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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

team 3: kinda sorta max

As you can see, we have a great group of young people going to Uganda to help out at the orphanage this year. Isn’t it inspiring and so hopeful?

There is one young person who was part of the group last year who won’t be returning this year. I wish he were! He was such an energetic, enthusiastic and helpful team member. OK, so I’m just a little biased – he’s my son.

Last year Max brought his sense of humor, his compassion and his mad skills as a drummer to St. Mary Kevin’s. He loves drumming, both as a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band and as fellow-drummer and teacher at the orphanage.




This year, he has found a cool way to reach out and work with the children, even though he's not making the trip.

When his writing professor, Mark Marino, recently issued a class assignment revolving around “service”, Max suggested a collaborative project with the kids in Uganda. This is the letter he sent to the director of the orphanage:

"My class, made up of 20 students, would like to facilitate collaboration among students who are geographically separated. We
think that picking out a project and working on it together would be a great way to have fun, befriend students from different
schools/cities/countries, and make something really neat. We intend to make a website to help accomplish our goal of bringing classes together.

But before we inspire others to do such a project, we need to try it ourselves. So, we'd love if you would allow us to work with some of our friends at SMK! The idea for our project is to have a group of kids work together to write a script for a short movie/play. Then, they'd send the script to us, and we'd act it out, videotape it and then send it back to the kids! In order to help narrow the scope of the script, we've come up with some guidelines that could give the kids some tangible ideas. We've recorded our thoughts and posted them as a short video online that you can look at."

This letter and the video (along with a written proposal) has been sent. Plans are now underway for the children to participate in the assignment, and both groups of young people – at USC and at SMK – are excited to work together, even though their connections will be strictly limited to cyberspace. Watch the video here.

The writing class hopes to have the collaborative piece completed in a few weeks. I’ll be sure to share the finished product here!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

team 3: meet sara


“Hi my name is Sara Hjalmarson. I am a Kansas City native, but am currently living in upstate New York, where I am a sophomore at Colgate University. I’m double majoring in Political Science and Economics. On campus when not in class or in the library, you can find me spending time with my Gamma Phi Beta sorority sisters, mentoring young girls in the area through the FIVER mentoring program, or on Lake Cazenovia at sailing practice.

I am unbelievably excited to be a part of team three! I first learned about Change The Truth two years ago when Gloria’s work with St. Mary Kevin’s was featured in our local newspaper. I then became involved as a volunteer for Change the Truth at friend-raising events. Last summer, I worked as an intern at a consulting firm for not for profits. My salary plus a generous bonus from my summer employer, Pelofsky and Associates is funding my trip.

Gloria and the impact she and the other Change the Truth volunteers are having on the lives of the children at St. Mary Kevin’s is so impressive. I too, hope that my visit to the orphanage will also positively touch these children’s lives. While at SMK, I look forward to helping finish recording the children’s biographies. And I am really up for doing anything to be of help, whether it be art projects, gardening or sporting events. But my musical talents (or lack there of), pale in comparison to Max’s, so I think I will avoid marching band practice!

Alternatively, I expect that my time at St. Mary Kevin will forever change my outlook on life and make me truly appreciate how lucky I am.

I’m so excited to meet all of the kids and to form lifelong friendships! December 18 can’t come soon enough! “

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

team 3: meet kaley


"I am a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. This year, over my winter break, I will be joining the Change the Truth service trip to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage between applying to colleges. Since I've learned of the Change the Truth foundation, I have wanted to travel to Uganda and make a direct change in the lives of the kids at SMK. I want to know that the kids will have the most positive experience that they can. I am looking forward to creating memories with these kids through making friendship bracelets and other activities. I am looking forward to sharing with the kids their daily smiles and struggles. I hope that I will be able to impart to them some tools with which they may see a happier childhood, full of hope. As the second youngest on this journey, I am hopeful that I may relate to the kids with an empathetic view. I can't wait to spend time with these kids and make everlasting friendships with the kids and team members."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

