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

Friday, January 31, 2014


Today my granddaughter is one year old. Happy birthday to the little monkey.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

come have some fun and help us raise some funds

It is with much excitement that I announce the 2014 Change the Truth Friendraiser/Fundraiser!

Friday, March 14th
7 - 10 PM
Boulevard Brewing Co.
2501 Southwest Blvd.
Kansas City, MO

This is the first year we are selling tickets. They are $55 each, and you can get yours HERE. For that price, you get to come and have a good time with other CTT friends bidding on auction items and artwork by the young SMK artists. You get all the Spin! pizza and Boulevard beer/wine you want. (There will be gelato, too!) You'll get to see the new CTT film by Lynne Melcher and Cara Myers. We'll have be a 50/50 cash raffle. You'll even get a party favor this year.

There is a limited number of tickets available. Please purchase yours now!

Much more to follow...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

great grandfather

My father will be ninety-three in a couple months. His great granddaughter will be one in a couple days. It was high time they met!

I have spent the past few days with father, my kids and their kids. It was a four generation party.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Nicky, St, Mary Kevin Orphanage, 2013

I’m immersed in a really good book right now: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m at a particular part of the story that has given me pause to think about some of the really smart, talented teenage boys I’ve known over the years, who in spite of (because of?) their many gifts, managed to work their way into some very precarious situations.

I knew a couple guys like this in high school and in college. Bright, charming, personable, resourceful, sensitive, kind and… capable of making some really bad choices. My own son, Max, was one of these young men. (I’ll save his scary tale for another day; let’s just say it involved fast cars. Let’s also say, for the record, the bad choices are way in the past.)

My dear friend Nicky, who I first met at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood in 2006, is the teenage boy who currently thrills and frustrates me. Nicky has more charisma, artistic talent, resourcefulness and smarts than you can shake a stick at. What’s especially striking about this young man is that he possesses all these traits despite the fact that - like the protagonist in The Goldfinch – he had the very bad luck of losing both his parents at a young age. Nicky has had to find his way by relying on his extended family, his friends, some luck and his wits. (I might add that there are some amazing genes at work here, because both of Nicky’s sisters are incredibly special, too.)

Nicky was one of our first Change the Truth sponsored students. I remember walking with him along a red dirt path one day when he was still in Primary school; he told me he was at the top of his class and that he wanted to be a doctor. He had already slayed me with his drawing and musical abilities. This kid was golden; he would be a perfect sponsored student.

It wasn’t long before Nicky began to sabotage his academic success. His music and artwork continued to improve and impress us all; his grades, however, began to slip. No longer did Nicky talk about becoming a doctor. Instead, he wanted to be a rock star. He got a nickname at SMK: Nicky Bieber. Rarely could he be found without the recently donated blue guitar in hand. He started learning chords and writing songs. He developed some dance moves that would have made Michael Jackson, one of his idols, very proud. Eventually, his pursuit of “stardom” got in the way of history, math and science, and he found himself on CTT probation. When he finally chose to start skipping class and elaborately creating covers to make us think he was in school, trust was lost. It was a sad day when we had to tell him his CTT sponsorship had come to an end.

To his credit – and this is what makes a young man like Nicky a survivor – he has found ways to keep moving forward. Though CTT no longer pays his school fees, SMK administration has shown its belief in him by scraping together some funds to help him continue his education. He makes a little money here and there selling his artwork. He works hard at his music, he continues to try to meet the right people, he flashes his broad smile and he dreams really big. Though he sometimes suffers from terrifying flashbacks surrounding the deaths of his parents and is often haunted by his past, Nicky, like Theo in The Goldfinch, finds a way to put one foot in front of the next, day after day after day.  In spite of the odds against him, he finds a way to keep his dreams alive. I just hope, at some point, CTT can figure out a way to help make those dreams come true.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

arbus at fraenkel

Allan and Diane Arbus, 1950

An recent exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco I wish I had seen:

Diane Arbus 1971–1956
From the Fraenkel website...
Given the magnitude of the impact her photographs left in their wake, Diane Arbus’s career was brief—a mere fifteen years. Yet from the moment in 1956 when at the age of 33 she started numbering her negatives, beginning with #1, Arbus’s preoccupations appear to have been clear. Even her earliest photographs evidence an acute interest in singular people, the private place s they inhabit, and the mysteries that bring human beings together or keep them apart. As Arbus’s technique evolved over the next decade, her negatives becoming more detailed and her prints becoming larger, her central concerns remained consistent, revealing an uncanny clarity about the subject matter that compelled her and that was eventually to define her unprecedented achievement.

