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Songs for California

“I’m out to sing the songs that will prove to you that this is your world, no matter what color, what size you are, or how you were built.” Woody Guthrie

 (bryan farley)

Yesterday I drove to the Central Valley to photograph the Fresno County Blossom Trail. I wanted to reconnect with the part of myself that knows Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and “Tom Joad.”

 (bryan farley)

I have traveled home several times during the recent drought years to photograph the blossoms. The farmers found water, but each year life felt more desperate.

 (bryan farley)

There is a beauty about the valley. Many people never experience it. Many people never experience the struggle either; they only read about it from John Steinbeck.

 (bryan farley)

People have migrated to California for more than one hundred years searching for a better life. In the 1930’s, Okies searched for work in the fields of the Central Valley. In the following decades, people from other parts of the world have followed. California has not been known as a welcoming place. It’s been hard. Often, it’s been hard to find hard work.

 (bryan farley)

Woody Guthrie was one of the Okies who arrived in California. He wrote many folks songs. He sang about life in California.

 (bryan farley)

On this day in 1940, Woody wrote, “This Land is Your Land.” It was a protest song. He had grown tired of hearing “God Bless America.” He felt that the song had not been written for people like him. Originally, he titled his song “God Bless America for me.”

If my pictures could sing, I would want the lyrics to say something similar. God bless America for people like me too… and remind me to see the layers of beauty in the fields and reflections. (See the gallery from my recent trip here. I included 66 pictures – the number of the route used by many of the Okies who once migrated to California.)

A Letter to a Teenager

Today my daughter is 13 years and 13 days old. As she approached thirteen, we discussed the significance of her becoming a teenager… and we both realized that we did not feel anything different. It felt like just another year.

 (bryan farley)

When she was ten, I collected photographs from her first ten years. One of the photographs is below. This year I collected photographs from age 10 to 13 years and 13 days.

 (bryan farley)

When I wrote three years ago in the ten years post, I said “there is nothing better than being a father.” That is still true.

 (bryan farley)

For age 10 to 13, I collected a gallery of 131 photographs. We have visited some of the same places for the last several years. Emily and her brother have helped me create new memories too. Thirteen may not feel older, but it looks older.

 (Bryan Farley)

I have been lucky to be a father to two wonderful children. My father was not around for me the way I wanted. We both lost. It’s been different for me and my kids.

 (bryan farley)

I enjoy big moments with my daughter. I also enjoy spending Valentine’s Day going to the dentist like we did this year. (The picture above was taken last week.) I did not chose to post today, because Emily likes the #13 or because I am superstitious (although both might be true). I posted today, because of 1 Corinthians 13:13… faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.

 

2017 Winter Performance Expo

I wanted to publish positive images today… reminders about the beauty of my children’s world.

 (bryan farley)

On Wednesday January 18, 2017, Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland held their Winter Performance Expo. Here is my photo gallery slideshow of 121 images.

 (bryan farley)

On Wednesday night, Oakland Unified held another board meeting to discuss budget shortfalls. Today, our new President said in his Inaugural Address that America had “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge.”

 (bryan farley)

It has not been my experience, first as a teacher in OUSD, and now as a parent in OUSD, that we are either “flush with cash” nor depriving students. We have not deprived students the 8 years that I have had a child at MLA.

 (bryan farley)

We have often struggled in our neighborhood and in our school… we have often struggled at the neighborhood school, but there has always been something to celebrate.

This is the 8th year I have photographed students at MLA. They also have photographed me. It probably doesn’t seem like much to most people. It probably seems like a waste of time.

One of these students took the photo of me posted above.

The all participated in creating their image at a time when students are defined by outsiders.

And they will continue to need more encouragement, even in the best of times.

 (bryan farley)

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