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Kwanzaa Unity Transition and Service

One month ago I was invited to attend my second Kwanzaa Celebration. I photographed the event at the Partnership for Affordable Housing in Oakland, California on December 26, 2014. I returned with my two children last week to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.’s birthday. The Partnership for Affordable Housing operates a transition home. While I was photographing the Kwanzaa Celebration, I kept thinking about my first Kwanzaa and how everyone is in transition.

 (Bryan Farley)

In 1991, I did not have a place to live. I had assumed that I would be finishing my final year of college, but then my financial aid was unexpectedly cut and I did not have a place to live. A family invited me to their home for Kwanzaa and I enjoyed the company. I still remember the grateful grandmother tell me how to avoid growing old. (Die young!) I also remember their concern for me. It warmed my heart during the cold nights.

 (Bryan Farley)

The first day of Kwanzaa emphasizes Unity. The person who led the celebration said of Kwanzaa, “It’s a celebration of the past, present and the future.” That would also be a good definition of a portrait.

 (Bryan Farley)

Our neighbor Diane has known my children since before they were born. She invited me to the house this time. I don’t know how much she knows about my first Kwanzaa. Sometimes she seems to know these things. Maybe she just knew I have been in a little more transition than usual and thought that I could use the company.

 (bryan farley)

For MLK Day’s Day of Service this year, I wanted my children to participate. I asked Diane if I could bring the kids to the transition house when I photographed the house for her. Once I told my children what we were doing, my daughter wanted to bake a cake. My son wanted to contribute too.

 

 (bryan farley)

Whenever I have struggled in my life, someone has been there to pick me up… and I have struggled often. It is easy to believe that I have made everything thing myself. Yes, my daughter made that cake from scratch. I didn’t help… but she had help. We all have help, through good times and bad. My children were fortunate to visit the folks last week. My kids continue talking about the families that they met. My kids met real people. Real connections that will help create a sense of unity.

For me, I will also remember a simple quote I read as I entered the front door, “Stop looking for your purpose; be it...”

 

 

Christmas Portraits in Clayton California

Christmas Day 2014

Clayton, California

  (bryan farley)

To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up

Oscar Wilde, from The Importance of Being Earnest

 (bryan farley)

On Christmas Day, I visited a mother and her daughter in Clayton, California. I brought my camera and received the gift of their company. During the drive, I wondered whether I should spend part of my holiday away from my family. The images confirm that I chose wisely.

 (bryan farley)

On Christmas morning, my children opened their presents in our home. In the evening, our family was together again in the Santa Cruz Mountains. After I photographed Christine and her daughter, they left Clayton for their family dinner. Still, I became aware that many people do not have family to visit on Christmas. We were lucky.

 (bryan farley)

I hope that I can articulate how much I enjoyed playing with Christine and her daughter. Christine held a container designed with an Oscar Wilde book cover. Oscar Wilde has some quote – and I am probably ruining it now – about how he always carried his diary with him on a train so that he would have something interesting to read.

 (bryan farley)

Watching Christine’s daughter jump from the slide to the train to the statues was more than interesting. My words fail where my pictures begin to describe the little one’s brilliance. She was such a joy.

 (bryan farley)

I have known about Clayton’s historical downtown for about ten years. I have been near it many times, but never visited. Sometimes it is necessary to look at the world as if we are young again… to believe that we can put on antlers and become something magical.

 (bryan farley)Perhaps it is even more important to remember to rinse and repeat. Sometimes the magical antlers fall off our heads, but since the antlers are magic, we merely need to put them back on again.

 (bryan farley)

Is there anything more magical than the love between a parent and a child? Christmas is the season to buy stuff, but money can’t buy this type of magic. Love is not a farce, even if it fails us occasionally. It’s the importance of being Christmas.

 (bryan farley)

When we were finished, I took two pictures with me. I think the little princess is wishing us peace. Peace, Love and Christmas.

 

For best results, view the entire slideshow with a flash enabled browser

Tanner Family Aloha

When I photographed the Tanner family last Sunday, the parents and two kids had just returned from a Hawaiian vacation. I have known Nicole since we both attended UC Santa Barbara (more than) a few years ago. Now we both live about three miles from each other in the Bay Area. While I was taking pictures, I kept thinking about the different definitions of the Hawaiian word “aloha.” It means hello and good-bye and something in between. I think that also describes my relationship with Nicole and her family. We keep showing up for each other. I expect that it will always be that way… some cosmic Aloha.

 (bryan farley)Here is the slideshow again from the December 2014 photo visit.

Two years ago, I photographed the Tanners the first time shortly after they moved from the Central Coast. You can find the slideshow in the post.

 

 (bryan farley)

Sometimes I think I am a good photographer. It happened again after I began viewing the photos from last weekend. I loved the pictures… and then something happened. I realized that I loved the pictures, because I loved the people I photographed. At one point, I let the two girls use my camera and they took some pretty good photos too. The youngest person took one of my favorite photos of Nicole.

2014 Tanner Family Portraits-1207141512

People often ask me for advice. I am a photography teacher. I know how to use a camera. I understand aperture and shutter speed. I know more technical stuff than most photographers. I also know the important stuff, like how to hold a really smelly chew toy while a kindergarten girl is using my camera to take my picture.  I took this photo with my smart phone. Is that my secret?

2014 Tanner Family Portraits-8499

Maybe I just really love photography, which is not so much a criticism of my ability, as it is a description. Did I tell you that the dog toy smelled really bad? Did I forget to mention that it was more than worth it?

 (bryan farley)

Today is 12/13/14. It is Taylor Swift’s birthday. I started thinking about Taylor as soon as I saw the little pink guitar (or ukulele)… or maybe when Nicole flashed the “gangster of peace sign” that I associate with Taylor Swift’s “22” video. Of course, if I am truthful, I think about Taylor Swift daily. Aloha could mean Shake it Off.

 (bryan farley)

I hope that I can photograph the family every two years. When I return, I want to step on the same welcome mat. Until then, I want to remember that I have arrived … every day, everywhere.

 (bryan farley)