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

Monday, October 31, 2011

team 5: meet lynne

The children at the orphanage will be thrilled when they see that Lynne Melcher is part of Team 5. She is a beloved friend to so many of them. Even though the kids haven't seen her since 2008, they still ask about her and write pen pal letters to her. There's a big "Lynne fan club" in Kajjansi, Uganda!

Lynne has been the magician behind all of the Change the truth films. Her documentaries about the children and their plight have enabled CTT to raise awareness, as well as significant funds. We have been so lucky to have Lynne in our corner. I know we would never have been able to spread the word about the children as effectively as we have these past four years had it not been for Lynne's talent as a filmmaker and her generosity as a human being.

Personally, I am thrilled that Lynne is returning to SMK. I look forward to traveling again with her; she's one of my closest friends!

"Although it’s been several years since my last visit to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage, the children remain a constant presence in my mind and heart. The process of creating documentaries for Change the Truth has kept me connected to them- to their smiles, their stories, their spirit, even when geographically far away. When reviewing footage from my first two trips, or looking at Gloria’s photographs, I often find myself smiling.... just smiling away, which is rare in the labor intensive process of editing. But that’s the effect these children have on me.

The children have also affected the way I think about things.... about life and loss, pain and resilience, struggles and survival. And as a filmmaker, they unknowingly make me want to tell their stories in the most dignified, empowering and compelling way possible.

As I prepare for my third trip to Uganda, I feel honored to once again have the privilege of documenting the children’s lives at St. Mary Kevin, and the efforts of team 5. My goal, as always, is to capture a sense of who these children really are, beyond what we see on the surface, and beyond their circumstances. Ultimately, I hope to educate, inspire and promote change, all of which they have done for me in countless ways."

- Lynne

Saturday, October 29, 2011

trip to boston: haley house

We just returned from a visit with our son, Max. Let me tell you about the place where he now lives and works. He has written about it before for me to post on the blog. But now I have seen it for myself!

Haley House has been in the Back Bay area of Boston since before it transitioned into the upscale neighborhood it is now. It’s odd to find a soup kitchen, flanked by boutique shops and restaurants, situated on a beautiful tree lined street. The house itself was built in the mid 1800’s and still has some of the original pine plank floors. It slants and slopes a bit and needs work, but it is home to a group of inspired, compassionate and dedicated staff members and residents. The soup kitchen is on the first floor; the other floors accommodate administrative offices, a few cats, the residents and storage areas.

Max is one of five residents. The residents are wonderfully gentle, kind people who believe in making a difference. They live in very simple accommodations. I was struck by the peaceful, quiet and supportive nature of the place. These four guys and one woman work really well together and have become good friends. They are responsible for getting the food (which comes from the Haley House farm, local food banks and various grocers), planning the menus and then leading the groups of volunteers that arrive each day to prepare and serve the nutritious home-cooked meals. (The volunteers come from surrounding colleges, universities, churches, civic organizations, etc.) The residents take turn leading the meal shifts. Breakfast prep starts at 5:30 AM and is served to 50 – 80 men (the number varies depending on weather, the time of month, etc), who are referred to as Haley House “guests”. Most of the men are homeless, living in shelters or on the street. Many have addiction issues or struggle with mental illness, problems that are, of course, common to the disenfranchised. Some are just down on their luck. At Haley House, they know they can find a safe, warm place, a good breakfast and the pleasant and supportive camaraderie of the residents and volunteers. “Elder Care” lunch is served at noon to homeless men and women over the age of 55. There is also a clothing and food pantry.

The Haley House was founded by a smart, compassionate, socially and politically active, slightly irreverent woman named Kathe. She (and her husband) began doing humanitarian work by taking in destitute men they found sleeping on the street. Haley House is now a large and loving operation that not only helps feed the homeless, but also provides programs and support for the jobless and those transitioning out of homelessness. Haley House has a bakery cafe, an organic farm and residential properties that have been turned into affordable housing for low-income people.

