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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

hungry in america

Yesterday's reference to my gratitude for food was deliberate and sincere. I am acutely aware of the toll hunger takes in Africa, especially on children. Here in the comfort of my Kansas City home, where my full refrigerator hums, the monthly donation we raise and then send to the orphanage from Change the Truth is a constant reminder that food is NEVER taken for granted by Nicholas, Rosette, Irene, Godfrey, Isabella, Julius, Jacob and all the other children we help support in Uganda.

Only a few miles from me, though, there are also hungry children. Because of my involvement with Operation Breakthrough, I am keenly aware of the fact that Johanna, Brittany, Anna, Kandis, Cardell, Charles and all the other children whose parent seek assistance also NEVER take for granted their next meal. This past week I photographed at a local shelter that provides hot meals for those in need. My subject was a family of four. The kids in this family are but two of the millions in America who experience hunger on a regular basis.

“The nation's economic crisis has catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track, according to a new federal report, which shows that nearly 50 million people -- including almost one child in four -- struggled last year to get enough to eat.

The data show that dependable access to adequate food has especially deteriorated among families with children. In 2008, nearly 17 million children, or 22.5 percent, lived in households in which food at times was scarce -- 4 million children more than the year before. And the number of youngsters who sometimes were outright hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million.

Several independent advocates and policy experts on hunger said that they had been bracing for the latest report to show deepening shortages, but that they were nevertheless astonished by how much the problem has worsened. ‘This is unthinkable. It's like we are living in a Third World country,’ said Vicki Escarra, president of Feeding America, the largest organization representing food banks and other emergency food sources.

Food shortages, the report shows, are particularly pronounced among women raising children alone. Last year, more than one in three single mothers reported that they struggled for food, and more than one in seven said that someone in their home had been hungry -- far eclipsing the food problem in any other kind of household. The report also found that people who are black or Hispanic were more than twice as likely as whites to report that food in their home was scarce.”

-from The Washington Post

Friday, November 27, 2009

giving thanks

Each Thanksgiving we are that dreaded mom and dad who go around the table asking each family member or friend to tell us what they're thankful for. This is the first year our immediate little family has not all been together. So, Eddie issued the request via email. Here are the things for which the Baker-Feinstein-Brandao family is thankful. Hope it was a wonderful day for all of you, my faithful readers.

"I'm thankful for my family! (I got that one in first, so no one else can use it.)"

"I'm thankful everyday for my health - in all ways - like physical, financial, spiritual and mental (okay - I know this is sometimes questionable). Somehow I find the strength to pull through without making life too miserable for others. And I'm thankful for that."

"i'm thankful for the many opportunities i have to get a great education. miss you all..."

"i'm thankful that each time i open the pantry, there is a lot of food from which to choose. i'm especially thankful for things like avocados, vanilla yogurt, cashews and ginger cookies (not necessarily in that order.)"

"i'm thankful that i have such loving, generous, and funny family members. i'm also thankful that this tradition lives on even when we are not in the same city on thanksgiving day!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

another look II

While recently revisiting the images I made last year in Uganda, I paid attention to this one for the first time.

"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know."
-Diane Arbus

Sunday, November 22, 2009

work weekend

I was in the studio and on location shooting portraits this weekend. Here's one of my favorites. This handsome man will be 90 soon!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

photophilanthropy: hasan

Recently I discovered "PhotoPhilanthropy" - an organization created to promote, support and connect photographers to charitable organizations around the world.

The PhotoPhilanthropy Activist Awards provide a platform for student, amateur and professional photographers to publish Photo Essays designed to educate and engage people in a wide variety of social campaigns.

I entered my "Dream Series" from Uganda. But, man oh man, was I ever humbled when I started looking through the enormous amount of amazing work being done by an impressive number of talented, compassionate photographers, all of whom are using their cameras to try and make the world a better place.