team 3: meet laura


“I've lived in Overland Park, KS for most my life. I graduated from Kansas State University in May 09 with a degree in Family Studies and Human Services and a minor in Sociology. While at KSU I joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority and was active in philanthropic activities (Ali Kemp Bandstand, Links for Literacy, Miracle Mile). After graduation I decided to take a year off from school and travel as much as I could before I started graduate school in Social Work. Since I didn't get the chance to study abroad while at KSU I was looking for another opportunity to go overseas. I knew I wanted to volunteer and work with underprivileged children when I traveled. When I heard about this opportunity from a previous traveler to St. Mary Kevin I immediately said yes! At St. Mary Kevin's I hope to help wherever needed, working in the garden, team building with the younger children, helping with yoga, etc. I'm so excited to be a part of this team and can't wait to meet all the children and be able to share my experience with others once I return.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

team 3: meet bobbi


"It's a joy to think that our trip is two months away. One day I just woke up and realized it was almost here. This year is so different from last, which was my first. I didn't know what to expect last year, and each moment was new, each day was about getting to know new children by face, by name, and by their story. I remember arriving that first day at St. Mary Kevin and each child already knew us...they were waiting for us with OPEN arms, hearts, and faces. It was....quite something. I learned that even though all of our stories are different, and theirs are stories that are unfamiliar and unbelievable to us, we are still very much the same. When hearts connect, healing occurs. When eyes truly see each other, healing occurs. We become part of their new reality, and they become part of ours. Walking around and feeling hands slip into your hands...longing for connection. Aren't we all. Given what these kids have been through, it's amazing that they continue to have so much love to give. I'm excited that so many young people are coming this year. The kids love young people...and they will so fall in love with them. So much to do, and yet all of it is about being with them. Those of us who go will never be the same, and yet more the same than we've ever been."

[Bobbi has been a therapist for 24 years and worked with children for 10 of them. She was with Catholic Charities during that time, so she visited areas of South Florida, where she lives, that were depressed and with families in need of outside support. Since that time, she's been working with relationships...teaching about the power of deepening connection, through listening and validating another's experience. Besides conducting group and individual therapy at the orphanage, Bobbi will be traveling with a duffel bag full of yoga mats and plans on conducting yoga classes.]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

team 3: meet eddie


"When I retired some years ago, it wasn’t to avoid working. Rather it was to give me the time to try new things – to have fun and to make a difference. I have no doubt this adventure to Uganda with Change the Truth will allow me to do both. Adventurous is not a word most people would associate with me. I lived most of my professional life behind a desk! But for the past three years I have watched how the experience of being at St. Mary Kevin has changed the lives of Gloria and the other CTT volunteers and most especially how they have made a profound difference in the lives of the children who call SMK home. I don’t know – I may be way out of my comfort zone but I cannot wait to begin!

While there I hope to work with the orphanage leadership to better understand the current and future needs of the children and the orphanage. I want to assemble a multi-year strategic plan for CTT that will clarify our fundraising goals and prioritize the projects we take on over the next three to five years. I also hope to be able to assist with some needed upgrades to the SMK computer lab, install new mosquito netting for all the children and work in the garden. Most of the time though, I plan to just hang out with the kids doing art projects, reading, making music, dancing and getting to know one another – building relationships that I hope will last a long, long time.

It may be selfish, I know, but I also really look forward to just sitting back and watching my wife 'Mama Gloria' do her thing. I, like so many others, am amazed at what she has been able to accomplish. Thanks to her each of us on this journey will have fun and make a difference. This poem, by Marge Piercy, helps guide me on the path."

TO BE OF USE

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

[Eddie retired from H&R Block in 2004 after 29 years in management. He has since been the Executive Director of Jewish Family Services, a reading teacher, a culinary student and now works seasonally for the IRS. He does a lot of volunteer work and sits on several boards, including that of Change the Truth.]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

team 3: meet melissa and antwain

"Returning to Uganda for my 4th visit feels comfortable and familiar- I am returning to another home. Relationships that I made on my initial trips have grown and evolved over the years- they are now family. When I close my eyes, the sites, sounds, and smells of Kajjansi flood my senses. My stomach fills with excited butterflies eagerly anticipating seeing those beloved children at St. Mary Kevin- how much they have grown, matured, and learned since I last saw them in May.

