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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

last sea picture for awhile

As I get ready to head back to the Midwest, I'll post one more of the new sea pictures. This was made at Cannon Beach.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

more sea pictures

“Break, break, break, On thy cold gray stones, O sea! And I would that my tongue could utter The thoughts that arise in me”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Friday, August 29, 2008

sea series

I am not very good at - nor do I like - reading more than one book at a time, but I do like working on more than one photo project at a time. Since I am only 85 miles from the coast of Oregon, I have, while in Portland, been able to make pictures for my Sea Series. Here are some images I made at Cannon Beach and Seaside.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

streetcar at night

I shot some streetcar pics after the sun went down last night.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

columbia river gorge

Since I come from flat, landlocked Kansas City, my senses are groovin' on being in the Pacific Northwest. I figured it might be nice to show you why!

On my day trip. as I mentioned, I started out at Multnomah Falls. (I was at the trail head exactly 45 minutes after I located my Zip car and left our neighborhood in Portland!) Multnomah Falls' claim to fame, other than its beauty and it's power, is that, at 620 feet, it is the second largest year-round waterfall in the the U.S. (Oh, and the fact that it has been doing its thing for a mere 12,000 years is impressive, too.)

It was so green and so lush; every which way I turned I was surrounded by moss-hung forests and lichen-covered rocks.

The view of the Columbia River as I headed for the top of the falls was pretty darn beautiful.

My next stop, Horsetail Falls, was cool because the hike took me behind the falls.

When I pulled up at the Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River, I was caught off guard when I looked at the vineyards and saw Mt. Adams in the background. Once I caught my breath, I turned 180 degrees to see Mt. Hood!

There was thunderous applause - coming from my eyelashes, of course.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

a perfect day

I had the most exquisite day exploring the Columbia River Gorge, an easy day trip from Portland. I hiked to the top of Multnomah Falls and then Horse Tail Falls. I tasted Pinot Gris and Chardonnay at Mt. Hood Winery and later at Cathedral Ridge Winery. I saw horses grazing in pastures with Mt. Hood as the backdrop. I wandered through fields of flowers with Mt. Adams looming in the distance. I watched kite boarders do their thing on the Columbia River.

While in Hood River, I added a couple of images to my Sea Series.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

coming up empty sometimes

And so it goes. One day of working can yield a small gold mine of material; the next day can be a bust. Yesterday was great, and today was simply an exercise in pushing my index finger again and again on a shutter button.

Here are a couple of pictures that I felt were successes from my streetcar shooting yesterday.

This neon sign greets me each day as I leave the apartment to work. An inspiration, of sorts.

My friend Cheryl came by today and took a look at the work in progress. She said the images reminded her of the work of Romare Bearden, an artist with whom I was not familiar. A google search led me to, among others, this collage.

Friday, August 22, 2008

a poem

by Morton Marcus

You’ve got to love life so much that you don’t want to
miss a moment of it, and pay such close attention to
whatever you’re doing that each time you blink you can
hear your eyelashes applauding what you’ve just seen.

In each eye there are more than 80 eyelashes, forty
above and forty below, like forty pairs of arms working,
80 pairs in both eyes, a whole audience clapping so loud
you can hardly bear to listen.

160 hands batter each other every time you blink.
“Bravo!” they call. “Encore! Encore!”

Paralyzed in a hospital bed, or watching the cold rain
from under a bridge—remember this.

I extend thanks to a couple of photoblogger friends for passing this poem along to me. As I explore a new city, and my senses are on high alert - especially my sense of sight - this piece keeps popping into my head.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Being in the urban core of Portland means not having to drive a car. Between walking, riding the streetcar, taking the bus and walking some more, I am perfectly well served. This week, in keeping with that no-car-lifestyle, I walked to Union Station and boarded the Amtrak Cascades to go to Seattle for a visit with my sister and her family. Sam and Abbie were there, too.

Sam and Abbie started out on an extended road trip back in June. They plan on putting at least 10,000 miles on the Prius as they explore the country. It’s the ideal time in their lives to be doing this – they are not homeowners, they are not parents, they do not even have a dog or cat. They do have a good healthy sense of wanderlust.

