“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

Monday, June 29, 2009

a loose park morning

A few blocks from my house is one of Kansas City’s most beautiful open spaces, Loose Park. These 74 acres are home to a lake, a shelter house, Civil War markers, tennis courts, a wading pool, picnic areas. an arboretum, a Japanese tea room and the famous Rose Garden. The park is one of my studio spaces, if you will. (The other is in my home.) I have taken countless portraits at the park over the years.


I like to arrive a little early for my appointments at Loose Park on Saturday and Sunday mornings during the summer. That’s because there’s always a wedding going on in the Rose Garden. This weekend was no exception. I took this shot just before the couple walked down the aisle and my client arrived.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

kutuuka


Kutuuka, my new book, is now available at Photoeye.

In the Kansas City area, it can be found on the shelves of the Nelson-Atkins Museum bookstore, Leopold Gallery, Dolphin Gallery and Rainy Day Books. Remember, all proceeds from the sale of this book go to Change the Truth and will assist the children at the orphanage in Uganda.

The supply of hardcover books is being quickly depleted (only 150 were printed.) Of the 50 limited edition copies (which come with a drawing or one of my photographs) 23 have already been sold. So... get 'em while they're hot!

Friday, June 26, 2009

a whole lot of magic back then

“I only came in contact twice with Michael Jackson, who died today at age 50. Both times occurred 25 years ago in Kansas City, where he and his brothers launched the 55-concert Victory Tour, the Jacksons’ final tour of the U.S. and Canada.

I had been sent to Kansas City by a San Diego newspaper to cover the sold-out opening performance, which turned out to be a rather muddled and effects-driven event that attracted 45,000 fans to Arrowhead Stadium.


The concert wasn’t particularly memorable. But what happened earlier that day was unforgettable.

After a ceremony at which Michael and his brother Tito accepted an award, several young female fans sneaked into the drab and nearly empty conference room.

To them, however, it was an extraordinary place, a hallowed site where the Gloved One, also their loved one, had recently been. They walked giddily around the interior of the room, touching the walls lightly with their fingertips as if they were in a palace adorned with gold and jewels, or perhaps a sacred shrine.

‘Michael was here - I can’t believe it. Michael was really here,’ said one of the teenagers. ‘Michael’s the greatest, the absolute greatest.’

In a sense, he was.

At that point, before his personal life got seriously creepy, his looks became truly freaky and his career tanked, Michael Jackson was more than the Elvis of the ’80s. He was the King of Pop, the exalted singer-dancer-songwriter who was revered for his landmark album ‘Thriller’ and was instantly recognizable around the globe.

I had never encountered that kind of adulation before. Not with classical music or opera stars like Leonard Bernstein or Placido Domingo. Not even Luciano Pavarotti, the King of the High C’s, had such fame.

That afternoon in Kansas City taught me about the power of pop culture and the emotional connection between a superstar and his or her fans. Though you can dismiss what those young girls felt as a case of immature infatuation, it was meaningful and real to them and to millions of others who felt the same way.

So say what you will about him. Love him or loathe him. Respect him or reject him.

The truth remains: Michael Jackson once had the magic.”

- by Valerie Scher, San Diego News Network Arts & Entertainment editor

Eddie and I were among the throng of 45,000 at that Arrowhead Stadium concert back in 1984. We, unlike Valerie, thought it was a pretty amazing performance. Of course, we grew up on the Jackson 5 and all those magical things that were mid-career Michael.

Tonight we're on our way to see Stevie Wonder, who apparently was so shaken yesterday by the news of Jackson's death that he couldn't speak. Rumor has it that he's going to do a special tribute to his friend tonight.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

another blast from the past


In memory and in honor of Farrah, my friend and amazing photographer Ken Rosenthal posted this photo of himself (from back in the day) on his Facebook page today. Gotta love it.

on a much lighter note

This has to be one of the best old photos I've ever seen. Wish it was from my family's album (though the kid with the hose does look a lot like my brother.) I found it at one of my new favorite places on the web, Awkward Family Photos. I love how the hose cuts across the baby's face, but best of all is the guy watering his lawn in the background. Look how perfectly it echoes the hose in the foreground. Besides all that lucky composition going on, the kid who is the subject of the picture is hilarious.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

important mission

I am on the board of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education. This sixteen-year-old organization endeavors to teach the history and lessons of the Holocaust to people of all races and religious beliefs throughout the Midwest to perpetuate understanding, compassion and mutual respect for generations to come.

