bible.

We have the best prophet-sharing plan.

A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing.

WalMart isn’t the only saving place.

Don’t give up. Moses was once a basket case.

But this sign has been by far the boldest. It’s a billboard along the highway in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It’s easy to see, and it gets to the point - no fooling around.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

boy from white city



I have been looking at this boy in black and white for a few weeks now. But today I finally saw him in color. (Is it possible that ordinarily I see as I have heard dogs see - only in black and white?) Is that true about dogs, anyway?

I met him, along with some of his buddies, in a rickety, rusted-out old park in White City, Kansas. He clearly had trouble keeping up with his slim, fit, energetic friends, but he did his best to stay in the game. There was a sweetness/sadness to him that kept pulling me in.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

color

The MO-KAN project is getting under my skin. I have even begun experimenting with color, something that feels sort of sacrilegious. I needed some sort of permission to do this, and found it in this excerpt from a primer on how to look at photographs. Sometimes I forget the choices are all mine!

“Photography is inherently an analytic discipline. Where a painter starts with a blank canvas and builds a picture, a photographer starts with the messiness of the world and selects a picture. A photographer standing before houses and streets and people and trees and artifacts of a culture imposes an order on the scene – simplifies the jumble by giving it structure. He or she imposes this order by choosing a vantage point, choosing a moment of exposure and by selecting a plane of focus."

From “The Nature of Photographs” by Stephen Shore








Thursday, August 09, 2007

k.u. med cancer center

The Leopold Gallery sold “Hands in Sky, Kajjansi” to the Kansas University Medical Center for installation in their gorgeous new cancer building. The request for a 40” x 60” version of the image raised some questions about presentation and ultimately led to my first ever foray into printing on canvas.

I wasn’t too sure about this. Hey, I am a photo-purist after all. But the finished piece surprised me with its drama, depth and texture. I’m actually really happy with the way it looks. I wish the kids from St. Mary Kevin’s could see the reaction it gets from patients and staff as they walk down the long hallway it faces. Just to see their larger-than-life hands in such a dignified and handsome setting would be pretty thrilling for them!

Paul and Eddie hung the piece in its new home last week.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

sam and abbie


Not since my birthday last year (when I decided at the last minute to go parasailing with Max) have we done anything this impulsive. We flew down to New Orleans to catch Sam and Abbie’s show at the Neutral Ground Coffee House. It was a total surprise to them; they were floored when we showed up!


I hope to post a video of one of their songs soon.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

photoeye.com

A small gallery of my Uganda photographs is featured on Photoeye this week. Click on Galleries, then Photographer's Showcase and take a look!

Monday, August 06, 2007

summertime

It was hot today in the Midwest.

Really hot.



This image, one from my Shredding Project, is of me cooling off when I was eight years old.

In a recently published review of the project, Nick Malewski wrote:

Feinstein's "Shredding Project" paradoxically crosses a systematic destruction of evidence with an attempt to recall the past. All the images look like the photographic records of family vacations and day outings. The artist is not to blame, in this case, for lacking compositional skill or capturing uninspiring scenery since 'these pictures were taken by all the members of family,' she admits. Feinstein leaves her artistic mark on them through a process of reproducing them, tearing them into evenly spaced vertical bands and putting them back together, albeit not perfectly. The archival pigmented prints acts as visual metaphors for a mind trying to conjure mundane, yet somehow pivotal memories that have been shredded in the passage of time leaving only fuzzy images constructed from jagged, incomplete pieces that never quite line up."

Review Magazine, July, 2007

You can see more shredded pieces here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

county fair


The racing pigs’ names were Brittany Squeals and Squealie Nelson - after the singers of course. They ran neck and neck until they reached the finish line when Brittany nudged ahead ever so slightly. The crowd was going crazy. Pig stench hung in the air, edging out the heady smells of funnel cakes and cotton candy.

I love going to the fair.

This one was the Wyandotte County Fair in Kansas City, Kansas. I bought myself some “fresh squeezed” lemonade (poured directly from the huge containers of powdered mix and tap water) which the teenage vendor dramatically shook (kind of like she was preparing a martini.) Then I wandered up and down the rows of concession stands, on over to the animal pens and finally to the rides and games.

Joni Mitchell wrote a great song once called “That Song About the Midway.” Bonnie Raitt made it her own, singing it in her sultry, bluesy way:

“I met you on a midway at a fair last year
And you stood out like a ruby in a black man’s ear.”

Time seems to stand still at the fair. I could have sworn the bleary-eyed guy at the roll-a-ball booth was the same character I gave my nickels to when I was a kid dying to lay claim to one of those huge, stuffed, pink flamingos.





Friday, August 03, 2007

breast cancer awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For the past four years, I have had the pleasure of working with a local hospital to honor breast cancer survivors. Twelve survivors are selected each year to participate in the “Faces of Breast Cancer” project. I photograph them. Then the images are used in a calendar (which makes it debut in October) that is given to newly diagnosed patients as a means of support, comfort and encouragement. The portraits are also installed in the hallways of the hospital, along with the brave, honest and wise words written by the survivors themselves.

