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

Monday, October 29, 2007

happy halloween

For many years, I have opened my studio to the kids on our block on Halloween night. I give them a portrait as my treat. I've decided this year to hang up that tradition, but I thought it would be fun to share one of the series of photos. This is Jack - in all his various spooky and not so spooky incarnations - from age one to eight.








Sunday, October 28, 2007

robert adams

I have been rereading parts of Robert Adams’ book "Why People Photograph" and was struck by and could relate to these two passages:

“At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect – a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known.”

"Photographers must withstand, with the help of their families and friends, the psychic battering that comes from what they see. In order to make pictures that no one has made before, they have to be attentive and imaginative, qualities partly assigned and partly chosen, but in any case, ones that leave them vulnerable. When Robert Frank put down his camera after photographing 'The Americans' he could not so readily escape the sadness of the world he recorded as we could when we closed the book."

Friday, October 26, 2007

letters and photos from uganda

“Dear Friends of Change the Truth,

My name is Joseph Mukiibi. I am 13 years old. I live at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood. I am an orphan. It is sad, however I am happy that I have Madam Rose Mary who took care of me when I was eight years old. I am very happy to receive the good news about my sponsorship from Change the Truth. Now I can see my future is bright. I promise to be a good boy and to work hard in my secondary school because through your help I will start Senior One. I have sent you my photo.

God bless you,
Yours faithfully,
Joseph”

“Dear Friends of Change the Truth,

My name is Habib Mbowa. I live at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood. I am 14 years old. I have no father or mother to take care of me, but I have a grandmother with four grandchildren. Mary Kevin Orphanage started taking care of me when I was in Primary Four.

I am so excited to receive your sponsorship and I promise to strive for my future. I did my last term’s exams and I was ninth out of fifty three students. You have made my dream very clear.

Yours faithfully,
Habib”

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

good news all around!

Change the Truth has been recognized by the IRS as an official not-for-profit organization. It is also now registered and trademarked. Eddie has been busy designing and printing letterhead, envelopes and business cards in our kitchen office.

Also, some big contributions have rolled in. Thank you so much to each and every one of you who has taken it upon yourself to be a friend to Change the Truth. My heart just starts racing when I think of all we have accomplished and all there is left to do.

We have decided on a date for our very first friend raiser/fundraiser. MARK YOUR CALENDARS! It is going to be quite an evening June 12th at the Kansas City Public Library from 6 to 9 p.m. The event will be free and open to the public. Planned highlights will be African fare, African music, drumming and dancing, the premiere showing of the documentary film Lynne will make when we go to Uganda in December and a silent auction of the artwork created by the children at St. Mary Kevin’s under the tutelage of Lonnie and Jane.

And last, but not least… and I have no expectations of winning this… but I was blown away when I learned I had been nominated by GEO German Magazine to submit my Ugandan work for the German Committee of UNICEF’s Photo of the Year Award. Somebody better pinch me.


In, the meantime, I am continuing to “make stuff.” Here is my latest collaged piece.

Monday, October 22, 2007

making stuff

I can vividly recall a conversation I had with my friend Keith Davis on September 12, 2001. I was working on my concentration camp series when 9-11 took place. The next day, I felt a strong desire to head back into the darkroom and continue printing. For some reason, I spoke with Keith that morning. I told him it felt silly, small, unimportant and somewhat selfish to work that day – to create things that seemed entirely insignificant and unnecessary in the wake of such excruciating heartache and pain and devastation. I really couldn’t see working at all again, ever.

Keith simply said, “When things around us are DEconstructing, maybe all we CAN do is attempt to CONstruct.”

Last night and today I have been following the reports of the fires in California, struck again with that sinking feeling of loss and pain that makes it hard to even think about creating something new. Keith’s sage observation came back to me, and I spent the day constructing.

A closer look seems fitting.


(This piece is 32" x 32")

Sunday, October 21, 2007

about maps

A letter I received the other day:

"I’m sure you’ve had and heard your share of remarkable synchronicities since you started Change the Truth, but I thought you might appreciate yet another.

A friend of mine from Kansas City sent me the link for your blog this week. He had no way of knowing what I was working on at the time, a short essay about how little we Americans seem to know about the rest of the world until we can connect a human story to a place on the map. I’ve attached the piece so you can see how your work impacted my experience. Everything but the last four paragraphs had been written before I saw your blog.

This essay will eventually wind up on the Internet on our website, which will hopefully draw additional attention and support to your efforts.

