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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

new orleans

I haven’t flown during a busy holiday season for a while… forgot all about the coughing, sneezing and sniffling that tends to eventually blend into the chorus of babies crying, three year olds screeching and the endless drone of video games turned up way too loud. Did I mention the cute little seven year old whose feet were digging into the back of my seat?

It was freezing cold in the Dallas airport. So I am now sporting a stylin’ orange and gray Longhorn sweatshirt. A couple of people with Texas accents approached me to ask what I thought of the end of that game yesterday. Unfortunately, I was clueless.

Aw, what the heck… hook ‘em, Horns!

I cruised into Slidell with the “Ragin’ Cajun” blaring on the radio of my rental car and tried in vain to find something beautiful on, near, or kind of near the highway.

Everything still looks really torn apart. The trees are dead and twisted. Signs are mangled. Many, many homes along the way are still heavily damaged or just completely destroyed.

In the converted warehouse that is now our home, I’m in bunk #18, next to a woman named Amy from Atlanta. The food tent is in the parking lot, and the showers are a few steps past that. We’ll be up bright and early tomorrow morning to begin our assignment. Believe it or not, this is all very exciting for me!

For those of you who come to this blog to read about Africa, please bear with me for a few days.

There is no way I could ever be doing any of this (Poland, Uganda, Louisana) without the encouragement and support (emotional and logistical) from my unbelievably wonderful husband, Eddie. (Those of you who know the guy know that I am not exaggerating about the unbelievably wonderful part).

Saturday, December 30, 2006

if I had a (sledge)hammer

I’ve got my sleeping bag, work boots and work gloves packed, and I’m ready to go.

Tomorrow I leave for New Orleans to meet up with a group from Nechama (Hebrew for “comfort”) the Jewish community's disaster response organization. Based in Minneapolis, since 1993 they have deployed hundreds of volunteers to help communities clean up after floods, tornados, and other natural disasters. Their mission is based on the Jewish value of “Tikkun Olam” - repairing the world through acts of goodness. We (folks from all across the US) will be staying in a converted warehouse in Slidell, Louisiana and taken into New Orleans by van early each morning to gut houses.

The work that is left to do in New Orleans is immense. If it were not for volunteers lending a helping hand, the recovery effort there would be in even worse shape than it already is. Although Nechama is a Jewish-based volunteer organization, it offers help to all people regardless of religious affiliation or class. They generally serve the most vulnerable during natural disaster events: the elderly, the poor, single parents, and people with disabilities or other health problems. All of these groups usually find it difficult to cope both physically and mentally with beginning to clean up from natural disasters. Nechama offers its services free of charge and does not solicit donations from persons helped. Nechama works closely with organizations such as the Federal Management Relief Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army

Just as I am a firm believer in making pictures in my own backyard (that is, not relying on the exotic-ness of a photograph taken in a far away land to make it successful) I believe in helping others in my own backyard (that is, not relying on the exotic-ness of a place or its people to make the effort seem somehow more important).

More to come… from GloriainNewOrleans.

Friday, December 29, 2006


There is a very nice (front page!!) article in this week's Kansas City Jewish Chronicle about Change the Truth.

I am so grateful for the local coverage. Between this and New Letters, the word about Change the Truth is definitely getting out in this neck of the woods. I think it's a good start!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

pen pals

For those of you who are interested in starting a pen pal relationship with one of the children at the orphanage, I have three names remaining from the last round. They are boys. Their ages are 12, 13 and 16. Please email me if you'd like to begin corresponding with one of them, and I'll give you his name and address.

If any of you who have already begun writing to your pen pals would like to share excerpts from your letters, by all means send those to me so I can post them here on the blog. I think everyone would enjoy hearing what the children have to say to you.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I have received a lot of letters and emails since I started this blog. Most have to do with, of course, Africa. What has struck me is this: people who have been there have said that it got hold of them and has never really let go.

I have been treated to reminisces of journeys there, of childhoods spent there, of people met there, and of photos and journals that have been made there. Without fail, those who have been to Africa have been changed somehow by the experience and long to return.

In my correspondence with fellow workshop students, the common thread that seems to bind us now is that we want to go back.

What is it about Africa that draws us in and keeps us there? Why, in the middle of lunch at Panera’s with Eddie the other day did I start crying as I was drawing comparisons between life here in the US and life as it appeared to me there in my three short weeks in Uganda? Why do I still think about the people I met and the places I saw almost constantly? The songs, the faces, the sounds of the city streets, the quiet of the village, the rich colors, the cool breezes, the smiles flashed by new friends, the rain on my face, the grit on my skin, the children’s hands in mine, the haunting skies, the red, red earth. I don’t know. The images and the feelings just don’t seem to fade.

In one letter I’ve read and re-read, Bono was quoted: “For Africa, it is going to take all of us.”

I’m not sure what he meant. But I can’t seem to stop turning his words around in my head.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


As I sat in my car in the school parking lot waiting for Max on his first day of third grade, I saw Bronia for the first time. She could be kind of hard to miss, given that she’s not even five feet tall, but her stride, her sense of self determination, her age, her general presence - well, all of that was difficult to overlook. She was at school every single afternoon to pick up her granddaughter, who was a few years younger than Max, and I would watch her with great curiosity as she moved toward the school doors. Moments later, as she and Rebecca would emerge from school and walk past my car, holding hands, laughing, obviously enamored of one another and happy be to reunited, I caught a glimpse of the number tatooed on her arm, and I wondered more and more about this woman.

I soon learned her name from a friend at the synagogue and began to hear stories about her. Turns out, Bronia was a well known (and well LOVED) icon in Kansas City. She still is.

Bronia was born in 1926 in Turek, Poland. When the Nazis came to Turek in 1940, she was relocated to a ghetto. From there she was sent to three concentration camps, Inowroclaw in 1940, Gnojno from 1941-1943 and Auschwitz from 1943-1944. She then was sent to a labor camp, Reichenbach, on a death march to Zalcweidel, and then to Nederzachsen from which she was liberated in April, 1945. Practlcally every member of her family had perished. After the war, she studied English and worked as a nurse at displaced persons camps in Germany. She came to the United States in June, 1947.

