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

Friday, November 30, 2012

meet team 6: natalie

Ok. You are about to be introduced to one of my favorite young friends. If you don't personally know this woman, and you live in Kansas City, you should make an effort to meet her. You can find her hanging out at the Nelson, because that's where she spends her working hours doing a fabulous job as the photography department's coordinator.

Natalie is smart, energetic, sweet and funny. She values a well baked cake, a good Packer's game, photography, kids and basic human kindness. Whenever I see her, I feel happy and hopeful. When she told me she would like to come to Africa with me sometime, I was elated. Too bad it worked out that I am not going on the trip she is actually going on, but something tells me we'll do a lot of CTT work together once she returns from meeting and falling in love with the children at the orphanage.

I just wish I could be there to see her face when she gets her first hug and when that first little hand slips into hers. 

In Natalie's own words:

"I had the good fortune of meeting Gloria Feinstein my very first week of work in the photo department at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. We were at her home and she passed around a plate of Oreos to the group that had gathered to look at artwork. I knew at that moment that I was going to really like this person.  I had no idea how right I was.

Over the past four years I have gotten to know her through her work, sharing stories about the University of Wisconsin (where we both attended college), our mutual love of baking and football. However, I really began to understand who she is when I listened to her talk about the children at St. Mary Kevin. The passion she exudes for the children at SMK is intoxicating.  

I knew, upon hearing about Change the Truth for the first time, that it was an organization that I needed to be a part of. I can remember walking down the hallway at work one day, recounting a story Gloria had shared with me to a coworker and wondering out loud if she would ever consider taking me with her to meet these beautiful children. It took me years to even bring up the idea to her. For some reason, the reverence I have for what CTT was accomplishing made me question my own ability to make any sort of impact. Imagine my joy when I was invited to come along.

So here I am, four years later, ready to make my own journey to Uganda. The 'wouldn’t it be awesome if I could' dream has become a reality for me. I guess that is what this organization is really all about. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could just change the truth for these few children?   I am excited, scared and thrilled. But most of all, I am grateful. Grateful because I feel like I have been given a gift by being welcomed into the CTT family and because I haven’t even left yet and feel like this experience has already changed me for the better." 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

meet team 6: jennifer

This is the first time in several years that each member of the team (with the exception of Suzanne) is making his/her first trip to Uganda. All six "newbies" are counting the days at this point, and I don't blame them. They have quite the adventure to which to look forward!

I have had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Schoenwetter only twice, but I can already tell her heart is full of compassion for the children at the orphanage. Jennifer had made the trip from her home town of Milwaukee to Kansas City for the past two Change the Truth Friendraiser/Fundraisers. She even pitched in and worked at the most recent one. Her friendship with Suzanne Garr is what led her to CTT, but her love for the children is what will keep her in their corner. 

In Jennifer's own words:

"Over the past couple of years, I've had the lovely chance to become friends with several great team members and supporters of CTT. I'm so excited to be part of the team this year!  If it wasn't for Suzanne, I never would have been blessed enough to meet Gloria and other members of CTT. Everyone has said the experience has changed their lives, and I'm welcoming the experience with open arms and heart.  Lots of hugs and smiles are in order for the children! Additionally, I hope to help with reading, crafts, math, writing, gardening and anything SMK needs. My full time job has me working as a development coordinator, and I'm also an adjunct instructor at a University.  I love teaching and sharing knowledge.

Outside of work, I love to travel, read, cook and spend time with friends.

I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at SMK, my fellow team members, Melissa… and seeing the beautiful country of Uganda."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

meet team 6: suzanne

There will be something very different about the team this year. I won't be leading it.

Team 6 will be headed by Suzanne Garr, a long-time friend to Change the Truth. Suzanne definitely meant it when she first told me she wanted to get involved! She has held fundraisers in her home town of Milwaukee, given presentations, rounded up countless donated items to take to Uganda and written enough pen pal/love letters to fill a mail truck. Simply stated: Suzanne has been a godsend to CTT and the children in Uganda.

Suzanne is a self-taught photographer/artist originally from Pennsylvania. Her experiences with kids is vast, having worked as a camp counselor for disadvantaged youth, a reading tutor, a volunteer at Wisconsin Children’s Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House and a Sunday School teacher. She has traveled to Ecuador, Kenya, Nepal, Thailand, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Bhutan, working as a volunteer and/or photographer. Suzanne also serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations. She earned her degree in journalism and marketing from St. Bonaventure University. Her career started in magazine publishing as a writer/editor and then ventured into print production.

