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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I've spent some time recently making portraits of Holocaust survivors who live in and around Kansas City. They will be added to the extensive archive of portraits and recorded accounts housed at Midwest Center for Holocaust Education. The last time I photographed our local survivors was in 2000 for the exhibition and subsequent book From the Heart: A Mosaic of Memories. At that time, their average age was 80. A few fell through the cracks or weren't sure they wanted to participate in the project. We're making an effort now to make sure all who are still living are included in this important body of work. Here are a few of my favorites from the past couple of sessions.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

operation breakthrough

Happiness is taking photographs of the wonderful kids at Operation Breakthrough.

Have you begun following me on Instagram yet? Please do! I've been posting images regularly there @gloriabakerfeinstein.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

can't stop thinking about brock turner and the woman he raped

Everyone is weighing in on the Brock Turner horror story. Open letters here, open letters there, open letters everywhere. I’ve actually been pretty obsessed - reading every single thing I can get my eyeballs on. Rather than write my own open letter to those whose hearts have been broken and whose lives have been shattered, I thought I’d cull some of the more profound quotes from these letters/statements and present them as a collage. Yes, I chose the quotes and the order in which I assembled them. It’s the best way I seem able to express myself about it all right now.

But don't you also agree that this whole thing could have been avoided if she had just been more responsible?

I wonder… if I get raped when I’m wearing this tonight, how guilty would it make me? Like maybe they should mark it on the tag: 60% cotton, 40% her fault.

I still have an image of the assailant right before he tried to kiss me earlier in the evening; the face of the man who assaulted my sister, is burned in my memory.

I naively assumed that is was accepted to be intimate with someone in a place that wasn’t my room.

I asked her if she was enjoying what I was doing, to which she gave me a positive response.

We saw that she was not moving, while he was moving a lot. So we stopped and thought, this is very strange. She lay perfectly still.

I had to read about the way my sister’s body was found. I realized that the reason I could not find her that night, after checking every room in the fraternity house, after yelling her name outside, was because she had been unconscious and hidden behind a dumpster. That she was naked from the waist down.

My clothes were confiscated and I stood naked while the nurses held a ruler to various abrasions on my body and photographed them. The three of us worked to comb the pine needles out of my hair, six hands to fill one paper bag. To calm me down, they said it’s just the flora and fauna, flora and fauna. I had multiple swabs inserted into my vagina and anus, needles for shots, pills, had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs. I had long, pointed beaks inside me and had my vagina smeared with cold, blue paint to check for abrasions.

My son has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of January 17, 2015.

But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn't always because people are rapists?

I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All­ American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt.

I do not know your name — but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed.

In newspapers my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity.

I do not know your name — but I see your unconquerable spirit.

I understand you trying to humanize your son in your letter; talking to the judge about his favorite snacks and swim practice and about the memories that are sweet for you as his father—but to be honest I don’t give a damn and if his victim was your daughter I’m quite sure you wouldn’t either.

Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.

And to be clear, Mr. Turner, alcohol and sexual promiscuity are not the story here. The story here is that young men have choices to make and these choices define them, even if those choices are made when temptation is great and opportunity is abundant. In fact, our humanity is most expressed when faced with such things, we choose integrity and decency; when we abstain from doing what is easy but wrong.

His dreams have been shattered by this.

You love your son and you should. But love him enough to teach him to own the terrible decisions he’s made, to pay the debt to society as prescribed, and then to find a redemptive path to walk, doing the great work in the world that you say he will.

That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life.


His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.

A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine.

You are not just contributing to rape culture, Mr. Turner. You ARE rape culture.

I do feel for you, Mr. Turner. It's not easy admitting that your son is a monster, but for the sake of the world, and for the sake of the countless young women who have been violated by frat boys just like Brock Turner, it's time that you take on that burden.

I join your global chorus of supporters, because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault. What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.

My first thought upon wakening every morning is “this isn’t real, this can’t be real. Why him? Why HIM? WHY? WHY?

Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself. I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn't be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice. Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist.

I tried to push it out of my mind, but it was so heavy I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone.

He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression. You can see it in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice.

My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition.

His dreams have been shattered by this.

I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five-year-old.

I beg of you, please don’t send him to jail/prison. Look at him. He won’t survive it. He will be damaged forever.