This trip holds even more significance as I share this experience with my son, Antwain. He has been so supportive of 'sharing me' during previous trips. Antwain and my SMK friends have heard countless stories about one another. I will be overjoyed the day both of my worlds meld together. Antwain wants to make new friends, but he has no idea how many friends he is truly going to have.

Having Antwain with me this trip has inspired me to focus on family. In addition to facilitating large therapeutic groups and recreational activities at SMK, I would like to explore the family connections this trip with the children at SMK. Whether biological (brother or sister) or chosen (life long friend or kindred spirit) relationships, the children at SMK are bonded with one another. I would like to introduce simple projects as a means to highlight the significant support and comfort those relationships have been to the children.

It is so awesome that Team 3 is diverse in background, experiences, and age. I am equally thrilled to reconnect with CTT team veterans and welcome new CTT travelers. Along with my Antwain, it will be incredible to witness their initial Ugandan experience. My greatest hope is they will come to love Uganda as much as I already do."


"When my mom first told me I would go to Uganda with Change The Truth, I felt a little scared, cause I had a feeling that I was going to get sick. But my mom said that I will not get sick, so I won’t be worried as long as I am with her. She tells me about St. Mary Kevin a lot, and she said the kids want to meet me. Some of them have written me letters and made me a video. I’m excited about making friends and learning new stuff about Africa. I want to learn some new words in Luganda (cause speaking English is easy) and play drums with the big boys (cause drums are my favorite thing). I will work to help the grown ups with projects, but I also want to teach my friends to play tag, American football, and other games that I play at my school. My mom and I are excited to go to Africa in 2 months. I want to make a lot of new friends, not just a couple. I want to work hard at St. Mary Kevin, and I hope we are going to have fun."

[Melissa is a social worker at Operation Breakthrough, a daycare and family service center in the urban core of Kansas City, MO. Her job is to coordinate the School-age Program and Betsy’s Kids Program. Operation Breakthrough serves about 650 children (ages 6 weeks-17 years old) and offers before/after school care and holiday care for over 300 school-aged kids.]

[Antwain is 10 years old and a 5th grader at KIPP Endeavor Academy. He lives with his mom, Melissa, in Kansas City, MO. This will be Antwain’s first International trip.]

Monday, October 19, 2009

getting ready

Two months from now members of Change the Truth's Team 3 will wake up under mosquito netting in a hotel in Uganda, have breakfast, then pile into a van to make the first of our daily jaunts from the city of Kampala to the small town of Kajjansi. A few traffic jams, encounters with weaving boda-boda drivers, street vendors, begging children and various roadside animals later, we'll arrive at the unpaved road that winds its way toward St. Mary Kevin School and Orphanage.

As soon as the local children hear the van grunting its way up the red, pitted dirt road, they will start running alongside us, shouting and waving. In various states of dress, stopping in the middle of what ever they are doing, they will call out "muzungu!" and try to get us to smile and wave back. This ruckus sends a signal to kids at SMK that we are getting closer. Those children then quickly pour out of their dorms and classrooms to gather at the gate through which our van will enter. Shouting and clapping and singing and calling our names mushroom into a great concert. The van driver joins in by honking our horn.

The decibel level at that point will be pretty high! Each team member will then climb out of the van and, before we know what hits us, we will be swept up in a sea of outstretched arms and turned up beaming faces.

Welcome to day one at SMK, day two at SMK, day three, etc.

Yesterday team members spent the afternoon sorting, organizing and packing close to 400 pounds of goodies that will be our checked baggage. Now that bags are packed, the upcoming trip seems much more real!

I would like to introduce you to the amazing volunteers who will make up Team 3. Tomorrow you'll meet Melissa, who was also a member of Team 1 and 2, as well as her son, Antwain.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

in the studio

I've been photographing these beautiful sisters for years. It was so fun working with them yesterday.





