We have a family photo tradition that mirrors our family. My two children and I have gone to the same location since 2008 and taken photos in an urban meadow. During the last two years, the meadow became a construction site. While our meadow became a shopping mall, our family split into two households in two cities. I guess there is a metaphor here, but I am not sure which is which. I really miss our meadow and the kids are dealing with the family transition better than I had feared.
When we visited the meadow last year, we were surprised to find the fence surrounding our site. This year we assumed that our meadow had disappeared, although we hoped that the construction fences were only temporary. I could feel us going through the stages of grief.
I haven’t reached the final DABDA stage yet. I haven’t accepted that our meadow is gone forever. I hope that next year the land will return to full bloom.… Read the rest
My daughter turned twelve last week. She held a “Cupcake War” birthday party and created original desserts. Before the party, I reminisced about my twelfth birthday and shared some of the memories with her. During the party, I photographed Emily and her friends and the “guest judges,” including her nine year old brother. I photographed her the next day on her birthday in our downstairs basement/ballet/photo studio. The studio is a work in progress.
I am still connected to many of the people I invited to my twelfth birthday party. There were times when some of us lost contact, but we eventually reconnected. I imagine it will be the same for my daughter. Many of her current friends will remain in her life. The adults will provide the ingredients, but she will decide what to incorporate.
In the future, Emily and her friends will share stories about cupcake wars and other messy battles. Hopefully, her friends will remember that when someone accidentally switched an ingredient, the end result improved. Sometimes, mistakes lead to victories.… Read the rest
Last week I photographed my friend’s daughter Haylie. Haylie is a high school senior. I was a high school senior when her mother Kimberley started 9th grade. We had met several years earlier when we were just kids, but we did not become friends until high school. Even then, I could have been a better friend.
I have always considered myself a good friend, but I had a selective short term memory. After I graduated, I stayed in touch with Kimberley for a few years, but then I became busy with … I don’t know. Kimberley started a family and I went in another direction. All the time I thought that I was being a good friend.
Eventually I married and had my first child. Shortly after my daughter was born, I received a phone call that changed my life. Then, as Tim McGraw sings, “I became a friend a friend would like to have,” but not before suffering.… Read the rest
For the last seven seasons, my children and I have visited the same location for family portraits. We bring at least two cameras and take photos of each other. My daughter took the picture of me that might still be at the top called the “featured image.” In 2010 I called this trip the “Farley Photo Pilgrimage.” A high school friend and her children joined us the first year; another high school friend and his daughter joined us last year. The kids’ mother joined us once or twice. Every year we visited the same meadow… until this year.
This year the meadow became a construction site.
We visited our new construction site on my birthday this year. It seemed appropriate to visit a construction site at the beginning of a new year since our family is being rebuilt. Families and meadows are constantly changing.
If you are interested, you can view more photos from the 2010 trip that ended with a visit to the doctor for stitches.… Read the rest
Christmas Day 2014
To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up
Oscar Wilde, from The Importance of Being Earnest
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.
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.
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.… Read the rest
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.
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.
Sometimes I think I am a good photographer.… Read the rest
Everyone is adopted… some of us are more adopted than others.
I was adopted 46 years ago today on July 3, 1968. As long as I have known my life story, I have known that I was adopted. I have always loved being adopted. I wish that every child could be adopted, even if each child were adopted by their biological parents.
I like my birthday too, but my actual birthday is more of a myth than my actual adoption day. Obviously, I know that I was born. I have a birth certificate with a birth date, but I feel that I am lacking some evidence. (I can already hear my mother’s voice in my head, “What are you saying Bryan? Are you saying that you do not believe you were born on May 16th in Riverside, California?)
I am saying that it does not really matter.
By the time I was six weeks old, my life story had provided me with important life-long life lessons.… Read the rest
Tonight my daughter Emily and I visited Alta Bates Summit Medical Center where she was born ten years ago. Emily called the hospital “Magic Land,” because it “gives life.”