He is not the victim, and the sooner you stop treating him as such, the sooner he may realize the impact he had on an innocent young woman’s life. Your attempt at marginalizing your son’s assault only ensures another young man will do the same.

His voice is barely above a whisper and he keeps himself hunched over almost trying not to be noticed.

He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire. Just like what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.

I know what a broken heart feels like. It is a physical pain that starts just below the collarbone and extends to below the ribcage, it is a crushing and heavy ache that feels like I am being squeezed. This feeling has not left my body since the verdict. This verdict has destroyed us.

You are part of the rape culture, Mr. Turner. You are the problem.

The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.

He is gifted in his ability to understand very complicated subject matter.

I want to be a voice of reason in a time where people’s attitudes and preconceived notions about partying and drinking have already been established. I want to let young people now, as I did not, that things can go from fun to ruined in just one evening.

My beautiful, happy family will never know happiness again.

No longer can we blame our kids’ poor decisions on violent video games, rap music or films that glorify criminal behavior. It comes down to us, the parents, Mr. Turner. It’s up to you to help your son see his wrongdoings, and give some semblance of closure to his victim.

The millions who have been touched by your story will never forget you.

The only sorrow I feel for you is that you never got to know my sister before you assaulted her. She’s the most wonderful person in the world.

I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story.

Your bravery is breathtaking.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

with apologies to nora ephron

I posted up this 16-year-old photo of myself on Facebook yesterday. I love it, of course, because I’m standing next to Hillary (those cheekbones!), and I wanted to share that special moment from years ago with my pals. But while studying it, I started thinking about the changes that have taken place on that punum of mine since 2000.

As the face in the mirror has started to resemble my mother and various aunts, I admit I tug at my skin, pulling it back and up and twisting the folds this way and that to see how much better I’d look if the extra skin and the wrinkles weren’t there.  I get facials each month, and sometimes I find myself asking Holly about the slick, glossy pictures in her “tranquility waiting area” that boast the latest and greatest in skin tightening technology. “Think I’d be a good candidate for that?” I’ve even tried a couple of the harmless, non-invasive, expensive, not very effective procedures with catchy names (Venus Freeze!), but ultimately I just go back to pinching and pulling in front of the mirror.

My mother had really nice skin, and she didn’t have much of a saggy neck, so I always figured I’d be in good shape as I aged. But now I’m pretty sure the skin genes from my dad’s side must have had some epic battle with my fair, delicate maternal skin genes, and their swords proved far mightier.

(I swear, if I could just do something about my neck, I’d be happy. Really!)

Anyway, the article I saw in the Huff Post this morning hit home and made me feel slightly better about all things related to my epidermis. I thought I’d share these lovely photos and words for a couple reasons: a) so I can revisit this page when I need a reminder to accept myself the way I am and b) because I know aging women who remain “au naturel” fight an uphill battle each and every day in this crazy Hollywood culture we’ve created for ourselves.

(Oh, and my hair? I'm not giving up the hair color until Eddie goes gray. I refuse to look like I could be his mother. Gotta draw the line somewhere.)

"Wrinkles. Laugh lines. Crow’s feet. No matter what you call them, the creases on your face deepen as you age. But whereas many people look in the mirror and, with a collective sigh, lament the passage of time that’s left its mark on their faces, others embrace the changes, and accept the idea that growing older is an integral — and even beautiful — part of living.
HuffPost photographer Damon Dahlen took portraits of women, aged 52 to 90, who roll their eyes at ageist (and sexist) standards of beauty. Rather than fight the inevitable effects of aging, they see the lines on their faces as a road map of their lives. They are the etchings of many years fully lived — and each and every one of them has been earned.
So why not show them off? Take a look at their gorgeous portraits below and read what each woman has to say about embracing the beauty of every age."  Shelley Emling, Huff Post

Sandra LaMorgese, 59

“I am really looking forward to turning 60. I still feel like I’m 30. I don’t feel any different than I did at 30. The mirror image is the only thing that’s changing — and that’s in a good way. At first I did not like what I saw when I started aging because it was new. But then I changed my mind about what sexy and beautiful is — and I didn’t mind. The wrinkles did bother me at first — but once I changed my perspective, they didn’t. I have a 60-year-old face, which I should. I’m not supposed to look like I’m 25 any more. About 20 years ago, a woman said to me ‘I feel sorry for you because you are so beautiful that when you turn older and ugly, you won’t be able to handle it.’ I told her, ‘I’m not going to get ugly. I’m just going to age.’ We think aging has to do with being ugly. But it’s not ugly. It’s beautiful.”