She went on to marry, have four children and several grandchildren. She and her husband owned a bakery. Bronia eventually became a highly requested speaker for local and regional schools and other organizations, telling the tale of her life during the Holocaust. Hearing her story was, and still is, a a compelling moment. Hearing her story can also be a profoundly inspirational and life changing experience.

In 1999, I began a project for the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education. I was given the opportunity to photograph local Holocaust survivors. When I realized I would have the chance to meet Bronia, I was thrilled. I made her portrait at the bakery one morning, but more important, I made a friend who has become an important and enduring force in my life.

I have yet to meet anyone who embraces each day and each person she meets with more gusto than my friend Bronia.

To spend time with this smart, funny, kind and gentlewoman is to get a huge dose of love and laughter (not to mention some great chicken soup, if you happen to visit her around mealtime... scratch that - anytime really). And if you are paying attention, you can also learn an important lesson or two... about things like tolerance, kindness, compassion and love of life.

Today, Eddie and I got to sing to her as she celebrated her 80th birthday with her many friends and family members.

Happy Birthday to Bronia, a real treasure. I count myself as one of the lucky ones whose life has been touched - and changed - by the courage, strength, determination and goodness that defines this very special woman.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Paul Dorrell of the Leopold Gallery here in Kansas City has offered me a show of the Uganda work at his new space, scheduled to have its grand opening in March. My show will open April 27th and run through May. Paul seems really passionate about the work, which is great, and he also cares about helping support the cause, so he has offered to donate a portion of all print sales to “Change the Truth.” I think that is very cool. I am hoping to show about thirty pieces. The prints I am making are 13” x 19.” He has asked me to give a gallery talk, as well, so I am now clearly motivated to get my video/slide show put together. More info on this exhibition will follow! In the meantime, he now has a small inventory of my “Convergence” work. I am really looking forward to working with Paul, and his gallery assistant, Robin.

You may have noticed a new addition to the blog. On the right hand side I have listed some of my favorites place to go on the web. I will update this periodically. And speaking of updates, the nice guys at Greentie Design have made some additions to my website, which now includes the Uganda work, more pieces form the Shredding Project and a few new portraits. These guys are great to work with, and if any of you have design needs, whether it be print or web, I recommend them highly. You can find them at www.greentie.com.

There has been a flurry of activity over at the Jewish Community Foundation where their mail carrier has been delivering a lot of checks for “Change the Truth." Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

new letters magazine

Volume 73, Number 1 of New Letters Magazine is hot off the press! As you may recall reading in an earlier post, Robert Stewart, the editor of this highly regarded literary magazine, expressed immediate interest in the Uganda photographs back in November just after my return home. He was committed to getting the images published in the upcoming issue, and he and his staff did indeed manage to put it together in short order. I got to see a finished copy yesterday. It is a beautiful issue, packed with outstanding poetry, essays, fiction and reviews, along with many of the pictures I have been sharing with you on this blog. The cover features one of the photographs I made at the boxing gym in Kampala. Bob suggested that it be reproduced in color, and I happily trusted his judgment. I must admit it looks pretty darn nice. I especially love what Bob has to say in the editor’s note:

"Two days after I arranged with Gloria Baker Feinstein to publish her extraordinary images of Uganda, and of orphaned children there, a church I visited featured a group called the Children’s Choir of Uganda. Those events occurred independently, a coincidence probably best not elevated to the level of 'synchronicity,' but I did notice common traits between the choir’s performance – just three girls and two boys, dressed in white – and these photographs. Both exist in a context of deprivation and terror, and both bring with them life and joy.

As the Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez once explained, a work of art can be said to be complete when the perfect and the imperfect are in equilibrium. No one goes out looking for art. One merely puts himself or herself into a state of openness. What brings these Ugandan children and some adults to us, now? 'Of the 24.7-million people living in Uganda, East Africa, 13 million are under the age of 15,' Gloria Feinstein has written, 'and 2.2 million have lost one or both parents to the two-decade-long civil war or to AIDS.' She points out, also, that the whole of Africa has 12 million orphans today and, according to a UNAIDS report, will have 18 million by 2010.

The stories, poems, essays, and photographs in this issue do not back away from such facts and realities, which one poem here recalls as 'slaved land' and another as 'terrible dreams.' We know we have achieved the level of art when such visions of difficulties find balance with another truth, one just as tough. Take a look."

If you would like to get a copy of the magazine – and I’d encourage you to subscribe – go to their website at: www.newletters.org. Single issues are available now at the UMKC bookstore and will be at Borders in a week or so. You can also call: 816-235-1168 or e-mail them at newletters@umkc.edu.

New Letters has been tremendously supportive over the years, and I am always so honored when they choose to publish my photographs.

Monday, December 18, 2006

good people

I have begun corresponding with a man from Seattle who has spent time at St. Mary Kevin’s (my initial contact with Rosemary and Michael was made through a friend of a friend in Seattle, and all these folks know one another). Not only does he seem to fully understand the organizational and financial aspects of the way things run at the orphanage, he also seems very tuned into the emotional and educational needs of the children who are there. His name is Scott. On his most recent to Uganda, where he has visited a lot of different schools and orphanages, he even made a “music video” of the children at St. Mary Kevin’s singing one of their wonderful songs. He is going to share that with me so that I can include it in the power point presentation I am assembling. Scott couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the place, and he gave me permission to use an excerpt from his email:

“I was frankly stunned by the talent of these children. How incredibly impressed I was with that was only exceeded by the vision of Rosemary and how SMKOM was doing such outstanding work (with such limited resources) to advance a new generation. She shows the world how it is possible to bring children from the brink of disaster and take them to the launch pad of success in life. I have been in most regions of Uganda and Kenya: SMKOM sets the mark - all they need are better financial resources. They have the values, vision, management skill, transparency and accountability - it is all there in place right now - and they have commitment to love for these children. Throughout Africa this kind of love is demonstrated - it is the most powerful force arrayed against the health crisis in Africa - it is so much bigger than what the West does in aid. But Rosemary has shown how to magnify and make so much more effective this work. The whole idea of bringing "motherhood" into the idea of orphan care utterly transcends (and quite frankly puts to shame) the typical Western ideas about foster care. And to see a rock solid commitment to what is, in effect, affirmative action on behalf of young women - completes the picture. Well meaning Europeans and Americans have so much to learn from the staff and managers there. I am delighted to team with you in this work.”

