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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

in the studio

Look at these cuties who came by my studio over the weekend.  Don't I have the best job?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

twins revisited

In 2004 and 2005 I photographed identical twins for a series I called "The Space Between."

Aren't we all fascinated with the way people change over the years? "The Brown Sisters" by Nicholas Nixon has always been one of my favorite photographic series. Once a year, for more than twenty-five years now, he has photographed his wife and her three sisters grouped together in the same order, with a similar background; it gives the viewer the opportunity to marvel at how time has changed the women - and ultimately, of course, how time changes each one of us.

I've decided to revisit some of the twins I photographed eight years ago and make updated portraits. I hope to complete at least eight or ten diptychs for my show in May. I don't want to share all of them here (I'd like to have a few surprises at the exhibition!) but can't resist sharing the first two I've done.

Here are "Brian and Andrew" and "Martha and Mary." Incredibly, I was able to photograph them in the exact same locations as before.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Many of you regular blog readers often ask me about Brian, the young man who suffered a head injury in an accident when Team 5 was at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage (December, 2011). I'm happy to report that Brian is doing very well in school and is creating wondrous works of art in his spare time. He is still a CTT sponsored student, preparing to begin Senior 3 next month.

It's one thing to see photographs of the children; it's, of course, an entirely different experience to watch videos of them. I have recently learned that Team 6 member, Josh, conducted some short video interviews with kids at the orphanage.

I'd like to share Brian's. Just look at and listen to this special guy!! What a sweetheart he is, and how happy we all are that he seems to have made a full recovery from the accident.

Thanks for this wonderful 47 second gem, Josh.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

gospel of intolerance


Please watch this op.doc from today's New York Times. It is called "Gospel of Intolerance." It was made by Roger Ross Williams, the Academy Award winning filmmaker whose most recent work "God Loves Uganda" is currently being premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Lynne had a small role as an associate producer of "God Loves Uganda" because some of it was shot in Kansas City at the International House of Prayer.  This op.doc considers certain factions of American evangelicals who have taken it upon themselves to stir up hatred toward gays in Uganda. It's powerful and insightful and downright scary. A must-see for all of us who care about the children who live there.

In William's own words:

"Raised in Pennsylvania, I grew up in the black church. My father was a religious leader in the community, and my sister is a pastor. I went to church every Sunday and sang in the choir. But for all that the church gave me - for all that it represented belonging, love and community - it also shut its doors to me as a gay person. That experience left me with the lifelong desire to explore the power of religion to transform lives or destroy them. I became interested in Uganda, an intensely religious country that attracts many American missionaries and much funding from United States faith-based organizations. The American evangelical movement in Africa does valuable work in helping the poor. But as you'll see in this Op-Doc video, some of their efforts and money feed a dangerous ideology that seeks to demonize L.G.B.T. people and intensifies religious rhetoric until it results in violence. It is important for American congregations to hold their churches accountable for what their money does in Africa."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

operation breakthrough

Lynne and I are in the process of working on the annual fundraising video for Operation Breakthrough here in Kansas City. We're featuring three OB families - kind of a "day in the life" approach. Last week we filmed and photographed our first family. Here are a few shots from that day, which started at 5:45 AM and wrapped up at 7 PM!

This little sweetie pie is our featured family member. He's smart as a whip and as sweet as they come.

This sign is outside the bedroom shared by Mom and her two young sons. She doesn't want anyone sleeping in the other bedroom, because it has a window on a busy street. She's already experienced a bullet coming through one of those windows during a random drive-by shooting.

She saved that bullet. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

photo revisited

I made one version of this image soon after I returned home from my September trip to Uganda. There was something about it that I didn't like. Now that I am working on a show, I decided to revisit the pictures I made of these sisters on their way to school.

This one is slightly different from the first, and I like it better.

It can be helpful/interesting to put some space between the time you make images and the time you finally select and print them. One's perspective can shift, leading to a different appreciation/better understanding of certain images.

Friday, January 18, 2013

team 6 post: reflections by leah

"If someone had told me a year ago that I would consider an orphanage in Kajjansi, Uganda a home to me, I wouldn’t have believed them. Home is a place where you feel loved and welcomed and yourself. The people of Uganda, every member of Team 6, and of course the kids at SMK made the trip to Uganda the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. There are so many people I would like to thank, and my gratitude extends far beyond these words. I want to thank Melissa and all of Team 6. Without any of you, I would have been lost. Everything we experienced together whether it was sitting on Natalie’s lap in the crowded car in the insane streets of Kampala, or conversations at the lunch table, makes me think of you as family. I want my Dad to know how much I appreciate him, and many of the kids reminded me how great it is that I have a father who cares about so much. An excerpt from a love letter: 'You are so strong, blessed and I admire the way that your father loves you. In my life, I have never experienced such a love from my father. Always you have to thank God for your life and your parents lives too because it is incredible how they have taken care of you.' I would also like to thank Gloria. Even though she could not be on the trip with us this year, I know that she kept us in her heart. She has been such a good friend and neighbor to me ever since I was little.

