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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

turning our attention to uganda, change the truth, team 4, the kids, you and me

Now it is time to turn the attention of this blog to Africa, narrowing our focus to east Africa to Uganda to Entebbe to Kajjansi and finally, to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood.

Those of you who have followed along with us before as we have prepared for and made this fascinating journey will be familiar with what’s involved in the process. Since there are different players and different projects, though, this year’s trip will be different from last year’s, I promise you that. For those of you who are new to the blog, get ready for a profoundly emotional, enlightening and fun adventure as the Team 4 volunteers share their experiences and feelings with you each step of the way. We will share photos, journal entries, our impressions, our tears and our joys, our fears and our achievements. We’ll introduce you to the spirited, kind, talented, loving, appreciative children, all of whom are trying to make their way in the world having lost one or both parents to war or disease. (Even having one living parent does not guarantee a home in which to live or a school to attend. Many single parents in Uganda simply cannot afford to feed and clothe their children, much less buy school uniforms and books and pay school fees. The government subsidizes the lower grade levels, but once past Primary school, a student is left on his/her own to find sponsorships from other sources. If they fail in this quest, they often end up living on the streets. From there, there aren’t too many good places to go.)

There are about 180 orphans at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. (There are 2.2 million orphans in all of Uganda.) Some are half orphans (having lost one parent) and some are full orphans (having lost both.) All are there because they need to eat, sleep securely, be clothed, have access to medical care and have the support and structure of a group of loving adults and other caring children…. their new family.

Change the Truth has become a big part of that family. Throughout the year, CTT donors become the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles who make generous donations towards food, bedding, mosquito nets, rain water collection tanks, medicine, books, hygiene supplies and most important – school fees. The children recognize CTT as part of their family. They ask me over and over again to thank CTT donors for the new decks of cards, the soccer balls, the warm blankets, the cough medicine, the textbooks, the laptop computers, the cuddly stuffed animals, the art supplies, the ball point pens, the yoga mats, the flip-flops and the chance to go to school. They want to meet all of you.

The volunteer members of Team 4 will carry the items you have provided (through your kind donations) to the children at SMK on December 19th. They will then spend ten days on the grounds of the orphanage teaching meditation and yoga; conducting sewing and art classes; holding sex, drug and alcohol awareness sessions; teaching karate, soccer, basketball and other sports; having therapy sessions; planting gardens; teaching computer skills; holding hands, wiping away tears, quietly listening to painful life stories and falling hopelessly in love with kids like Tony, Nicky, Irene, Jo Anne, Vincent, Kato, Petra, Skovia, Claire Faith, Isabella, Billy, Sam, Tina, Nelson, Apacko, Sheila, Rosette, Samalie, Henry, Boy-Boy, Julius, Annette, Ivan, Douglas, Caleb, Marvin, Godfrey, Francis, Nahia, Moses and Brian.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will write about what we are doing to get ready for the trip and what our goals and expectations are. I will spotlight some of the children at SMK, as well as each member of Team 4. I’ll also let you know about some of our donations of seeds, soccer balls, sewing supplies and other goodies. There are so many kind souls who make this trip happen. You will want learn about them all. I will also be sure to let you know about additional items we’d like to take with us, providing you with a “wish list” of things we’d like to collect.

We are all in this together, each playing a part. Whether you send a pen pal letter, a box of crayons, a bunch of baseball caps, money for someone’s tuition or even manage to buy a plane ticket so that you can actually go to the orphanage as a Team 4 member, I applaud your efforts. You are doing a very good thing. We are family to the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood, and we each do what we can to let them know we care.

That is what gives them hope. And that is what keeps them moving forward… in spite of all that could easily hold them back.

Monday, October 25, 2010

once there was a boy

No, this is not my little grandson, Henry.

This is the first photograph from a series entitled "Once There Was a Boy" by Zed Nelson. The London based photographer set out to capture the aging process of a baby and his family, photographing them on the same day for twenty years. Check it out here.

About the project, Nelson says:

"I began this project in the summer of 1991. The wife of a friend was nine months pregnant, and I had an idea – based on time-lapse photography – to photograph them together as a couple, then soon after the birth, and then on the same day every year. I planned the photography sessions in a formal, almost scientific way. Each year the picture was made on the same date, against the same backdrop, under the same lighting. Now, nearly 20 years into the project it is beginning to get really interesting. While a boy grows before your very eyes, his parents change in more subtle ways. The body language fascinates me, between the growing boy and his parents. At first the son stays close to his mother, then he gains independence, and then increasingly bonds with and even mimics his father. These aren't quirks of the photographic moment, but cycles of the aging process, clearly played out in the contact sheets."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

from a distance

Ah, Sunday morning.