Kathe has become a huge inspiration to Max. Eddie and I had a chance to chat with her, and we can see why. She has accomplished a tremendous amount of good work over the past 45 years and seems to have no thoughts of slowing down. She cares deeply for those who live in poverty and on the fringes of society and has motivated countless people to lend them a helping hand. Haley House functions on private donations and grants from various foundations.

Max heads up the clothing pantry, helps out with IT stuff and works several meal shifts. He LOVES what he’s doing. The residents and volunteers are encouraged to eat and mingle with the guests; since meeting and learning about people are among Max’s favorite things to do, he’s a happy camper! Part of the Haley House philosophy is “…the possibility of transformation through personal relationships, where the advantaged and the disadvantaged are valued equally, while the intrinsic goodness at the heart of every person in honored.” What a great lesson for Max to be learning (and living).

Organic chemistry class, biology class, homework, volunteering at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and tutoring a Harvard student in chemistry are what fill the rest of Max’s dance card. Needless to say, he is a busy boy. Since he sold his car, he has mastered the T and loves getting around Boston that way or on foot. He takes pride in the fact that he's living on $50/month: $30 for his T pass and $20 for the gym! He and the other residents get to eat all their meals at Haley House, where they have access to its large food pantry and a really nice kitchen.

It was great seeing our sonny boy and learning more about what he's doing!

Tom, one of the other residents. He and Max also go to school together.

Eddie and and Max washing dishes after breakfast. We loved helping and being part of such a wonderful community, if for only one morning.

Our happy young man.

Friday, October 28, 2011

more pictures from nyc

I made these images at Penn Station.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

times square

A very quick trip to the east coast this week has included some time in Times Square. Here is a photograph I made there late yesterday afternoon as we were hustling from the matinee of "Billy Elliot" to the evening performance of "The Book of Mormon".

Monday, October 24, 2011

if uganda were your home...

instead of the US, you would...

be 9 times more likely to have HIV/AIDS...
The number of adults living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda is 5.40% while in the United States it is 0.60%.

have 10.4 times higher chance of dying in infancy...
The number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1,000 live births in Uganda is 63.70 while in the United States it is 6.14.

have 3.4 time more babies...
The annual number of births per 1,000 people in Uganda is 47.55 while in the United States it is 13.83.

die 25.26 years sooner...
The life expectancy at birth in Uganda is 52.98 while in the United States it is 78.24.

use 99.5% less electricity...
The per capita consumption of electricity in Uganda is 62kWh while in the United States it is 12,484kWh.

use 99.38% less oil...
Uganda consumes 0.0163 gallons of oil per day per capita while the United States consumes 2.6400

make 97.2% less money...
The GDP per capita in Uganda is $1,300 while in the United States it is $46,400

spend 98.24% less money on health care...
Per capita public and private health expenditures combined in Uganda are $71 USD while the United States spends $6,719 USD

experience 1.56% more of a class divide...
The GINI index measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income. In Uganda it is 45.70 while in the United States it is 45.00.

To learn more about these Ugandan statistics or to make US comparisons to other countries, check out the website "If It Were My Home".

Sunday, October 23, 2011

harold feinstein: when your mouth drops open, click the shutter

Harold Feinstein was born in Coney Island, New York in 1931. He began photographing at the age of 15, and by 19 he was considered a young prodigy in the field, having his work purchased by Edward Steichen for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. His career has spanned the greater part of the twentieth century, from his most notable work documenting Coney Island to his more recent color photographs of flowers and seashells. His portfolios cover a wide range of subject matter, including street work, nudes, landscapes and still life. Personally, I prefer his earlier black and white work, and that is what I’m sharing with you here. These images (primarily from the 1940's - 1960's) are from his Coney Island, street work and Korean War series. As far as Coney Island is concerned, he once said: “I feel like I fell out of my mother’s womb onto the beach at Coney Island with a Nathan’s hot dog in my hand." The man clearly has a great sense of humor and a deep appreciation for the joy of living and seeing.