A good friend I made at SMK named Joan asked me what message I would take away from this trip. I have spent a long time thinking about an answer for her, and I finally have one. I learned to be thankful for what I have. It is so easy to take the little things for granted, and that is something that I admire in all of these kids. They appreciate everything that they have, and I look up to them for that. It is easy for me to forget how lucky I am to not have to worry about who will pay for my education. I try to look forward to school now (even though it can be difficult sometimes) because I am so fortunate to be able to go to school every day, have my own textbooks, and simply learn. Education should not be something taken for granted, and that is the message I have taken from this life changing experience."

- Leah

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

solo show set for may/june

I'm happy to announce I'm having a one-woman show at The Bohemian Gallery in Kansas City! The dates of the exhibition are May 10 - June 14.

I'm determined to make this show little different from past exhibitions and to find a way to show my work from a new vantage point. This will involve unearthing some older work I have not shown, pairing works in unusual ways and best of all, getting assistance from a very amazing and awesome friend and curator: Jane Aspinwall.

I've spent the past few days sifting through older work and putting things up where I can see them juxtaposed with one another. (This even includes my childhood photos and my recent drawings.) It's really interesting to see the dialogues that start to take place between images; I'm discovering connections I never knew existed before.

Here is an example of what I mean:

Croquet Mallets, circa 1963

Carrie and Angie, 2005

 Here's another:

Richard, 2010

Head and Hand, 2013

The Bohemian Gallery is a beautiful new space that will give me lots of room with which to work. While it is always a huge ordeal to assemble an exhibition, I am truly looking forward to this chance to share so much work at once. It should give Jane and me plenty of opportunities to be creative with the selection of images and with the installation.

Much more to come!

Monday, January 14, 2013

kitchen improvements

I am pleased to announce that the Change the Truth Board has approved a major new project for St. Mary Kevin. The kitchen is going to get a facelift!

In 2006, when I first visited SMK, the orphans had their own small area for preparing food. The kids were in charge of preparing the meals. I watched as they chopped wood (while barefoot), lit fires, cooked the food and then scooped it into their own cups and bowls.

By 2007 the orphans had become more integrated into the overall fabric of SMK boarding school, and they were no longer preparing their own meals. The porridge and posho were cooked in an open area by staff members, and all the children lined up there to receive their portions.

Soon after that, a kitchen was built. Inside the covered area was a fire pit and a grate that held three large pots for cooking. That's the kitchen that still exists today. If you've ever been to SMK, you know first hand how smoky that kitchen is. It's hard to stay in there for more than a few minutes at a time; the smoke stings your eyes and also makes it hard to breath.

With a generous grant from CTT, the current kitchen will soon undergo a remodel. Energy saving stoves will be installed, the smoke will be redirected (out) and the surfaces will be more difficult for young ones to reach, hence protecting them from potential burns. The kitchen and food storage area will also be expanded. Overall, it will become a more energy efficient and safer place.

Great news, don't you agree?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

team 6 post by suzanne: a doll for a doll

"In my many bags that I stuffed with donations to take with me to SMK, there was one bag that contained a group of very special dolls made by some children in California. They were created at Open Air Studios for the children in Uganda. Each doll was made out of a variety of colorful and textural fabrics and was a personal expression of the child who made it. Elaine Armour, founder of Open Air Studios (see blog entry from December 11, 2012) and her students carefully packaged up the dolls so they could be given to the children for Christmas.

The children at SMK are familiar with dolls, of course; each year they make banana fiber dolls for the CTT annual friendraiser/fundraiser.  As the children were making their banana dolls and writing short little stories about themselves and the doll they had just made, I gave them each one of the dolls from California that also had a small story attached.  It was a doll for a doll.

There are no words to describe the moment you give a child a gift , especially one that is made for him or her by another child. This gift can be held and played with - and it will be at their side when the children say their prayers and go to sleep at night.

Thank you, Elaine and the children at Open Air Studios for making children who live so far away feel close to you through the love of your dolls."