Change the Truth will simply continue to be a better foundation with people like Scott in our corner.

This is true, also, of people like my friend, Laura, who shared this letter she sent to her young nephews in Chicago - children who, this year, are receiving the gift of a donation made in their honor, rather than another toy to toss on a pile that is already quite large:

“Recently my friend, Gloria, went to Uganda, East Africa to do a project there to photograph the orphanages. She has set up a fund that is called Change the Truth, which will directly benefit the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood in Uganda, East Africa. The money that I am sending there in your honor will enable the children in the orphanage to go to school and get an education to better their lives. I thought that since education is so important to our family, and since we are all getting an A+ education, it would be thoughtful for us to allow other children to have the same opportunities.

I hope this year the children of all of our families will realize how fortunate we really are to have wonderful families, good health, great education and love and support from one another. I hope this donation can make a difference in other children’s lives.”

And in this corner we are building, there is also my son. For Chanukah last night, Max gave me a check made out to Change the Truth.

I am so fortunate to know these generous and thoughtful people.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the baker gallery

I was invited recently to attend the lecture and book signing for Annie Leibovitz when she come to Kansas City next month to promote her new book. Sure takes me back…

Some of you may know that in the 1980’s I had a place called The Baker Gallery. It was in the days when collecting photography was just coming into its own, when important pieces by important photographers could be had for less that $500, and when well known photographers were accessible and approachable. The gallery became a meeting place for local and regional shooters – on Saturdays many could be found there, hanging out schmoozing, looking through the latest photo books, going through the flat files, buying postcards and posters, talking about their latest work. The tried and true Kansas City art collectors slowly came around to acknowledging photography as “art” and started to assemble interesting photo collections of their own. Every month, there was a new show, accompanied by a crowded opening with cheap wine and lots of good conversation. I started the gallery when my oldest, Abbie, was just a baby, in the living and dining rooms of our home in 1981 and soon relocated to 800 square feet of gallery space in a section of town known for its galleries and antique stores. I had no idea, really, what I was getting into – I just knew I loved making photography, I loved the history of photography, I loved collecting photography, and I loved educating other people about the wonders of it all. I showed many of my favorite photographers, of course: Diane Arbus, Helen Levitt, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Andre Kertesz, Imogen Cunningham, Joel Meyerowitz and Aaron Siskind, among others. The Baker Gallery was in existence for over ten years, and during that time I had the great pleasure of bringing some of the photographers I showed to Kansas City for their opening and for a lecture. It was a blast. Among those who graced the premises of the gallery were Judy Dater, John Pfahl, Nancy Burson, Marsha Burns, Ken Josephson, Annie Leibovitz, and even, Kertesz.

It was the Annie Leibovitz opening that really put the gallery on the map. Most of the people who frequented the gallery before Annie came to town for her opening and book signing were limited to serious collectors, photo enthusiasts and art students. After the big event on that cold winter’s evening in December of 1985, the gallery was known to just about everyone in town. Her images of pop culture icons brought people out of the woodwork! There were so many people who wanted to get a copy of her book and have her sign it that there was a line going all the way around the block. She had me crank up the music to deafening heights, she had her giant stamp pad placed next to the huge stack of books so that she could put her handprint on each one she signed, the press covered it, well, it was a pretty wonderful time. (By the way, Annie had an oversized stamp pad tucked away in her bag which she hoisted out once the opening reception finally died down. She took off her cowboy boots and proceeded to put both footprints on my copy of the book).

Those gallery days were heady ones.

Annie will be back in town in a few weeks. A lot has changed in the 21 years since I saw her last.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

it's official

Word came down today that Kansas City's premiere photo lab will no longer process film - black & white or color - as of January 1, 2007. Just not profitable anymore, they've informed us. I have gotten various e-mails from fellow photographers titled "End of an Era" and "The Good Old Days are Over." Not only do I feel sad, but I also feel old, dinosaur-like really. (I mentioned this to one pal, and he quickly shot back this response: You, Gloria, are aging like a fine wine... in my case, it's more like cheese. Thanks, Michael. That made me feel a little better).

Anyhow, what does this mean to someone like me who actually does still shoot film? (I know, you're gagging at this point, choked with disbelief and horror). It's true. My Hassie still gets a very good workout. For my portrait work, that's pretty much all I use, and for my fine art stuff, it's the same sad tale. I know, I know - I can still process film in my own darkroom (still one of my favorite rooms in our house) but when a person has 25 rolls of 120 on a Monday morning, lots of shooting to do, letters and emails to write, a foundation to nurture, laundry to tend to, volunteer work, grocery shopping to do, well, you get the picture... (Please, no violins). I have jobbed out my film processing to Custom Color for many, many years. A couple of years ago, I even started jobbing out most of my printing (Jesse, you're the best), due to a lack of time and a sore back and legs from standing in the darkroom all day. I guess I could send the film to a lab out of town, but that seems complicated. Still (she whines) this is just not right. I am not ready!! Does this mean I have to make the plunge for real, for good, for sure, to the digital side - no turning back?

I suppose I knew the day was coming. Who have I been trying to kid, anyway.

There's something really beautiful about film. There is a quality to a silver print that is timeless and lovely and magical and wonderful, and well... silvery!

There is also that connection to my younger self, I guess.

Okay, so let it go, Gloria. Grow up, get real, join the 21st century. Grab your CF card and march with your head held high to your nearest computer to begin downloading!

I'm trrryyyyying (moan, whimper).

Wait, just let me run one more roll of film through my 30 year old plastic toy camera, Diana - you know, for old times sake. And can't I take my 40 year old trusty, sturdy, faithful Hasselblad out for a spin just a few more times? You know, just the two of us? After all, we've been together for a long time now.

