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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

team 5: meet michelle and j.leroy

"We are J.LeRoy and Michelle Beasley, and we like to think of ourselves as just a 'couple' of fun loving artists! We found out how much we both enjoyed art two years after we met and have continued to encourage, as well as challenge, one another ever since. I paint watercolor on canvas and photograph objects and people at odd angles. LeRoy is gaining fame as a dynamic photographer and plaster sculptor.

J.LeRoy is humbled to have this opportunity to return to Africa. He went in 2008 with Shane Evans (also a member of Team 5). He photographed every person, place and thing he saw. When he returned home and talked about the difference the children made in his life and how powerful it was to walk in such a magnificent country, I almost felt like I had been with him.

Now I will feel the children's hugs, see those smiles and experience the land for myself.

Our most recent show was at the Jazz Museum - a group exhibition entitled 'Reflections in Jazz' and we will also be in a group exhibition at the upcoming Buck O'Neal celebration at the Negro League Museum (Kansas City) in October.

Please visit our website to learn more about us!"

- Michelle

I had the pleasure of meeting this energetic, joyous, generous, fun-loving and spiritual couple almost two years ago. One of the 2010 doll artists recommend I track them down because they "needed" to be part of the project. It took about two seconds for Michelle to say "yes" to making dolls, and she and J.Leroy have been friends of Change the Truth (and mine) ever since.

I smile and laugh whenever we get together. Or cry. Michelle admits to being a crier, and I can be one, as well.

Besides making art, Michelle and J.Leroy are committed to making the world a better place. I love being in their company. They lift me up, give me hope, make me feel good about myself, make me care, make me think about things in new ways, make me feel inspired and make me happy.

Can you imagine how the children at the orphanage will feel in their presence? It takes my breath away to even consider it!

I am so pleased that they are making the journey to Uganda as members of Team 5. It will be amazing for all of us to share the experience with them.

The following is from the "about us" page of their website:

"J. Leroy Beasley was born in College Station, Arkansas. He is a strong minded Tradesman who over the years has discovered and nurtured a passion for the Arts. He is a self-taught Sculptor who has added photography and painting to his repertoire of naturally developed talents. Sculpting has always come naturally to him. The most interesting part of his sculpting is that he uses no molds or pre-fired castings, all of the work he creates is passionately formed by his own hands, freeform. His photography, just as in his sculpting, is masterful at capturing strong, subtle & insightful details missed in the confusion of daily life.

Michelle Beasley was born, raised & studied in Kansas City, Missouri. She received a Bachelor’s of Art Degree from Webster University. Michelle is an accomplished, self-taught artist. She utilizes and is competent, working in a variety of media; charcoal, watercolor, acrylic, plaster, oil and photography. She is partial to the watercolor medium for its ability to portray layering in depth, defining her emotional investment in a piece better than any of the other mediums. As they work together combining all that they are as artist, you can be sure that you will receive completed works that are full of passion, perfection and love."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

seamus murphy

It's been a while since I have posted the work of a photographer whose work I admire. Seamus Murphy is near the top of that list for photojournalists. I was looking through his work today for some inspiration as I begin to think about my photo project this year in Uganda.

Here is the beginning of an article about Murphy written in 2009 by Beverly Spicer. Click here to read the entire piece (which includes an interview). The images I've posted are from the book "A Darkness Visible" which was published in 2008 and features Murphy's work from Afghanistan. He has photographed there since 1994. He also makes films.

"Seamus Murphy describes photography as 'part history and part magic.' This brief description could be a title for Murphy's entire archive, as he is the embodiment of the soulful photojournalist. A native of Ireland, he has worked extensively in the Middle East, Europe, Russia and the Far East, Africa, North and South America, and has to date won six World Press Awards.

Murphy's mesmerizing collection of black-and-white photographs tells the story of the Afghan people who, enduring a perpetual state of devastation, still maintain a vibrant culture. It also reveals a gifted journalist with the heart of an artist, compelled to undertake an epic project in a country entirely unlike his own. With each return Murphy seems to have become even more deeply involved with the fluctuating reality of the Afghan land and its inhabitants.

In his afterword for 'A Darkness Visible,' Murphy describes himself and other photographers as 'thieves who sometimes rob but don't pay back,' though 'by necessity.' However, his images speak volumes to the contrary. This remarkable photographer consistently gives warmly and wholeheartedly to his subjects, and his images display a bond rarely achieved even by the most ethnographically talented and artistic observers."