Here is but one example of the many entries:

Khaled Hasan is a student at Pathshala South Asian Institute of Photography in Bangladesh. He previously attained a bachelors and a masters degree in accounting. He has done feature photography at Bangladeshi Daily News. Here is his description of the project he submitted:

“The story I focus on is about the hard work community of Jaflong, in northeastern Bangladesh. The Piyain River is the main feature and shows the natural beauty of Jaflong which flows from India through Bangladesh. During the monsoon, the river currents wash down precious rocks and pebbles from India into the Jaflong area. At dawn every day, more than a hundred little boats with laborers enter the Piyain River, buckets and spades in hand. This is one trade which has a geological limit; the stones that tumble down the riverbed from India are decreasing in volume and the laborers are already taking the risk of invading the no-man’s land along the Indo-Bangla border which is a contradictory political issue between Bangladesh and India.

More than 5,000 men, women and child stone-laborers are engaged there. Uncontrolled stone extraction and crushing at Jaflong has been posing a serious threat to public health, and to the environment and agriculture in the area. There is no legal protection and no human rights in this industry. Many children there have been suffering from hearing problems due to the high-pitched sounds of the stone-crushing machines.

During my work in 2006 as many as 250 machines were engaged in crushing stone at Jaflong. Abul Hossain, a local, told me they cannot produce crops on their lands as dust of crushed stones destroy all their efforts.

The Bangladeshi government has failed to take any initiative to prevent the stone-crushing industry at Jaflong and the resulting high rate of erosion which is threatening to destroy the adjacent Khasia (indigenous people) villages within the next 5 years. I saw their hard work and I saw their happy moments. So, I want to visualize the facts of this suffering society and their personal feeling through my way in a little space.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

looking in

Speaking of editing... read this interesting review of the Robert Frank exhibition currently at the Met. "Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans" celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Americans, Robert Frank’s influential suite of black-and-white photographs made on a cross-country road trip in 1955–56.

Robert Frank shot 767 rolls of film for the 83 images in the book. That's 83 divided by 27612 or .003 percent. He spent one year editing his work. A good photographer learns to become a good editor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

another look

Back in the days of contact sheets, I labeled and filed them carefully. On occasion I would go back and look through them, concentrating on the images NEXT TO the ones I had selected in the editing process. Every now and then, those near misses gained credibility and started to make more sense to me. And so I’d print them, and sometimes I’d be really pleased that I had rescued a good picture from its previous death sentence.

Fast forward…

I try hard not to erase any of the images I capture as I am shooting digitally. Same reason. Now and then, I go back and consider the ones that didn’t measure up during my first few edits.

Sometimes, I am surprised at what I let get away.

And I give it a life.

This image was made last year in Kajjansi, just down the road from the orphanage. My current frame of mind says, “Hey, Gloria, give this one a chance.”

Monday, November 16, 2009


Too often I get caught up in the self imposed need to put my work into neat little categories, complete with project titles. Occasionally an image crosses over, and a collision occurs. This picture was made as part of the dream series, but is finding its way into my group of sea pictures. Or maybe the Uganda pictures. Or perhaps "Convergence"?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

picturing childhood exhibition

I spent some time at the Nelson-Atkins Museum this afternoon and took a few snaps of the exhibition I'm in.

Electronic marquee featuring Julie Blackmon

introduction to exhibit/opening wall

William LaRue, Wendy Ewald

Morris Engel, Francis Miller

me, Walter Rosenblum, William Klein

Keith Carter

Andrea Modica, Nicholas Nixon

guest book entry

Friday, November 13, 2009

good people

I am very happy to report that Change the Truth has been given a grant by THE GOOD PEOPLE FUND, a fantastic organization based in New York. All of you have worked for and donated to CTT are good people. Without you, we could never have come this far. I thank all of you who have chosen to get involved. And I thank THE GOOD PEOPLE FUND. Its mission statement is:

"Many people work quietly and diligently, often below the radar screen and with shoe-string budgets, to better our world in untold numbers of ways. It is to these people, small entities or individuals whose efforts don’t benefit from glossy brochures or promotions, or help from adequate staff or large organizational structures, that we direct our attention. Their success is our mission — by making them and their work visible and viable to others who will provide needed funding through tzedakah that is given in a cost-effective and meaningful way. One might call those that do this work social entrepreneurs or tzadikim (the righteous ones). We choose to call them simply good people.