In his early years, Feinstein collaborated closely with W. Eugene Smith, for whom he did the extensive layout of Smith's famous "Pittsburgh Essay." Smith said of Feinstein's work, "He is one of the very few photographers I have known, or have been influenced by, with the ability to reveal the familiar to me in a beautifully new, in a strong and honest way."

Feinstein was fundamentally self-taught and never graduated from high school. His teaching style urged experimentation and emphasized seeing over technique. It is best captured by his well-known statement, “When your mouth drops open, click the shutter.” Even though as a teacher he under-emphasized technique, the editors of Modern Photography, and later Popular Photography utilized his work frequently to showcase technique and asked him to contribute his own articles explaining darkroom technique, composition, and printmaking.

Critic A.D. Coleman wrote this about Feinstein: “Harold Feinstein is a true photographer's photographer, and one of the most seriously under-recognized senior figures in U.S. photography. Until the beginning of this new century he was best-known as a highly respected independent teacher of photography whose private workshops (conducted mostly in his Manhattan studio) influenced hundreds of people in the field, including Mary Ellen Mark. Yet at long last, as he nears the age of 80, Feinstein's work has begun to become familiar to an increasingly wide audience.”

I wish I could say we are related, but we are not. Wouldn't it have been fun to look at and talk about this work around the dinner table during family gatherings?


Designed by award-winning artist Barnaby Evans, WaterFire Kansas City, a multi-sensory experience of music, fire and water, took place last night on Brush Creek. WaterFire was originally created by Evans in 1994 on the three rivers of downtown Providence, Rhode Island. Now it travels around to many cities. It was a nice fall night, the music was cool, and yep, there was a lot of fire.

Friday, October 21, 2011


We recently had dinner in our friend's sukkah. For those of you who don't know, a sukkah is a structure built during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Here's Wikipedia's quick definition, one that is far better, luckily, than my own Sunday School recollections.

"A sukkah (Hebrew: סוכה‎, plural, סוכות, sukkot; sukkoth, often translated as "booth") is a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is topped with branches and often well decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes. The Book of Vayyiqra (Leviticus) describes it as a symbolic wilderness shelter, commemorating the time God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness they inhabited after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. It is common for Jews to eat, sleep and otherwise spend time in the sukkah. In Judaism, Sukkot is considered a joyous occasion and is referred to in Hebrew as Yom Simchateinu (the day of our rejoicing) or Z'man Simchateinu (the time of our rejoicing), but the sukkah itself symbolizes the frailty and transience of life and its dependence on God."

I am particularly grateful for the reminder of the frailty and transience of life.

I am also grateful for friends who continue to carry on these age-old Jewish traditions and who invite us to participate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

team 5: meet shane

In the business of illustration, design and creative development, Shane Evans is a multi-talented artist and visionary who combines his world travels with his art to influence creative expression in others. Shane studied at Syracuse University School of Visual and Performing Arts and graduated in 1993. He then began traveling the world. In addition to contract work in illustration, graphic design and web design for major companies, he has conceptualized and illustrated numerous children’s books. Shane's books have been featured on Oprah, The Today Show, NBA Inside Stuff, Reading Rainbow and Letterman.

Shane has received much acclaim in the children’s literary field for his work on books such as "Osceola," "The Way The Door Closes," "Shaq and the Beanstalk" and "Take It To The Hoop Magic Johnson." His accolades include being honored by Laura Bush at the 2002 National Book Festival, receiving The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and The Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction for Children. Shane's latest book, done in collaboration with his close childhood friend, Taye Diggs, is called "Chocolate Me" and is receiving all sorts of rave reviews.

Shane’s talent does not end with illustration. His design work includes one-of-a-kind hand crafted furniture, clothing, CD cover art, photography and a number of other custom made items. He’s also a musician.

This will be Shane's third trip to Africa - his first with Change the Truth. He can't wait to get to work with the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage! He plans to incorporate music, art, dancing and theatre into his various projects. His laid-back and super cool style will surely win the hearts of all those lucky enough to get to hang out and work with him. I feel honored that this multi-talented and busy man will be part of Team 5. He has so much to offer the children. It will be great to have him on board!