After I get to the bank today, I’ll be sending a check for $285 to Change the Truth to cover school fees for a student. In future, as I am able, I will continue to support your work. Thank you for using your art and your heart to make a difference.

I really appreciated, also, your impressions at the ‘home of throwed rolls.’ The more we can raise consciousness of our outrageous excesses, the sooner we can shift the balance toward greater equality among members of our amazing human family."


I can’t share her essay just yet, as she is still polishing it, but never has anyone so poignantly and so precisely summed up what is at the heart of the mission of Change the Truth. I’d like to make her piece required reading for all! Watch for it here in the next month or so - it's entitled "Color My World."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

nerman museum


Tonight Kansas City hosts the gala opening of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at the Johnson County Community College. This puts Kansas City on the short list of American metropolitan areas of its size with two major contemporary art museums. It also establishes the college as one of the top ten universities for art on campus.

“When the new Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art opens to the public Oct. 27, it may not have the architecture critics turning somersaults.

Artists and art lovers, on the other hand, have something to celebrate in architect Kyu Sung Woo’s quiet minimalist structure of white limestone and glass at Johnson County Community College.

Costing roughly $13 million and measuring 38,000 square feet, it’s the perfect container for art. Curator Bruce Hartman’s plans for 16 special exhibitions a year will mean a roughly 50 percent increase in the number of shows put on by local museums and major nonprofit art spaces. Local artists are a key part of the Nerman picture; so are contemporary American Indian artists.

And when it comes to trends, Hartman has a reputation for leading rather than following.

A major show called ‘American Soil’ gets things off to an auspicious start in the first-floor special exhibition galleries. Large paintings and installations by six rising stars of American art take a critical look at American values through the prism of our relationship to the landscape.

Since 1980, when the college art collection began, it expressed confidence in locally produced art as well as cutting-edge national and international talent.

Three shows per year will feature Kansas City area artists in the museum’s dedicated Project gallery. For the opening, Hartman has filled the 1,000-square-foot gallery with a show titled ‘Allusive Abstraction,’ featuring abstract paintings by artists who live or were trained in Kansas City.” The Kansas City Star

I am pleased to say that “Sprinkler,” a photograph from my series entitled “One Square Mile” is included in the collection and will be part of the opening exhibition.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

the spirit of troy

“They flaunt their instruments and ancient warrior costumes across the 50-yard line, through the mobs of pep rallies and on the stage at the Grammy Awards. And while they cheer for a top-ranked football team, the Trojan Marching Band cannot help but steal some of the glory on the football field for themselves.” The Daily Trojan

It’s funny. I have found myself on the defensive more than once when talking to people about Max being in the USC marching band. After all, how could my free spirited, independent son, the one who changed his name when he was five, who got his ear pierced when he was in third grade and who was in a punk band in high school end up donning a gold Trojan style helmet with plume, flowing cape and white spats and marching around on a football field? This has given me pause.

When I was in college in Wisconsin, I never once attended a football game, and I was there a total of seven years. I was: a) way too cool b) way too busy entertaining myself in other, arguably more questionable ways, and c) way too hell-bent on rebelling against my parents who were avid football fans.

I never paid any attention to marching bands, either. Did we even have one in Madison?

Later, when Abbie was at Yale, we attended one tail gate party because her a cappella group was performing. It was the Harvard vs Yale game - exciting stuff! But we all packed up and left before the game even started.

Now we are at a wildly different school.

Here’s what I noticed about the marching band at USC: it’s about a love of music, camaraderie, leadership, discipline, good clean fun, school spirit, time management and dedication. And, on a campus that certainly does not rank in the top ten for diversity, the band seems to attract a fairly diverse group of kids.

Admittedly, there are things about the whole collegiate football scene that bother me. Why do all the cheerleaders look like Barbie dolls? Why does the band have, dare I say, a slightly militaristic flavor to it? Why are the star football players treated like gods? Why is the coach of the football team the highest paid member of the faculty? Why do some of the rivalries become so mean-spirited?

Over the years, I have come to grips with the fact that I really do enjoy the sport. I do not miss a Chiefs game, and I often watch Monday night football, as well as games here and there on Saturdays and Sundays.

So, I guess it should come as no big surprise that Max has found himself yelling until he’s hoarse on game days.