Founded by a diverse group inspired by the work of Danny Siegel, founder of the Ziv Tzedakah Fund, including and led by Naomi Eisenberger, Ziv's former Managing Director, The Good People Fund is about both the good people who work selflessly on behalf of others, and also the good people who contribute time, money and energy to help that work become a reality."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

book review

My book, Kutuuka, is reviewed by Aline Smithson in the current issue of Photo-Eye Magazine.

new t-shirts!

The new Change the Truth t-shirts have made it into the world! Thanks to the beautiful drawing by our eleven-year-old friend from St. Mary Kevin Orphanage, Isabella, and the screen printing skills of Portland's Adam Porterfield, the shirts are now available.

Isabella (Izzy)

The gray men's shirt is available in medium and large. The women's shirt, a cool seafoam color, is available in small, medium and large. The shirts are made in LA by American Apparel. They're really soft and kind of form fitting. I've been told they do shrink up a bit when washed.

Later today (fingers crossed) we'll have these on the CTT website store. Wouldn't this shirt make a good gift for yourself or even your favorite cousin or best friend? And just think, your gift will keep on giving... all the way across the world to a little place in Kajjansi, Uganda where some special kids can really use our continued support.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

team 3: meet christy

My name is Christy. I'm the proud mother of two spectacular children––Matthew, 24 and daughter, Taylor, 22 and I'll be traveling to Africa from San Diego, California. As a professional photographer, I primarily photograph buildings and structures for architectural clients. Some of my recent projects have been the Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona, TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota and the new Yankee Stadium in New York. I delight in seeing the world through the lens of a camera. My upcoming trip to SMK will be no different. Camera at my side, I can't wait to take in the experience.

I'll have just turned 46 as I step on the plane as a member of Team 3 and feeling all the butterflies of a wide-eyed, excited, but apprehensive woman about to embark on my most adventurous pilgrimage ever. Experiencing this journey to Uganda has been something I've considered for years and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to finally be a part of the team.

Life is truly a privileged journey - one to grow on, one to be tested in and one to find the strength to discover the unique individual you were created to be on this great, big, beautiful earth. I've seen the stunning pictures and I've read the heartfelt testimonials, but I can't wait to do all I can to contribute to SMK and experience the unconditional hugs and smiles from all the children who live there. It will be an honor to share all of my daily enthusiasm and effort as part of the team that Gloria has brought together through friendship and fellowship. I want to offer all that I can to encourage, share and support the good work of all the teams who have traveled before me.

Friday, November 06, 2009

new photos

I'm working on a project for Operation Breakthrough these days.

Photographing a few - rather than a few thousand - miles from my home.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

bronia at operation breakthrough

A couple of weeks ago I was at Operation Breakthrough working on a project, and I struck up a conversation with three young women about my various photographic series. They were really interested in my work; we ended up going to the computer lab and looking at my website. They asked great questions and were so interested in what I do. What proved to be the most fascinating to them was "Among the Ashes." After looking at that work, we started talking about the Holocaust. When I told these thirteen and fourteen year olds that I could arrange for them to meet someone who had actually survived the Holocaust, they could hardly believe it. One thing led to the next, and today I took my friend Bronia to Operation Breakthrough to speak to a group of about 20 young teens. The three young women who inspired the event are pictured here with her. Since they are approximately the same age that Bronia was when she was rounded up by the Nazis and sent to a labor camp, I think they were especially moved.

This is how I introduced Bronia.

"Bronia was born eighty-three years ago in the small town of Turek, Poland. She was named Brucha, which means 'blessing' in Hebrew.