Monday, October 17, 2011

henry fix

Grandson Henry is 13 months old now.

Is that a sweet punum or what? [punum = face in Hebrew]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

joseph kony

The first time I ever spoke with my buddy Nicky at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage (in 2006), he told me that both his parents had been killed by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

You have probably read in the news that on October 14th President Obama sent 100 military advisors to Uganda to help regional forces track down Kony and his group. The LRA has been wreaking havoc in northern Uganda for 20 years. This action is long overdue.

From the New York Times:

"Joseph Kony is one of the most vilified rebel leaders on the planet. He stands accused of brainwashing countless children across northern Uganda, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into prepubescent killers.

His so-called Christian movement, the Lord’s Resistance Army, has terrorized villagers in at least four countries in central Africa for nearly 20 years, killing tens of thousands of people, burning down huts and hacking off lips. The fact that Mr. Kony, whose followers believe he is a prophet, rarely appears in public has only added to his brutal mystique.

Exiled to a fiefdom on the border of southern Sudan and the Congo, Mr. Kony in 2007 emerged from the wilderness indicating a willingness to sign a historic peace deal with the Ugandan government that would disband his army. But in April 2008, he backed out, saying he needed more time to consult Ugandan elders and contemplate the war crimes charges brought by the International Criminal Court in 2005."

There are many children at the orphanage whose parents were killed by Kony's LRA. I can't help but think of them now as the man may finally be brought to justice.

The reaction of "Invisible Children" to this news is worth watching. This organization has, after all, been greatly responsible for getting Kony's name out there and making young people in America aware of the tens of thousands of innocent children in eastern and central Africa whose lives have been horribly and profoundly altered by this maniac.

Watch "Invisible Children" founders express their support for Obama's decision to apprehend Joseph Kony. It's a first step, but a huge victory for the thousands of youths who have been lobbying Washington to take action against the LRA.

Nicky, Cate, Otim Isaac, Geoffrey, Lillian, Rebekka, Issy, Petra and the others: I'm thinking about you as I follow the news reports... thinking about what you have been through because of Kony and how his capture might (hopefully) bring you some sort of closure.

[JUST IN: This AP article presents the perspective of Uganda's president and clarifies the issues surrounding US involvement.]

Friday, October 14, 2011

new hipsta photos

Here are some new images I made with my trusty iPhone camera.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

butterfly portraits and facebook

These butterfly portraits are from an Operation Breakthrough shoot I did in the studio yesterday. It was crazy fun.

I have started a Facebook page for Gloria Baker Feinstein Photography. If you're on Facebook, please "like" the page; that way you'll get notices of discounts, good deals and upcoming studio events. Currently I'm offering a 20% discount on sitting fees (either in the studio or on location). Join me on FB so you can learn of other offers in the future!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

i can see clearly now

Recently, Change the Truth paid for eye examinations for sponsored students who have been struggling with their vision. Now we have purchased glasses for those who need them. Here are Cissy, Nicky and Rachel showing off their new look (literally!).

Sunday, October 09, 2011

team 5: meet dawn

I first met Dawn Taylor at the Change the Truth annual fundraiser three years ago. She was enthralled with the artwork done by Nicky and had purchased a couple of his pieces. She continued to attend our event, always looking for more of Nicky's work. (She also purchased a wonderful drawing by Nicky's sister, Issy.) Dawn and I started talking that first year, and she told me she would like to accompany me to Uganda one of these days.

Well, that day is coming soon! Dawn will be a member of Team 5. She'll finally get to meet Nicky, Issy and all the other special children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. Dawn is so excited to be going, and I am thrilled that this talented, enthusiastic, gregarious and energetic woman will be part of our group. She's going to be a tremendous asset to our team. I know the children will fall in love with her.