Here is Murphy in his own words (posted on the NPR photo blog today):

"Aside from the scale of the story and its importance, what draws me and countless others back again and again to Afghanistan are personal experiences with the Afghan people. ...

What I am usually looking for — in Afghanistan or elsewhere — are images that are a faithful record, but that stand alone as strong and visually interesting photographs. Images that feel like the beginning of a long story. I often hear from people looking at my work: 'But that doesn't look like Afghanistan, or America or England.' Or: 'But so many of these photographs show Afghans as happy.'

Maybe what they mean is that they don't look the way they have seen them or expect to see them. When I hear these reactions I feel I may have achieved something.

Too often Afghanistan is viewed through the prism of outside interests. I was there last year to shoot footage and to film interviews for a multimedia film I am producing. Like all my work in Afghanistan, it will focus on the Afghan people themselves. In reality, they are seldom heard."

View more of Seamus Murphy's work at his website.

Monday, September 26, 2011

guest post by suzanne: purls of love

“Steek, skein, slip and popcorn stitch, oh and purl stitch too. Sound familiar to you? To a group of women, mothers and good friends, who have been together through babies being born and children graduating, this is their language on Tuesday nights at a local coffee café where they meet to knit and chat.

My good friend, Mary Sue, is a part of this Tuesday night knitting group. She has been involved with Change The Truth and SMK since last December 2010 when I was a member of Team 4. She asked her knitting group if they would be interested in knitting hats for the children at the orphanage. Their positive response was immediate, and they were hooked (knitting term, I think.) Some of women in the group are: Jennifer, Julie, Kathy, Sarah, Trish, Karen, Jan, Cas, and Katy. Some of them are master knitters; others have been knitting for fun since their mothers taught them at a young age.

The knitters asked if I could meet them one Tuesday night to talk about my experience at SMK. So, off I went with books, pictures and lots of stories to share. They were in awe as they watched the video. I pointed out certain children and told their stories. I was amazed that in just a few short hours that night they turned out several hats. As they were talking with me, their needles spun one beautiful hat after another. It was all a blur to me - stitches, needles, loving hands and yarn coming together. To date they have knitted close to 100 hats of various shapes, sizes and colors. Each one is truly special and is made with a mother’s love.

I will stuff these beautiful gems into my duffel bag for the trek to Uganda in December, and on Christmas Day each child will be sporting a new hat made by this small, but compassionate group of women who meet each Tuesday in Brookfield, Wisconsin to knit, talk and share life.

As they say in Uganda, ‘Webale’ (thank you) to the knitting group and my dear friend Mary Sue, who made this happen for the kids of St. Mary Kevin orphanage.”

- Suzanne

Friday, September 23, 2011

team 5: meet suzanne

What better way to launch the newest Change the Truth chapter than to feature one of our fiercest, kindest and most loyal supporters?

It was a lucky day in 2009 when Suzanne Garr found out about our work in Uganda. From that day forward, Suzanne has been a stalwart advocate for the children at the orphanage. She has contributed to CTT in so many ways.

Suzanne was a member of Team 4. While at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage, she helped with several projects and brought along so many wonderful gifts for the children. You may remember the adorable hand knit bears we gave as Christmas gifts last year; Suzanne was responsible for getting that donation from the Mother Bear Project and then schlepping all 180 bears to Uganda! She taught yoga and art and helped out with the banana fiber doll project. She was a champion at card playing, jump roping, hand holding, picture-taking, comforting and so much more.

When she returned home to Milwaukee, profoundly inspired by the children she had just met and with whom she had completely fallen in love, Suzanne dug in her heels and found even more ways to help. She has done an incredible job of spreading the word about the kids and has recruited countless new friends for them. She’ll be responsible for some of their holiday gifts again this year, having inspired a group of knitters to make stocking caps and children to make bracelets, necklaces and Christmas cards.

And the best part is Suzanne will be one who is schlepping gifts again this year. Yep, she’s going back!

(But before she gets on the plane headed for east Africa, she’s having a photography exhibit/fundraiser in Milwaukee. Suzanne made some really beautiful images of the children last year; they will be on display at Mt. Mary College from October 30th through November 26th. At the opening on November 6th, there will be a showing of the CTT documentary “Changes” and CTT store items will be for sale. If you live in the Milwaukee area, you should definitely check it out!)

So, now, without further ado… please meet Suzanne Garr, our first featured member of Change the Truth Team 5.