I asked her to write a little something about her previous experience as a CTT team member (she was on Team 4 and 5) to share here on the blog. Following is the heartfelt missive that arrived in my inbox:

"It’s often a sad day when the team leaves SMK. Tears flow and hands get interwoven with one another. The children know when that day is coming, they start to ask you if you are coming back next December. Your heart automatically says yes, but you hesitate because you have to be sure if you are so as to not disappoint the children if you can’t.

Each year as it gets closer to that decision time to go or not, I always think to myself how can I 
not go and hear their laughter, hold their hands and just be there. This year, Gloria and the 
board asked me if I would consider going and co-leading the Team with Melissa. It was not a 
difficult decision because my heart is always there whether I am physically there or not. It just 
seems natural for me to be there in December. There is nowhere else I rather be.

So, in just a little more than two weeks, I will embark on my journey to the children of SMK. 
I envision seeing their smiles and holding many hands and having my heart overflow with love 
once again. 

I am beyond excited for the Team this year. We have many fun and new things planned for the 
kids. It will be different without Gloria at the helm and I know I will miss her guidance, but I am 
confident that Melissa and the Team will forge new bonds, explore new avenues of fun and 
create lifelong memories. 

So when the day comes for the Team to leave, tears will fall, hearts will ache but the imprint of 
the days spent at SMK, the laughter shared and the love given will not ever be forgotten.

I look forward to sharing our journey with you all through blog posts and, of course, photos!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

ctt loves seattle!

CTT's first Emerald City Friendraiser/Fundraiser was a big success! The venue, a dance/event space called 10 Degrees was the perfect setting for the gathering of old and new friends. It was warm and inviting, set off with candles and golden glowing lights.

After watching one of Lynne Melcher's films, the 35 guests listened attentively to Joseph and Rosemary Kavulu, as the couple explained the history, the current status and the upcoming challenges that define St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

CTT definitely made some new friends, and I feel certain we'll all be back together sometime in 2013!

Joline El Hai, one of our doll artists

Nicole, chef extraordinaire, serves Jude and Joseph

Bobbie, John, Ken, Kathy, Dana and Anna

Fabulous photographer Daniel with his daughter, CTT friend Claire

Sandy and Jude, one new CTT friend and one old



Sunday, November 25, 2012

a night out with the kavulus

back row from left to right: Eliot, Bobbie, Anna, Lynne
front row from left to right: Gloria, Rosemary, Carol, Joseph, Eddie, Patrick

Tonight was the evening before the Friendraiser/Fundraiser in Seattle. As a "warm up" to the main event, we went out to dinner at a great restaurant called "Pair". It was a very fun evening - fabulous camaraderie and conversation, delicious food and wine and a lot of laughter. It was amazing for me to look around the table and see this group of extraordinary friends and family who have shown unwavering support for CTT through the years. A highlight of the evening was meeting Rosemary and Joseph's oldest son, Patrick, who lives in Seattle with his wife and three daughters. We're all looking forward to a meaningful and successful event tomorrow from 5 - 7 PM at "10 Degrees".

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


It's that time of year when we count our blessings and thank our lucky stars.

I'm grateful that my cup is overflowing. There is so much going on; my plate is full, and I'm not talkin' turkey and mashed sweet potatoes (though I am very much looking forward to both tomorrow!)

This weekend marks the first time that Joseph and Rosemary Kavulu, directors of the orphanage/school St. Mary Kevin, will be in the US since I founded Change the Truth! They flew from Uganda to Canada for their daughter's graduation from medical school. Quite a big event, and they made the ceremony with only two hours to spare! Then they flew to Seattle to visit their son and his family. That's where the story gets really good for CTT...

We are hosting a Friendraiser/Fundraiser in Seattle on Sunday. Our prized guest speakers will be Joseph and Rosemary. What an honor and rare opportunity it will be for us to be able to introduce these two amazing people to our friends and supporters. I am excited to report that board members Lynne Melcher and Carol Joseph will also be in attendance. It should truly be a great event! I will post a recap and some photos next week.

Also next week I will begin featuring the members of Team 6 here on the blog. It's a wonderful group of volunteers, all of whom are getting very pumped about their upcoming trip to Uganda. You can't believe the amount of positive energy these seven people are already generating! Stay tuned to learn all about them.

Early next month will be our CTT Fundraiser at Ten Thousand Villages. I am also hoping to put together an "open studio" at my Livestock Exchange place so that the pastel drawings I've been making can be viewed and offered for sale.

I'll be heading to the east coast in three weeks to help hurricane Sandy victims - with a group called Nechama (Jewish Response to Disaster). I'll be posting details and photos about the trip here.

Daughter Abbie continues to "grow" the baby who's nestled comfortably in that belly of hers, and I am looking forward to a great New Orleans adventure to meet said baby sometime in February.