Barbara Grufferman, 59

“I feel good because I exercise. And that all happened after I turned 50. I started wearing sunscreen and trying to stay as healthy and fit as I can. We can look and feel good as we get older if we take care of ourselves. Sleep, exercise and eating well ... all of this is important. Since I turned 50, I wanted to get my act together. What does this mean? What is aging all about? What should I be doing that is different now than what I was doing before? As I inch my way toward 60, I’m looking at what adjustments I should make. My motto is: we can’t control getting older, but we can control how we do it. I embrace wrinkles. I call them my laugh lines — and they are my life lines. Because they are part of who I am now. I’ve embraced the evolution completely. At the same time, I want to make sure I’m doing everything right for myself so that I can age with grace and vitality and energy. The goal shouldn’t be to look younger. But you want to look the best you can at whatever age you are.”

Deborah Gaines, 55
“Your vision of beauty is determined when you are quite young. For me, my grandmother was heavy and had wrinkles and gray hair but she personified love for me. She was 95 when she died. And I still thought of her as the most beautiful person I knew. Now I have really reconnected with that feeling. The people who are most important to me find me beautiful because of the love I radiate and it has nothing to do with wrinkles or what is on my face. Until you have a baby, you worry about your body. But when you have a baby you think your body deserves an Academy Award. Being beautiful is about being present to those around you. I’m proud of the map of my face because it’s a map that shows a long and joyful journey.” 

Leslie Handler, 56
“Each new wrinkle tells me that I survived and became happy after every challenge in my life. When I see a new one, it doesn’t bother me. After two babies, my tummy bothered me, but my husband said it reminded him that I had given birth to our two children. I think the 50s are the best of all the decades so far. You really come into your own ... no more questions about what to do with my life ... all the insecurities. You’ve gotten over all that. I had cancer in my 30s. I’m still here. Complain? I don’t complain.”

Carole Paris, 83

“I paint and I like to do faces so whatever success I’ve had with portraits has had to do with the character people had in their faces. Those faces and those wrinkles and lines tell a life story. You can see the essence of the person by looking at their face. I study faces and I see a value in age. There is life there in those faces ... the highs and lows of life. You can see that the person has ridden the waves of life, both the ups and the downs. A face shows the character of a person. I would never think of getting a facelift. You face loses life that way.”

Maria Leonard Olsen, 52

“I tried 50 new things the year I turned 50. After I turned 50, I finally lived a life authentic to me for the first time. Unfortunately that also involved rehab and getting a divorce but I discovered who I really am ... and I am absolutely comfortable with myself. Finally at 50. I got my motorcycle license. I hiked the Himalayas and I raised money to help build a library for impoverished children in Nepal. I learned to horseback ride. I got my first book published. I finally know who the authentic Maria is. I lived the first half century of my life trying to please others. But now I’m living for myself. I have a definite feeling I’m on the downslope of my life and actually I guess I am and so I want to make it count. Wrinkles are a natural part of aging. When I was young, I disliked my dark skin and looking different from my friends and classmates but now I revel in my uniqueness.”

Iris Krasnow, 61

“I’ve had gray hair since I was in my early 30s. I learned early on to not get my self-esteem or my sense of beauty from my exterior but from my heart and my passions and my engagement in life. The happiest people I know are the most fulfilled. They have a sense of passion and purpose and are surrounded by people they love. Very rarely do I hear ‘oh, I’m so happy because I am the same weight I was in high school.’ The message I like to share is don’t count on your looks because they change. Discover an inner source of energy and fulfillment that has everything to do with your heart and soul and very little to do with your exterior. One thing for sure in life is that your exterior is going to change. I believe strongly in feeling beautiful without the knife. For me, wrinkles are ... they are a map of my life. I have four children. I have a husband of 28 years. I’ve enjoyed my life.”