“I am an avid traveler, artist/photographer and Aunt Suzy to Molly, Libby, Katherine and my god daughter, Helen from Guatemala. I love a sense of adventure, discovery and being outdoors. I am just a big kid at heart. I love to hike, bike, swim and jump rope, although I won't be able to do the latter this year due to a recent surgery on my knee (but I can help turn the rope). I love music, dancing and reading too, but most of all I love the kids of SMK!

I am so excited to go back to SMK and be with the kids again. I miss holding hands, making banana dolls and the incredibly big and warm hugs. I feel honored to be a part of Team 5. Is it December yet?” - Suzanne


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

three months and counting

In just three short months, I'll be back in Uganda!

At that point, all ten members of Team 5 will be very busy; we'll be blogging about our journey and our experiences with the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. I hope you'll follow along.

This is the time of year when a new Change the Truth chapter begins here on the blog. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will focus on the upcoming trip, introduce you to the team members and share with you our plans.

In the meantime, here is one last photograph from the 2010 trip. Petra is a beloved young girl at the orphanage. This is a closeup I made of the hem of her shorts one afternoon when we were standing together under an eave of a building waiting for a sudden downpour to end.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Sometimes I get a song stuck in my head. It's on "replay" for days, and I keep singing it to myself.

Lately it’s been Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” I don’t know the verses by heart; I pretty much hum those, but when I get to the last line of each verse I’m fully present with: “for the times they are a-changin’.”

Eddie and I are in the process of downsizing. That involves getting rid of a lot of stuff so we can move into a smaller place. We’ll still have stuff, just not as much of it.

One of the rooms in our home that’s currently being dismantled is my darkroom. I have spent many, many special moments in that hallowed space. Blasting Bonnie Raitt or The Indigo Girls, rockin’ the trays, feeling the magic under the red glow of the safe lights. I lost myself for hours in there, working with one negative over and over again until I got the dodge and burn just right. Until the exposure was perfect. Until the toning was as luscious as possible. Until my back got tired from standing and my head started swimming from the smell of the chemicals.

My darkroom was built 14 years ago by Richard Loftis. He and I designed it. I used to call it my favorite room in the house. Oh man, when I think about the tears I shed over some of the work I made down there. Or the goose bumps I got when I lifted a gorgeous print up out of the developer. All those times I was down there alone with my thoughts, my ideas, my fears, my triumphs, my hesitations. All those risks taken, questions asked, doubts expressed.

I spent some time this morning taking down the notes and postcards I’d tacked up on the walls. Among these many items were my favorite Arbus images torn out of magazines, show cards from exhibitions, newspaper reviews and quotes from mentors I'd scribbled onto scraps of paper.

I’m sad about coming to the end of this chapter. Not just sad for me, but for all the kids from the next generation of photographers who probably won’t ever experience the wonder of the wet darkroom. Some will, of course, because of teachers who still insist their photo students cut their teeth in there. Some of those teachers are here in Kansas City.

In fact, I just loaded my enlarger, trays, chemicals, easels and safelights into the back of Adam Finkleston’s Subaru. Adam teaches photo at a local high school. It’s good to know my trays will keep on rockin’.

I threw away most of the tacked-up notes and drawings kids have sent me over the years. These were kids I’d photographed or who had come by to get a lesson or two in the darkroom. I couldn’t part with the missive I got from Mary, though. She was a classmate of my son’s. I’d gone to school to take a portrait of each kid when they were in 4th grade. For her thank-you note, Mary drew a picture of a red dog and above it, in her best cursive, wrote:

“Dear Mrs. Feinstein,

Thank you for taking my picture. I loved it. Everyone laughed at it. It was my bad hair day, but you are a good photographer anyway.


Mary, 4-B”

(It's funny. I do remember Mary trying to tame her unruly locks that day. And me telling her it didn't matter. That she looked lovely just the way she was.)

Mary's 23 years old now, and I'm using terms like "raw capture" and "levels" and "megapixels."

"As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'."

Friday, September 16, 2011

labor and delivery = new ctt website

I feel like I've been in labor all summer with the new Change the Truth website. Well, yesterday was its birth day! Hurrah! Check it out when you have a few minutes.

I'd like to thank:

Kevin Potts: web designer
Dave Rappe: graphic designer
Brian Reisinger: logo designer
Marti Johnson: proofreader extraordinaire
Melissa Mosher: writer
Suzanne Garr: photographer
Christy Radecic: photographer
EG Schempf: photographer
Michael Spillers: photographer
Lynne Melcher: filmmaker
Eddie Feinstein: writer, proofreader, consultant, provider of moral support

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

henry pictures

Photos by a grandmother from a (first) birthday visit with her grandson and his parents.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

new studio, new lights, new camera = action!