It was great to catch up with them in the rainy Pacific Northwest.

Yes, it has been rainy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

streetcar pictures

I have been in Portland for the past week and have picked up where I left off with the streetcar pictures. They have morphed from color to black and white and now back again to color. I have gotten into a rhythm as far as the digital capture goes, as well as working with the resulting images on the computer. I have made decisions about cropping, sizing, final presentation, etc. and feel like I’ve gotten to a good place with this new body of work.

Making these pictures is pretty exhilarating, believe it or not.

There are north and southbound trolley lines, which are just one block apart. I start out early in the morning zigzagging back and forth between the two lines, catching one as it is headed south, then the other as it is going north. (I check schedules, so I am prepared.) As the streetcar approaches, I make a decision as to where I’ll stand, i.e. what I want to have as the backdrop that will make up the one of the visual layers of the photograph. I also have to consider what may be reflected in the windows of the streetcar itself (creating another one of the layers.) These two pieces I can control. When the streetcar begins to pass, I hoist my camera and begin shooting. Of course I have no idea what is going to pass in front of my viewfinder; the surprise of what is revealed at the moment I squeeze the shutter is always exciting and always unpredictable.

This third layer that makes up these pictures (the people on the streetcar) is completely out of my control. The way passengers are positioned and the way they are interacting (or not) play a huge role in whether or not it will be an interesting picture.

That element of surprise had always been one of my favorite aspects of photography.

I am printing these as single strips, then connecting them both vertically and horizontally. They are still very much a work in progress as I continue to play around with them, but I feel like they are beginning to come to sort of resolution.

In the meantime, I am having a lot of fun making and getting to know this new batch of images.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

sticking to it

A proud mom weighs in:

Max, my 19-year-old sonny boy, was one of those babies who loved clutching all things long and slender and banging them on flat surfaces.

When he was very little, we bought him a bright red tom-tom on a trip to Santa Fe, and playing that became his favorite pastime. (Well, after dropping rolls of toilet paper into the john apparently just to see what would happen or putting his face in the dog food bowl alongside our Cairn terrier.)

When he announced that he wanted to play the guitar, we made him take ukulele lessons. We thought if he survived a year of that, we’d let him move up. He began wearing flowered shirts and humming Don Ho songs.

I think his first drum lesson was when he was five or six. He tossed out the Hawaiian look and replaced it with grunge. He wanted a full drum set, but we made him get a single practice pad. We wanted to make sure he was going to stay with it.

He did. This kid drums on everything. (He gives a pretty amazing back massage, as you can well imagine.) He studied drums with the same teacher at the UMKC Conservatory of Music from first grade until his senior year of high school.

Then he trotted off to college at USC and figured he would join the Trojan Marching band as one of its drummers. He decided to audition to play the quads. That is the set of five tenor drums that is worn in front and played in a frenzy of speed and precision. Max arrived at the tryouts without ever having picked up (not to mention worn) one of these 40-pound rigs and never having laid a drumstick on the skins of one of these pups. He even had to ask someone how to hold the sticks. (Oh, and his experience with marching consisted of a few minutes high stepping around our kitchen just before he caught his flight to LA.) He had no clue that scores of kids who had marched and played in high school and who had dreamed of this opportunity for years would be right behind him in the long line at auditions. He had no idea that the competition would be so fierce.

Needless to say, the experience was a humbling one. But, rather than hide his red face in the sand, Max took the position that was offered on the cymbal line. He exchanged his grunge look for a cardinal and gold cape, helmet and plume.

He spent this past year playing cymbals, but on the side he was learning how to play the quads. He basically went into training, studying with a good friend who did make the line and then with an accomplished quad teacher. (I still haven’t figured out why they are called quads when there are five drums on the rig.) He practiced while awake and in his sleep. He used his fingers to practice while sitting at the kitchen counter or while stopped at traffic lights; he used chopsticks waiting for meals at Chinese restaurants, wooden spoons while making chocolate chip cookies, well, you get the picture.

