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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

uncle earl

(Rick Norsigian holds up two images. On the left is a historically documented photo by Ansel Adams of a Jeffrey pine on Yosemite's Sentinel Dome. On the right is a print from one of dozens of glass negatives Norsigian bought at a garage sale.)

A Bay Area woman may have solid proof to support the assertions of the Ansel Adams estate that negatives a Fresno man bought at a yard sale were not taken by the famed nature photographer as he claims. She thinks they may have been taken by her Uncle Earl.

News spread Tuesday about the Fresno man who claimed to have stumbled across some of Adams' earliest works that were believed to have been destroyed in a fire.

Contractor and painter Rick Norsigian said he bought the box of glass negatives at a garage sale in Fresno for $45 a decade ago. A team of art, forensic, handwriting, and even weather experts has authenticated the 65 glass negatives as the work of the iconic photographer.

Norsigan and his representatives claim the negatives could be worth as much as $200 million.

Oakland resident Mariam l. Walton saw a picture of the famous Jeffrey Pine on Sentinal Dome at Yosemite during a report about the find on KTVU Tuesday night.

She said she immediately recognized the image as one taken by her uncle, Earl Brooks, back in 1923.

“I thought ‘Oh my God, that's exactly the same picture,’” said Walton.

Walton said her uncle lived in the Fresno area much of his life and often took pictures at Yosemite.

The photo taken by Walton’s Uncle Earl looks nearly identical to one of the examples that Norsigan has claimed to be from Ansel Adams.

“I keep thinking that perhaps that box of negatives belongs to Uncle Earl,” said Walton.

Scott Nichols of the Nichols Gallery in San Francisco has been studying Adams and his photography for 30 years. He visited Walton Wednesday to examine the photo. Nichols took measurements, studied the lighting and angles of the image. Nichols said the similarities between Uncle Earl’s photo and Norsigan’s purported Adams original were striking. Only the clouds are different. Nichols said that could mean Uncle Earl's photo is from another negative, taken moments later during the same shoot.

“What I find very interesting is the shadow detail down in here,” said Nichols with the photo in hand. “The shadows in the sunlight over here and over in here are almost identical.”

When asked for his opinion whether Walton's long passed uncle had debunked the alleged Ansel Adams discovery, Nichols indicated the photo presented a strong argument.

“To duplicate those shadows, to have the camera sit in the exact same place by two different photographers is virtually impossible,” said Nichols.

Nichols took Walton's four pictures from her Uncle Earl in for further study. He said he'd like to compare them with Ansel Adams originals and those found in Fresno to be able to tell with more certainty whether those new pictures are Ansel Adams' or Uncle Earl's.

- KTVU.com

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

elliott erwitt

New York, 1974

An exhibition I saw yesterday included a photograph by Elliott Erwitt, and I was reminded of how much I enjoy his work. Here is a smattering of some of my favorite Erwitt images, as well as a brief bio from the Andrew Smith Gallery website.

Born in Paris in 1928 to Jewish-Russian immigrant parents, Erwitt grew up in Paris, Milan and New York. At eleven he moved with his family to Los Angeles where he became interested in photography. After working in a commercial darkroom and studying at Los Angeles City College, he moved to New York to study film.

In 1951 he was drafted into the army and stationed in Germany and France where he continued to photograph. In 1953 Robert Capa invited Erwitt to join the prestigious photo agency Magnum where he quickly rose to the top of the highly competitive field of magazine photography.

Currently, Erwitt spends much of his time overseas working on assignments for foreign publications. Besides his photography he has filmed numerous documentaries. Erwitt's superb sense of humor coupled with a deceptively casual photographic technique inspired the eminent photography critic, John Szarkowski, to remark that Erwitt is "one of the few photographers whose work is also identified by extraordinary wit." Traveling around the world on magazine assignments, Erwitt always found time to take the wry and timeless photographs of ordinary people and dogs that have made him famous.