Part of me always thinks to myself, "Time to talk to Mom and Dad!"

That's how it went. Back in the day. Every Sunday morning at 11:00 my parents called. It started when I went away to college. We had a phone date, I guess you could say. Sunday morning at 11:00 CST was our time together. We've not lived in the same city since I trotted off to Madison in 1972, so we had this date for many, many years.

"Don't talk TOO long; it's long distance, remember!"

I found it best if I put together a list of topics I wanted to be sure to cover.

"I got a B on the Journalism paper I wrote; Judy and I saw 'Metropolis' last night"... and then later, "Abbie loves her new teacher and made a new friend at school today."

Of course, we saw my parents fairly frequently. There was lots of travel back and forth. In between visits, there were 4" x 6" pictures exchanged via postal service and there were those VHS video tapes Eddie and I made of our children's first baths, first smiles and first steps. We'd pack the unedited, way-too-long video tapes in our suitcase to show our families next time we went home to visit.

I always thought our video tapes were far superior to the old Super 8 movies my parents used to make. It seemed to me that a lot of time was spent simply waving into the camera. "Look, Freda, the camera is on you now. Wave hello!" My grandmother would squint her eyes, shade them from the sun (or the bright lights my Dad would strap to the camera for indoor shots) with one hand and wave gleefully with the other. We did that, too, in the beginning, "Abbie, look at the lens of the camera and say hi to Pawpaw! That's right, wave hello!" But we got pretty sophisticated after a while and were soon making stop action videos of Max scooting around the living room on his bottom, pretending to drive a red Ferarri. We couldn't wait to share these with Bubbie, Zayde, Neetz and Pawpaw - the grandparents.

So now Eddie and I are the grandparents.

The hi-tech opportunities for long distant grandparents are endless now. We got this photo of Henry's first bath fresh from Abbie's blog, not too long after she had dried the boy off.

And we have Skype! We "skyped" (a new verb?) with six-week-old baby Henry just the other night. He stared at Abbie's computer monitor in New Orleans while Eddie and I made funny faces, held up a dancing teddy bear and well, waved hello from Kansas City.

(I remember trying out the futuristic television/telephones at a World's Fair when I was a little girl, and my mom saying, "these will be fine. just so long as I don't get a call when I have my bath robe on.")

IPhones, Skype, text messages, Facebook, Flip Cameras, YouTube, Twitter and blogs have changed the way we all communicate with one another. Our CNN mentality makes us want the full scoop as soon as anything happens, or more accurately, while it happens.

This is very cool for us long distance grandparents.

It means we can get up-to-the-minute coverage of our grandchild's comings and goings. In stills and in video.

Henry makes his video debut here. Abbie sent this 46 second clip to me the other day via email when I was not feeling well and needed some cheering up. Henry is lying on the floor being a baby. Not much action or dialogue. No special effects.

I have watched it at least twenty-five times now. Best movie I've seen in a long time.

Wait. Did you see that? I think he was trying to wave hello.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"do it yourself" foreign aid

Please read the Nicholas Kristof NYT Magazine article about the "do it yourself" foreign aid revolution. I promise you will feel moved and inspired.

His blog follow-up addresses ways to help. There are so many. Again, very inspiring.

Yay for us... the do it yourselfers!

o.b. shoot

Lunch time at Operation Breakthrough yesterday brought a smile to this cutie pie's face.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

jr: giving slums a human face

"It’s not common for important philanthropic prizes to go to people whose work involves criminal trespass and who make statements like the following: 'You never know who’s part of the police and who’s not.'

But the TED conference, the California lecture series named for its roots in technology, entertainment and design, said on Tuesday that it planned to give its annual $100,000 prize for 2011 — awarded in the past to figures like Bill Clinton, Bono and the biologist E. O. Wilson — to the Parisian street artist known as J R, a shadowy figure who has made a name for himself by plastering colossal photographs in downtrodden neighborhoods around the world. The images usually extol local residents, to whom he has become a Robin Hood-like hero.