When Bronia was a young girl, she lived in a neatly kept brick house with her parents and brothers and sisters. She played the violin, liked to ride her bike, make up plays, help in the garden and in the winter ride on a sleigh pulled by her Russian husky dog.

All pretty normal things in a pretty normal life.

She and her family had lots of friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish. They spoke Russian, Polish, German and a little French. Bronia’s mother was a kind woman who made food for the needy and never spanked her children.

Bronia doesn’t have any pictures of her mother and cannot remember her face. But, of course, she thinks about her – and the rest of her family – every day.

When she was thirteen, the Germans marched into her small town and eventually forced all the Jewish people out. Two years later, after living in horrible conditions in a ghetto, Bronia volunteered to take her sister’s place when the Germans came to the house to select people to go to work in a labor camp. For the next two years, Bronia lived in a barn with 150 other women and had to clear swamps and work on farms. She was sent to three different concentration camps, the last of which was Auschwitz-Birkenau.

After being there a year, she was loaded onto a truck that was taking its cargo to the gas chamber. She escaped…. by jumping off the back of the truck and landing in a snow covered ditch. She returned to the barracks at the concentration camp and was kicked - nearly to death - for what she had done. Later that year she was sent to another labor camp. Finally, Bronia was forced to go on a death march and was one of only 19 women from Auschwitz to survive and be liberated.

Bronia never saw any of her family again, except for one cousin.

She left Europe and came to Kansas City in 1947 where she trained as a nurse. She chose Missouri because of Harry Truman. She and her husband eventually opened the M & M Bakery at 31st and Woodland. She has three daughters, a son and several grandchildren.

Bronia doesn’t hate anyone for what happened to her. She has devoted her life to spreading the message that what matters most in the world is that we respect each other’s differences and that we love and take care of one another."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

team 3: meet carol

"Several times a week now when I arrive home from work, I find bags left at my door. Bags containing tee shirts, bags containing shoes and sneakers, bags containing crayons and art supplies. And I smile. Over the last several months as our visit to SMK grows closer and I’ve mentioned my plans to visit St. Mary Kevin again to friends and acquaintances, there have been instantaneous requests to help. I am constantly amazed by the generosity and genuine interest in the children I speak about and that I love and care about across the world. This will be my 4th visit to Uganda and the children at SMK. I can’t wait to see their faces, their smiles and how much they’ve grown in the year since our last visit.

As I think about each visit I have made, all have been different. Our first mission in December, 2007 when I had no idea what to expect or what I’d find. That visit truly changed my life. I was touched by the love and warmth that radiated from every single child and I was moved by the unimaginable experiences that they have endured during their short lives. Gloria’s descriptions had now become real to me. Upon return home, Change the Truth and its mission became an important part of my own life and my desire to help those in need.

In August, 2008 I stopped for a few days in Kampala on my way to meet my family in Tanzania. It didn’t feel at all foreign. I was returning to a place and to people who I cared about deeply. I went with Rosemary and Joan, who are the backbone of SMK, to the bank to get money from the account into which funds from CTT are deposited. I went to the marketplace to buy food for the children. Beans and flour. We haggled over price and made arrangements for transport. I witnessed the difficulties in seeking affordable food in that marketplace as compared to what we all do so routinely walking into our local grocery stores. It again reinforced my connection to the children and my desire to help.

My visit last December was shorter but I was thrilled at the goal. This time we were assisting in creating longer term projects-the garden, the band, the medical help. The reports we’ve gotten throughout the year have reflected our success but more importantly, the success of the children at SMK.

So, what am I thinking about this next visit, only weeks away? I can’t wait to see the children, how much they’ve grown in the last year. I look forward to working in the garden, to assisting Eddie with longer term financial planning and to reading with the children. Improving our ability to communicate. During our visit last year I spent time reading to them and they took glee in my struggle to pronounce the Lugandan words they were teaching me. The laughter—seeing those smiles and hearing their laughter. Creating those memories for them and for us. That is what I look forward to."