The gold Trojan style helmet? Well, the kid loves music, he is very social and he likes having a good time. I must admit I was startled the first time I saw him high-stepping along with 299 others in their plumes and capes, but by the end of the game at Parents’ Weekend, after witnessing their enthusiasm, their talent, their cool formations and their goose-bump inducing music, I was shaking my cardinal and gold pom-pom with the best of them.

And my mom, who absolutely loved a down-beat AND a first down… well, I have a feeling she would have been ecstatic to catch a glimpse of her grandson playing cymbals during the half time show!

Here is a video Eddie and I made from the weekend– our first attempt at iMovie.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

colors from carol


Thanks to my friend Carol, who works for Hallmark, we were able to go on a “shopping spree” at the employee discount store this morning. Lonnie, Jane and I loaded up on markers, crayons, pencils and clay to take with us when we go to Uganda in December. Lonnie and Jane have some great ideas for the art classes they will offer at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. They will make one more shopping stop at the art supply store to get canvas, brushes, paper and paints, and we should be ready to roll. Six weeks to go!!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

parents' weekend II

Yes, we have toured Max’s classrooms, dorm room, seen where he eats, the library he uses and the gym where he works out. We have listened to a lecture by the president of the school. We have met other parents and many of Max’s new friends. But let me tell you, yesterday was all about the Trojan marching band.

They performed at several rallies and events during the course of the day. They are 300 kids strong, kids who, much like athletes, have made an impressive and challenging commitment. They practice five days a week for several hours each day. On Saturdays, game days, they are already rehearsing at 6:30 AM. These musicians have so much spirit and talent and dedication; it takes your breath away. I am one who never really paid much attention to marching bands before, so this is an eye opener for me.


Max loves being part of it. Can’t you tell from his beaming face in this picture taken at the end of a very long day of marching and cheering and dancing and cymballing?

Friday, October 12, 2007

parents' weekend


Eddie and I, parents of a USC freshman, now find ourselves in sunny southern California for Parents' Weekend. Standard attire: flip-flops and shorts. Mode of transportation: on foot, bike or skateboard. Weather: sunny, no humidity, 75 degrees. Celebs on campus right now: coach of the football team, football players and director of the marching band…. And maybe even the marching band members themselves.

Max is in the marching band. He told us that the other day when he was heading to the pre-game rehearsal decked out in his band uniform, a woman and her young son asked him to pose for a picture with them!

We’re putting on our sunglasses and applying our sunscreen - heading out for a fun-filled day on campus. It’s great to see our sonny boy.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

lecture

If anyone in the Kansas City area who missed my talk at the Kemper Museum is interested in hearing it now, this is for you. I’ll be giving essentially the same talk/slide presentation about my experiences as a photographer at Temple B’nai Jehudah (12320 Nall) on Sunday, October 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. at an event they call “Mix and Mingle.” The cost is 12 bucks per person, but you do get a dinner from Jack Stack Barbecue (probably the best part of the evening). It is supposed to be for folks 55 and over, but since I haven’t yet reached that point (yes, I know, it is in clear sight) I figure they won’t care if you’re a few years younger. I doubt anyone will card you. Anyhow, if you’d like to attend, contact Rochelle Barash at 913- 663-4050, extension 132, or at program@bnaijehudah.org by Wednesday, October 17. It would be fun to see you there!

Monday, October 08, 2007

the pitch

I was very, very flattered to find this in the recently published "Best of 2007" issue of the Kansas City weekly, the Pitch.

"Best Photography Show (2007)
Gloria Baker Feinstein
Leopold Gallery

Gloria Baker Feinstein's photographic disquisition of the orphans of Uganda toed a taut and righteous line between journalism and art. With a master's degree in photography and graphic design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this Kansas City-based artist has been in dozens of exhibitions. Her work's vivid nostalgia is never cloying or inappropriate, no matter her subject. At the Leopold Gallery last spring, her velvety photographs of orphaned children in Uganda revealed their dire circumstances and reminded us that everything is political — and that art and politics can collide in beautiful as well as polemic ways."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

party pooper

On our way back from Big Cedar Lodge, we stopped in Ozark, Missouri for a look at a place called Lamberts. I had heard about it from some well-known foodies, who had talked it up on NPR a couple of weeks ago.