For most recipients, the value of the six-year-old award has less to do with the money than with the opportunity it grants the winner to make a 'wish': to devote the funds to a humanitarian project that will almost inevitably draw donations and other help from the organization’s corporate partners and influential supporters. The chef Jamie Oliver, the 2010 prize winner, recently proposed setting up an international effort to further his campaign against obesity; Mr. Clinton’s wish has channeled significant resources toward the creation of a rural health system in Rwanda.

Reached by telephone on Wednesday morning on a bus in Shanghai, where he was headed to work on a largely unauthorized photo-pasting project to draw attention to the city’s demolition of historic neighborhoods, J R said that he had learned of the prize only two weeks ago and that he had not yet had time to think of a wish.

But he said that it would undoubtedly involve his kind of guerrilla art, which he has been creating with the help of volunteers in slums in Brazil, Cambodia and Kenya — where the outsize photographs, printed on waterproof vinyl, doubled as new roofs for ramshackle houses. 'I’m kind of stunned,' he said of the prize. 'I’ve never applied for an award in my life and didn’t know that somebody had nominated me for this.'

At a time when street art is being embraced not only by the art world but also by branding interests, J R, who dislikes being called a street artist, preferring the term 'photograffeur' (graffeur is French for graffiti artist) has become known for rejecting corporate sponsorship offers and other outside help. He said that he reinvested most of the money he makes by selling his art in galleries and at auction — one piece went for more than $35,000 at Sotheby’s in 2009 — into creating more ambitious projects, and that he would use the TED prize money for the same purpose.

'If there’s one thing I’ve always taken care of with my work, it’s that it’s never an advertisement for anything other than the work itself and for the people it’s about, he said speaking in English. 'I think the TED people knew that that was one of my main concerns, and I feel pretty sure that we can come up with a project that works that way.'

Amy Novogratz, the director of the prize, said that picking an artist like JR — he is 27 and fiercely protective of his anonymity, identifying himself only by his initials — was an unusual choice but that the prize committee felt that his work could 'catalyze the whole TED community' to support an art-centered philanthropic project, which will be announced at the organization’s next conference in March.

'One of my concerns at first was that he wasn’t going to be accessible or available, which could be off-putting when you’re trying to get partners to get excited about a project,' she added. And, in fact, the first time prize officials had a Skype conversation with the artist, he appeared in sunglasses with a hat pulled low over his forehead.

'But then he said, ‘You know, I trust you guys,’ and he took them off,' Ms. Novogratz said, 'and we just had a regular old conversation.'"

-The NYT

Check out a slide show of JR's work here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

change the truth chapter 5 begins

Two months from today Change The Truth Team 4 will arrive in Uganda. Sleeves rolled up, energy high, hearts open.

It will be my fifth trip to east Africa. I can hardly believe it!

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will introduce you to the wonderful volunteers who are the members of Team 4 and will acquaint you the projects that will be undertaken by them at the orphanage. It's a great group with terrific thoughts on how to help the children at St. Mary Kevin's.

Hope you'll stay tuned! It's going to be a fantastic journey.

Friday, October 15, 2010

thoughts on photography

A few weeks ago I received an invitation from Paul Giguere to be interviewed for his podcast series “Thoughts On Photography.” To get ready, I listened to some of his "explorations of what it means to live a photographic life.” Paul is a photographer himself and provides a lot of good insights and advice. Over the course of his podcasts (101 of them so far!) he has also interviewed a bunch of photographers whose work I really admire, including Ken Rosenthal, Angela Bacon-Kidwell, Suzanne Revy, Hiroshi Watanabe, Aline Smithson and Susan Burnstine.

My conversation with Paul is now available. You can give it a listen here, and be sure to check out some of his other podcasts, as well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

robert cornelius award: twins

I learned today that I was awarded one of the "runner up" prizes for the Robert Cornelius Award. I entered the competition quite some time ago, and with all that's been going on in my life, I had forgotten about it. I was pleasantly surprised and happy, of course! Not only had I forgotten about entering, I had absolutely forgotten what I entered. Turns out I had dipped back into the twins work I did in 2004 - 2005, a body a work entitled "The Space Between." The piece the juror, Stephen Perloff, liked is this one.

The funny thing is that lately I've been thinking about revisiting the twins work. There are two ideas floating around in my head. The first is to simply pay another visit to the twins I photographed and do an updated portrait. The other idea, one which would require a lot of research and travel, is to track down and photograph sets of identical twins, one of whom has elected to have facial plastic surgery for whatever reason, and one who has not. There actually was one such set of twins in my original project, and I was so intrigued by this. My thoughts about it have clearly lingered; I'd love to explore it further, both from a visual and emotional point of view.