Thursday, October 15, 2009

vivian maier

Vivian Maier: 1926 - 2009

OK. this is is a long post, but please stay with it. This is a fascinating story that has been circulating throughout the photo blogosphere recently.

I'll preface it by saying that I have always held the belief that the very act of "framing" a picture in the viewfinder is a powerful event; sometimes that act alone can be fulfilling enough. I know when I was a kid that I held the camera up to my eye and squeezed the shutter lots and lots and lots of times. Were my parents constantly feeding my addiction by buying lots and lots and lots of 120 film for my Rocket Brownie camera? I doubt it.

So, anyway, this guy named John Maloof in Chicago was apparently rooting around for some good finds at what was basically an estate sale/auction. He ended up buying a HUGE cache of someone's undeveloped rolls of film and negatives. He started developing the film and printing the negatives and found that he had come across a woman who was an extremely talented photographer who apparently had no need to see the end result of lifting the camera to her eye! No prints existed of any of this work. (In this case, it could well have been that the photographer didn't have the resources to take her pictures to the next level; it seems we may never really know for sure, though.)

No prints existed until now, thanks to Mr. Maloof.

Here is the story in his own words, as well as some of the incredible images made by Vivian Maier.

“I acquired Vivian Maier’s negatives while at a furniture and antique auction. From what I know, the auction house acquired her belongings from a storage locker that was auctioned off due to delinquent payments. I purchased her negatives and rolls of film from this auction. I didn't know what 'street photography' was then.

It took me days to look through all of her work. It inspired me to pick up photography myself. Little by little, as I progressed as a photographer, I would revisit Vivian's negatives, I would ‘see’ more in her work. I bought her same camera and took to the same streets soon to realize how difficult it was to make images of her caliber. I discovered the eye she had for photography through my own practice. I am so attached to her work.

After some researching, I have only little information about Vivian. I cannot find any relatives or heirs after a diligent search.

Central Camera (110 yr old camera shop in Chicago) has encountered Vivian from time to time when she would purchase film while out on the Chicago streets. From what they knew of her, they say she was a Jewish Refugee from wartime France who came to the U.S. in the early 1950's (some of her earlier work shows New York where she must have resided for some time). They say she was a very ‘keep your distance from me’ type of person but was also outspoken. She loved foreign films and didn't care much for American films.

Some of her photos have pictures of children and often times it was near a beach. I later found out she was a nanny for a family on the North Side whose children these most likely were. Her obituary says she lived in Oak Park, a close Chicago suburb.

Out of the 30,000-40,000 negatives I have in the collection, about 10,000-15,000 negatives were still in rolls, undeveloped from the 1960's-1970's. I have been successfully developing these rolls. I still have about 600 rolls yet to develop. I must say, it's very exciting for me. Most of her negatives that were developed in sleeves have the date and location penciled in French (she also had poor penmanship).

The way I found her name was because it was written with pencil on a photo-lab envelope. I decided to 'Google' her name about a year after I purchased these only to find her obituary placed the day before my search. She passed only a couple of days before my inquiry on her

Chicago Tribune's obituary said she was a ‘second mother to John, Lane and Matthew’. After contacting the Chicago Tribune to find out who put out the obituary, I was led to an address on the North Side that didn't exist and a phone number that was disconnected. Were John, Lane and Matthew the children she would nanny on the North Side?

I wanted to meet her in person well before I found her obituary, but the auction house had stated she was ill, so I didn't want to bother her. So many questions would have been answered if I had.”

























Wednesday, October 14, 2009

gotta love this

"The eight-track tape never got a second chance. But things are looking up for instant film, which last year seemed destined to follow the sound-recording technology into the history books. A Polaroid licensee, the Summit Global Group, said Tuesday it would be re-launching Polaroid brand instant cameras. That proves The Impossible Project (that group of Polaroid employees who leased the Polaroid factory and purchased the company's equipment in the Netherlands) is now entirely achievable.