Diane Arbus 1971–1956 examines the artist’s evolution through one picture per year, from the perspective of a rear-view mirror. Tracing five threads of interest with approximately sixty photographs, the exhibition starts with images made shortly before her death in 1971 and progresses, in reverse order, toward their beginnings. By interweaving well-known images with many less familiar ones (among them Woman in a fur stole, N.Y.C. 1971; An empty room, N.Y.C. 1968; Masked man in white, N.Y.C. 1967; and Person Unknown, City Morgue, N.Y.C. 1960), Diane Arbus 1971–1956 offers an unconventional perspective on the artist’s oeuvre, and sheds light on the enigmatic process by which one work informs another.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

guest post by melissa: the equator

"Uganda is one of only 11 countries through which the Equator passes.  Its presence is a highlight for tourism.  Its importance is taught to students by the middle of Primary School. The Equator is only 1½ hours away from SMK, but until this year the number of children who had actually visited this special spot could be counted on one hand. 

I remember my first trip to the Equator with CTT Team 1 in 2007.  It was quite a memorable side trip for Ann, Lonnie, Jane, Peter, and me.  The landmark itself is very simple and could easily be driven past without much attention paid.  But there is a palpable sense of significance felt as one stands on this invisible line that divides our world.  (And it is absolutely true that water does flow in different directions within the northern and southern hemisphere and has absolutely no flow directly on the Equator line.)

This year there has been the special opportunity for 13 Secondary students to travel with CTT visitors to the Equator.  These trips were made during 3 different occasions.  The first trip was in August with Gloria, Lynne, and Natalie.  Next was a trip in November with Melissa when the SMK artists delivered their paintings to the AID Child Art Gallery.  And the final trip happened earlier this month with Dawn and Emily.  Each mini-trip provided CTT visitors with the chance to spend quality time with students.  There were fun car games played, songs sung, some naps, and road-snacks enjoyed by all. 

At the Equator, there is the same indicator on both sides of the road, where millions of photos have been taken.  For our groups, there were lots of group and individual shots.  It is always fun to see how a person’s personality emerges during this photo opportunity.  People can get very creative making their memories while standing atop the Equator!

Here are some of the fun photos taken of the students and their CTT friends."

 Gloria, Lynne, Natalie, Melissa, Rebecca, Fiona, and Nahia

Willy, Nicky, Brian, Wycliffe, and Antwain 


Rose K, Emily, Rechael, Irene, Scovia, and Dawn

Monday, January 20, 2014


CTT friend Natalie sent a Martin Luther King book to Rachael, one of our sponsored students at SMK. Following is a letter written by Team 7 leader Jennifer Smith; she is the one who hand delivered the book to Rachael. It's a letter of appreciation to Natalie for giving her a profound opportunity while at SMK last month. If you've ever wondered why some people make the choice to go on a team trip to the orphanage, this will shed some light on at least one person's thoughts:


I wanted to send a quick email to thank you for the Martin Luther King book you sent young Rachael at St. Mary Kevin’s. She sought me out early during our trip to show me the present and ask if we could spend some time together reading the book. We eventually spent more than an hour together on New Year's Day reading Dr. King's words and explaining the history of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a BLESSED time. 

This portion of his “I Have a Dream” speech was especially moving for both of us:  

"...for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead."

I tried to explain to Rachael that many of us who travel to SMK, and especially those of us who return, truly believe that statement. That our destinies are tied together--that we cannot walk alone. As I reflect on the life and contributions of Dr. King today, I am flooded with memories of my time with Rachael pouring over Dr. King's words and vision...that we are all connected and we can make the choice to not walk alone.

Thank you for making that special time possible.


Sunday, January 19, 2014


February 2014
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Photography Scholars Program: Robert Frank's The Americans Revisited

This semester, working in collaboration with guest photographer Gloria Baker Feinstein, students will take a critical look at Robert Frank's pivotal work The Americans. We will examine how Frank's view of the cultural landscape of the mid 1950s influenced American photography. Students are encouraged to share their reactions, formulate theories based on observations, and make connections between art and life.

Following gallery and classroom activities, students will create their own photographic portfolio, drawing on themes and ideas discussed in class. Through the hands-on production of their own images, and writing assignments that encourage students to articulate the thoughts behind their work, participants will explore their own individual interpretation of the American experience. Additionally, students will collaborate to create a book that explores contemporary notions of the collective American identity, as seen through the eyes of teenagers living in and around Kansas City.

Class sessions are led by museum curators, museum educators, and visiting photographer Gloria Baker Feinstein. Sessions meet for five consecutive Saturdays starting February 1, 2014.

All application materials are due by midnight, December 8, 2013. Students and teachers will be notified of acceptance in the program by email by December 20, 2013.

If you've never thought of me in a teaching role, you're not alone. Yeah, I've taught my own children and some of their friends about photography, and I've worked with kids at Operation Breakthrough here in Kansas City and at the orphanage in Uganda, but I've never been particularly comfortable assuming the official position of teacher. 