I first became involved with this not-for-profit when I worked on the project “Portrait 2000.” The photographs and subsequent interviews became the material for the book entitled “From the Heart” which documented the stories of fifty Holocaust survivors who lived in the Kansas City area at that time.

In honor of those survivors, I’d like to share with my blog readers this column by Steve Penn published in yesterday’s Kansas City Star.

“The way the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education sees it, the shooting at the Holocaust museum in Washington might just as well have been a shot across its own entrance.

The local center sees the assault as an affront against all Holocaust education.

Educating the public on the reality of the Holocaust is what the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education is all about. This week, a group of teachers will participate in classes given by the center aimed at increasing their knowledge of Holocaust history.

The classes have taken on a heightened sense of urgency after a white supremacist entered Washington’s Holocaust museum recently, fatally shooting a security guard.

The suspect is James W. von Brunn, an 88-year-old white supremacist from Maryland.

Jean Zeldin, executive director for the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, said the center’s goal is to teach the history of the Holocaust, applying its lessons to counter indifference, intolerance and genocide.

‘Our purpose … is to educate people so that when the deniers put forth their propaganda, that people know better,’ Zeldin said. ‘We’re probably not going to change the minds of deniers themselves. But we can equip the people who are hearing that stuff with the truth.’

Zeldin said von Brunn was beyond educating.

‘Here you have an 88-year-old man who wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow at airport security,” she said. “But he was so full of hatred. This had been festering for years.’

Zeldin said the Midwest Holocaust center is in solidarity with Washington’s Holocaust museum.

‘I’ve personally been to the Holocaust museum dozens of times,’ Zeldin said. ‘Chances are I met the security guard on one of my visits. You were walking into a place that’s pretty much hallowed ground.’

The wide media attention the story received is a testament to Holocaust education.

‘The fact that so many people feel connected to this and not just Jewish people is amazing,’ Zeldin said. ‘It grabbed the attention of the world.’

Zeldin said the shooting is an example of why the center’s mission is so important.

‘All that our center can try to do is reach those people who minds are still formative,’ she said.

Society can be lulled into complacency. But every now and then an incident occurs that serves as a wake-up call. The shooting at the Holocaust museum only inspires the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education to continue its message.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

frightening stuff

Look what greeted those who went to local synagogues for services last week in Kansas City. The Fred Phelps/Westboro Baptist Church group of protesters hoisted these signs in hopes of getting the word out about their beliefs.


Tell us how you really feel, Fred.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

father's day

I spent the day shooting portraits of fathers and grandfathers with children and grandchildren. It was the first time in awhile that I have done portrait work in my studio. I had a lot of fun! Here are a few of my favorites.









Friday, June 19, 2009

party pics: finale

If you weren't able to attend our event this year, do make plans for next year. You can begin that endeavor by getting on the Change the Truth mailing list. Please contact Gloria.

If you are interested in getting information about going on the next CTT trip to Uganda, that's another good reason to get in touch. Plans are now being made.

Here is the last batch of photos taken at the Friendraiser/Fundraiser. Enjoy!

Ann and Rob Thomas

Paula Shteamer

Jesse DeMartino and Amy Duke

Bob Tostevin, Sarah Deacy and Lisa Tostevin

Wynne Wurster Winter

Harold Melcher and Gloria

Kit Smith, Kelsey Smith, Brooke Vittor, Laura Gibbons and Vicki Reisler

Xavier, drummer from the Traditional Musical Society

Lee Winter at work in the Kajjansi Marketplace

Brenda and Lonnie Powell

Wesley Blann

Thursday, June 18, 2009

party pics: part 2

Max and Eddie Feinstein

Dancers from the Traditional Music Society

Anna Svoboda-Stel and Paige Harper

Melissa Mosher, David Andre and Carol Joseph

Drummers from Operation Breakthrough

Silent auction

Abbie and Sam Brandao

Silent auction

Tom Corbin and Andy Forbes

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

party pics: part 1

Just as he did last year, my good friend Michael Spillers generously volunteered his time and talent taking pictures at the Friendraiser/Fundraiser. He said it just makes him feel good to help.