It looks like I will be having a solo show in Kansas City in March. Wonderful news (and a lot of work)!! The show will most likely feature my new Uganda color work, as well as the Estate Sale Series. I'm thrilled about the opportunity and will fill you in soon.

And, I have been drawing long into the nights and wee hours of the mornings. I am having so much fun discovering the wonders of pastel drawing and am always curious to see what comes out of me. I'm beginning to discover some connections between the drawings and my photographs, which comes as a pleasant and warm surprise.

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and find many, many things for which to express your gratitude. I feel lucky to have you, my readers, still hangin' in there with me after all these years of blogging. Thank you for that! I really mean it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

two movie makers, a cute grandson and a song by "go fish"

Eddie and I assembled this four minute video about Henry yesterday. It was made with lots of grandparental love and very limited I-Movie skills!

fraction magazine's 5th annual holiday print sale

Let the fun begin! Shop at Fraction's wildly popular annual sale for well-priced photographs and books by some of your favorite photographers! Most of these small, editioned prints are in the $75 - $100 range. You'll find my image of the two girls among them. Check out the sale here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

tom and randy's garden

Tom and Randy at the orphanage in 2008

During this next week, we Americans will gather with friends and family to give thanks for all the good things in our lives. Especially food. Which I, for one, always seem to take for granted.

In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. 925 million of us are "undernourished" - that's "hungry" to you and me. One in seven of us. Nearly all of this hunger occurs in developing nations.

Like Uganda.

Don't worry... this is not going to be a guilt ridden essay about how much food we'll likely consume on Thursday. It's actually a post with some very good news!!!

Let me begin by reminding you that the food situation in Uganda has done nothing but deteriorate since I first went to the orphanage in 2006. That's because the price of beans, rice, sugar, maize and other staples have continued to increase - and have even skyrocketed during the past couple years.

The scenario at the orphanage has gotten so bad that feeding children during the long school holiday breaks has become very difficult. For the past year or so, SMK administration has had to send all children "home" to their guardians because there simply haven't been enough funds to buy and prepare food during those long stretches of vacation. There are some children who have nowhere to go; they, of course, stay, and the necessary provisions are made.

CTT sends SMK a monthly stipend for food. We absolutely do what we can to help, but the need keeps getting greater and greater.

Now, the good news! Because of the generosity of an anonymous donor, a large plot of land at SMK is now being turned into a garden - chock full of heathy fruits and vegetables - that will become a sustainable and long lasting source of food.

We're hoping this will alleviate the problem somewhat. This, in tandem with accepting fewer new orphans into the program and finding more sponsors for those who are there, should make things better.

The garden, which will be dedicated when Team 6 arrives in December, will be called "Tom and Randy's Garden" in honor of two beloved CTT friends who were part of Team 2 in 2008.

The garden was actually born a couple months ago. First, a huge brick wall had to be built around the edge of the land. Seeds were then purchased, and the land was tilled. A part-time gardener was hired, and the planting has now begun! The east African sun and rain will do its thing. Weeding and harvesting will be done by the gardener, with the help of some of the older children.

Thanksgiving indeed!! CTT is grateful to the donor who made this endeavor possible and to Tom and Randy for all they mean to the children - who still think of them and miss them four years after having first met them.

[Thanks to Melissa for the pictures of the sweet new garden.]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

then and now

As Team 6 prepares to head to Uganda and into the arms of the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage, I am spending some time reflecting on how much change has occurred (for me AND for the children) since 2006. That's when I first visited east Africa. That's when I first stepped foot onto the grounds of SMK. That's when I fell head over heels in love with 180 kids  I had never laid eyes on before. That's when my life began to head in a new direction.

That's when life began to change for the children, as well, because soon after that trip, they began to acquire many new and generous friends: the supporters of Change the Truth.

I won't be going to Uganda in December with the team. But that does not mean my heart won't be there.

Part of my reflection today has included looking at old photos of some of my most cherished young friends who call SMK home. I am one lucky woman to have met them and all the others.

They have taught me how to be a better person.

I don't know that I can ever repay them for that.

Tonny, 2006

Tonny in his marching band uniform, 2012

Boy-Boy, 2006

Boy-Boy, 2012

Claire, 2006

Claire on the saxophone, 2012

Issy, 2006

Issy and Team 5 member Dawn Taylor, 2011

Joanne, 2006

Joanne passing out pen pal letters from the US, 2012

Kato, 2006

Kato playing the melodica, 2011

Nicholas, 2006

"Nicky" and Gloria, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

portland soon

We'll be in the great Pacific Northwest soon. I've been going through the work I made there this past summer and rescued this image (made at Cannon Beach) from the edit room floor. I hope we'll have time to go to the coast during this brief visit.