According to writer, Sean Callahan, survival seems to be built into Erwitt's nature, along with the ability "to be an astute observer of others, highly sensitive to the vicissitudes of life and, when necessary, utterly charming and disarming." In his long and successful career as a magazine and advertising photographer Erwitt has used an arsenal of cameras. But the images he shot for himself were usually made with a classic Leica rangefinder and in black and white. He has remarked, "The most important advice to photographers is f:8 and be there." In his most poetic images something wordless and magical happens in a fleeting instant.

Paris, 1989

North Carolina, 1950

New York, 1953

Colorado, 1955

Wilmington, NC, 1950

Santa Monica, California, 1955

Provence, France, 1955

Paris, 1989

New York, 1946

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


A new lens and some "Lightroom" instruction has recharged my portrait-making battery. I photographed this lovely young woman, an aspiring actress, in Los Angeles over the weekend.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

doll project film by lynne melcher

The eight-minute film about the Change the Truth Doll Project is now available for your viewing pleasure. If you haven't had a chance to see it yet, please take some time to give it a look. Lynne did an amazing job. The Doll Project film features the children from the orphanage, as well as Kansas City artists Susan White, Lee Heinemann, Patricia Caviar, Fiona Gowin, Nedra Bonds, J. Leroy Beasley and Peregrine Honig.

(Depending on your computer, you may have to let the film fully load before you can view it.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

walking around portland

Yesterday I met Rodriguez, a 58-year-old man who sleeps in the doorway of a downtown clothing store and hangs out across the street from an empty government building during the day. He was incredibly charming.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

new letters magazine: hot off the press

The latest issue of New Letters features some of the banana fiber dolls made in Uganda at the orphanage and adorned by Kansas City artists. New Letters has been a steadfast supporter of Change the Truth over the years, having featured some of my Ugandan photos in this past issue. Editor Bob Stewart has shown interest in our project since the very beginning, and I am so grateful to him for that. He selected my doll for this volume's cover. The dolls that grace the inside pages are by:

Peregrine Honig
Tom Corbin
Stephanie Leedy
Amy Meya
Caroline Shteamer
Philomene Bennett
Lou Marak
Fiona Gowin
Janet Kuemmerlein
Shea Gordon
Charmalee Gunaratne
Linda Lighton

Here is Bob's beautiful introduction:

"Out in the World
an editor’s note

Poetry teaches by example. The phrase occurs to me often when I read great poems, which tend to celebrate external details, directness, and even self-questioning by the speaker. This is how one should live, I sometimes think—outward looking, humble, engaged. Great writing provides us examples, not in what the writing says to do, but in what it does. Please do not actually try 'Cooking with Medicine,' as a poem here advises, but do try to imagine the spirit from which that notion came.

In their own crazy, intense, and provocative way, the writing and art in this issue create something close to purity of intent. Good will. The writing looks at events—political, global, and personal—and struggles toward empathy. I am, by default, contrasting that enormous force of generosity and freedom with the calculating and dangerous actions that led to the oil-spill catastrophe in the Gulf. We ask of literature that it look outward, rather than to the writer’s own interests. We ask of art that it have a stake in the world.

Consider the photographs here of banana-fiber dolls made by Ugandan orphans, further decorated by artists in the Kansas City area. New Letters has an ongoing interest in the St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood in Kajjansi, Uganda, where these dolls originated, and our fall 2006 issue featured photographs of many of the children there. The photographer, Gloria Baker Feinstein, created this doll project to raise money for the orphanage; so, besides being an important visual artist, she has taken on the well- being of those Ugandan children as one of her life’s jobs.

Is this perspective on literature and art realistic? I hold to it. Otherwise, why move this writing into the world, by magazine, radio, Web site, and public events, as does New Letters? Why try so hard? The writing in this issue suggests some reasons. Start with joy. Look around."

-Robert Stewart

Sunday, July 18, 2010


(Exercise class at the Jewish Community Center, 2003)

Bronia’s was the second funeral I attended this week.