I am very happy to report that his dedication and hard work paid off. Max called late last night to say he had made it. He and four other mad quad drummers will spend the next couple of weeks training up to ten hours a day until they have learned every precise and well choreographed stick maneuver necessary for the first performance of the 2008/2009 Trojan Marching band season.

You’ve seen how proud and excited Michael Phelps’ mom has been these past few days in Beijing? Just wait til you see me in the stands at a USC football game when the Spirit of Troy (aka The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe) hits the field!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

carol: part 3

“My sister-in-law and niece arrived in Entebbe early in the morning, and we went straight from the airport to St. Mary Kevin’s. After the various greetings and a tour given by Joan (I see different things each time I walk around), E broke out a Polaroid camera, and you can imagine the fun we had taking pictures and giving them out to the kids. We ran out of film at some point.

We were treated to a terrific music presentation of dancing and songs and when approached to get up, my hesitation was short lived and we got up and danced with them. Nicholas made a point of bringing more of his paintings to give to you and his pen pal, Joshua. Along with that I am returning with lots of jewelry, more small banana babies and an envelope stuffed with letters for pen pals.

I sadly left Kampala this morning and have arrived in Arusha at the base of the mountain. I am here for a few days of preparation, and we start out on Sunday morning. We are all excited about this adventure. But honestly, my thoughts are still in Kampala, and I think it will be an experience I won't soon forget.”

Friday, August 15, 2008

carol: part 2

As you may know, Change the Truth sends a monthly stipend to the orphanage - one that is used strictly for the purchase of food for the children. Carol accompanied Rosemary (director) and Joan (Rosemary's assistant) as they went to the market to buy the main ingredient for the porridge that is given to the children at mealtime.

"We truly entered the bowels of Kampala. I have never seen anything like it. There wasn’t an inch of either sidewalk space or roadway space that you could see through the feet of the throngs of people or the vans and cars literally crawling inch by inch to their destinations. I was terrified and excited to be there. First of all, I made the mistake of wearing sandals today, of all days. I thought for sure my feet would be run over by either a bicycle, boda-boda or taxi van and if that weren’t enough, walking was perilous simply because of the outcropping of car mirrors which I ducked on at least three occasions. I remember I kept thinking that I couldn’t get hurt today; I had a mountain to climb. Rosemary was fearless. Bound and determined to reach the place where she had a deal to buy maize flour for her children. They needed food and that was all there was to it. I rushed along behind her afraid that if I lost sight of her, I would be forever lost and swallowed up. When I got past my fear I was completely taken in by the life and activity going on all around me. Small stands selling goods. People carrying their goods. Boda-bodas carrying people. People and more people. I was having a blast.

Rosemary half-heartedly mentioned that it was too bad we didn’t have time so she could introduce me to her father. Of course we had time, and I excitedly told her she should lead the way. The way, of course, was through more and more of the deep markets and people and cars and more cars, and more people. She stopped along the way to say hello to people she knew. Joan told me that this could take hours because Rosemary knew everyone and more. She laughed when she told me that she used to get exhausted when going with Rosemary because their custom was to kneel at each introduction, and all that getting up and down was tiring. I laughed. And she pulled me away when Rosemary stopped so we didn’t have to say hello. My knee thanks her. We reached his stand well inside an inside stall market (reminded me of the Arab market in the old city of Jerusalem) and he wasn’t there. We waited. When he arrived, I was introduced. He didn’t speak a word of English. I shook his hand and did my version of a kneel. Rosemary and Joan deeply kneeled before him. We chatted (well, they chatted and I watched) and I bought some pottery from him. Very cool meeting Rosemary’s father. She was very proud. We said goodbye, and were off to buy the food.