I am going to miss those two dear friends a lot.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

l’dor va dor

In Hebrew it means “from generation to generation.”

As a child growing up in central Kentucky, I was keenly aware that my parents were always quietly helping those in need. It wasn’t until a few days ago, however, that I made the connection between a particular program my father initiated many years ago at his business and the Change the Truth fund I have just started.

My father owned and operated a scrap metal yard for 57 years. Many of his employees were African Americans, struggling to provide for their families. Back in the fifties, he established his “tuition plan.” Here’s what he told me about it:

“I was always interested in the education problem. After the local universities opened their doors to black children, I started asking some of our employees about their kid’s education. As a result of these discussions, I decided to offer to pay tuition to a state university for any child of an employee who had worked for the firm at least five years. I did not keep a record of our successes, but I remember once that a son of a press operator surprised me by graduating with a degree in engineering and going to work for Lexmark, and there was another engineering graduate who got a job in Cincinnati. Though many of the children dropped out, some years we had as many as five or six in the program.”

The children I met in Uganda are able to attend school for free until they get to secondary school. The fees at this point vary, but most are in the $100 to $300 per year range. I asked Michael what the fees are for the children who attend schools in the area around St. Mary Kevin’s, and he sent me this response:

“The secondary school fees are US $95 per term, and we have three terms in the year which makes it US $285, and I am sure if everything goes well, the children will be happy.”

As I was wandering around the grounds of the orphanage one day, an extraordinarily poised and beautiful young woman named Josephine introduced herself to me and started tagging along with me as I made pictures. With tears in her eyes at one point, she basically pleaded her case to me. She looked me square in the face and told me that her father had died and that her mother could not afford the fees that she now needs to attend school. She told me, in nearly flawless English, that she wants to be a lawyer or a teacher. She was taking a chance with me, though she never asked directly if I could or would help her.

Okay, so now I am making an appeal. Josephine and others like her need our help. Please consider making a contribution to the Change the Truth fund, if you have not done so already. Click on the link to your right, the one that says “donate now” and you’ll see where you can send a check.

My dad told me he mailed his check yesterday. How cool is that? He’s still teaching me… and still setting a tender example of kindness, generosity and compassion.

...From generation to generation.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

cool comments

Your work and commitment to your cause is admirable - don't forget that the work you are doing is good and right for our world and that because of your decision to make a change - great things are happening.

-Susan P.

I was listening to the news this morning about water on Mars and Harvard's rethinking of what constitutes basic core knowledge and how to teach to undergraduates. Then I think about benighted Burundi and oppressed orphans in Uganda. What disparity in the human experience!

-Leslie M.

The St. Mary Kevin community, Rosemary and I are so happy for everything you are doing for the project. I have been visiting your blog ever since you left. I think you should tell Eddie that you are changing the truth. You are really showing exactly what is at the orphanage and I am sure it will change the orphanage in future.

-Michael M. (director of St. Mary Kevin Orphanage)

I am so moved by the foundation you have set up for the orphanage. Every young person one meets in Uganda needs school funds so badly that I am glad you are helping. Although this won't be but a drop in a bucket, I'm planning to ask my advisory group if they would like to donate our collection to Change the Truth. I'll be in touch. Meanwhile, WOW!

-Val O.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

done, made or conducted without the knowledge of others

My son in law, Sam, recently wrote a song, which is an ode to Emily Dickinson. He and Abbie sing it together, their sweet voices harmonizing beautifully in the chorus:

"Emily binds her secrets up with a needle and thread..."…

Abbie joins in on the word "“with" and it gives me goosebumps when their two voices complete the line, sort of woven together themselves. Anyhow, I must admit to not knowing a whole lot about Emily, and I've been wondering what Sam meant. After doing some quick research, I learned that the poet, who only had a handful of pieces published while she was alive, kept most of her poems hidden away. Hundreds of them were discovered by her sister, Lavinia, upon Emily'’s death. They were found, mostly written in pencil, mostly untitled and often unfinished, tied into little handmade books, stitched together with string by Emily's own hand.

I've been listening to that song a lot lately. As a result, I have been thinking about secrets.

Keeping them, knowingly or unknowingly, is something I think we all do. As someone who makes art, I must confess that secrets often become part of the fabric of an image I am making (especially one that is particularly personal) or even, the reason for making the piece in the first place.

The old family pictures I “"stitched" together (The Shredding Project) are, for me, a lot about secrets - secrets we kept from one another then, things that we imagined where going on then, but kept to ourselves, thoughts we had about one another, but kept to ourselves, etc.

Even the pictures I made in Uganda hold many secrets. The children in the photographs have many of their own - some very horrible - and you can just about begin to see the murmuring of one of those secrets poised on their lips if you look hard enough.

My favorite photographer, Diane Arbus, once said, "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know."

Every Sunday, some members of this family go to a site called postsecret.blogspot.com. Posted on it each week is a collection of peoples' secrets, which they now feel the need to share with others (although they are all anonymous.) You might check it out sometime if secrets intrigue you, too.

I guess, based on the definition I found in on old Webster's dictionary, you could say that anything we make or do alone is a secret.

It's the process of revealing that secret that is so interesting to me.

Friday, December 08, 2006

james kim

As my family has followed the James Kim story, each of us, in our own way, has been taken back in time thirteen years. In October of 1993, my sister’s 38 year old husband, Rob, left Seattle early one morning to fly a small plane to Kelso, Washington with his colleague, Lena. The two worked for public television – Rob, a videographer, Lena, a producer - and were working on a story about old growth forests in the northwest. The weather was bad that morning, and fog overtook the area. Rob’s plane went down. Lena died on impact, but Rob survived the crash itself. He climbed out of the wreckage and began trekking across the rugged terrain, one that was very similar to what James Kim tried to navigate, toward the highway. Rob went missing for two days. Search and Rescue, accompanied by close friends and family members, found him later the second day. Like James Kim, Rob died from hypothermia. He, too, had begun to shed his clothes. He, too, possessed the mental skills and the physical attributes for surviving such dire conditions, but, in the end, the temperature dipped too low. Like James Kim, Rob left behind two beautiful daughters and a smart, kind and loving wife.