During the service her son, daughters and a grandchild told “Bronia stories” and spoke in “Bronia-isms.” I laughed, cried, then laughed again.

Bronia’s son Walter talked about her questionable driving skills. He recounted the time his children were young and first went on a drive with her. When they came home they said they never wanted to drive with their grandmother again. Not only was she a bad driver, she kept honking the horn, and this caused people to turn and stare.

Their dad knew right away what the kids were talking about. He reminded them to consider Bronia’s size. Yes, it was true, he told us. Whenever he rode in the passenger seat with his mom, the horn was always honking. It wasn’t because she was warning people to get out of the way (though that might have been a good idea) - it was because, with various stops and turns, her chest would often heave toward the steering wheel, and well, the sheer weight and force of it would sound the horn.

I conjured up the familiar image of Bronia, short of stature and wide of girth, wedged into the driver’s seat of her car, her eyes barely clearing the top of the dashboard.

Walter told us about a day shortly before Bronia died. He was at her bedside in the hospital.

Walter: Are you okay, Mom? Can I do anything for you?

Bronia: I’m so uncomfortable. Lower the bed a little, would you?

He cranked the bed down a bit.

Walter: Is that better?

Bronia: A little more.

He turned the crank again.

Bronia: Oy, just a little lower.

Finally, Walter figured out what his mother was up to.

Walter: Mom, you want to get out of bed, don’t you? Sorry, but you can’t. Remember, you have a broken leg. If you try to walk right now, it could break again.

Bronia (who always managed to get her way): If you let me get out of bed, I promise… I will walk VERY LIGHTLY.

If I could have told a Bronia story, it would have been hard to choose just one, but it might have been this:

Not so long ago I took Bronia to Operation Breakthrough so she could speak about her experience during the Holocaust to a group of teenagers. As we were leaving the building, a woman (all lit up with a huge grin) approached Bronia with outstretched arms. “Oh my gosh! I haven’t seen you in years. You used to run the bakery, didn’t you? You made my wedding cake. It was in 1977. Remember me?”

Bronia didn’t miss a beat. Even though she was exhausted and drained from the talk, she beamed back at the woman. “Of course. It’s so nice to see you again!” They hugged each other, and the woman kept exclaiming how unbelievable and how great it was to see the bakery woman again after all these years. Clearly, running into Bronia had made her day.

As Bronia and I walked to the parking lot, I asked her if she really remembered her old customer. She shrugged and smiled and said, “She’s such a lovely person.”

That was the thing about Bronia.

In spite of the darkness and the evil and the sadness and the loss that had been a major component of her life, she was a proponent of love.

Everyone was lovely.

Life was lovely.

And those firmly held beliefs made Bronia one of the loveliest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

Her daughter, Judy, told us that the whole family was at Bronia’s bedside as she died. They had their arms wrapped around one another, encircling the bed, and they huddled close. They started singing some of Bronia’s favorite and beloved old Yiddush songs. So that’s how my friend died, being surrounded by and lifted up by family and music and memories.

How lovely is that?

I’ll miss Bronia.

Me and the 500 other people who were at her funeral. We really will.

(I stand corrected... 700 other people! If you have a Bronia story or memory you'd like to share, please leave it a as a comment so we can all enjoy.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

uncle gene

I went to two funerals this week.

My uncle, Gene, lived to be 100 years old. Shortly before his big birthday, he fell. He didn’t trip over anything or anyone, and he didn’t bump into anything. He was simply standing there watching my 87-year old aunt play solitaire on the computer, and his hipbone broke. He never managed to recover from the fall, though he did get to have a big birthday party and continued to live for another four months.

Up until the fall, Uncle Gene was still driving. He even went to his office a couple days a week. This was a guy who did push-ups into his early nineties and whose skin pretty much looked like a baby’s bottom. His sister also lived to be 100.