Lamberts is a restaurant. It is famous for its “throwed rolls. "There was a line of people waiting to get in, and it was only 10:30 a.m. Once inside, we were eagerly and enthusiastically greeted by the staff, seated and then promptly offered some fried okra. Within a few minutes a guy came barreling past each row of booths with a cart full of fresh baked rolls. It quickly became apparent that all we needed to do was raise our hands in the air, and rolls would be thrown in our direction. It was fun to try and catch them and watch others do the same. It was fun to see who was going to appear at our table next with what delicious offering (after the okra came fried potatoes and onions, macaroni and tomatoes, black eyed peas, etc.) It was fun to witness the insanely huge orders of fried chicken, candied yams, meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy being delivered to the hundreds of diners around us.

It was fun. But it became more and more disturbing to me as I watched the scene unfold – endless refills on ridiculously large platters and skillets, predominantly overweight customers mindlessly stuffing themselves with outrageously unhealthy fare and those rolls being thrown (if you didn’t catch it, no worries… let it fall on the floor, another one is on its way.)

There was a real emptiness in it all for me, which is ironic considering the fact that at Lamberts the goal is surely to get filled up.

I won’t go on about our supersized nation, waste and the fact that one of these entrees could have easily fed ten children at St. Mary Kevin’s. I think you already get the picture.

And speaking of pictures, I took a lot of them. I tried to get the perfect shot of the guy throwing rolls, you know, roll in midair kind of thing, and I couldn’t resist photographing the mounds of food and the kitschy d├ęcor.


But this is the picture that finally got to the heart of the sadness I eventually felt at Lamberts.

What are we thinking?

Friday, October 05, 2007

vacation

Big Cedar Lodge sits on 800 acres overlooking Table Rock Lake in southwest Missouri near the Arkansas border. Eddie and I have spent the past few days here sleeping in, reading, hiking, boating, swimming, napping and well, sleeping. We have been staying in Hemingway’s Cabin and calling each other Ernest and Pauline (turns out Ernest had four wives; I settled on his second.) It’s been a slice of heaven.



Thursday, October 04, 2007

“the experience of cancer” at the leopold

Paul Dorrell, owner of the Leopold Gallery in Kansas City, has been a steadfast supporter of Change the Truth since the day he first heard about it. He donated a portion of the sales made from my Uganda exhibit last spring so five kids could go to secondary school and has helped raise money to fund our upcoming trip back to the orphanage. Now, he has mounted an exhibition to benefit the Cancer Center at the University of Kansas Hospital. If you want to know the definition of the Yiddush word mensch, you could just think of Paul. His most recent effort received nice coverage in today's Kansas City Star.

“’The Experience of Cancer’ Shows the Art of Healing
Tim Engle, The Kansas City Star, October 4, 2007

This art show could be a real downer.

But in addition to themes of suffering, death and grief, ‘The Experience of Cancer’ explores faith, courage, love — and recovery. The show opens with a reception from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at Leopold Gallery, 324 W. 63rd St. in Brookside, and will stay on display through October.

Leopold owner Paul Dorrell is encouraging people with cancer, and cancer survivors, to attend: ‘I want them to be emboldened and reassured.’ The 30 pieces — not all are about cancer — will be for sale. The gallery’s cut, 50 percent, will be donated to the Cancer Center at University of Kansas Hospital.

The show’s 13 artists were inspired by family members or friends with cancer. [Three are mentioned below.]

Eric Dinyer:
‘Last summer my mother was diagnosed with rare and aggressive lymphoma. They gave her two or three months or four at the most. She was treated with two regimens of chemotherapy. The chemo treatments took place every three weeks, but by the end of four months she was so worn down that she refused her last treatment. This was against what her doctors wanted, but having witnessed her overall weakness of both body and spirit, I agreed with her. We didn’t think she’d be strong enough to survive the final treatment.

Today her cancer is in remission. At a checkup just last week, her health looked great. Remarkable, if you had witnessed what she had gone through.

Which brings me to [my] image. I chose the metaphor of water, which can be associated with soothing sounds, birth, baptism, swimming, drinking water, cleansing, healing properties, etc. But water also can be associated with drowning and tidal waves. The ocean can be unknowable, powerful, seemingly endless and unfathomable.

Which, as a witness to both my parents’ trajectories with cancer, is how I felt and how I viewed them. A cancer diagnosis feels like you are standing in the ocean and waiting for the water to either support, nourish and heal you or to wash you away.’

Margie Kuhn:
‘My cousin Bret Williams died recently. He had mesothelioma, which is a lung cancer caused by asbestos. We are still unsure how he came in contact with asbestos. He grew up in an older home in Lawrence that probably had asbestos somewhere, but neither his mom nor his three brothers show any signs of asbestos poisoning.