Ten years ago today was the best day of my life, because it was the day I started being a father. There is nothing better than being a father. Ten years ago today I also started taking photographs of my daughter. The gallery I created for Emily’s 10th birthday contains about 100 photographs as of tonight.
Today is also the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ American Invasion. (Their first concert was in Washington, D.C. on February 11, 1964.) While I celebrated the Beatles and an R&B musician who inspired Emily’s middle name, I also listened to a George Strait song during my morning commute. When Emily was four, “I Saw God Today” was the CMA Single of the Year.… Read the rest
When I traveled to Mexico City four years ago, I never expected that I would meet Olympic Gold medalist Tommie Smith one day. Four years ago, I was thrilled to see the outside of the Estadio Olimpico Universitario during a family vacation to Mexico. This year I met Tommie Smith.
The 1968 Summer Games were important athletically and culturally. Bob Beamon won the long jump with a world record he held for more than 22 years. In the high jump, Dick Fosbury introduced the “Fosbury Flop.” Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska won four gold and two silver medals becoming the all-time most successful Olympic gymnast. The 1968 Games are also known for the Tommie Smith and John Carlos Black Power salute.
Last month I started teaching photography at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, California. I love teaching, but I miss being a photographer. Fortunately, I was able to be a photographer last weekend when a friend asked me to photograph her family. We met at Mills College in Oakland, California for a portrait session with her husband and three children.
When Libertad (Libby) Rivera asked me if I were still available to take family portraits, I had just started my new teaching position. At the time, I did not realize that I needed to take pictures more than Libby needed to have her picture taken. I did not need the money. I needed to know that I could still take a decent picture.
Sometimes I know if I have taken a good picture before I see it on my monitor. Last Sunday, I did not know if I had any good pictures, but as soon as I saw the first photograph uploaded to my screen I felt alright.… Read the rest
When I started writing A Letter to Fathers Considering Suicide in the Digital Age, I knew that there were no good days for a father to commit suicide. I quickly realized that there were not any good days to discuss suicide. I eventually published on my mother and step-father’s 25th wedding anniversary. I could have waited another day. I love my mom and my step-father, but every other day is horrible. Yesterday was the birthday of one of my father figures who I talk to regularly, including every Father’s Day. I could have posted on the 22nd, but 22 reminds me of Taylor Swift (which reminds me of my daughter), and I did not want to ruin any more music. I could have written on the 20th, but there was an event honoring my father’s good friend. I could have posted on Mother’s Day, or my birthday (the 16th), or my son’s birthday (the 10th)… I could have written on Sunday, but who wants to ruin Sundays?… Read the rest
“The moment that you feel that just possibly, you are walking down the street naked exposing too much of your heart and your mind … that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.” “Sometimes life is hard… and when things get tough this is what you should do… Make Good Art”
– Neil Gaiman, University of the Arts 2012 Commencement Address
I may not make good art now, but I am definitely walking in the middle of the street exposed. Many of my friends and colleagues have watched me recently and been unable to recognize me. I have wondered too. I have heard the whispers behind my back… even when I am alone. What has happened to Bryan? Granted, he is usually a little socially awkward, but has he lost it? Well, yes. I had.
And I did not know how TO FIND IT. On Sunday while wandering through a bookstore, I found Neil Gaiman’s book about Making Good Art.… Read the rest
I often tell my son, “Today is a good day. Do you know why?” He does. If he is having trouble, he reluctantly answers, “Because you get to spend it with me.” And it is true. Every day I spend with my boy (or my daughter) is a good day. Yesterday, was a great day, because the first graders from Melrose Leadership Academy went to Sausal Creek to study the restoration project and habitat.