Gene was a dapper dresser. You could always spot him in a crowd – green sports coat, plaid pants and shiny patent leather white or tan shoes. His hair was always meticulously combed back. He worked hard all his life, starting a business from nothing and building it so that he could comfortably support his family. Uncle Gene was the oldest living member of the Lexington, Kentucky Rotary Club, having been a member for 66 years, and he was made Honorary President of the club on his big birthday.

Gene was a pilot. He loved to fish. He liked good bourbon. He was just a really good guy. And he had a smile that never quit.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Bronia Roslawowski, age 88, of Kansas City, died July 14, 2010, at Menorah Medical Center. She was born in Turek, Poland, on December 23, 1921, to Hersh and Bluma Kibel. As a child, she was educated at Beis Yaakov. During World War II, Bronia was imprisoned in several Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz. After being liberated by the United States Army (for which she was always grateful to America), she worked with the Army in displaced persons’ camps. In 1948, Bronia immigrated to the United States. Not knowing where to settle, she asked where President Truman was from and decided that if Missouri was a good place for the president’s family, it would be a good place for hers. In her early years in Kansas City, she had many jobs including caring for newborns at Baptist Hospital. She often worked three jobs to support her children. For many years, she and her husband Mendel owned M & M Bakery where Bronia passed out love and doughnuts to generations of children, and bread and sandwiches to their families. She was proud of the success of all of those who worked with her, particularly those who continued in the bakery business. Bronia frequently spoke to schools and community groups about her experiences during the Holocaust, teaching messages of love and justice. “I don’t hate the Nazis,” she would say, “so no one has the right to hate.” She taught that she was saved by righteous Jews and non-Jews alike. “Look out for your neighbor because, if you don’t, no one else will.” Bronia was unfailingly loving, and she herself was loved by people from every part of the community. As she always said, “What a baker puts into the oven, she takes out of the oven.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

word from the directors of the orphanage

"The main team is OK - But we are still checking.
We watched the final game from home.
The orphans were provided with a TV set.

The trouble has been -- phoning using jammed lines to check on relatives and friends."

waiting to hear

I have contacted all our friends in Uganda to make sure everyone is OK and will keep you posted.

bombing in kampala

Bad news out of Kampala...

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I took a ten-hour outdoor lighting class this weekend and snapped this portrait of one of my classmates as she was holding up some equipment. And man, was there a lot of equipment involved! I guess I'm just a sucker for simple, natural light - especially that yummy light towards the end of the day.

Friday, July 09, 2010


One of my photographs from Uganda is featured today on Flak Photo, a daily photography website that celebrates the art & culture of photography online. Produced by Andy Adams, the site highlights new series work, book projects and gallery exhibitions from an international community of contributors. I'm so pleased to be included!

Thursday, July 08, 2010


July, 2010

When you’re Jewish and a boy and approaching your thirteenth birthday, you are getting ready to “become a man.”

(Even though you go through the intensive training for your Bar Mitzvah and everyone, according to tradition, heartily welcomes you into the adult community, you do still have to go back to seventh grade on the Monday morning following the big event.)

One day when my son Max was preparing for his special day back in December 2001, his father announced it was time to shop and get fitted for his Bar Mitzvah suit. I was too young to remember my older brothers going through this ritual, so this was a new experience for me.

Eddie took Max to a Kansas City institution – Michaels (fine clothing for men since 1905). We were warmly greeted by the owner, Gene, a veritable icon of men’s fashion. Gene was dressed to the nines, no detail overlooked. What impressed Max the most was the carefully tri-folded ivory silk handkerchief that was positioned perfectly in the chest pocket of the old man’s suit.

We could tell Gene had fitted hundred of Kansas City Bar Mitzvah boys over the years. He was in his element, exuding a love of clothing, a love for kids and a passion for making people feel dignified and important.