More and more of the markets and stalls and people and cars. After ducking a few more times, squeezing through the car bumpers and learning to actually push through when necessary (of course saying excuse me, which fell upon deaf ears) we reached the stall where the maize was to be purchased. Rosemary pointed out to me the motor they needed at the orphanage to produce this themselves. I walked into the inner sanctum of maize production and took pictures. She talked to the proprietor; clearly she was a steady customer. Joan handled the transaction; Rosemary went off to hire the truck which would take the food up to Kajjansi. I was nervous. As the bags were taken to the truck, I was afraid they would steal it and then Rosemary would be upset. I need to get that trust thing in hand. The truck was loaded, and Rosemary and I were off to the orphanage. The ride was long because of traffic, of course, but also because six bags were very heavy, and negotiating the roads (if they can be called that) was difficult for the driver. But we arrived and were encircled by children as I got out of the car. I was surrounded by reaching hands and appreciative faces and words. They were thanking me for the food. I didn’t expect it and wasn’t prepared. I was flooded. Overwhelmed. I wanted to stay there and play. Take it somehow away from the food and just be there with them."

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Change the Truth Board member and member of the Team One mission trip (and my very good friend!) is in Africa. She is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in honor of her fiftieth birthday. Before starting her climb, she spent three days at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage, meeting with Joseph and Rosemary to discuss projects CTT is currently funding, as well as projects we may be able to help with in the future. Her assistance to CTT has been absolutely invaluable. I want to share excerpts from her emails with you. Here's the first installment:

"We toured the water system. The current water from the town is cut off because the bills are too high, and the water coming from the well isn’t working because significant repairs are needed; for the last month, they have gotten water by filling jugs carried from about ½ mile away. There is no current anticipated end to this situation. After seeing all of the various areas and spaces available for various projects, we headed to the room where we had the art lessons last December.

There each teacher introduced themselves to me (some are new) and thanked me for coming and for the work CTT does to help feed the children. Richard made a short speech on behalf of them all telling me how much easier it is to teach the children now that they are not hungry. Everyone thanked us for being so trusting and allowing them to do the work they do. I was struck by this. Clearly this isn’t the experience they have had with other organizations. They asked me to say something, and through fighting back my own tears (I think caused by a combination of what they had just said and my inability to speak easily to a group), I told them how excited I was to be visiting again and that CTT appreciates the work they do everyday and the dedication they have to the children; that they have made it very easy for us to want to help the children. I also told them that their friends in America had expanded to many, many people who have heard about SMKOM and want to help.

Then the music. Wonderfully led by Douglas, I was treated to a performance which, of course, made me smile and cry. I was just blown away again by the music and the sheer joy that they have in that form of expression. I came very close to jumping up and joining them.

The art and therapy are continuing!!! I was shown many drawings. The therapy is mostly being done by Douglas and Betty and in fact during my meeting with the teachers, Douglas got up and made a special point of telling me how helpful it has been to get the children to draw and talk about their feelings and experiences. He says it has been very helpful, and they were appreciative of being taught. Very cool."

Clearly, we are making a difference. I hope those of you who are supportive of Change the Truth realize what a good thing you are doing!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

uganda images

A couple of my images from Uganda were recently chosen for publication and exhibition. "Feet Under Desk, Kajjansi, 2006" can be found in the current edition of SHOTS magazine.

"Boy With Handmade Gun, Gulu, 2007" was accepted into the annual juried exhibition sponsored by the Texas Photographic Society.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

breast cancer survivors

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. About 182,460 women in the United States will be found to have invasive breast cancer in 2008. About 40,480 women will die from the disease this year. Right now there are about two and a half million breast cancer survivors in the United States. The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35.

This morning I have been thinking a lot about breast cancer survivors, having just completed the Faces of Breast Cancer photo project for a local hospital, knowing so many women who will participate in tomorrow’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and not being able to get my mind off of Elizabeth Edwards.

I think it’s a good day to feature some of the survivors I photographed these last couple of weeks for the hospital project. As you may recall, I asked each of them to incorporate an object, gesture or word into their portrait – something that speaks to whatever it was that helped get them through their ordeal or that illustrates how they feel having gotten to the other side of it.

Diane has moved several times since her breast cancer many years ago, but she managed to find this photo of her two girls taken when she was going through her surgery and treatments. Not unlike most of the women I have photographed, she said it was family, faith and friends that sustained her. Diane said it was mostly her young daughters who kept her going.