My son loves animals and habitats. For a first grader, he is either obsessed with living creatures or really smart. He studies animals the way I studied dinosaurs. We argue about whether insects are animals. (He believes that insects are in fact animals.) He has taught me that “water spiders” are actually “water striders,” and that the largest dolphin is… ? Wait for it?… Read the rest
A year after I interviewed writers for my March 2010 Open Heart Insert Foot series, I began a similar project with photographers. The 2011 series had the “inspiring” (and misleading) title, March Portfolio and Social Media Project. While the interviews began in March 2011, they continued into mid-May 2011. By new technology standards, I marched slowly. Photographers had already moved away from print portfolios to online photo galleries. Flash was becoming outdated. SEO mattered. A lot. Everything was moving so fast. Facebook, Google, mobile, Twitter … well, maybe not Twitter (this was way back in March 2011). Oh, and the worst joke for photographers? We had to blog! That’s right. We were expected to write. A LOT!
Despite the crazy pace, I met some of the coolest people in the photography business.… Read the rest
Super Bowl Sunday is the one day that Americans forget we hate television commercials. Companies will pay at least 4 million dollars for each thirty second advertising spot during the game. If I understood marketing, I could explain why companies continue investing more money on Super Bowl ads each year, but I do not even know how to market my own photography business.
I am still looking for the right strategy. Perhaps I have a secret marketing plan that I am hiding from myself.
I often tell people that I am not a real photographer. I am not a fake photographer or a bad photographer, but I am an unusual photographer. When I renewed my passport last week and I listed my profession as “photographer,” I worried that someone at the Department of State would deny my application because they know how I work. For instance, last weekend during my photo shoot at the Collosi home, I played wiffle ball indoors with their son.… Read the rest
When parents toured Melrose Leadership Academy during the current school year, many asked about our after school program. Parents, grandparents and guardians asked if our students learned about different cultures. We were asked if our children were engaged and challenged. Most people wondered if there were enough physical activity.
Nobody asked if the parents were expected to dance at our twice annual Expos. Until Wednesday night, I am not sure if we had been and since I am scared to dance, I probably would have remembered. My daughter would have remembered, because she is scared to watch me dance.
When the older folks were too slow to move onto the stage, the younger people moved down onto the floor and we became more comfortable. (I think we enjoyed ourselves.) I often tell prospective families, Melrose Leadership is not for everyone. We are often pushed past our comfort zone into something magical.… Read the rest
Each year when I review my pictures, I am surprised by how many images I have taken. This year I knew there were fewer photographs, because I was injured in an April car accident. I planned to separate the pictures into a Best of Part 1 and a Best of Part 2. Then I saw the March 11, 2012 gallery with Richard Leon’s family… Every photo was magical.
I purposely did not title this post, “My best photo gallery,” because I did not do much. I showed up. The family welcomed me when I showed up. The family revealed their love for each other. Richard and Alice clearly loved each other and their children and grandchildren. For thirty years, they had loved each other. They worked together, probably because they wanted to work together and because they were lucky to be together.
The family knew that there time was limited by Richard’s cancer diagnosis, but the family still seemed to understand that they were lucky.… Read the rest
The last week, I have reconnected to my UC Santa Barbara past. In addition to visiting with a few former University of California Santa Barbara Gauchos, I attended the Cal-UCSB basketball game on the Berkeley campus. Before the game, the UCSB Alumni Association sponsored a Pre-Game reception. On Saturday, I also photographed the Tanner family. The adults graduated from UCSB and recently moved to Alameda with their two daughters.
Nicole is a managing partner of Viva Strategy, a communications consulting firm for non-profits and philanthropic organizations. I have always appreciated Nicole. She is smart, kind and considerate. In the past, I would have spent more time talking to her…
but now she has two wonderful kids.
I brought my camera and my two kids. Everyone played.
Nicole also has a husband who bakes bread and watches football. After my wife arrived, everyone had something to do. My wife talked to Richard about baking.… Read the rest
Six months ago, Alicia Stephens became a mother. This is her daughter and their first Christmas together.
I met Alicia when both of us worked for the Upward Bound Program at the University of San Francisco. Upward Bound is a government program that supports low income first generation college bound high school students. Recently, new non-profits have started replacing Upward Bound, but few programs, if any, have been more successful.