A native of Oklahoma City, Dawn graduated with honors from Duke University. She moved to Kansas City in 1989 and spent a short time in the corporate world before recognizing that her calling was in the not-for-profit sector. It was a happy accident that landed Dawn at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where she spent more than nine years in various membership and development roles. She was part of the team that developed the strategic plan that led to the historic expansion of the Museum, designed by Steven Holl.

Dawn then served as director of development for Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art from 2003 to 2010, raising more than $1 million annually. After 17 years of fund raising and friend raising for art museums in Kansas City, Dawn joined American Institute of Architects Kansas City as Executive Director in June 2010.

Dawn is a devoted Duke alumna, serving on the national board of the Duke Alumni Association for four years. She has chaired or co-chaired two of her class reunions and serves in an ongoing role as chairman of the Duke Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee for Kansas City. She currently serves on the board of Kansas City-based Quixotic, volunteers with Operation Breakthrough, and is looking forward to traveling to Uganda in December with Change the Truth. She is the mother of two teenage daughters, and they will host a foreign exchange student from Belgium in January 2012.

Dawn has been a staunch supporter of CTT since the day she first learned about us. I have a feeling she's going to be in our corner for a long time, especially after she gets to know the children up close and personal. Welcome to Team 5, Dawn! It's going to be an awesome adventure.

Friday, October 07, 2011

nelson and billy begin studies at makerere university

Among the students being sponsored by Change the Truth are two young men who were accepted to and have just now begun attending University. This is a huge accomplishment! Billy and Nelson were sponsored by CTT while they were in high school. Both lived up to the high standards we placed upon them, and both continue to be exceptional role models for the younger children at the orphanage.

CTT gives a (gently used) laptop computer to any student who gains acceptance to University. Nelson and Billy were recently given theirs by our CTT/SMK liaison Melissa, who sent me these happy photos!

Nelson sent me the following email. This young man has been hoping to attend college his whole life. I think you'll agree: he's wildly enthusiastic about finally having the opportunity to do just that.

"Dear Mama,

You won’t believe what I am going through but still I keep my head just like I promised you. Ever since you left Uganda, there has been a lot taking place in my life and today I opted to share with you my experience at the university in the first week as a campuser.

On Monday this week the University was opened and students turned up in large numbers including your Nelson. We had our first lecture on the same day and everybody in the room was very [excited] to experience it all. We all kept on looking at our watches just waiting for that time of the lecture. In about twelve minutes she entered, introduced herself before us and started lecturing.

She was dressed to kill, with a fluent, dust-free voice, precise and strict with her classroom rules. I wonder the source of her stories; perhaps story telling may be a professional skill to every mentor. She`s one woman who can make a class laugh lungs out! This made me remember my high school mathematics teacher. I enjoyed the entire session and I think, if there is any good course, this should be Computer Science. She motivated us and envisioned us about the world of technology.

Now there is this one I cannot leave out: the one who teaches us communication skills. She enters with her register where everyone is meant to sign and tick against his or her name. She is also strict like the first one. She made the whole class make mistakes with her communication questions. To be genuine; I did not know that I wasn`t communicating effectively.

Thanks to CTT and SMK!

Each day throughout my week has been fun and more interesting than the other. Nelson is trying to make each day meaningful and count for something.

I have a lot of school mates around my course and we all go back walking together from the university til we reach town. During this moment, we get the time to brainstorm about computers, talk about our lectures and it is our rule that every one teaches us something new.

The resources of my course are too expensive and I have opted to become a resource of myself by selecting good associates. What I have also observed in this week about campus is that one has got to have good relationships, be self driven and self motivated, focused, believing in oneself, making a lot of research, consulting, reading extensively, knowing who you are and where you come from. The most important of all, are the last two.

My aim this semester is to be able to design a dynamic website using some programming languages like HTML, DHTML, JAVA, JAVA SCRIPT, PHP and others. I imagine myself doing it MAMA! I just see myself there!

There is nothing easy or hard at campus. Being good at something alone is not even ample; one has got to give his best all the time. I know, it is not going to be a smooth path either, there are always going to be challenges. But as I said, those are only challenges which can be solved!

God bless you, God bless your work

Much Love,