I think about Rob’s heroic last few hours often. I heard my sister tell the story a hundred times to her two year old about how “Daddy tried so hard to get back to you, to us.”

Now I think about James Kim’s last hours, how he reached deeper than he probably knew he ever could, to try and save his family. I also think about the way the story will be told by Kati Kim to her daughters, and how, over the years, they will come to know him through that story and the memories and legacy he left behind. He, like Rob, seemed like an amazing husband, father and friend.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

great holiday gift idea!

“To see and read about the direct impact your efforts, and those of other contributors, can have on the lives of these wonderful people is something I would like to be a part of. Thank you for sharing your stories and for taking the next step. This project gives people the opportunity to become a bit closer and more humane to one another, and that is a fantastic thing in this world full of so much hatred and violence!” -Patti R.

Some good friends of mine have decided to give donations to Change the Truth to their friends and family for the holidays. They asked me to print up some cards that will be mailed to the recipients to notify them of the gift. I thought this was a terrific idea, so I printed up quite a few of these cards. If you think you might want to follow my friends' lead and give the gift of supporting the orphanage, please let me know. I can mail you the cards once you've made a donation.

Also, I have assigned pen pals to everyone who has asked for one. I have a few children on the list who have not yet gotten a pen pal, so if anyone would like a name and address, please pass that request on to me, as well. Included on the list of kids who would like a pen pal are: a 14 year old girl, a 16 year old girl, a 14 year old boy, a 12 year old boy, a 16 year old boy, and a 13 year old boy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

just the facts, ma’am

St. Mary Day and Boarding School was established in 1987. The next year, the name Kevin was added in honor of a Ugandan saint, Sister Kevin, who kept the interests of children foremost in her heart. The word “motherhood” was added to the name, as well, to recognize the fact that the school is about family and raising children, not simply “housing” orphans.

Rosemary, the founder, defied many social barriers when she began integrating orphans into the fabric of the school, but she felt compelled to do so as AIDS began to ravage the country and sometimes wipe out entire families. More than half of the school’s population now is made up of orphans. They call St. Mary’s home, and they call Rosemary mother.

The school raises some of its own money by farming and brick making. The children literally built their school and lodgings with their own hands. Not only does the school benefit from the use of the bricks and the sale of the bricks, this project supports the needs of orphans who endeavor to mainstream into Ugandan society by teaching them a vocational skill.

Children at St. Mary Kevin have come to Uganda from as far away as Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, Congo, Chad and Niger. They have been abandoned, often abused and mistreated. As I have mentioned before, many of the children come from northern Uganda, where they have lost their families to the “hidden” war that is being waged by the Lords Resistance Army. In fact, 25% of all children over ten years old in northern Uganda have lost one or both parents to the war. Only the AIDS pandemic has created more orphans in the St. Mary Kevin community.

The main goal, as stated by Rosemary, is to provide opportunities to orphaned, disabled and disadvantaged children by accessing primary and vocational education as a way to uplift their standard of living and promote awareness of primary health care.

These are the objectives that have been spelled out in her executive summary:

- provide care, parental love and shelter to the orphaned
- counsel drug addicts, initiate them into the school system and, when possible, reunite them with their families
- acquire and distribute scholastic materials
- make parents, guardians and teachers realize the need to freely talk to their children about STDs, especially the HIV/AIDS epidemic
- assist the children to start simple income generating projects like poultry, piggery and growing of vegetables in order to earn a living
- train the children in vocational skills to make them self-reliant citizens of tomorrow

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

satchel paige and max

Today my baby turns 18. Well, he’s not a baby, of course - he’s taller than me and usually has a few days worth of stubble on his chin. He wins by a mile whenever we have a tickling match or a game of ping pong. He’s even in the process of applying to college. But in my mind, Max will always be my little one, the baby who needs tending, the one who needs extra doses of nurturing.

I remember Max at 18 months. He used to pad about the house in his little blue Mickey Mouse shoes, going from room to room with toilet paper dragging in one hand. You see, he would go into the bathroom, start to unroll the toilet paper, then walk around into different rooms doing whatever it was he was doing in each room, and leave a trail of toilet paper for me to follow. I guess he wanted his independence, but he also wanted to make sure I knew where he was at any given moment.

Which brings me around to Satchel Paige. “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” Paige apparently posed this question at some point in his illustrious career, because the quote ended up on a birthday card that someone sent me years ago. I have had it hanging in my office ever since. I like the notion that you can basically create your own reality about things in life, even when it comes to your age.

If I wasn’t paying attention to the calendar, I could imagine that Max was still 18 months old. One night recently, he managed to convince us to let him stay out later than his curfew, and I was pleasantly surprised when he called a couple of times to make sure we knew where he was. No toilet paper, but it sure seemed like he was casting a similar kind of safety net.

If I wasn’t paying attention to the calendar, I could imagine that I am still that 36 year old who ran around the house, following his little paper trail, pretending to be startled when I discovered him in the next room, scooping him up in my arms, turning him upside down and tickling him wildly, the two of us dissolving into uncontrollable laughter.

It’s not that hard for me to be whatever age it is that I feel like being. Even when the unexplainable aches and pains of A.G.E. scream for attention, and even as Max continues to spread his wings as a young adult, I feel lucky to have wonderful and lively memories that can - and do - easily transport me (us) back in time.

Happy birthday, Max.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

december in kansas city

Several inches of snow have blanketed Kansas City. The first snowfall of the season is always a sight to behold. Kids on sleds, quiet streets with no traffic, smoke billowing from neighbors' chimneys, icicles hanging like bits of sculpture from tree limbs.. it's actually quite beautiful. I'll get tired of it after the third or fourth storm, but the first one is always nice.