The licensee did not give a time frame for the relaunch. But The Impossible Project still says it is being commissioned to develop and launch a limited edition of Polaroid-branded film in mid-2010. 'Large-scale production and worldwide sale of The Impossible Project's new integral film materials under its own brand will already start in the beginning of 2010 -- with a brand new and astonishing black and white Instant Film and the first color films to follow in the course of the year,' says the press release.

I was one of many film nuts who saw Polaroid's mistake in the time it takes to develop one of the company's iconic photographs. Shutting down the instant film and camera business in February 2008 may have been pictured -- by the consultants and brand strategists -- as a graceful acquiescence to the inevitable annihilation of film by digital imaging.

But the tangible magic of film -- and most especially the not-quite-instantaneous revelation of an image from dark rectangles of photographic paper -- had an unusual meaning for many Polaroid aficionados. Polaroid lovers couldn't let go, scouring eBay (EBAY) for old film and stockpiling all that could be found. In an extraordinary move, some of them went so far as to purchase the assets of Polaroid's film production and pool their money to develop an entirely new, Polaroid-compatible instant film.

The story is a tale of victory for the power of consumer desire; in this case, fanatic and devoted artists and regular people who couldn't let the dream die. Between 1972, when Polaroid first began producing its instant cameras commercially, and 2000, when the company went through bankruptcy proceedings, 13 million instant cameras were sold. Many of them were celebrated, not just for their unusually gratifying functionality, but for their iconic design.

Artists and photographers loved the film for its ethereal look and cloudy, mystical color. Its quick output added to its appeal. Some photographers work mostly in Polaroid even today, stubborn holdouts against the modern pixelation of the art. Thanks to thousands of Polaroid fans who buy old Polaroid film off of eBay and post their work to Polanoid.net or weekly flickr groups -- and to modern digital developments like the Polaroidonizer -- demand hasn't gone away.

In a month in which Gourmet magazine was closed to much subscriber outcry, Polaroid's comeback represents a rare victory for actual customers who didn't want to see a beloved product sent to the graveyard of iconic objects. You wanted Polaroid instant cameras and film back: and you got it."

-- Daily Finance

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

interview

The nice folks at KCUR have emailed me the link to my interview on "KC Currents." You can listen to it here.

And here is another Dream picture that didn't make it into the book.


Coming soon: blog postings by members of Change the Truth Team 3! You'll definitely want to "meet" the volunteers who are traveling to Uganda with me this December to do good things at the orphanage. They are wonderful people!

Monday, October 12, 2009

radio + dreams

Late last week I was invited into the studio of the local Kansas City public radio station, KCUR 89.3 FM, where I was interviewed by the very gracious and well-informed Susan Wilson. The resulting interview aired yesterday and will be rebroadcast tonight on the show "KC Currents" which is hosted by Wilson. If you have the opportunity and the inclination, tune in at 8 PM! If you live out of the area or won't have the chance to listen, I will be posting a link to the show sometime later this week here on the blog.




Susan asked me to talk about the DREAM series which I worked on at the orphanage this past December. Some of these images are published in my book, "Kutuuka"; some didn't make the cut, though, and I have revisited those this morning. Here are a couple which found their way to the edit room floor. I still like them and hope to include them at some point in the portfolio.

Friday, October 09, 2009

rosemary writes


“When you are the Mother to more than 100 children
The responsibility can sometimes become overwhelming
But with the firm support from Change the Truth
Life has been made easier and more manageable
We sincerely thank CTT, and the donors for this critical intervention



We can now afford to have a few orphans with us at home during holidays
It gives them a sense of belonging
And they learn social responsibility
The girls – prepare food & clean plates at home
The boys – wash clothes & clean the house and the compound
Then I can take the opportunity to sit back and enjoy a cup of tea



Our guest orphans are always grateful for the change
Firstly because the food is better than at the Orphanage
But also for the chance to be loved intimately, as a small group
Last holidays (August) we had five (5) lodging orphans
Jackie, Pauline, Kate, Isabella & her sister Petra, plus Boy Boy
They all had a good time for 4 weeks
A few glasses & plates were broken – but that is part of growing up
They enjoyed the fun
And we gave the children all the love we had”



Now and then I get an email from Mama Rosemary, director of St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood that puts a smile on my face. Just wanted to share this one with you, the friends of CTT to whom she is saying thanks.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

i exist


There are so many circles and cycles in photography, ebbs and flows, new things and old, twists and turns, reinventions and imitations, new technologies and rediscoveries of old ones. And they all sort of overlap and feed into one another.