If you happen to know of a researcher who might be able to help me locate twins who fit this bill, or if you know of any such twins who you think might be willing to be photographed for this project, would you please contact me?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

six billion

On this day, October 12th - in 1999 - the proclaimed 6 billionth living human in the world was born.

photo by James Nachtwey

(A water theme park attracts hundreds of people, as a way to cool off during an intense summer heat wave, in the suburbs of Shanghai, China.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I've been making portraits of Emma since she was three. Now she's in fifth grade. Who knows where the time goes.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

sally mann

Having just seen the Art:21 segment featuring Sally Mann and learning of her latest book The Flesh and the Spirit (due in November) I revisited her work from (gulp) 20 years ago. It's mind boggling to think about how many photographers (myself included) she has influenced.

I'm sure many of you know all about Mann, but I'm going to include the bio from her gallery, Gagosian, anyway. I'm also throwing in a couple quotes and some of my favorite pictures. I think most, if not all these images, are from Immediate Family (published in 1992).

"Sally Mann was born in Lexington, Virginia in 1951. She has always remained close to her roots. She has photographed in the American South since the 1970s, producing series on portraiture, architecture, landscape and still life. She is perhaps best known for her intimate portraits of her family, her young children and her husband, and for her evocative and resonant landscape work in the American South. . Her work has attracted controversy at times, but it has always been influential, and since her the time of her first solo exhibition, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., in 1977, she has attracted a wide audience.

Sally Mann explored various genres as she was maturing in the 1970s: she produced landscapes and architectural photography, and she blended still life with elements of portraiture. But she truly found her metier with her second publication, a study of girlhood entitled At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988). Between 1984 and 1994, she worked on the series, Immediate Family (1992), which focuses on her three children, who were then all aged under ten. While the series touches on ordinary moments in their daily lives – playing, sleeping, eating – it also speaks to larger themes such as death and cultural perceptions of sexuality. In her most recent series, Proud Flesh, taken over a six year interval, Mann turns the camera onto her husband, Larry. The resultant photographs are candid and frank portraits of a man at his most vulnerable moments.

Mann has produced two major series of landscapes: Deep South (Bullfinch Press, 2005) and Mother Land. In What Remains (Bullfinch Press, 2003), she assembled a five-part study of mortality, one which ranges from pictures of the decomposing body of her beloved greyhound, to the site where an armed fugitive committed suicide on her property in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. She has often experimented with color photography, but she has remained most interested in black and white, especially photography’s antique technology. She has long used an 8x10 bellows camera, and has explored platinum and bromoil printing processes. In the mid 1990s she began using the wet plate collodion process to produce pictures which almost seem like hybrids of photography, painting, and sculpture.

Sally Mann lives and works in Lexington, Virginia. A Guggenheim fellow, and a three-times recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Mann was named 'America’s Best Photographer' by Time magazine in 2001. She has been the subject of two documentaries: Blood Ties (1994), which was nominated for an Academy Award, and What Remains (2007) which premiered at Sundance and was nominated for an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2008. She has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Her photographs can be found in many public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art."

"If I could be said to have any kind of aesthetic, it’s sort of a magpie aesthetic- I just go and I pick up whatever is around. If you think about it, the children were there, so I took pictures of my children. It’s not that I’m interested in children that much or photographing them- it’s just that they were there..."

"There is something about this process, and about the whole 8 x 10 [camera] business, that takes it out of the arena of the snapshot, even though, of course, I’m always desperate for that feeling. I wanted those family pictures to look effortless. I wanted them to look like snapshots. And some of them did."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

bar mitzvah boy

Alec will become a Bar Mitzvah next month. I got to make his portrait in my studio the other day. Such a cherubic face. Or punim... as my in-laws used to say in Yiddush.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

matthew goddard-jones

Sometimes you just need to look at work. For inspiration. I recently discovered Australian photographer Goddard-Jones while doing just that. Looking. I really liked what I saw. These are from a few different series.