Max felt like a prince. Gene brought him suit after suit, commenting on how this or that stripe, a particular color or weave nicely emphasized Max’s physique. In the three way mirror, as the afternoon wore on, my son and his new friend began to discuss things other than clothes. I saw clearly that day just how personable and gregarious Max really was. To this day, he makes friends genuinely and easily. And he has a special ability of relating to older people.

Gene became a hero of sorts to Max. My son admired the man’s style, his easy smile, his successful business, the way he joked with the customers and the way he showed everyone – no matter their age, their race or social status - respect. Max continued to buy clothes at Michael’s until he left for college.

The gift Eddie and I gave Max for his Bar Mitzvah was a group of autographed pictures – signed and personalized head shots of people he admired: sports stars, famous drummers, favorite authors, movie stars, etc. (“Congratulations on your big day, Max! Best wishes from Michael Jordan.”) I snuck down to Michaels a week or so before the Bar Mitzvah and made of portrait of Gene. He signed it and wished Max “Mazel Tov.” When we presented the gift, there was Gene – his head shot mixed in among those of the many stars Max admired.

I ran into Gene the other day. He now lives at an assisted living center. He is experiencing dementia and a myriad of other health issues. His wife told me he doesn’t get out of the wheelchair too often. But he still had the same warm, open and kind face he had nine years ago, and he greeted me as if he remembered the days my son, husband and I used to come into his store.

The sweetest memory I have of the day we took Max shopping for his Bar Mitzvah suit is when Gene pulled Max aside to teach him how to fold his new silk handkerchief. The man waited patiently while Max practiced over and over again until he got it just right.

Gene took a Saturday off from the store to attend his new young friend’s Bar Mitzvah. You should have seen him beam when he saw the perfectly folded and positioned handkerchief in the chest pocket of Max’s new suit. And then his picture… framed and nicely displayed on a decorated table – right there between Michael Crichton and Weird Al Yankovitch.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

party pics!

Here are some pictures from the CTT Friendraiser/Fundraiser taken by our good friend Michael Spillers. Enjoy!

Dawn Taylor

Team 4 members Jeff Mildner and Jennifer Smith

Volunteer Augi Grassis

Doll artist Fiona Gowin's mom, April Watson

Volunteer Ali Corbin

Doll artist Patricia Caviar

Doll artist Michelle Beasley

Sue Luger and Sue Mindlin

Patty and Ron Dover

Filmmaker and CTT board member Lynne Melcher

Stacy and Tyler Benson

Doll artist Peregrine Honig and me

Melissa Mosher at the CTT info table with Judy Keisling and daughter

Sharon Klaban and volunteer Sandy Czarlinsky

Live auction, featuring Larry Meeker

Doll artist Stephanie Leedy and her dad, Jim Leedy

Doll artist Ana Stanovcic and her brother, Alexander

Doll artist Leslie Mark and her husband, Mark Eisemann

Anastasia Pottinger and me

Sunday, July 04, 2010

happy 4th!

Because of so many other responsibilities lately, I've morphed into a person who doesn't make pictures every single day. I've always felt strongly that our picture making muscles - the ones required for visualization, framing, composition and timing - need to regularly be stretched, strengthened, pushed and conditioned. So tonight, as dusk was setting and the pops and cracks of Independence day celebrations were lighting up the sky, I got out my camera and went for a walk. The clouds were filling up with moisture and growing more ominous with each passing minute. Kids and their parents were busy with sparklers, smoke bombs and firecrackers. I walked through the thick Midwestern air, an occasional raindrop falling here and there, with the sole purpose of making pictures... maybe nothing important or even worth saving. But for me, the act of simply carrying the camera always leads to a sharper look around - and a fuller appreciation of what surrounds me. I did manage to make a picture I like, though what was clear is that I need to get back into a regular exercise program.

My extraordinary friend and fellow photographer/blogger, Aline Smithson, asked her readers to submit pictures that conjure up the spirit of Independence Day, Lots of readers responded. When you have a few minutes, treat yourself by scrolling through Aline's 4th of July Exhibition.There are, of course, as many interpretations of a subject as there are people with cameras, and here you really get the full sense of that.