That's going to change very soon. I'm a jumble of nerves and excitement. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

thoughts of retirement and lillian

Running a non-profit is hard work. Most days I love it, but honestly, there are days when I just want to hang it up. You know, go to that warm beach that will magically be waiting for me just around the next bend. I can see it so clearly: a stack of all the books I've been wanting to read on a little table positioned ever so perfectly just to the right of my chaise lounge. There's a sweet, friendly towel boy ever at the ready to deliver sugar-on-the-rim margaritas to me whenever I raise my right pinky. There's an umbrella positioned just so, and it moves electronically during the course of the day to constantly protect me from the sun. My favorite playlist never ends and is set to just the right volume. My kids and grandkids are nearby, frolicking in the sand, laughing easily as the waves wash over them. Eddie is in the chaise next to me, looking relaxed and sporting some great looking swim trunks and a permanent smile. He begs me to play another game of Scrabble. I spend a couple hours wandering around making pictures. After a while, I work out in the perfectly appointed nearby gym, then cool off with a delicious and healthy fruit smoothie. After my full body massage, I meet up with Eddie and we stroll to a reasonably priced organic, veggie, gluten-free, dairy-free restaurant with our kids, my sister and my best girlfriends, all of whom live just down the beach. Later Eddie and I may watch a little Breaking Bad (does it ever end?), and then we'll sink down into our heart shaped Tempurpedic bed and sleep solidly for nine or ten hours before we start the routine all over again the next day.

Oh, wait, for a minute I thought this was really happening. Must be the coconut scented lotion I was just slathering on my arms and shoulders.

No, I'm here in the CTT/GBF Photo office, hammering away at my computer. All is good. No, really, it is!

I am happy and proud to announce that CTT is granting sponsorships to four new students! The 2014 school year will begin in February; soon we will be getting pictures of Oscar, Tina, Beatrice and Lillian wearing their brand spanking new school uniforms complete with new shiny shoes. Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll introduce you to these children, all of whom have been good friends to our CTT volunteers throughout the years.

Each of the four is being sponsored by individual CTT supporters - people who have been generous all along, but who now want to focus their financial commitment on one child in particular. I can't thank these donors enough. I know it will feel as good for them as it does for their new Ugandan friends.

Lillian, 2011

Meet Lillian:

She is 12 years old, the third and youngest daughter of Evalyn, who happens to be the matron of the young boy's dormitory at SMK. Evalyn is a tall, handsome woman with a smile that'll knock you out and a voice that'll make you stand up and pay attention. She came to SMK after her husband was killed in the war in northern Uganda. She had nothing. Rosemary gave her a matron job, which provided Evalyn a place to eat and sleep and a place for her children to attend primary school. It's that simple. Evalyn works in exchange for a safe place for her family. Lillian participates in choir and traditional dancing at SMK. She is a good student and wants to work hard to become a doctor when she grows up. Lillian's sponsors are from Wisconsin (thanks to Suzanne, we are developing quite a contingency in the Dairy State!) and can't wait to start corresponding with her.

This is the kind of day that, while the beach does sound nice, I so appreciate the work I'm able to do and the people I get to do it with!

Maybe a sugar-on-the-rim margarita tonight with dinner?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

save the date!

Annual Change the Truth Friendraiser/Fundraiser
Friday, March 14th
Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City
7 - 10 PM

We're mixing it up a bit this year: 

different venue
food by Spin! Pizza/ beer and wine by Boulevard
tickets are $50
party favors!!

Many things will stay the same:

art auction (paintings, drawings and photographs by the kids at the orphanage)
silent auction of cool items from KC area restaurants, spas, sporting events, etc.
CTT film by Lynne Melcher 

If you've been following/collecting the work of our core group of young artists, you will be amazed to see the maturity and sophistication evident in their most recent work. Just to whet your appetite, please take a few moments to appreciate this incredible pastel drawing by 15-year-old Issy. Her work just keeps getting stronger and stronger. This piece will surely be a highlight of the SMK Gallery on March 14th. 

If you're on our mailing list, you'll receive an invitation in the next couple weeks. You'll then be able to purchase tickets online. (If you are not on our snail mail list and wish to be, please contact me at gbfeinstein[at]gmail[dot]com. Hope to see you at Boulevard on March 14th!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

last one?

Ever find yourself minding your own business, then noticing something eerie or lovely or unusual or jarring across the room? I had to have surgery yesterday (no big deal… I'm fine). While in the waiting room at the surgi-center, listening for my name to be called, this scene presented itself to me.

So, of course, I photographed it.

When the nurse came to fetch me, I suddenly remembered why I was supposed to be nervous: what if I wake up during the procedure? What if I don't wake up at all? As the drugs kicked in, and I started floating away, I thought back to the photo I had made in the waiting area just 1/2 hour before. And then I started thinking… at my funeral Eddie would say my wife photographed right up until the very end, and then he would unveil the last photo I ever made. Everyone would break into applause, fighting back tears.

Funny where your thoughts go with a little Valium running through your veins.

Thankfully, I get to unveil the image myself. And I'm happy to report that there will be many more pictures to come.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

photos lie

This series of photos that Japanese London-based photographer Chino Otsuka created is pretty cool and proves flat out that photos can and do lie (especially in the age of Photo-Shop). In “Imagine Finding Me,” Chino digitally inserts herself into old photos, so that she is standing next to her younger self. The concept is simple, and her digital manipulation of the photos is done so well it makes it seems as if she's a time traveler of sorts. They are - if you let yourself go there - filled with a sense of longing for simpler times.