I’m not sure any of us is able to say something entirely new with our work; all that we can hope to do is discover a voice within us - one that sounds slightly different from the voices that make up the huge swell of what has already been said.

You undoubtedly see pieces of me in each photographer I have written about the past few days. There are “nods” to many of them in my work. There are outright cases of pilfering of ideas. There are gently borrowed stepping-off points. There are attempts at going down a similar path. There is also an outpouring of respect and honor for them. As I get older and make more work, I do hope that along the way, my own voice has come through a little louder and a little more clearly with each passing squeeze of the shutter, each passing project, each passing year.

Photography is by far the most democratic of mediums. Practically anyone can take a picture, and practically everyone does. Now that most of us carry around a camera (a cell phone or a point & shoot) at all times, there is very little that goes unphotographed in the world these days. We are all photographers now.

The lines that separate fine art photographers, commercial photographers, war photographers, fashion photographers, street photographers, self-portrait makers, family documentarians, news photographers, portrait photographers, kid shooters, landscape photographers, friends having fun at parties, etc. are getting fuzzier with each passing technology and each passing day.

Ultimately, though, I believe we all simply just trying to say these sorts of things:

THIS MOMENT HAPPENED.

SHE EXISTED.

THESE PEOPLE SUFFERED.

I LIVED.

MY FAMILY GATHERED THERE.

I WONDERED.

THIS HOUSE STOOD HERE.

I WAS IN PAIN.

THIS LAND THRIVED.

WE LOVED EACH OTHER.

Here’s a little story about a photograph I took and then gave away. It was at the orphanage. On my second trip, I took lots of portraits of the children and then printed them on my portable printer. I gave a picture to each of the kids I had photographed – just a little snapshot, nothing special really. To them, of course, it was a huge gift. It was, in some cases, a first glance at themselves. For others, it was the first time they had ever owned a picture of themselves. For most it became one of a very few possessions they had. It was, in short, a treasure.

On my last day, amid the hugs and tears, one little boy came up to me, stretched his arm up toward my face and opened his hand to reveal the picture I had taken of him. He wanted me to have it. I’ll never forget what he said as he handed me the photo - one of his few belongings.

PLEASE DON’T FORGET ME.

(i exist, see?)

The power of photography. Voice after voice after voice… in a museum, in a family album, on a cell phone, in a little boy’s hand, in my desk drawer.

Awesome.

Monday, October 05, 2009

wendy ewald

"Self-portrait" - Sharon Banks

For more than thirty years, Wendy Ewald has collaborated with children and adults from around the world, working in communities in Labrador, Appalachia, Colombia, India, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Holland, Mexico, Canada, North Carolina, and New York. She offers up her own creative skills and mixes them with her students' imaginations. The resulting images are individual self-portraits, as well as portraits of communities and articulations of hopes and dreams.

My favorite of these visual and verbal collaborations is one of the earliest projects undertaken by Ewald – one that I frequently revisit for inspiration. It was begun in 1975, when she was fresh out of college. Ewald arrived in Letcher County, Kentucky, with the idea of documenting the Appalachian community in a way that caught the “soul and rhythm of the place.” The problem Ewald found as an outsider was that her camera got in the way of developing trusting relationships. She eventually approached Cowan Elementary School with a grant from the Polaroid Foundation for cameras and film and an offer to set up a program where she would teach the children photography. It was a way of providing a service to the community and a means of coming to understand it.

