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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

down time

Yesterday I was on a shoot for Operation Breakthrough. We met some of the families (that are being featured in our upcoming fundraising video) at the park. My sidekick, Lynne, was to do the filming and I the stills. 

It's not unusual for our families to be late. As Jennifer, our fearless leader in all things related to shooting for OB likes to remind us: families living in poverty cannot always be precisely scheduled. Life gets in the way. Cars break down. The bus runs late. The auntie who promised to babysit the younger kids doesn't show up. Can't get off work. Kids didn't get any sleep the night before because the furnace shut off, and they're tired. 

What could've taken an hour rolled into three.

I try to be patient as we hang around waiting for things to happen. Sometimes I'm good at that, but I must admit sometimes I am not too good at that.

Yesterday was the first nice day in Kansas City in a long while, and the park was full of kids. I had my camera, and there were kids running around. I was in my happy place. 

I made this picture during the down time.

In my presentations, I always encourage photographers to be open to what's in front of them, even if - especially if - it was not what they were expecting. Down time? Embrace it… there's always something wonderful happening. As Robert Frank says: keep your eyes open.

Friday, February 26, 2016


A couple months ago, at the suggestion of my daughter, I picked up a copy of a small, beautiful book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It's a New York Times best seller, and millions of copies have been sold. When I posted on Facebook that I was ready to dive into the art of tidying, many friends responded that their lives had been changed in great and profound ways by Kondo's method of decluttering. So, I've been eager to get started. Who doesn't want to make changes for the better, right?

I finally have time to dedicate to the book and the process. The book itself is so lovely, I feel better with each page I turn. Yesterday, though, it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty and start piling my clothes up on the floor.

That's the first step of the first step of de-cluttering. There are lots of steps involved, and for some reason I am very willing to follow Kondo's precise instructions. She puts the important stuff in bold, and whenever I encounter those things, I dutifully sit up and take notice. She has put me under some kind of spell, I think. Even though her tone is sometimes a bit arrogant, and her methods seem a bit whacky, I have - for some reason - signed up to follow the advice of this simple little book.

So, yesterday, I began. You have to follow her instructions in the proper order, or else all will fail. 

The first thing to declutter is the easiest: clothes. (The list goes from easiest to most difficult, the final step being "sentimental items.") Within the category of clothing, the first thing to declutter is tops. This includes shirts, sweaters, etc.

The beginning of my pile

The first thing you do is pile up every single solitary shirt, sweater, etc. that you own. This includes stuff that might be hiding in the laundry basket, stuff buried in the front hall closet, and if you have left stuff at your friend's house, forget about it. Anything that is not included in this initial piling-up is automatically headed for the discard pile.

OK, so once you pile everything up on the floor you then have to pick up each top, one by one, and handle it.

Here's the headline in bold, bold, bold: It must spark joy. If it doesn't, it is doomed for discardation (I think I made that word up.) If the top doesn't spark joy, you then express gratitude to said top for having been a good top over the years, a faithful and well-loved top. It's simply time to part ways. No hard feelings. Really, once upon a time I loved you. We went to London together that one time, remember? You were there when my daughter got married. That was important and memorable, and I thank you for making it such a special time.

One by one… I went through the entire pile. I spoke to the threadbare red t-shirt I had worn to countless aerobic classes back in the day when I could get through one of those loud, frenzied. high-stepping aerobic classes at Body by Schliebe. I caressed the misshapen green sweater I had accidentally put in the dryer a few too many times. I thanked my old favorite black jacket, and then I thanked its shoulder pads. I shed no tears, but I did make a rather huge pile of discardment.

OK, so then I had to instititue the Kondo method of folding, which differs greatly from my own. It involves tautness and neatness. And here's the really cool part: once properly folded, you set the tops in a draw on their EDGE (not in a vertical pile). This way, you can actually see every top you own, every single spark of joy, in one quick glance. Each one looks happy, joyful even. Each one looks eager to be worn, to cheerfully accompany you as you make your tea and then sit down at your desk.

aerial view of my awesome drawer of tops

The funny thing is, I have opened that drawer several times today just to kvel. The sparks of joy are flying all around me!

After tops, I tackled bottoms (pants, skirts, etc). Then "clothes that should be hung," and this is a limited group, believe me. Then socks (which you cannot ball under any circumstance), underwear, etc.

After a few hours, I was done. It was pretty easy!

some of the garbage bags

I feel lighter, for sure. I'm excited to take my stuffed garbage bags to Operation Breakthrough to share what I no longer want/need. And I am kind of eager to take on the next set of steps, which involves books.

Yes, that will be harder than clothes.

Kondo throws in all sorts of bold do's and don'ts that are critical for tidying success. For example: do not show your discard pile to anyone, especially your mother. She will, undoubtedly, pull out that blue stripped, boat-necked top she gave you one time for your birthday and state, "you don't really want to give this away." Being talked out of anything to which you have already bid adieu? Apparently not such a good idea.

I was a little disappointed to read that you cannot listen to music while tidying, primarily because the new Bonnie Raitt album was just released.

I'll keep you posted as I move forward through the magic of tidying up. So far it's been really great, and I'm hoping once I get to "spare buttons" and "free novelty goods," I'll still feel the same way!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

spring is in the air

The weather's getting nicer, and the kids are outside playing. I spent the morning taking pictures at Operation Breakthrough; these little people totally made my day.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

speaking at the nerman

I've been giving a fair number of talks lately because of my show at Leedy-Voulkos. (It comes down this Saturday, by the way, so if you live in the KC area and haven't seen it yet, I hope you'll take the time to do so.)

Coming up on Thursday, February 18th is a presentation I'll be giving at the Nerman Museum for Contemporary Art as part of their Third Thursday Visiting Artist Program. If you'd like to come, please do! I'll speak at 3:30, and Nate Fors will present his work right after me. The event, which will be held in the Hudson Auditorium (12345 College Boulevard, Overland Park, Kansas) is free and open to the public.

I'm working on a brand new power-point, which is both fun and daunting. Hope you'll come say hello and listen/watch.