Donna's mom made this afghan for her. She wrapped herself in it during and after each radiation treatment. You can't tell from this black and white photograph, but the colors her mom chose to use are the colors of the chakras.

Running is what helped get Susan through her struggle with breast cancer. She said back in the day, she usually managed to come in first or second in her age group in the Race for the Cure, but now she doesn't fare quite as well... too much great competition! 22,000 people will take part in the race in Kansas City tomorrow.

When Lindsay was diagnosed, she decided to go back to school and get her teaching credentials, something she had always wanted to do. Here she is - teacher and mother to her two little girls. Both of these roles were instrumental in pulling her through her ordeal.

Jennifer's choice of words speaks for itself. It was a bit of a stretch for her to make this picture - she doesn't lie down on her side in front of a mirror with a word written on it with soap very often! But she told me that ever since her breast cancer, she finds she is more willing to step out of her comfort zone, to try new things, to be more adventurous.

Pam's sense of humor made the journey much easier for her. She told me that just before she went in for her mastectomy, she plastered her chest and stomach with post-it notes. Each had little messages and arrows for the surgeon, like "Take this breast, not the other," "Remember, you said you'd remove this mole," and "Look! Here's another little mole you can get rid of."

Debbie had a hard time coming up with ideas for her picture. As we began to talk about it, it was clear that she was a strong and centered woman. I wanted to show that in her picture. She did finally say that after each chemo and radiation treatment, she would pump her arms and say "YES!" It's certainly a gesture all of us survivors can understand and relate to.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

faso gallery event

On Friday night, August 8th, the Change the Truth video will be shown at the Faso Gallery. There will be two screenings: 6 PM and 7:30 PM. This is a great opportunity for those who missed the friendraiser/fundraiser at the Screenland in June or for those who just want to see Lynne Melcher’s film again!

All but one of the members of the 2007 mission trip will be in attendance and will be available for questions and answers after the film is shown. Lonnie Powell will speak about his work, as well as the ways in which the trip to Uganda has had an effect on him personally and on the artwork he has made since his return.

Some of my photographs from the trip will be on display. There will also be a “marketplace” chock full of beaded jewelry, CTT caps, tote bags, t-shirts and a few of the drawings made by the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

Just this past week, I received a package of gorgeous tye-dyed fabric made by the older children at the orphanage. These will be available for purchase for the first time on Friday night. The fabrics are large enough for tablecloths, clothing, wall hangings, etc. There are two sizes – the smaller ones are $50, the larger $100. All proceeds from the sale of the fabrics, jewelry and CTT paraphernalia will go directly back to the orphans at St. Mary Kevin’s.

If you can join us, we wold love to see you! The Faso Gallery is located at 3120 Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

st. mary kevin’s children made new friends today

This post is written by Ann Thomas, therapist extraordinaire and member of Change the Truth's Team One (mission trip to Uganda, December, 2007.)

The children of St. Mary Kevin made new friends today. Gloria, Lynne, Lonnie, Melissa and I (yes we were missing two…) presented the documentary and a presentation about the life in Uganda to the children aged 10 and older of Operation Breakthrough. For those of you unfamiliar with Operation Breakthrough (OB), it is the largest single site daycare in the state of Missouri serving working poor families. OB is located at 31st and Troost in the heart of Kansas City’s urban core and provides early childhood education for children ages 6 weeks to 16 years, including before and after school care. OB not only provides child care but offers a health care and dental clinic, mental health services, emergency services (food, clothing, and utility assistance) and much more. Many of the children who attend OB have experienced difficult lives, 25% of the children enrolled are homeless, 25% are in the protective custody of the state due to abuse or neglect, nearly all are living in violent neighborhoods. Many of these children don’t always have electricity; their families ride the city bus to get from one place to another. But today, these children were given the opportunity to learn more about children their own age, in a country far, far away.

After the children watched the documentary, they were invited to answer a few questions posed by Melissa, including, “What did you notice was the same about you and the children of St. Mary Kevin?” and then, “What did you notice to be different?”