Friday, July 02, 2010

grandmothers in africa

(Gembe, Uganda, 2009)

Their collective wisdom is incalculable – so is the collective burden they carry when families are torn apart by HIV/AIDS. Africa's newest special interest group is that of grandmothers. They attended their first special conference in May to share experiences and call for international recognition of their uniquely difficult circumstances. A summit of grandparents in the west might prompt jokes about bingo and dentures, but the inaugural African Grandmothers' Gathering was a gravely serious affair. More than 450 grandmothers from 12 African countries met to discuss the impact of losing adult children to AIDS, becoming the head of a household and raising grief-stricken grandchildren as their own.

(Buyingi, Uganda, 2006)

(Magada, Uganda, 2006)

Grandmothers are at the frontline of the HIV-AIDS impact. They have to pick up the pieces and move on; they don't have time to grieve because the children need to be looked after. They are doing this without any income. They, for the most part, are not healthy people themselves; they often have diabetes and high blood pressure. These are women who are carrying on in spite of the challenges and the fear of what will happen to these grandchildren if they die.

(Kajjansi, Uganda, 2008)

The purpose of the gathering was to raise awareness of grandmothers' needs. The grandmothers are hoping to establish international support for grief counselling, access to healthcare for themselves and the children in their care, safe and adequate housing, economic security, safety from gender-based violence, raising community awareness and breaking stigma, support in raising grief-stricken grandchildren and access to education for children. Grandmothers from Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe were represented.

The African grandmothers were joined by a delegation of Canadian grandmothers from the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which supports community-based organizations fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. 

Stephen Lewis, chair of the foundation, said: 'Grandmothers are the unsung heroes of Africa. These magnificently courageous women bury their own children and then look after their orphaned grandchildren, calling on astonishing reserves of love and emotional resilience.'

- from The Guardian, UK

Thursday, July 01, 2010

a major announcement!

Neither Melissa Mosher nor I could have ever imagined where her first trip to Uganda with Change the Truth Team 1 in December of 2007 would eventually lead.

Melissa fell head over heels in love with everything about the east African country, especially the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. From the moment I first saw her reaching out for hands to hold minutes after our team’s arrival, I knew something very special was happening. It was a profound connection that has only continued to grow stronger over the years. Melissa joined Team 2 in 2008 and traveled to Uganda on her own a few months later. She was a member of Team 3 this past December, and it was then that she brought along her 10-year-old son Antwain to meet the children who had stolen her heart and about whom she spoke so often. On that trip Antwain felt a special connection to the children, too.

(Antwain playing with the SMK marching band)

These children are always on Melissa’s mind, and now they are also on Antwain’s mind.

I am thrilled to announce that Melissa will become the first ever “on the ground Change the Truth/St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Liaison-Social Worker” starting this September. She and Antwain will pack their bags in August and move to Uganda to become a constant presence in the lives of the orphans and to oversee projects supported by CTT.

This move marks the beginning of an important new chapter in the life of CTT. How far we have come in just three years! Thanks to the unwavering support of all our generous donors, we have been able to accomplish so much. We are currently sponsoring 28 students in secondary school and providing them with textbooks, sending a monthly stipend for food for all the orphans and providing opportunities for projects such as brick-making, gardening, rain water collection, maize mill operations and computer education.

(Melissa with sponsored student Henry)

Placing Melissa on the ground at SMK will help insure that all of these endeavors continue to run smoothly and that future needs will be identified.

Needless to say, this is an exciting juncture for everyone involved. More information will follow, as the plan is set into motion. For now, I’d like to extend my appreciation and congratulations to the board of directors of CTT, SMK Director Rosemary, SMK Director of Finance Joseph, to all our donors and to Melissa and Antwain, who will soon me holding the hands of a lot of very happy orphans on a full-time basis!