I have been gratified by several events that took place during the two days that the snow fell. First, we hit the 50 mark for "Change the Truth." That is, 50 of you have asked to be included as friends of the orphanage, expressing a desire to donate clothing, money, books, communicate with a pen pal, etc. I am so happy to have reached this point - a first step, but a big one. Next, Brian, an immensely talented photographer and designer who was a participant in the workshop, has graciously offered to help out with the design work for "Change the Truth." Brian did some amazing photography in Uganda - I loved his work. I had not seen his design work until recently, and it, too, is quite impressive. He "gets" what this is all about, and I am thrilled to have him in our corner. I also heard from Tim, another workshop friend and fantastic photographer, who has offered to do what he can to try to get the songs the children at St. Mary Kevin's sing "out there" somehow. Tim used to be in the recording business (among a myriad of other interesting and admirable accomplishments) and feels he may be able to help out in that arena. I am really excited to start working with him on this project! And then, last but not least, the Jewish Community Foundation informed me that the first few checks for "Change the Truth" arrived this week. I wrote to Michael at the orphanage to give him the good news, and he is so happy!

So am I.

I wondered as I watched the snow fly on Thursday and Friday what the kids at St. Mary Kevin's would have thought of it... seeing snow for the first time. One day when I was at the orphanage it was pouring down rain, and the children were loving every minute of it, in spite of the fact they see rain all the time. They were dancing in it, chasing each other around in it, getting soaked to the bone. I imagined them running and jumping in my front yard here on 58th Street, their heads tilted upward so they could catch the snow on their tongues. I could practically hear all the shouting and the laughter.

Friday, December 01, 2006

an old fashioned kind of gal

I was told recently by an Apple rep that, on average, people shoot five times as many pictures with a digital camera than they do/did with a film camera. I bet some shooters go way above that number. It made me stop and think a bit about this whole digital revolution, which I have begun to join kicking and screaming, by the way.

People sometimes ask how many images I made before I got to a key picture, like the bird that is on the cover of my book. I shot four frames of that bird, total. I spent most of my time watching what was going on around the scene (noticing the baby who suddenly appeared in her father's arms next to me), anticipating what might happen next (the baby pointing to the bird) and thinking hard about how I wanted to frame the moment in my viewfinder. Now I know this sounds kind of archaic in this day and age, but, for me it still seems about right. If I had been quickly firing off shots, paying attention to my camera (making adjustments, looking at the pictures I'd just taken) and not much else, I might have missed that "decisive moment" when the baby's finger lined up so beautifully with the bird's beak. On the other hand, since my Hasselblad actually goes "black" at the moment I squeeze the shutter, did I really have any idea that I had captured that perfect moment? Was I just lucky?

I don't know - maybe luck comes into play with both shooting methods. I do know this, though: being a very patient observer can and usually does lead to a fuller understanding of the world, not to mention a pretty good photograph of the event you are watching. I am afraid that the new generation of digital shooters are going to abandon the need to be patient and methodical and thoughtful when making pictures, because the camera will allow them to frantically capture every slight change in the scene and will basically do that thinking for them. It almost seems to me that these days the key to finding the right image is post production - that it is in the sifting through of hundred of images that the "perfect" one is found.

I like the idea of finding that perfect image just as I am making it. And then hoping I got it! That's the other thing. With digital, shooters look immediately at the screen on the back of the camera to see if they "got it". There is something very poetic and slow and magical about waiting a few days to process your film. It gives you time to think about what you shot, what you hope it might look like photographed, what it might mean to you or to others who view it. There is something to be said for letting the image process in your brain as well as in the developer.

I don't know. If I had shot 20 images of the bird, would I have made a better picture than the one I got? How would the other shots have been different? What if I had been so busy shooting that I missed the one I got? And more important, would I have missed out on the whole "feeling" of the scene - would I have not taken time to look at the father holding the baby, the man who was tending the bird, the baby herself, the other people standing around admiring the bird? What did those connections and discoveries bring to the picture, if anything?

The photograph above was the only one I made of the cow wandering around on the grounds of the orphanage The cow just kind of stuck her head into the frame, it was so neatly symmetrical with the child on the other end of the frame, the moment seemed right, and voila, I made a picture. I didn't "work the scene" by trying lots of other variations. It just felt right at that moment and seemed worthy of my attention. Maybe I could have gotten a better shot if I had made more exposures, but then I might have missed what was happening on the other end of the building, which led to another moment worthy of my attention.

I just hope we digital shooters don't forget that we still have to do the thinking, yes, even though cameras these days claim to do it all themselves. Patience, thoughtfulness, a keen sense of observation, and oh, yes, heart... I don't think even the most mega-pixeled camera on the market today can offer any of these features.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

artist statement

It’s dark and gritty. It can also be dazzling and clear. The soil there is red, and it gets in between your teeth and your toes, and it stays on you even after a good, long shower. The hills are lush, the roads rutted and pitted. Sounds drift down from the villages, voices lifted in song now and then. In Uganda, there is something sorrowful and achingly sad in the air, in the eyes of the orphaned children, in the dirty water they drink, in the torn clothing they wear, in the doomed future many of them face. There is also something completely beautiful and uplifting in the air, in the quiet way the sun rises up and gently lays back down, in the elegant and graceful stance of the women, in the impromptu games of the children, in the throbbing of the drums, in the gladness of a tender greeting from a perfect stranger.

There is a war there, and there is AIDS, both marching forward with full force, both devastating entire families with broad, sweeping strokes. Often children are left to fend for themselves. Sometimes they are taken in by aunts, often by grandmothers and in many cases by an orphanage or boarding school. There is comfort in that, and there is anguish, too.

Sometimes the faces of the children cloud over with something I have no way of recognizing. At other times, as a mother and fellow citizen of the world, the mixture of pain and joy is all too familiar. That combination, that contradiction, that fact of life is what I have tried to address with these pictures.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

change the truth

Today I signed the agreement papers with the Jewish Community Foundation to establish the Change the Truth Fund. For those of you who wish to make a donation before year's end, you can now do so. Make your check payable to: Change the Truth Fund of the JCF and mail to The Jewish Community Foundation, 5801 W. 115th Street, Overland Park, Kansas, 66211.