Did you know that helping others actually increases the amount of serotonin in your system? Receiving help from someone does the same thing. And unbelievably, WATCHING someone help someone else does the trick, as well!

We were all on a real high Thursday night, that's for sure.

Dancers from the Traditional Music Society

Mary and Sarah Deacy

Ellen and Stuart Eisen

Gloria with Lynn Kaufman

Dancers from the Traditional Music Society

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a very compassionate ten-year old

Several people who have young children asked me if they could bring them to our fundraiser and, more specifically, if the movie would be appropriate for them to watch. Parents do what they have to do – some protect for a good long time, while others let their children go ahead and learn about the real world.


My neighbors and friends, Jane and Josh, brought their ten-year old daughter. Jane told me that Leah has been reading about the Holocaust already. In fact she reads everything she can get her hands on and even recently watched “Schindler’s List.” She has a big heart and a knack for understanding other people’s pain. She’s only ten, I keep reminding myself.

We had a sign-up sheet for people who would like more information about going to Uganda with the next Change the Truth Team. Guess whose name I found about half way down the list? Yep. You guessed it: Leah.

I called her yesterday and asked her to write a few words about the Friendraiser/Fundraiser. About an hour later, I got this incredible composition. Neither of her parents were at home, so I know this came strictly from the heart, soul and hand of Leah:

“Gloria has done something good-hearted. She has given children something to make them feel like children. These children now feel loved, nurtured, even pretty happy. The children in Uganda die from sickness, poor living-conditions, and war. Gloria has gone to Uganda with a group of people and helped those children. She gave them music, sanitation, love, art, comfort, blissfulness, and much more. Gloria and her group want to spread what they’re doing, so Gloria wrote a book with some help. Someone made a movie, and Gloria took pictures. First I’m going to share what I thought about the movie.

The movie basically reached into your heart and pulled out everything stored inside. Everywhere around me were people. In all those people’s hearts were understanding and compassion. In all those people’s eyes were tears. On the screen were so many kids who were dirty and undernourished, who had been traumatized when they were young. They stored their memories in and then on the screen their stories poured out with words, drawings, and tears. So many tears. But today they are almost all the way stitched up and on their way to recovery. Now, less people are dying from disease and more people are happy. Now I’ll tell you something about the book.

In the book are Gloria’s amazing pictures, drawings the children made, quotes the children wrote, and dreams the children had. All the photographs were of these children. One really reached out to me. There were lots of children, reaching out for something. I think they are reaching out for food. I loved this picture so much, my mother bought it with the special-edition book. One of my favorite drawings is one of roses, probably drawn in pastel or crayon.

The book and the movie moved me so much, that I would like to go to Uganda. There is a twelve-year-old doing it, so can’t a ten-year-old? I think anyone can. Anyone can do something good. Everyone should do something good. And Gloria and so many others have.

Leah”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

art is a powerful thing

Many people came to our silent art auction looking for drawings made by child artists they admired at last year's event. Some were turned onto these children's talents for the first time.

All were moved by the beauty of the work.


I received this note from one of the successful bidders. I'm to pass it along to Isabella, who is actually one of the most talented of all:

“Dear Isabella,

Thank you so much for the beautiful painting of the woman getting water. We will probably never meet, but I will think of you and your home each time I look at your painting. Art is a powerful thing. It can bring people together even though they are many miles away. My very best to you and your brothers and sisters at St. Mary Kevin.

Bob”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

claire, nicky, smiling, change the truth fundraiser

This is Claire. This is the smile that would greet us each morning when we arrived at St. Mary Kevin, and it is the smile that lasted for most of the day. It’s one of those smiles that beams its way into your head and heart so that, even if Claire is off doing something else and isn’t in your line of sight, you refer back to it for inspiration. Of course, by our standards, she doesn’t have a whole lot to smile about. That’s where the inspiration part comes into play – at least for me it does. Kids like Claire help keep me going when I start to have difficulty keeping it together, whether I’m in Uganda or the USA.


