Before an artist can fly, an artist must fight.
A good artist argues with him or herself.
Artists are their own collaborators, their own muse, their own liberators.
An artist’s process is uneasy. Art is the fire, the wood and the shadow. Non-artists usually only see the final product. They miss the messy struggle.
At The Crucible‘s 15th Annual Hot Couture fashion show in Oakland, California, I photographed all three runway shows on Saturday January 11, 2014. The third show was more personal, because I know designer and dancer Alexandra Candia.
Alex teaches my two children how to dance. She also teaches my children how to perform and collaborate. She teaches them how to listen to their inner drummer; she teaches them to dance with a group. My daughter, who turns 10 next month, fought with Alex in the beginning. Both of my kids struggled, until they performed.… Read the rest
“Life is wasted on illusion….”
Bow Wow Wow, from Do You Want To Hold Me
Since last weekend’s Hot Couture fashion show at The Crucible in Oakland, California, I have contemplated the relationship between the music and fashion industry. Popular artists influence hairstyles. New styles of music force designer to create new outfits. A new dance craze provides a new excuse for more shoes… not that anyone needs an excuse for new shoes.
So what does Hot Couture have to do with the lyric from 1980’s band Bow Bow Wow? According to legend (or in this case, Wikipedia), Bow Wow Wow was recruited by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren to promote Westwood’s new clothing style. Westwood and McLaren used music to change fashion. Westwood’s “Pirate Collection of 1981” made punk stylish although the former school teacher probably used a different word. (I am a current school teacher so I will say “stylish.”)
I watched the old Bow Wow Wow music videos today while writing this post; I was surprised by the band’s sophistication which I probably missed when I was a young teenager.… Read the rest
Self-portraits are a visual diary hidden in plain sight…
or so says me. (Here is my 2013 self-portrait gallery.)
The Oxford Dictionary chose “selfie” as the 2013 word of the year. A selfie is similar to a self-portrait, but a selfie is meant to be shared on social media. According to the Oxford Dictionary, selfies are usually taken with a smart phone or webcam and uploaded to a social media site. I take selfies, self-portraits and pictures of myself. Occasionally, I take a decent “self-picture,” but I rarely share the images. I almost never share my process. I am only doing so, because one of my photographer friends asked.
Most of my self-images can be placed into three categories — Reflections, Themed, and Awkward Self-Portraits (similar to Awkward Family Portraits). I am surprised when a photograph turns out decent, because I am an obstinate subject. Do you know the Pink song, “Don’t Let Me Get Me?” When I photograph myself, I feel as if I am singing that song to myself.… Read the rest
Yesterday was just another day at Melrose Leadership Academy… just another Saturday.
Professor Chipa and his capoeira students performed at Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, California for the “Batizado e Troca De Cordas.” Melrose Leadership Academy is the Oakland Unified dual immersion elementary school that my children attend. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art/ extreme dance activity.
My son loves capoeira. He loves the activity, excitement and his teacher. All the children enjoy learning how to improvise with people of different ages. The children develop new skills and more pride.
On Saturday, the children met well-known masters from different parts of the world. Professor Chipa’s master Mestre Sebia from Brazil played with the students. Shortly after I took this photo, he told them that they were the best.
After the younger students performed, they received their new belts and medals. Many of the children returned to watch the older capeoiristas.… Read the rest
I believe that people often ask us the questions we most want to avoid. We may not realize that we are avoiding the questions, and we certainly may not understand our reasons for doing so, because the reasons reveal insecurities. Sometimes, the difficult questions appear easy, such as, “How long have you been a photographer.” That is my difficult question.
Last night, my nine year old daughter visited my room knowing that I was sick. She said, “Daddy, I have a surprise.” I do not like surprises. I do not find them funny or charming. I especially do not like them on December 7. I am old enough to remember when I was nine and my grandparents would tell me about how their lives were changed forever by a big surprise in Hawaii. After she said surprise, I kept creating unhappy scenarios until I saw the glass of orange juice and handmade “Get Well” card.… Read the rest
I was dreaming when I wrote this. Forgive me if goes astray…. (Prince 1999)
Before I begin writing, I usually want to know where my article is going to take me, but I know from previous experience, writing is a process. I have actually published a few blog posts, but nothing that has captured the entire year. I still do not know what has happened. Everything has been a blur.
Thanksgiving is my New Years Day. I celebrate Thanksgiving by playing The Fresno High Senate Stogie Bowl. The Senate is the oldest high school club of its kind in the country. I play football every Thanksgiving with high school students and alumni. I have attended for 30 consecutive Thanksgivings. Some players were born in 1999. I wear clothes that are older than most of the players… I am that old.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Until this year, I waited until Thanksgiving to thank people… and then something changed.
now time to play football.