The program was quickly expanded to two other schools: Campbells Branch and Kingdom Come School. With assistance from the Kentucky Arts Commission over a four-year period, Ewald worked with one hundred and fifty children between the ages of six and fourteen. In the end, it was her collaboration with these students that created the intimate portrait of the community she had originally sought.

She asked the children to photograph their homes, their families and their friends. She spoke to them about their fears and dreams and encouraged them to capture these on film; she then used the images as a catalyst for the students to talk and write about their lives. A group of their photographs and writings, along with Ewald’s, came together in the 1985 book “Portraits and Dreams: Photographs and Stories by Children of the Appalachians” a book that, years ago, found its way to my list of top ten photo books of all time.

I have been a fan of many of these young photographers for years. Recently I discovered that Ewald started a Facebook page when she decided to have a reunion with the now forty-something men and women who she taught all those years ago. Imagine my delight when I saw current pictures of Denise, Darlene and others whose honest and imaginative childhood photography has - for years - moved and motivated me.

The Ewald piece that is in the exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum is from another of her bodies of work. All of her projects are wonderful and worth checking out; this one is simply my sentimental favorite.

"Self-portrait with the picture of my biggest brother, Everett, who killed himself when he came back from Vietnam." - Freddy Childers


"I dreamt I killed my best friend, Ricky Dixon." - Allen Shepherd


"Self-portrait reaching for the Red Star sky." - Denise Dixon


"Philip and Jamie are creatures from outer space in their space ship." - Denise Dixon


"I took a picture of myself with the statue in the backyard." - Janet Stallard

Sunday, October 04, 2009

keith carter


Often called a “transcendent realist” and “a poet of the ordinary,” Keith Carter grew up watching his single mom work professionally as a portrait photographer.

“Among his earliest memories is waking in the middle of the night from a pallet on the floor to see a small orange safelight above the kitchen sink where his mother stands. He steps over beside her then raises himself on tiptoes to watch in wide-eyed wonder as one of her photographic images slowly comes up in the developer. It is magic, indeed it is a miracle – and to this day my friend Keith Carter has never gotten over it” – Bill Wittliff.

Keith eventually gave photography his own shot, at first finding his subjects in the familiar, yet exotic, places and people of his native East Texas. He has since expanded his range not only geographically, but also into realms of dreams and imagination, where objects of the mundane world open glimpses into inexpressible realities. His tenth book was just recently published.

I don’t remember the first time I saw Keith’s work, but I do remember the way it made the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I took a workshop with him in Santa Fe in 1998 and again in 2000 in Tuscany. Those workshops were filled with Willie and Waylon, references to all sorts of great American literature, poetry readings, laughter and good ole boy East Texas story-telling. Never have I had such a good time making and sharing pictures.

Keith taught me a lot. I often think back to phrases he uttered, challenges he threw down, questions he posed. He was the most insightful and generous of teachers, sharing every ounce of himself, his techniques and his thought processes each step of the way with every single one of his students.

There were so many things that Keith said that have stuck with me and that have helped me navigate my way through difficult situations. I owe a lot to him as a teacher and a friend.

His work makes me crazy, makes me feel like giving it up sometimes. Like… how in the world can I possibly add anything to the world of photography after what he has already done? I feel very honored to be in the exhibit at the Nelson, having my work alongside his.















Saturday, October 03, 2009

in the street

You probably already know that Helen Levitt is one of my favorite photographers and that she has been a great inspiration to me over the years. If you read this blog regularly, then you may remember my postings about visiting Helen at her apartment in New York this time last year (and, as a it turned out, a few months before she "kicked off.") Those posts can be found here, here. here, here and here.

At any rate, Levitt is included in the exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum "Hide and Seek: Picturing Childhood." Rather than show you more of her still photography, I thought it would be cool to turn you onto a film she made in the 1940's with Janice Loeb and James Agee. Contemporary photographer Amy Stein referred to this as "SIMPLY ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PIECES OF POETRY EVER PUT TO FILM."

It is in two parts. When you have ten quiet minutes, get lost in this remarkable footage shot by one of the masters of 20th century photography.