Alicia graduated from college with a STEM major (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). She advised students in the Upward Bound Math and Science Program. Alicia is still studying science, but I do not understand what she does. I am a technology and liberal arts person, so she may need to explain it.
I have included this slideshow of the day. There is even a photo of our friend Reginald Moore, one of the best college advisers I know. (He is also a competent photo assistant.)
Thank you for letting me into your lives.… Read the rest
A year and one day ago, I photographed Courtney Stout and Nick Maksimowicz in Carmel Valley, California. Their friends organized the wedding, rehearsal and reception. Courtney and Nick have good friends, and by the time I left the Monterey Peninsula, I felt that I had many more good friends too.
I often feel blessed or lucky to be allowed to document important moments. I rarely photograph want to photograph weddings, but weddings are important community events. People have often chased a dream since childhood hoping to find someone who they can trust. Weddings build families; families build communities.
When I edited the pictures, I listened to Kris&Alix, the same musicians who performed at the wedding. “…tired of reaching out, tired of all the doubt… ”
When I reviewed last year’s photos, I rejoiced watching Courtney’s friends help her prepare for the ceremony. I laughed again as eight women celebrated at the photo booth.… Read the rest
When I first met Anne Howard, I lived in Santa Barbara, California and attended Trinity Episcopal Church. She served as the Associate Rector and I sat in the back of the church. I would watch the Trinity families imagining the easy Sunday mornings when I could bring my future family to church. I left Santa Barbara before meeting my wife. I miss Trinity. Sometimes, I miss those easy Sunday mornings when children magically arrived at church and happily greeted their parents.
Last week, my daughter finally met Anne Howard in Berkeley, California outside Pacific School of Religion.
As the Executive Director of The Beatitudes Society, Anne mentors emerging church leaders across the country. This role seems a natural fit. Whenever I am near Anne, I realize that I am in a constant state of emerging. She is one of the few people who can mentor me, just by staring at me a certain way.… Read the rest
Today is the Feast Day of Francis of Assisi.
Saint Francis is associated with nature and animals. Next Sunday, many churches will bless animals during Sunday service. Dogs have become increasingly important for people with epilepsy and other illnesses. I referred to dog therapy in my latest featured blog post for the Epilepsy Foundation of America.
In the blog post, I also included photos from my last visit with my wonderful neurologist.
Delayed by the sun…
The final two bouts of the WFTDA West Region Playoffs were postponed by an hour, because the sunlight interfered with the skaters’ ability to skate. Sporting events have been delayed and canceled for many weather related incidents, but I have never photographed one postponed by sunlight. When it happened Sunday, everyone was happy (and everybody was laughing), except for me. I love natural light and the players at the Craneway Pavillion in Richmond, California appeared regal.
When the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) postponed the final until 7:00, many photographers began using off camera strobes and on camera flashes repeatedly. Since I have photo-sensitivity, I am easily disturbed by strobe lights. The strobes bounced off Craneway’s tall windows, white walls and reflective derby surface adding to the strobe effect. Fortunately, I captured magical light before games.
I have yet to process several hundred game images from the weekend.
Edit Tuesday (I have noticed on my mobile device, my photo slideshow is difficult to access, so here is the link.)
bf… Read the rest
Laura Robertson Gilbert has been my friend since our older children attended the same preschool. Laura is friendly and engaging. I always enjoy talking with her. When Laura asked if I would be available to photograph her for a new project, I was excited. At a minimum, I would be able to spend more time with Laura and learn about her professional background. During my visit, I brought my camera. These photos were taken during the final part of my visit.
Many people are uncomfortable having their photo taken. (I become self-conscious too.) Despite the discomfort, people are more likely to engage in authentic discussions when having their photo taken. Since I enjoy talking, I usually talk to people while I take photos. I find people interesting and hope that my pictures begin to capture Laura’s dynamic and natural personality.… Read the rest