It is later.
Early this year, my former priest, Robert Cromey, challenged me to thank people more often. His simple advice changed my life. Thanking people however, is not always peaceful. It is not easy.
Life is full of conflict, tragedy and hardship. When life gives you lemons, it is difficult to say thank you if you do not drink lemonade. This last year has been especially difficult. I still cannot explain some of my challenges. Yet I became grateful when I thanked people.… Read the rest
One of my students wore a shirt today with the words, “It started with a smile.” The shirt reminded me of one of my previous blog posts as well as a song lyric to (Everybody Talks) “It Started with a Whisper.”
I talk. I talk to myself. I talk to my pictures. They talk back. We have conversations. If this sounds a little crazy, it is only because I am downplaying my confusion. I am like an amp turned to … eleven? But these START at 11
It is 11/12/13 and counting
If truth is stranger than fiction, perhaps fiction can teach me something… if only I could tell the difference between the two.… Read the rest
Last week I attended the2013 Sonoma County College & Career-Ready Fair at Windsor High School. Almost ten years ago, I had an idea that high school students in Sonoma County should have a Fall college fair. I worked for a college and when I visited the local high schools, I realized that many schools had eliminated their college counselors. Students were not receiving information about college. It was unfair.
You can view more College Fair photos here.
I approached many people with my idea, but only one person had the vision necessary to sustain the event. Chris Vetrano, the assistant principal at Windsor High School, knew how to organize events. With the help of many other community organizers, she has built a successful annual event.
I attend each year to remember what inspires me. I am inspired by people who are willing to help others. I am inspired by people like Chris who can see a crazy idea and create a successful event.… Read the rest
Ten days ago I visited Martha Tessmer during my trip to Fresno, California. If you count this recent August trip, I have visited Martha and the support group she created for mothers whose children have died, the last five summers.
In the previous years, I met with many of the members of the Mother of an Angel Friendship Network. This year, I did not have the energy to call on the all the mothers of angels. During the last several months, I have needed to call mothers individually and seek their support.
Usually during September I process photos and publish blog posts. Perhaps it is time to reflect on all the photos and create a larger photo book. In recent years, I have written an article with a photo essay for a magazine. I also published a couple photo books. Each project feels insufficient, though important. Last year I visited with Martha and several of the mothers.… Read the rest
The Friday after photographing the Bay Area band Train, I took the Railroad Avenue off ramp and started my new job with Pittsburg Unified School District. I am teaching photography and advising the yearbook at Pittsburg High School.
My first day with PUSD was also the ninth anniversary of the day my father shot himself. Nine years ago, I was lost. (A few months ago, I was derailed by my father’s suicide!) Now, to paraphrase Eric Clapton, I got a feeling that this could be the start of something serious. My heart belongs here and sometimes I wonder if I was meant to be here the whole time.
My father would have loved Pittsburg, California. He loved old Chevy’s. While he may not have enjoyed sing a longs, he took me to see Grease when I was a kid. We ate at old diners that reminded him of his youth.… Read the rest
Registration just started for the 2013-2014 school year. Kindergarten families and first graders register today. (I remember registering our first child before the Spanish immersion program started. We were scared!) Many people worry when they send kids to school… any school, so I thought I would post the galleries from last year’s kindergarten and first grade classes.
Here are photos of both first grade classes. Except for the photo that includes me, I took these photos in June. 2012-2013 First Grade Photo Gallery. I think a first grader took the photo of me, and I probably should give him credit and ask permission before posting it.Here is the 2012-13 Kindergarten Photo Gallery. Did you think your kids would have this much fun by the end of kinkindergarten? Tomorrow the second through fourth graders register. On Friday August 16, the sixth through eighth graders register. Remember to click the link if you wish to view the photo gallery.… Read the rest
When I first became a parent, I felt as if I had joined a secret club. Membership included our own version of a secret handshake too. (It is a sleepy head nod.) New parents could identify each other anywhere. We would also commiserate about our lack of sleep and share our humbling experience of becoming a parent. We knew parenting would be rewarding, but we did not know that it would be so difficult. Sometimes we discussed how we finally understood our parents… or worse, how we had become our parents.