Kids like Claire are the reason so many of us have dug in our heels and spent many, many hours preparing for tonight’s friendraiser/fundraiser (6 – 9 PM at the Screenland Theatre, Kansas City.) The money that we’ll raise tonight by selling drawings, dolls, dinner plates, dyed fabrics and jewelry made by Claire and the other orphans, will help insure that food, education and medical care are things she doesn’t have to worry about day in and day out. She can focus her attention on her schoolwork, her friends, her jump rope, and the hope she feels in her heart for a better future.

The first time I trudged onto the grounds of St. Mary Kevin, I was a jet lagged traveler who was simply overwhelmed, astonished and saddened by the situation in which the orphans lived. They were segregated on one side of the school grounds; the children with parents had the privilege of living on the other side. The two sides were like night and day. Even though both were tired, dirty and shockingly sad, the orphans’ “neighborhood” was distinctly worse. The children sat together, isolated from the non-orphans, on a dirt path in front of the small dormitory to eat their food. They were the second-class citizens.

All of that has changed now. The orphans have been integrated into the school population at SMK; they join the others at tables (though many still prefer to sit on the floor) to eat their meals, they wear nicer clothes, they have opportunities for education, they smile.

In fact, Rosemary has told me that now the orphans are envied by the others. They are no longer the dirty street kids who had nothing and were nothing; they have been so boosted up by Change the Truth that the non-orphans wish they were getting such royal treatment!

The first time I met my little friend, Nicholas, he could not speak English very well. He was painfully shy and mostly kept his head down. He tried, in very rudimentary English, to tell me the story about how his parents were killed by rebels in a war in the northern part of Uganda, his home. He couldn’t get past the part about his mother being dragged out of their home by soldiers. So we just kind of sat together crying for a while.

Now Nicholas (who announced to me during an art class this past December that he would now be signing his drawings “Nicky” and would I please call him that?) is taller and much more confident. His English is wonderful. He has blossomed in art and in music. Nicky’s smile, like Claire’s, will get you through the roughest day life might throw your way. Nicky is a great student; he works hard because he wants to be a doctor someday, and he knows the school fees will be there for him. His heart is as big as a heart can possibly be. He is one of the most respected and well-liked kids at SMK. He’s come a long way from the day I first spotted him sitting in the dirt eating his porridge in front of his shabby dorm, ostracized because he was an orphan. People look up to Opio Nicholas, not down.

Change the Truth has been hugely instrumental in making these changes happen.

Tonight is our shot at raising money so that we can continue to ensure that Claire, Nicky and all the others who have taught us so much – mainly about possibilities and hope - can keep on smiling.

Please join us.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

sponsored student: catherine

Two days from now is the Change the Truth 2nd Annual Friendraiser/Fundraiser - our chance to make more people aware of the plight of the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood. A lot of hard work has gone into making this event a special one. I am lucky to have a committee of dedicated and enthusiastic men and women who believe that we truly can make a difference in the lives of these kids.


Here is another of those kids. Catherine, age 15, has been one of our sponsored students for awhile now. She arrived at the orphanage when she was 10. She is quiet, but determined. She was one of hardest workers when we put in the garden this past December. She's seen a lot of horror in her young life and understandably finds it difficult to discuss. Both her parents were killed in the civil war in northern Uganda.

Catherine loves playing netball (a game similar to basketball), reading and taking care of infants. She works hard in school and wants to become a doctor. Here is what she wrote to me recently thanking CTT for paying her school fees:

"You have made my dreams come true of being an optician. I want to become an optician because I want to treat people with problems of the eye. I am so happy because you have made my dreams come true and I know I will make it.

From your lovely girl,

Catherine"

Sunday, June 07, 2009

traveling part two




On the way out of town (we were on Paradise island in the Bahamas) I asked the cab driver to stop at one of the local public beaches so I could wander around for a while and make pictures. I like these two new images I made, but I did not like the fact that the cabbie overcharged us for the stop and basically ripped us off. Makes these pictures all that more valuable to me, I guess! Anyway, it was great to get to a beach where the Bahamians hang out.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

traveling





I'm at my nephew's destination wedding and couldn't resist seizing the opportunity to make a couple of new pictures for my ongoing "Sea Series."

sponsored students: henry and pauline


I have written this letter to thank you for what you are doing for me. I thank you for paying my school fees. I am really so happy and it is so wonderful. I ask God to reward you and to bless you in whatever you are doing. I love you so much. I hope you will be happy when you receive this letter.