Here is one of the letters of thanks. It was written by Ronah and recently delivered to Lily, the girl in California who made Ronah's beautiful new doll;

Hi Lily,

I am very happy for the doll you have send me. I am called Ronah. My
favorite colour is orange. I am in primary six. My favorite game is
netball. This doll will be called Carol. Let me hope you will love
this name. Thanks. 

From Ronah

Thursday, January 10, 2013

love letters

I'll be honest with you. Running a non-profit can be frustrating and challenging.

I've been having a pity party all day because of a particularly difficult situation that's come up. And, of course, to make matters worse, it's a gray and dreary day in Kansas City.

The sun just came out, though: I received a package of letters from some of my young friends at St. Mary Kevin, delivered via the USPS and team leader Suzanne.

Now that the tears (from reading my letters) have dried up enough for me to actually see my keyboard, I'll share some excerpts from these shiny little letters. Many are adorned with stickers and drawings of hearts. All of them brought me out of my doldrums and reminded me to get up, dust myself off and move forward. These children continue to inspire me and make me smile. Over and over again.

"I love you so much and I miss you. Thank you for the pictures of me that you sent. I looked beautiful. And thank you for making me your friend."

"I will never forget that time we drew together and you gave me a drawing. It makes me feel that I have many people who care and love me."

"I miss you because I love being next to you."

"In Team 6 I had three best friends. They were so kind to me and we played the following games with them - netball, rope skipping, etc. and we made flowers and we had lunch and we were so excited with the team but now we are going to miss them as we missed you."

"I remember that day we at the Serena Hotel. That day was the most good day of my life."

"In Team 6 I got a sister called Leah and a dad Josh. I was the first girl to give them a tour. I loved them  and even now I still do."

"Everyday I attend a lecture at the University I get inspired. Everyday I am able to dress up properly and walk around with people of great honor. I feel proud. Everyday you remind that I have a lot of contributions I have to offer to this great planet earth by being the best change that I can be. And surely I will achieve that one day, just one day!!"

"Thank you for not leaving me behind in the world."

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

a new tradition is born with team 6

I just received this post from Team 6 leader Suzanne. I am grinning ear to ear this morning; I don't think I've ever seen such joy on the faces of the kids at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage! Suzanne's photos are awesome and amazing.

"What do you get when you mix the following:

Pillowcases (2)
Bandanas (2)
Balloons (many)
Whistles (2)
Kiddos (many)
Sense of adventure and fun
Wild laughter and jumps of joy
Screams and screeches of pure fun
And a competitive spirit?

You get a new  tradition... Spirit Day at SMK!  On three sunny, hot Ugandan afternoons we gathered as a team and rounded up the troops to have what was a High School tradition for me growing up - Spirit Day. A day of fun and games for all.  Laughter erupted, cheers encouraged winning teams to the finish line, and a spirit of joy filled the grounds of SMK.  We played pass the mango under your neck, limbo, wheel-barrow and potato sack races and a kiddo favorite, the water balloon toss. The matrons howled with laughter. At the end of the day tootsie roll pops were had by all, and there were prizes for the winning teams 

The pictures say it best. Team 7: get ready to have some fun with the new SMK Spirit Day tradition next December."

Monday, January 07, 2013

strings for uganda

Music has always played a significant role in CTT’s involvement at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. The marching band was formed in 2008, and additional instruments have been added over the years. Lessons have been given on recorders, melodicas, wind instruments, guitars and drums. 

SMK has a terrific music teacher in Ivan. He works patiently with the children and has raised them up from very humble beginnings. Various team volunteers, including Monique, Max and Shane, have provided instruction and encouragement, as well.

Dancing, drumming and singing have been part of most all the children’s lives since they were very young.

As you can see in this one-minute video by Lynne Melcher, the children simply love anything having to do with music. (And they sweetly tolerate my own questionable dance moves!)

A group of four talented young people who call themselves “Strings for Uganda” will travel to SMK in August to share their love of stringed instruments. Amaya, Nick, Lindsey and Hannah are already busy planning their two-week curriculum and are so excited for the opportunity to introduce violins to the children.  They will leave instruments behind, along with instructional videos and (hopefully) will be able to arrange for the hiring of a part-time violin teacher from a music school in Kampala. This way, the fire they light will continue to burn.

"Strings for Uganda" will hold their first fundraiser on February 9th at Hamburger Mary’s in Kansas City. You can read more about it here. Funds raised will be used to purchase instruments and music equipment.  We hope to see you there!