Becoming a teacher was a similar process for me. I assumed it was going to be easier, probably because I had worked with young people for many years. I had also been a good student! What could be so hard? It was a good stable career. I liked kids. Besides, there is all that vacation. (Just like parenting has all that free time when the kids go to bed.) Well, if you have ever been a parent who looked forward to Friday night housecleaning, you might understand teachers and all their free time.… Read the rest
Besides learning Spanish and English, Melrose Leadership Academy students also learn presentation skills. In the four years of the Spanish dual immersion bilingual program, my daughter has participated at least nine times during a “presentation expo.” There is always a Winter Expo and a Spring Expo. A few times the students perform twice each season. My son, who finishes first grade next week, has performed at least five times. On Wednesday, June 5, 2013, MLA held the Spring Performance Expo.
As the official PTSA Board Historian for two years, it has been my responsibility to document many of our school activities. Before we had a PTSA, I documented most of the Performance and Academic Expos. I have enjoyed the responsibility. I am able to see the students and educators prepare backstage. I see many of the performers support their classmates. I witness their personal growth.
Our school is a community.… Read the rest
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon
As one of the local committee members who planned the 2013 Spring JEA National Convention, I was busy creating expectations. After the last convention in San Antonio, I even thought that I would influence the story. Wrong. I did not even control my own computer. I barely managed my own emotions. When the convention ended and people said that they had left their heart in San Francisco, I returned three different times searching for some connection to everyone who had left. I have never felt so disoriented after a convention… AND I LIVE HERE!
John Lennon also wrote “Give Peace a Chance.” I was leading a photography workshop down Market Street when this person crossed the street yelling on his megaphone. With his colorful shirt, peace signs, and megaphone, we could make a good photo, but I think he is an example of the first quote more than the second.… Read the rest
“If your photographs are not good enough, you are not close enough.” – Robert Capa (1913-1954)
Getting closer is a useful skill, and as we “get closer” to the 2013 Spring National High School Journalism Convention, I have been contemplating Capa’s quote and the meaning of “getting closer.” On the first day of the convention, I will teach an all-day photography workshop where we will practice getting closer literally, technically and metaphorically.
Sometimes getting closer is simple and we wait for the subject (or convention) to get closer. Other times we must adjust. We can change equipment or change our personal perspective. We can research a subject and become closer to the people we photograph.… Read the rest
One year ago today, Mark Murray and I presented a workshop about photography portfolios at the 2012 Spring JEA/NSPA National Convention. He and I have presented together for several years. How we present changes each time, because each convention space influences the presentation. The rooms are different sizes. Some conventions have more workshops and fewer people. Technology constantly changes, so we try to adapt. We try to keep it simple, while at the same time providing valuable information.
Mark and I practice simple complexity, a term my educator step-father referenced during the discussion thread of my Simple Man post. In our presentation, we simplify many fast moving complex dynamics that we cannot always predict. (Dr. Hannah Fry explains complexity science during a short TEDx video, “Is life really that complex?”)
How is complexity theory relevant? Well, we still teach students the simple lesson that “First Impressions” influence perceptions; however, photographers cannot control which image is viewed first.… 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
feel free to ignore. trying to fix my comment plug ins. many of my imported comments only appear with the following tag
(comments imported from blog) … not content
So, instead of actually importing the comments on Facebook sites, everyone can only see that there were comments. Not very user friendly. I should have fixed it by now.
bf… Read the rest
On Wednesday March 6, 2013, third graders from Oakland’s Melrose Leadership Academy traveled to 826 Valencia in San Francisco. MLA students attended 826 Valencia’s interactive Screenplay program, which is similar to the popular Storytelling and Bookmaking program the students attended last year.
On Tuesday, workshop leader Jami Johnson collaborated with Melrose students to create “The Stolen Ice Cream.” Students practice their writing skills developing characters and story concepts. Before the students voted on their title, the students set the story, “Deep in space on planet Banana Split.” With the “Setting” decided, students chose characters.
Characters were identified by protagonist sidekick and antagonist. The students named these characters Agent Cheese, Agent Doggy and The Foot. For the story, the students learned how to add actions to the script. AGENT CHEESE (stamps his foot) …
Kavitha Lotun, who helped as the group’s typist, encouraged the students to expand their story.… 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 I look forward to January 6. I believe that the new year or the holiday will inspire me. When I started attending church as a young adult, Epiphany was one of the easiest holidays to accept. I believed in sudden realizations, just as I believed in grace and good will towards my fellow human.
This year I have been slow to epiphany.
I have not lacked sudden realizations. During the last few weeks, I have been an epiphany machine. I often wake up suddenly in the middle of the night. Each time I have a new idea. These ideas have formed one continual riddle.
What is an epiphany without action? Is it anything more than a fantasy disguised as a dream? Do I need a little less blog and a lot more action?