My portrait business has been on the back burner for the past couple years because of all the effort I've been pouring into CTT. I stopped taking new clients and slowed down a bit with my regulars.

Well... I'm back!

I've just moved into a sweet studio space in the Livestock Exchange Building at 1600 Genessee. This is in the bottoms area of Kansas City, next door to the Golden Ox, across the street from the R Bar and down the street from the Dolphin Gallery.

I'm so excited to be shooting portraits more regularly now and hope you'll spread the word about my business. If you call to make an appointment and mention my blog, you'll get a 20% discount. In a few days I'll be mailing out cards, as well. They will entitle the bearer to the same 20% discount. (This offer is good through the end of October.) I hope to see some of you who haven't been in for awhile, and I look forward to establishing relationships with some new clients, too.

My prices have remained the same for the last several years: the fee is $325.00 and includes a sitting either in my studio or at a location of your choice, along with a $125.00 credit toward the purchase of portraits. I can make prints in either black and white or color; all are archival pigment prints made on beautiful Museo Fine Art Paper.

I hope you'll call or email to set up an appointment for your children or grandchildren. And I hope you'll tell your friends!

Looking forward to seeing you soon. I'm in Suite #525.

Here are a few portraits recently made in the new studio.

one year

One year ago today grandson Henry made his way into the world. I'll celebrate with (and photograph) him in a few days. This picture, taken by his uncle Max (the drummer) suits me just fine for now. It's so full of joy!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

evalyn's story

One of the Ugandan children who had a profound impact on Team 4 member, Avis Smith, was a young girl named Evalyn. Avis wrote an account of her new friend a couple months ago and sent it, along with a photo she had taken, to me via email. I've been saving it for a special occasion on the blog.

Today is my birthday, and that's a special occasion in my life. I'm posting this story about Evalyn because she probably has no idea when her birthday is. There are tens of thousands of children in Uganda who have no idea when their birthday is. So, on the occasion of mine, I'd like to wish them all, especially Evalyn, a happy birthday today. The fact that you were born, Evalyn, is actually something we should all celebrate each and every day.

Here is Avis' moving description of the birthday girl, Evalyn:

‘Sheela, my daughter, open the door to your mother… Sheela, my daughter, open the door to your mother. She-sheela, She-sheelah… I’m around.’

This is the chorus of a song embedded in an African folk tale that Evalyn taught me one morning at SMK. The story does not have a happy ending. The daughter, left without her mother’s protection, is eaten by a hungry lion. The story resonates deeply with Evalyn. She, like the child in the story, no longer has a mother who ‘is around.’

Evalyn is 12 years old and has been at SMK since she was 7. She is a quiet, shy child.

Evalyn never knew her father. He died around the time of her birth. Her mother was killed by the rebels, and their village was burned while Evalyn and her two siblings hid in the bush. The children were eventually united with their grandmother and lived with her until she became too ill to care for them. Evalyn reports that her aunt eventually brought them to SMK.

Evalyn’s story and song tumbled out as she drew pictures of her past life. Then she began to draw her present life at SMK. It was filled with simple items: her school, her bed, her blanket, her sandals, all bursting with color and activity. Of SMK, she wrote: ‘Here, life is changed. We sleep well.’

As the noonday sun bore down upon us, Evalyn worked on a third art panel depicting her life going forward. Then she wrote: “’n the future, if I grow up, I want to live in a flat and become a nurse.’ That tiny word ‘if’ took my breath away.

Evalyn already knows that life is hard and sometimes frightening and unpredictable. She takes nothing for granted. Not the past or the present or the future.

Yet she has a quiet spirit that runs deep. She moves in the shadows of SMK, making sure her siblings and the younger children are well cared for. She is kind and generous and loving. She has not given up on life. She is planning and dreaming of the future, but living life fully and completely in the present.

In my future, I want to be more like her.”

- Avis Smith, member of Team 4 and board member of Change the Truth

Saturday, September 03, 2011

jack every five years

I have the great fortune to get to photograph a lot of kids on a regular basis: some every year, some every two years.

Jack's mom brings him to my studio every five years.

Here is Jack in 2000, 2005 and earlier today. Unbelievably (and happily), he is as sweet as a middle schooler as he was as a toddler.

I love my job.