Mesothelioma is fatal. The projected life expectancy after diagnosis is less than 10 years. Yet Bret seemed positive and was a joy to be around. He maintained his sense of humor and the hope he would survive at least a little longer.

I worked on several pieces for the show, and I ultimately decided what was most inspiring about Bret was his hope. I work with a lot of plants and weeds in my paintings, so I looked for a plant that would suggest optimism. The sunflower seemed perfect — it always turns to follow the sun before it reaches full bloom. The Band-Aids have several connotations, relating to the treatment or cure, or maybe even false hope.’

Gloria Baker Feinstein:
‘My mom was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when she was 81 and given a few months to live. She hung on for close to a year. During that time my siblings and I made frequent trips home to Kentucky to help care for her and to provide moral support for our father.

Caring for her meant taking her to the doctor for blood work and exams, loading up the freezer with home-cooked meals, helping her put her bequests in order and, later, painting her fingernails, pruning her rosebushes, helping her to the bathroom, brushing her hair. Even later, we were trying to keep her pain at a manageable level, assuring her that we were there with her, calling hospice, sitting by her side.

The night my mom died I was alone with her. My father and brother had gone to get some dinner. She chose that tiny window of time to let go. I don’t think she wanted my dad to see her die. Once I realized what was happening, I just held her.

I got up once, about 15 minutes before she drew her last breath, and got my camera. I made this photograph of our hands. I didn’t really know why I did it at the time. I guess I didn’t want to let her go and figured with just one last photo, I could keep her with me for a long time.’”

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

lonnie powell

This stunning painting greets you as you walk into the lobby of the brand new H&R Block World headquarters in downtown Kansas City. It’s larger than life and pretty much commands the attention of the entire lobby. It was done by Lonnie Powell, who is going to Uganda with us to teach art classes to the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood.

Lonnie is a graduate of Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri where he studied under the late James Dallas Parks. He spent the majority of his career as an art teacher in the Kansas City, Missouri school district.

I am so honored that he will joining us!

Monday, October 01, 2007

survivors, finale


In 1939, three-quarters of the residents of Miedzyrzec, Poland – about 18,000 people – were Jewish. Not more than 300 survived the Holocaust. When Sonia was a child there, the Jews in Miedzyrzec had an orphanage, a home for the elderly, youth organizations, Hebrew schools and a private secondary school. A few Jews were allowed to attend university, but they were required to stand for lectures. After Sonia was taken to the concentration camps, she dreamed, “God, why don’t you turn me into a little bird and let me be free?” In the chaos preceding her liberation at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Sonia was shot in the chest. Not quite 18, she recovered and met John Warshawski. They married in 1946 and came to Kansas City a year later. John operated a tailor shop; Sonia worked as a salesperson. John died in 1989, but Sonia still works there. She has three children. “I always felt a special strength for my children,” she says. “And that kept me going.”


One of five Jewish families in Zabno, Croatia, the Bergls owned 300 acres planted in wheat and an orchard of 4,000 trees. Zdenko’s father managed the family’s grocery store, brick factory and lumber mill. By 1936, Zdenko’s parents were boycotting German products. He was disappointed on his 10th birthday when he got a Kodak Brownie camera instead of a Leica. Shortly after the German occupation of Croatia, the Bergls fled to Italy where, with the help of a priest, they obtained forged papers. Zdenko has visited Croatia several times since the war. The best visit was in 1972, when he shipped his Cadillac overseas and drove it into Zabno. “People came from all over and said: ‘we cleaned you Jews out. How do you do it?’” Zdenko told them: “When you come to America and tell them you’re Jewish, your fellow Jews give you a key for a new house and a key for a new car. And they believed it!”


Ida was raised in Krakow, Poland with four sisters and a brother. Her family lived in a large apartment with electricity and running water. It was filled with nice furniture and crystals Ida’s father brought back from his travels. A maid helped with the laundry and cleaning three times a week. With six children, her mother cooked most of the day. “Everything fresh – fresh bread form the bakery every day,” Ida recalls. “When I was young, I was very spoiled and my mother had to buy little breakfast cakes for me.” Ida’s parents valued education. But it was a struggle. In public school, Ida could not get an “A” in Polish because she was Jewish. Gentile children threw stones. In high school, she worked particularly hard. “They would kick Jews out for no reason,” she remembers. Ida was liberated from concentration camps and met her husband in Germany. They immigrated to Kansas City in 1957. “Survivors, we keep very close,” she says. “We are different. We are not happy people.”