Their answers were remarkable; wise and yet innocent. The children noticed that they were all about the same ages, that they wore school uniforms, education was important, that the kids had friends, and that they were black. Two children, who are currently up for adoption, commented that they too were kind of like the orphans, only they lived with a foster family, not in an orphanage.

When asked to name differences, many made note of the living conditions, the limited selection of food, the lack of toys and games, and the lack of family. Several children commented, “It helps us appreciate what we have”. They also noticed that the children seem to not argue or fight and one child said, “They use their words to get along”.

The children were very concerned and intrigued about the Rebels in Uganda. Many were appalled that “soldiers” could come into the villages and kill people for no reason. One boy raised his hand and wanted to know, “where were the authorities to protect the people?” Melissa then bravely posed the question, “Is that similar to gangs?” The children then recognized that the rebels offered food, clothing and a gun to each soldier, as well as a sense of purpose. For others, who were forced to join the rebels, it was due to fear; fear of losing their own life, or the threat of their family being killed. Power and intimidation were tools of the rebel soldiers, not at all different from the culture of street violence that permeates the daily lives of these children. Suddenly, for some, the connection to a country far, far away grew stronger.

The children were also very quick to ask, what can we do to help? Ideas filled the room, “let’s send food, let’s send clothes, let’s send books” and on and on. Gloria heard one child who suggested that they make a video to send back to the children of Uganda. Gloria piped in, “why don’t we come back and interview all of you, then you can tell about yourself and what it is like to be a kid here in America.” The kids responded favorably, except for one young woman whose eyes sparkled through all of this, “No that won’t work, it will take too long, and I want to do something now….” She was also one of a handful who asked if they could go to Uganda in December to meet the kids first hand..

For now, the seeds have been planted, these children have been exposed to a world similar, but different from their own. The remarkable piece was that these children, who don’t have much (compared to most children in the United States), got it! They were able to look beyond themselves, they were given a story and pictures which helped them understand, and their response was “Let’s help”. What greater gift is there - for children to look beyond themselves, and want to give to others? Today was a remarkable day!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

change the truth update

After our successful fundraiser in June I asked Rosemary to send me a wish list of things the orphanage needs. At the top of the list was a vehicle. As it is, they have no means of transportation.

That is about to change. When Carol, a Change the Truth board representative and member of our Team One mission trip visits St. Mary Kevin’s next week, she will take Rosemary shopping for a motorcycle! This will enable the staff to do the food/clothing shopping more effectively. It will also make it easier to transport sick children to the clinic and will provide a means of income for the orphanage, as they will charge a fee to take passengers back and forth to Kampala. Carol suggested that she present Rosemary not only with the motorcycle, but also with a something that says Change the Truth that could be attached to the bike. This is what I got – a small license plate to hang on the back of the seat.

We have enough people who signed up for the next mission trip that we’ll have two groups going two different weeks! Teams Two is in the process of making air and hotel reservations for December. We have a great group of people going, including some returnees from last year. Our focus on play and art therapy will continue, and we will add music this time around. We are thrilled that we’ll have a doctor in our midst, as most of these children have never even had a basic checkup. We’ll also be repairing, painting and putting in a garden. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks! Much more to follow…

The team will be at the orphanage for Christmas. I’ll end this post with the description from Joseph and Rosemary as to what we should expect to be doing. It’s definitely going to be a holiday none of us will ever forget.

“It is traditional for the orphans to expect something special at Christmas time:

• Stage a nativity play [Baby Jesus, Mary, the cows, and the rest of the cast]
• Gifts from Santa Claus (with the cart pulled by cows or donkeys rather than reindeers)
• Enjoy great eating particularly of meat & drinking of soft drinks and have fun on Dec 25 & 26 in the company of orphanage management and staff.

Please be prepared to participate in preparations for the play, donations of gifts for the orphans, and have fun on Christmas Day and the day after [sports, indoor games & competitions, music/dance, food feast, drinking spree, etc]”