Four others have kindly agreed to become the "committee" which will help address operational and/or marketing issues that will arise. They are my brother, Ben, my husband, Eddie, and two good friends, Lynne and Clare. All have vast experience with not-for-profits and have expressed unwavering support for this project from the very beginning.

I have made the decision to take January, February and March off from shooting portraits and will devote my time to other projects. I will spend some time with my father, hopefully go to New Orleans with a disaster relief agency to help out with the rebuilding efforts, work on a major photo project for Kansas City's own Operation Breakthrough, print the work from Uganda AND, last but not least, put together the promotional materials for Change the Truth. This will include a website, brochures and a power point slide show. Susan, a filmmaker who is going to Uganda with the Workshops in February and who has been a faithful blog follower, has graciously offered to do some filming at the orphanage while she's in the area. This will be an invaluable addition to the power point presentation.

About one quarter of the children at the orphanage found their way there after losing their parents to the civil war in Northern Uganda. Their stories are tragic and far beyond anything you or I could ever imagine. Some witnessed the murders of their family members and were left to fend for themselves on the streets. Others were forced by the rebel army to become child soldiers. For those of you who would like to learn more about this war and the "invisible children" as they have been called, watch the Discovery channel Tuesday night at 8 PM central. An abbreviated version of a documentary that has garnered a lot of praise at film festivals around the world will be shown.

I continue to be amazed by the positive response I have gotten from so many. I hope that future readers of this blog will also find themselves wanting to help "change the truth" for these Ugandan children. If you have not already done so, be sure to send me your e-mail and snail mail address if you would like to get updates and information about Change the Truth, exhibitions and publications of the work I made in Uganda, what's happening at the orphanage, etc. I will have no other way of knowing that you are interested in being kept in the loop, and I would like to have you there! I have names and addresses for pen pals, I have CDs of the children singing, I will have signed, limited edition prints available, etc. There MAY even be an opportunity to bring some of the kids to the US for some concerts and I KNOW you wouldn't want to miss out on that!

This morning Eddie asked me: Gloria, are you changing the truth or is the truth changing you?

Definitely something to think about...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

two very different realities

mealtime at the orphanage

a ball made from plastic bags

As I stuffed myself with an amazing assortment of colorful, rich and delicious foods on Thursday, and as I sat in the stands later that evening with 80,000 others watching our beloved Kansas City Chiefs throw the football up and down the field, my mind couldn't help but drift back to Africa. In fact, the name of my blog is still fairly appropriate...Gloria in Africa.

My reality is worlds apart from the one I dipped into just a few short weeks ago.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

good things are happening

Yesterday I learned that the highly regarded literary magazine, New Letters (published at the University of Missouri, Kansas City) is going to publish 14 of the images from Uganda, one of them being the cover image, in their next issue. Not only that, but they are going to run a small ad that will offer a CD with two of the songs sung by the children from St. Mary Kevin's to those who make a tax deductible contribution of $50 or more to the "Change the Truth Fund." It is amazing how supportive and enthusiastic Bob, the editor, has been about the project. I am thrilled! I spoke with Michael at the orphanage early this morning, and he, too, is very excited.

Michael has also sent me list with several names of kids who would like to have pen pals, so if you'd like to have a name and address, just e-mail me (gbfeinstein@aol.com).

On a completely different subject, many of you know I've been waiting to hear from Random House about the possibility of using one of my shredded images on a book cover. I received that good news yesterday, as well. The image, "Badlands" will be the cover for a book by Rupert Thomson, due out in August. I have always wanted a book cover, so it's wonderful news!

Yesterday was indeed a good day. I hope everyone has a warm, safe, wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

english lessons

It seemed that all the children at St. Mary Kevin's could recite this poem. It is so simple and so sweet and just listening to a chorus of earnest young voices saying the words in unison, clutching their chests dramatically during the "ahems" was really entertaining.

Monday, November 20, 2006

pix o' fun

I thought it might be nice to share some of the lighter sides of the trip. First up... our fearless leader, Thatcher.

This is a sign I saw which I still haven't quite figured out, but thought it might be fun to take to Temple sometime to show my rabbi.

Here are a few of us roughing it at breakfast at the Mosa Courts.

Remember my story about the chicken in the trunk? Here is Moses offering it it's final few squawks before being "cooked" in the trunk and then again for Moses' Sunday dinner.

Want grit in between your teeth, covering every inch of your clothes, and still be able to see muted red earth tones on your towel even after taking a shower? Just travel the roads in Uganda.

We did spend a day at a game park. John had seen a few too many of these guys by this point, I guess.

Joe, on the other hand, started up a pretty groovy relationship with this cute warthog.

Anna and Katie loaded for hippo.

Thatcher kept our game drive lively by offering to buy a beer for the first one of us to site a zebra, a dik-dik, a baboon, etc. It was pretty crazy on the bus. Looking back on it and seeing this picture of Thatch, I think he was just being the good father on the proverbial family road trip.

John, Fred and me. John and Fred are both orphaned young men, both in their mid twenties. They are like brothers, having had to rely on each other in so many ways since their parents died. John is raising several younger brothers and sisters. Together they started an NGO in Kyotera which gives boys opportunities to learn and play soccer. They are amazing young men, both of whom we all came to admire. John and Fred are the ones acting as my liason with Margaret and her family in the village.


Sunday, November 19, 2006


Thanks to Western Union, the internet and the loving efforts of John and Fred, my local friends in the nearby city of Kyotera, the money for Margaret's son has been sent to the little village of Buyingi. How cool is it that with a stroke of a few computer keys and a minor financial sacrifice on our part, Eddie and I just made happen what will perhaps be a life changing event for Margaret's son Ronald, who longs to attend secondary school. He will now be able to.

The e-mail I receievd from John regarding Margaret's initial response to the fact that the funds were on their way was: she felt like flying in the air to us to express her thanks.