Juliet Baisden, 62

“I am happy at this age. To me, my photos of me look the same now as years ago. Not much different. I like the way I look. I put on some weight but my face remains the same. Aging is an honor. Some people freak out when they see gray hair or wrinkles. I don’t. I feel young. I feel very young. When I tell people my age, they don’t believe it. I enjoy that.”

Mary Ann Holand, 59

“When I look in the mirror, I still see the little girl that I was and that I still am. I don’t feel 59. I have grandkids now, so I guess that makes me believe I’m 59. But that’s about it. I love the TV show ‘Grace and Frankie.’ I think we need more shows like that, that show amazing older people who hold their own. We have for too long glorified youth instead of people. We’re all on the same journey. After my breast cancer diagnosis, I consider each year a gift. I want to live into my 90s.”

Roz Sokoloff, 90

“I’m a person — not an age. The best thing about my being 90 is that I’m not aware that I’m old. I do everything the way I used to do it. Maybe I get tired quicker but I haven’t been kept back from doing anything I want to do. I don’t play singles tennis any more. But I do tai chi and yoga, and I swim laps. When it comes to my wrinkles, well, I stand back from the mirror at least two feet and I don’t see one wrinkle and that’s the truth. I don’t even know that I have wrinkles. I’m proud of my accomplishments and I don’t care about the wrinkles. I haven’t done any Botox or any facelifts. That stuff's not important to me.”

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

I grew up an hour away from Muhammad Ali's hometown. He was one of my heroes. Back then, as a kid, I knew him as Cassius Clay, and I watched every one of his fights on TV. I was ten years old when he beat Sonny Liston. I remember the buzz and excitement of that night. I loved Ali's fierceness and strength, but I also loved his sense of humor, his poetry and his gracefulness. I had never seen anyone so full of himself, but in such a lovable way. Of course, later, I admired his political and religious convictions. And even later,  I was deeply moved by the dignity with which he navigated the assault of Parkinson's.

My favorite photographs of Ali were made by Gordon Parks. These were featured in two articles Parks did for Life Magazine in 1966 and 1970. The article was in the Huff Post last year.

On September 9, 1966, Life magazine featured a story on Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., the rising boxing star who’d recently changed his name to a moniker more familiar to sports devotees — Muhammad Ali.

At this point, Ali had already won the gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and snatched the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston in 1964. He’d also become a point of controversy for fans following the champion. Questioned about his connection to Black Muslim leaders like Malcom X, and his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, Ali was fighting battles in and out of the ring.

The Life photo shoot of ‘66 introduced Ali to Gordon Parks, a Kansas-born photographer who, with no formal training, made his way from photojournalist with the Farm Security Administration to the first African American staff photographer at Life magazine. Parks had previously turned his lens onto migrant workers and sixties activists. Now he was photographing “The Greatest.”

Over several months, Parks and Ali forged a bond that no doubt affected the shots included in the magazine. Over time, Parks had found a way to reconcile the differences between himself and the boxer, and appreciate Ali’s place in the cultural pantheon. “At last, he seemed fully aware of the kind of behavior that brings respect,” Parks wrote at the end of his Life essay accompanying the photos. “Already a brilliant fighter, there was hope now that he might become a champion everyone could look up to.”

The article was called “The Redemption of the Champion.”

Parks’ work was instrumental in bringing the man of butterflies and bees back into the public’s lap, particularly the close-up photo of a sweat-soaked Ali staring wistfully beyond the camera after a training session. Four years after their initial meeting, the photographer returned to Ali’s side, profiling him once again as he prepared to fight Joe Frazier in 1970. Ali was still controversial and Parks was still sympathetic to the human behind the hero. The epigraph for that essay read: “Dripping with controversy, Muhammad Ali comes back.”

- Katherine Brooks

Sunday, June 05, 2016

grandmother with a camera and a quote

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”
- J.K. Rowling

Friday, June 03, 2016

grandmother with a camera and a quote

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”

- J.M. Barrie

Thursday, June 02, 2016

grandmother with a camera and a quote

Promise me you’ll remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think.
- A.A. Milne

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

quadruplets redux

Last year at this time I made a photograph of a set of quadruplets here in New Orleans. Their mom and I made plans to get together each year in June to do a series.

This is when the girls were seven.

And now they are eight.