Monday, November 12, 2012

white dog

Up late into the night drawing again. This time a dog emerged. Which was kind of weird because when I opened an email from my sister first thing this morning, she had attached a photo (probably sent just about the same time I was drawing this man and dog) of her white Golden Retriever, Wally, doing his first gig as a therapy dog... he was cuddling with a man (who also happens to be a very close friend) who has cancer.

Friday, November 09, 2012

excuse me, may i take your picture?

I am often asked about the legal aspects of taking pictures on the street. It’s a really interesting topic these days; just about everyone has a camera in his or her pocket now.

The right to take photographs is being challenged more now than ever. People are being stopped, harassed and intimidated into handing over their digital cards or rolls of film simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. I've been told on plenty of occasions to stop taking pictures: in places like US bus and train stations, the slums of Kampala, airports and of military personnel in uniform in Uganda and Rwanda. Oh, and of my kids, after too many years of "c'mon, just one more?"

The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public places. Absent a specific legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance, you are legally entitled to take photographs. Examples of places that are traditionally considered public are streets, sidewalks and public parks.

Almost anything you can see you can photograph. If you can see it, you can take a picture of it. If you are standing on public property you can photograph anything you like, including private property. It is important to realize that taking a picture is different than publishing a photo, which leads to the next point.
As long as you are not invading someone’s privacy, you can publish his or her photo without permission. You can take someone’s picture in any public setting and publish it without consequence (even if it portrays the person in a negative way) as long as the photo isn’t “highly offensive to a reasonable person” and “is not of legitimate concern to the public.”
As long as you aren’t using someone’s likeness for a purely commercial purpose, you have the right to publish the photo. You can use your photos of other people without their permission for an artistic or news purpose, but you can’t use them for a commercial purpose (such as an ad). You could sell a photo of a person without their permission, but you couldn’t use the photo in an ad saying the person endorses your product.
So, you do not need permission from someone to take their picture if they are in public view. However if they in an area where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, you are not allowed to invade that privacy by photographing them. So, for example, you can't use a telephoto lens to peer into someone's bedroom. Neither can you photograph someone in a private changing room or a public restroom even if, for some reason, you can see into it. There's a reasonable expectation of privacy in such areas, and if you take a photograph and the subject files a complaint with the police, you may be arrested for charges related to invasion of privacy.
You are within your rights to photograph children in a playground, even if they are not your own children. However it's very likely that in most parts of the USA this will be regarded as a suspicious activity, and it's very likely people (including parents and the police) will question your motivation. Despite this, the act of photography under these circumstances is not illegal - but it probably is unwise. You can also photograph buildings, bridges, power lines, transportation systems, trains, aircraft, chemical plants, oil refineries, police officers, security guards, accidents and fires. Again, if you do so you run the risk of being questioned about your motives, but what you are doing with respect to photography is not illegal. Trespassing on private property to get such pictures is of course, not permitted.

Usually, I prefer to ask people if I can photograph them, even if I am not required to do so. Obviously, if I’m across the street from a subject, and their identity is hard to make out, I don’t bother. When I do ask, I’ll often also ask for an address, and I later send out a print or low-res digital file. If it’s an image I think I might want to submit to a magazine, I’ll ask the subject to sign a model release. (The Sun, which publishes my work from time to time actually requires such.) Hardly anyone turns me down. Most people love the attention of being photographed, and if their picture shows up in a magazine, that's even better!

My inspiration Helen Levitt was often a sneaky street shooter. She sometimes used a viewfinder that allowed her to point the camera in one direction and shoot in another.  When I visited her before she died, I asked her if she felt she could make the same pictures today that she became famous for. An emphatic NO. She said it’s simply no longer safe for children to play outside on their own, that most people become overly suspicious of a person with a camera and that even if she was younger and healthier she’d have no desire to subject herself to the verbal and possible physical abuse of the "nutcases" who have those suspicions.

So, anyway, here are some of my favorites from the Portland Project I started this past summer. 

The first batch includes subjects with whom I had conversation and received permission to take the photo. (Some of these have received prints from me, have signed model releases and still communicate with me.) I like establishing a rapport with people I shoot, even if it is a brief encounter on the street. I am not out to harm anyone in any way. I am not a threat!

The first photo is of a couple who was getting ready to exchange wedding vows at Voodoo Doughnuts. They were so cool about me taking this photo that they invited me into Voodoo to witness (and photograph) the wedding itself!

The second batch includes photos I took in places of business. I asked the owner or manager for permission, but not the subjects (with the exception of the last one).

These last ones are pictures I took without asking anyone for permission.

I gathered the info for this post from various sources. If you want to know those sources, just let me know. I'll have to go back online and find them.