Here is Margaret digging up some sweet potatoes for dinner while her grandchildren look on. Gloria and Dora, my two especially good little buddies, are on the left.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

just the way things can go in kampala

Sometimes time seemed to stretch out forever when I was in Kampala. Like when I was waiting for a meal at a restaurant or waiting for the internet to kick in or waiting for the power to come back on or waiting for (at the very least) some lukewarm water to dribble out of the showerhead. Other times things happened quick as lightening, like when I needed a ride somewhere and out of nowhere appeared a fantastically friendly boda-boda driver or when I decided I wanted a massage, and I was at the place getting it within one hour or when my shoes were muddy the wonderfully kind housekeeper, Bertha, cleaned them and lined them up for me by my bed (without me even asking her to do so) so that I could wear them first thing in the morning.

Sometimes I felt extremely safe, like when I put my well being into the hands of a perfect stranger, Moses, as we set out for that crazy day in Jinja or when I walked down the street at night to get something to eat. Other times I was nervous, as when Moses suggested I not have my camera sitting in my lap in the car with the window rolled down (a passerby could just snatch it right out of the car) or when I realized once I was walking back the wrong way to the hotel and it was nighttime and for a few seconds I wasn’t sure if I was going to remember which way to go.

Things can happen in a mixed up kind of way in Kampala, I suppose. At least, mixed up compared to what I am used to. Eventually, though, things just seem to sort of come together and happen the way you guessed or hoped they would.

I heard some fantastic stories from some of the people I met in Uganda – fantastic because I could never have imagined them happening to me or anyone I know. Eventually, I started to get used to them, figuring life (and the hardships associated with it) in this exotic place couldn’t even come close to mine by comparison.

Denis, the local Ugandan who assisted us during the workshop and who became a friend to each of us, made arrangements for me to go on a chimp trek. I had given him a substantial amount of money to make a deposit for the trip. I changed my mind when those mysterious calls from Charles, the computer nabber, started coming in, for I felt I needed to be in Kampala in case he was going to arrange for a place to meet (can’t you just see me with a black briefcase full of unmarked bills meeting him on a dark corner at the appointed hour?) Anyhow, Denis got all of the money back except $100.00, which he promised to deliver to me the evening he was supposed to drive me to the airport for my departure from Africa.

Denis never showed up that night. I had to scramble at the very last minute to secure a ride to the airport and I figured I was out the money he owed me. I trusted Denis and was actually pretty worried that I hadn’t heard from him.

This e-mail just arrived from him via Thatcher. I am sharing it with you because I think it sort of sums up the way things can go in Kampala…


kindness is contagious

I have been so touched by the response I've received from friends and family. It seems that just about everyone wants to do something to help the children I met at the orphanage in Uganda, and I am so grateful for that. It's really exciting to hear all the different ideas people have about how they might help. What's most moving is the response I have gotten from kids themselves. Here is an e-mail I received from my friend Jennifer about her son. I just love it:

"Lee has a mason jar above the TV in the dining room, the hub of our family life, with a sign on it asking for contributions for Uganda orphans. All three kids here are contributing. I see some paper money in there even. Just want you to know that your vision is contagious. And we haven't even seen the photos yet!!"

Another mom wrote that her daughter wants to organize a clothing drive at her synagogue. Even my talented and dedicated young printer, Jesse, has committed to give back a percentage of what I spend with him each year to donate to the children.

It all kind of takes my breath away.

I am waiting for confirmation on the legal ins and outs of getting the fund off the ground, as well as the list of children who would like to have pen pals. If you have not e-mailed me with your interest in getting on my mailing list for the "Change the Truth" fund, please do so soon, as this blog will probably come to an end in the near future, and I will need another way to communicate with you. If you want to get in touch, just e-mail me at gbfeinstein@aol.com

Also, if you know of any organizations that might like to hear/see the presentation I will eventually assemble, please pass that info along, as well.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

more photos

I can't seem to do much of anything these days except look through the pictures I made and listen to the CD of the children singing. Hope you don't mind looking at more images. I'm going to try to figure out how to upload the music at some point, so you can hear that, as well. Several of you have asked about starting a "pen pal" relationship with one of the children, and I asked Michael to put together a list of kids who would like to do that. More on that later...

Monday, November 13, 2006

orphanage photos

Getting to the orphanage is a bit of a challenge. The paved highway that goes on toward Entebbe is fine - it's when you turn off onto the dirt road that leads up to the school that it gets interesting. It's a colorful and amazing scene, with people walking about, vendors selling fruits and vegetables. children playing, people on their bicycles, women sweeping their dirt front stops with reed brooms, etc. Just when you think there can be no more curves or ruts or gulleys or bumps you finally reach the grounds of St. Mary Kevin Motherhood.

Rosemary is the founder/director of the place. She's a lovely, gracious woman who has raised four of her own very competent and successful children. (Two live in the US, her daughter is one and is a doctor.) She does God's work here and is blissfully happy with the challenges and rewards presented to her on a minute by minute basis.

Peter runs a number of programs. He was my tour guide, side kick, and quickly became my friend. He is, more than anything, the pied piper of the place. The children go crazy when he approaches, and he is cleary loved by all of them. He's recently completed his studies at the University.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of Michael, the Director of the Orphanage. It was in the first batch that was lost with my laptop. He is a dear man and very dedicated to the needs and efforts of the school. He is extremely efficient and smart. (He also has a really adorable baby boy and a lovely wife, both of whom I had the privilege of meeting when he took me to his home.)

Sonja was one of my constant companions while I roamed around taking pictures. As I mentioned in an earlier post, she is funny and bright, sweet and a bit mischievious. She and I made a really special connection.

To those of you who gave me money to take to the school so that they could buy books: they made the purchases the very next day, had the books piled up on a desk for me to see when I arrived, and had inscribed each one of them with thanks to "Gloria and friends." They could not have been more gratfeul. How cool is that?

The last two pictures were actually made at the orphanage in Jinja.

I have gotten an overwhelming and positive response to my request for interest in possibly establishing "Change the Truth." I appreciate the comments from those who have reminded me that it will take a lot of hard work to put together and run. I hope you'll stay with me as I look further into the possibilities. Thank you for being so supportive up to this point.