Monday, October 04, 2010

operation breakthrough kiddos

Guess who I got to photograph one morning last week?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

yoga at the orphanage

As you may recall, Change the Truth introduced yoga to the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage last December during our Team 3 volunteer trip. Bobbi Newman brought some donated mats with her and set up yoga shop in the one of the classrooms. The children (and some of the teachers and matrons) clamored to attend Bobbi's classes. They fell head over heels in love with yoga and have continued to practice it in the months since our visit. Bobbi will be returning to the the orphanage as a member of Team 4 this December. Needless to say, her yoga students are really looking forward to this!

Melissa talked about the yoga scene at St. Mary Kevin's in her most recent letter to me.

"Yawe Joseph has really taken on yoga as his personal project. It was something that he really connected with during the last CTT trip. Team 3 member Bobbi would be thrilled to see Joseph in action, and Joseph will be very proud to show Bobbi in December how he has continued yoga. She had a very big influence on Joseph (as well as Sam).

Joseph is serious about teaching the different poses. He is patient, calm and encouraging, but also enforces a level of respect for yoga (it is not a time for playing around.) Joseph starts each session talking about Namaste and respect for each other. Typically, sessions are about 30 minutes. He has done yoga throughout the school year, and the children know the typical structure of a yoga lesson. There is a good mix of boys and girls in the sessions.

Rosette also does yoga with some of her fellow students in the dormitory of her boarding school. Bobbi left the kids with a book of yoga poses. Both Rosette and Joseph have used the book for guidance. Joseph is eager to try some new (and more difficult) poses with the children soon.

There are still 13 mats clean and neat (just as Bobbi had left). They are carefully put up in one of the rooms by the office. If additional people want to join the lesson, they use sheets.

Having introduced yoga to the children at SMK (especially Joseph, who has found his confidence and voice through this) has been phenomenal and something Bobbi (and Change the Truth) should be proud of."

(Joseph, Rosette and Sam are three of our sponsored secondary school students.)

Friday, October 01, 2010

sold out!

Nine short hours after the initial offering of Aline Smithson's print on Collect.Give, the edition has sold out. Thank you Aline, Collect.Give and all those who purchased a print for a fantastic contribution to Change the Truth!

aline smithson: collect.give

My amazing, generous and talented friend Aline Smithson has pretty much knocked me out this morning. Please take the time to read the following, which is what appears on her blog today. This is a fantastic opportunity to own one of Aline's gorgeous images and to help the kids at St. Mary Kevin, too. It doesn't get much better than that!

Imagine, Aline Smithson

"I am honored and excited to have my image, Imagine, be the newest offering on the terrific charity site, Collect.Give. Founded in 2009 by photographer Kevin Miyasaki, Collect.Give is a place to collect contemporary photography and donate to worthy causes at the same time. It would mean so much to me to have you join me in this venture. The following is from the Collect.Give website:

'The participating photographers have pledged to donate 100% of the profits from their print sales to their chosen charitable organizations. Neither the photographers nor collect.give have pre-arranged associations with the organizations to which funds are donated. Rather, the photographers will make individual contributions with the funds raised. Purchasing prints on collect.give is not considered tax deductible.'

After much consideration, I decided that I would like to support the amazing organization, Change the Truth founded by photographer Gloria Baker Feinstein. Gloria was in Uganda as a participant in an NGO workshop and spent the majority of her time photographing at AIDS orphanages. Upon her return, she could not shake what she had witnessed and was determined to make a difference . She reached out to her Kansas City community and to friends around the county, and was able to 'adopt' the St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood is home to about 190 orphans and disadvantaged children. It provides shelter, food, security, clothing, medicine, love, access to education and training in vocational skills. The orphanage has few resources because of limited government programs and extremely high poverty levels. 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. Many of the children come from northern Uganda, where they have lost their families to war. The way things are, these children have little hope. That's their truth... but with your support, we can change it.

Gloria is a long time friend, and to watch her commitment to these children has been remarkable and inspirational. She represents the best of our community, using her photography to change the world. Each December, Gloria and a team of Change the Truth volunteers travels to Uganda, rolls up sleeves and offers on the ground assistance to the children and staff at the orphanage. You can read a bit about these trips on the NEWS page or, much more extensively, on Gloria's blog. If you are interested in participating, please contact Gloria!

Please consider purchasing an image as all the proceeds will go directly to Change the Truth. I pick up the costs of printing, preparing, and shipping the work as my donation. If I am lucky enough to have the edition sell out, please consider making a donation no matter how large or small which would allow Gloria to bring even more supplies this December. $40 would mean so much to these children, and isn't that what it's all about, changing their truth?"