From Pauline




I am very glad to write you this letter because of the support you have put in us so that we can be educated, having food and clothes. Please, we appreciate everything you do for St. Mary Kevin. I am hoping to have fun in December with Change the Truth Team 3. My heart always thinks about how sweet you are because you are making my future bright and I know it will be very bright.

I remain yours,

Henry

Thursday, June 04, 2009

books!!



One thousand copies of Kutuuka arrived this morning from the bindery in Boston. New book smell permeates the little storage unit the books now call home. 

It's kind of curious - I've been home from helping unload them now for an hour, and I can only look at the book from a distance. I guess I'll inch closer and closer to it for an eventual "curl up in the chair" meeting at some point this afternoon. I really can't explain my hesitation to look too carefully at it just yet. 


Monday, June 01, 2009

sponsored student: nelson

Now that you have met some of the young artists from the orphanage, it's time to introduce you to some of the students we sponsor. Change the Truth currently supports twenty three secondary school students (high school) and one nursing school student. Each one is special in his/her own way; each one has a unique (and sad) story that brought him/her to St. Mary Kevin's. I'm going to start with one amazing young man, an eighteen year old named Nelson. He is a natural leader and was one of the hardest working among the kids who helped us repair and paint the dorms in December.


Nelson prides himself on his thirst for knowledge, his computer skills, his love of literature, his curiosity about all people and all aspects of those people's lives, his gregarious nature and his... well... smarts. He's got a great sense of self and a great sense of humor. I visited his room when I was there. Among his very few things were books - his most prized possessions. He is currently studying Physics, Economics, Math and Fine Arts in school. He'd like to become an engineer.

I asked him to write about one of his dreams when I was at the orphanage this past December working on the Dream Series. He sat down right away to begin working. Fifteen minutes later, with a satisfied look on his face, he handed me this nicely crafted creative writing composition. I was very impressed. This is what he wrote:

“In a nick of time, having lay down on my bed, I was caught up in a deep sleep down in the forest where we fetched water in the village. As I dropped the bucket down in the well, an unknown sound from the forest started shouting loudly in a scary voice: ‘I have you today.'

Before I could fill my bucket to the brim, my sister Sarah had left. I knew now that I was in for it. I started hearing a voice coming from all sides of my slim body: ‘I need you.' That’s what it said.

Trees around me started shaking. I shuddered, then my voice started dying out. However much I could call for my twin sister, Sarah, for a rescue, it was all in vain! My heart drummed against my chest; it felt like my hair was off my head. I opted to run, but the legs could not make it to their best.

After all this shivering and scary moments, I heard the voice of Sarah saying, ‘Nelson, I am dying. Please come and help me!’ I tried to follow where the voice was coming from, but I was disturbed by the echoes in the forest. I ran following the background of her sound. I saw her. She cried at me with her tears flowing like a faulty tap. ‘Nelson, can you do something?’ I now started crying as I saw this: an unknown animal I have never seen before. I came close to her only, only to see her belly being cut and made open. This gave me much fear and proved little chance of survival. Genuinely speaking, I had no way to help Sarah, and there she died. The animal then came close and ran after me. I ran backwards calling out for help. Tears of melancholy cascaded down my muddy face as the animal jumped and caught me up.

I woke up only to remember that it was just a dream. I felt relieved!”

In a recent email, Nelson expressed his gratitude to Change the Truth supporters for his scholarship. Here is what he had to say:

"I feel I owe in my heart beyond measure to you that you enable me to enter a class, be able to look at the chalkboard and above all, attain the education I cherish most in my life. I have no doubt that with your good love, care and devoted support you render to me in addition to the transformation and enlightenment of education, I will be able to make my dreams become a reality. I solemnly promise not to disappoint you but to work to the best of my ability and be the best you want me to be. I am very grateful for your support that is putting me in the literate world of the intellectuals. Today I am one of the millions of children in the world who attain an education. This wouldn’t happen if you didn’t come to my rescue. Thank you very much. May God bless the work of your hands.

You are always in my prayers,

Nelson"

This is an unusual young man with a vast array of talents. (He's a heck of a chess player and even has some killer card tricks up his sleeve.) It is exciting to witness the development of such an extraordinary mind, and it will be interesting to see what Nelson ends up doing when he completes his education.