(For best viewing, click on You Tube in the lower right corner. That will take you directly to You Tube, where you'll get a full screen and better resolution.)



Friday, October 02, 2009

a mega change the truth update


News from the orphanage is encouraging. Our support continues to be responsible for some very good things!

Tuition fees for twenty-three secondary school students have been paid for the final term of the year. When I am there this December, I plan to meet with each child to go over his/her performance record for the year, find out how he/she doing, offer words of encouragement, etc. I will also talk with the very recent Primary School graduates to determine who may be added to our scholarship program. Four upper class students are due to sit for their national examinations in October and November to determine whether they will be qualified to move up to the next level. These are really difficult tests and require a lot of preparation. We wish the very best to Daniel, Saka, Henry and Samalie. All are extremely determined young people, and I know they will do their best to make their sponsors, friends of Change the Truth, proud.


The marching band that came to be thanks to Team 2 members Sarah and Max on our visit last December has been practicing hard under the tutelage of teacher Ivan. From their rag-tag beginnings, the band members have come a long way. The band has actually already been hired… twice! The USC Trojan marching band had better watch out.


A new art form has been introduced to the children. Art teacher Michael is helping the children leave how to weave. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they are creating, and I hope to be able to bring some of their pieces back to Kansas City to sell at our next Friendraiser/Fundraiser.

Team 2 member Fred set up a volleyball and basketball court when we were there last year. The children still look forward to playing these games each weekend when they are out of school.


The counseling that was begun by Team 1 members Ann and Melissa and continued by Team 2 members Melissa and Bobbi remains an important part of the healing that takes place at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. The teachers who have learned from the CTT therapists continue to work with the children and are seeing positive results.

On the sustainability front, the number of pigs in the pigsty has grown to thirty-five. Many of them will be sold during the month of December, once they have been fattened up properly. One of the main success stories to the pigsty has been the addition (thanks to CTT) of a rainwater collection tank that helps provide drinking water to the animals.

You may recall the assistance we provided a couple of years ago for the expansion of the brick-making program. The older boys work very hard to make the bricks. As of this moment, thousands of bricks are now ready for firing and subsequent sale. This is a real moneymaker for the orphanage.


The garden that was planted under the loving care of Team 2 member Randy is still going strong. The children have continued to enjoy an assortment of healthy greens thanks to the hard work put into maintaining the garden, the fertile Ugandan soil and the good weather.


CTT has been responsible for providing medical care to the children. Thanks to generous donors, Nurse Jane reports for work three days a week. She continues to help the children, as she did alongside Team 2 member Dr. Tom, with ailments such as fever, coughing, wounds and abdominal pains. An organization called Touch the World has been doing quite a bit of work at SMK this past year. One of its main projects has been the establishment of a full-scale medical clinic with a doctor’s room, nurse’s room and sickbay. The goal is to serve the children (and the local community at a small fee.) Project completion date is likely to be this December. At that time, CTT will revaluate its monthly financial commitment to medical care. It could be that we will be able to divert these funds toward other needs.

On a not-so-great note: the motorcycle purchased for the orphanage by CTT last year was involved in a wreck. Apparently, the man who was driving it as a taxi loaned it to a friend who promptly crashed it. (I have not heard of any injuries other than those sustained by the motorcycle itself.) At any rate, after some time and some shenanigans, the vehicle has now been recovered by the police, but is in need of repair. More on that later…

I can’t tell you how excited I am to return to SMK on December 19th. There will be nine members of Team 3. Soon I will begin introducing them to you. Being a volunteer there requires a huge commitment (financial and emotional); I am so grateful to those who have decided to get involved with CTT on this level. I know the children are counting the days until our arrival!


Finally, we had a screening of Lynne’s film last night in Kansas City for those who were unable to see it this past June at our annual event. We had such a nice turnout; it was great to see familiar faces and to make new friends. I’d like to welcome those of you who are now on our mailing list for the first time. The CTT family continues to grow, and for that I am very thankful.