I am currently in the middle of photographing the women for the 2008 calendar. I spent time last night looking at some of my favorites from last year. We asked the survivors to bring with them to the photo session someone or some people who had been by their side throughout their ordeal.

Needless to say, this project has been a huge inspiration for me.


Verna

“My daughters were present with gentle support, care and encouragement when I needed that, but continued to involve me in the busy chaos of day-to-day living when I wanted life to just be ‘normal’ again. My diagnosis is an unwelcome inheritance – their risk is now increased. I must teach them to be vigilant for symptoms and get their checkups. My advice to others is to pay attention to your body. Listen to your intuition and get checked. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, seek out someone who will let you talk and let you be quiet. Let it be about you for awhile, but stay involved in things that matter to you.”


Sherry

My family was upset when I was first diagnosed. My confidence in a positive outcome helped them take it in stride. They were there en masse for my surgery, including the new baby. A week later my mother-in-law died. Cancer and a death in the family made us all realize we weren’t exempt from anything. My daughter insisted on going to my doctor visits and chemotherapy treatments. She sat with me through the ‘bad’ days. The entire family remained optimistic and upbeat and gave me flowers after each chemo treatment. Everyone, including the babies, did the Race for the Cure for me that summer.”


Vanessa

“My diagnosis has made me get my priorities straight. I have learned to let go of the little things that aren’t important. It has helped me to remember that everyone has different challenges and that there is a reason this happened. There is something for me to learn from this. Everyone wants to help and sometimes it’s difficult for them (or me) to know what I need. Sometimes I need to talk and other times I need to be alone. My advice is to look for cues – listen and observe to learn what you need. Sometimes I get tired of being told what a great attitude I have – sometimes I need permission to say how crummy this is and how awful I feel.”


Jeannie

“We were dealt a ‘double whammy’ because my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer just six weeks before my diagnosis. Our initial reaction was shock and sadness but we were strong for each other. We don’t have any close friends or family in the area but knew there were prayers and good thoughts coming to us from all our family and friends scattered across the globe. My daughter from Colorado and brother-in-law from California put their busy lives on hold to come and care for us. The outpouring of kindness from everyone has been a most humbling experience. It is important to stay in touch with family members or friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. A visit, phone call, email or card can make the sun shine on a rainy day.”

Thursday, August 02, 2007

who knew?

Ten months ago I was getting ready for my big trip to Africa, excited about the workshop and the people I’d be meeting, wondering if my new red shoes were really the right choice and dutifully ingesting my newly prescribed and seemingly exotic malaria pills. Little did I know what was about to hit me, really.

Yesterday our mail carrier Bump (recently he revealed that he got this nickname when he was a baby, regularly falling out of his crib and bumping his head – his real name happens to be Jerald) arrived at the doorstep with an impossibly humongous package (a canvas bag, actually) from Uganda.

Inside were gifts, letters, pictures, report cards and other treasures from the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood.

How could I have known ten months ago that I would be sitting on my living room floor fighting back tears as I read heartfelt words of gratitude from 13-year old orphans who are finally getting the chance to continue their education?

Allow me to list the top ten “who knews:”

1. Who knew that my favorite CD would be the St. Mary Kevin Orphanage children’s choir?

2. Who knew that I would be learning the intricacies of grant writing?

3. Who knew that my house would be overrun by bags of beaded African jewelry, boxes of Change the Truth brochures and t-shirts and a wild array of African crafts?

4. Who knew there would be something called Change the Truth anyway?

5. Who knew that my kitchen would become the headquarters for a not-for-profit organization?

6. Who knew my backseat would become a collection point for soccer balls and used kids clothing?

7. Who knew my friends and family could be this supportive, patient and generous?

8. Who knew that a kid named Opio Nicolas would appear in my dreams at night and cause me to wake up wondering what else can I do to help?

9. Who knew I’d be phasing out my portrait business?

10. Who knew I’d be going back to Africa so soon?

10(a). Who knew I’d still be keeping this blog??

“Gloria, are you changing the truth or is the truth changing you?” Eddie asked me that not long after I got back from Uganda. His question still rings in my ears.

The Wizards, Kansas City’s professional soccer team recently donated twenty-five soccer balls to send over to the kids. I’m going to put them in the impossibly big bag Bump delivered, stuff it with clothes my friend Sondra donated to the cause, and send the bag back to Uganda.

(Wizards' PR person Erin delivers soccer balls to my car)

To all of you who have joined me in this effort, I say thanks. I am constantly surprised, amazed and delighted by your unwavering encouragement and support. It means so much to me, and, of course, means more than any of us can really understand to the kids we are helping.


One of the letters that was in the big bag was from Billy Bonny Tumusiime, a fifteen-year old. He sent me this picture of himself, all decked out for school. His letter, intended for his Change the Truth sponsor, ended this way:

“Indeed I am very proud of you who has made my dreams come true.”

Whoa.

As I said, I had no idea what was about to hit me ten months ago as I carefully shopped for just the right wrinkle-free, bug resistant pants and shirts for my big trip to Africa.