“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
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.”
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.
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.
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.… Read the rest
The McClymonds High School Warriors won their first state football championship on December 17, 2016. On Friday January 6, 2017, Oakland celebrated at City Hall and West Oakland.
I attended their last playoff game with my son and his friend. (McClymonds lost to Sacred Heart Prep in the Northern California final on 12/12/15.) I also photographed one of their home games the previous year. (My post with photos was called, “Back at Mack to Pay it Back.”)
Even though I did not attend any games this year, I have been to Mack many times. I brought my daughter to the parade. When she was younger, her track team competed at Mack. My friends have worked at the school. If my life had turned out differently, I would have taught at Mack during this year’s state championship season.
McClymonds is called “The School of Champions.” Coincidentally, I attended a high school in Fresno that was also “The School of Champions.” Fresno High are also Warriors.… Read the rest
Updated December 29, 2016; originally posted December 9, 2016.
I have started writing at 11:25 pm. About this time one week ago, a fire started in a warehouse two miles from my home. Thirty six people died.
I visited the Ghost Ship Fire memorials in the Fruitvale District a few times this week. Even though I brought my camera, I felt more like a community member trying to make sense of the tragedy. For this post, I created a photo gallery. I also categorized the post in the journalism section, although I wonder if there is a better category.
I have photographed death and dying. This felt too close and too big.
Local, regional and national news organizations covered this story. In Oakland, the Ghost Ship Fire will remain an important story for many years.
I wonder how the young people will remember the fire. Will the young people become afraid to act or emboldened?… Read the rest
World War II ended seventy-one years ago today. Japan officially surrendered on the USS Missouri a couple weeks later, so some people might consider September 2, 1945 as the official VJ Day. This discrepancy is just one small example of the problems with writing history. Even when the victor writes history, the stories are not simple to tell. For this post, I visited two parts of World War II history that are often oversimplified.
My father was born in a small Texas town on October 7, 1940. Fourteen months later, Pearl Harbor was bombed. My grandfather was drafted; he served stateside near St. Louis. My father and grandmother lived in Oklahoma.
My grandmother never graduated high school, but she understood history. She saved news clippings. She explained which countries fought for the Allies and the Axis. She knew Europe and Asia, though she never traveled off the continent. She hated and feared the enemy… and if the enemy had ever met my grandmother, they would have feared her too.… Read the rest
Must news be new?
Is five years too soon?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a photo book worth?
Five years ago, I taught at San Marin High School in Novato, California. From the moment I applied for the position on August 16th, 2010, until my last day at the school, I made powerful images. I started to belive in “photo gods.” I felt that if I just showed up with my camera, I would find a picture.
During the last few months, I have been physically unable to take pictures at the same speed. Instead of making pictures, I have been making photo books. I created one book about the 2011 San Marin Boys Basketball team. In 2011, the team won its first North Coast Section championship in school history. Eventually, the team lost in the CIF State Tournament.
I used Adobe Lightroom and Blurb to create a 110 page hard cover photo book.… Read the rest
This post is about three basketball games that all occurred on March 2nd. I photographed two of the games. The other game was played in 1962.
When I was in 5th grade, I remember taking a standardized reading comprehension test. We read a short story about Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points against the New York Knicks. We were asked to categorize the story. Because I knew it was impossible for anyone to score 100 points in an NBA game, I decided that the story was fictional. Of course, Wilt scored 100 points against the Knicks on March 2, 1962 and my distrust of standardized tests was born.
The second story happened five years ago on March 2, 2011. I was teaching at San Marin High School in Novato, California. I had just learned that I was going to lose my teaching position, because the technology department was closing. Our boys basketball team was hosting one of the state’s top teams, Bishop O’Dowd in a North Coast Section semifinal the next night.… Read the rest
Four years ago, I published a blog post about the local Occupy Oakland General Strike. The main protest started in downtown Oakland on the morning of November 2, 2011. Before I arrived at the protest, I captured images that I thought would illustrate a different part of the “income inequality” story. I visited the city of Piedmont, California and photographed the city within the city of Oakland. For this post, I juxtaposed images from the General Strike with those from Piedmont.
If you do not live near Oakland, you may not know about Piedmont, California. It is a small incorporated city completely inside Oakland.
In 2011, if there were an Oakland equivalent to Occupy Wall Street, it would have been “Occupy Piedmont.” I did not want to encourage an Occupy Piedmont movement, but I found Occupy Oakland to be, at best, off-message. It was Occupy Everything… except where rich people live.
I have friends in Piedmont. My daughter plays for a Piedmont Rec soccer team.… Read the rest
One month ago today, Libby Schaaf became Oakland’s 50th mayor. The Inauguration Ceremony was pure Oakland. She rode into office in a Burning Man snail car; she was met at the Paramount Theater by sharp dressed protesters and journalists. (I would like to think that I was both a sharp dressed protester and a journalist, but those days have probably passed me by.)
When I photographed the Inauguration Ceremony, I felt “cautiously ambivalent.” There was an odd tension between the protesters and the newly elected officials. The elected officials were probably more optimistic. They invited their children and parents onstage during their speeches. Inauguration day is full of hope. (Did the new board members realize that they had become part of The Establishment?)
I could have photographed the protesters all day. The heightened tension combined with intense visual imagery. The bright colorful walls and stoicism emphasized contradictions. (Additionally, one recently re-elected city council member appeared to protest her own inauguration.)
Desley Brooks is now my Oakland City Council person after recent redistricting. She was re-elected to a fourth term in November.… Read the rest
Have you heard the expression Pay it Forward? In the right context, it is actually a nice idea. People deposit acts of kindness into a karma bank, and somehow the universe knows when we need a return favor. Sometimes I “Pay it Forward,” but I did not visit McClymonds High School on September 12, 2014 to Pay it Forward. I am a sports fan who loves history. I will never be able to pay back the McClymonds community for their contributions to sports, art, and civil rights.
When I arrived at McClymonds High School in Oakland to photograph the game between the McClymonds High Warriors and the Selesian High Pride from Richmond, I found my friend Coach Joe Cokes. Joe was one of the coaches when my daughter ran track. Coach Joe and I visited the locker room and started taking pictures. Here are my photographs.
I have been inside McClymonds several times and each time I am intimidated, and not because of the location, but by the history.… Read the rest
A year ago today, I taught a photography workshop in San Francisco. The students practiced “getting closer.“ I encouraged participants to acknowledge discomfort and create support networks. As I wrote last year, “Photographers build bridges to people who are lonely,” but we often forget to build our own bridges.
Three months after the workshop, I photographed a neighborhook candlelight vigil. Our neighbor, Judy Salamon, had been shot and killed in the neighborhood. I rushed over to the vigil “to get closer.” Perhaps I believed that if I got close enough, I could help. Lately, I have been pulling back, because I lost my focus. I needed a bridge.
Yesterday, Oakland Police announced that two men were charged for murdering Salamon. According to several publications and interviews, OPD claim that Salamon filmed the two men after witnessing a crime. She was shot when she would not relinquish her phone.… Read the rest
Today is Earth Day. On the first Earth Day in 1970, the modern environmentalist movement had just started. In late January of 1969, the largest oil spill in United States history occurred in Santa Barbara, California. The Santa Barbara Oil Spill would remain the largest US oil spill until the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef on March 24, 1989.
I was a college student at UC Santa Barbara when the Exxon Valdez began spilling oil. Santa Barbara residents were frustrated (or shocked), because they remembered seeing waves of dead birds washing onto their beaches. Natural disasters are difficult to accept. Preventable disasters to natural resources are different.
If you are unfamiliar with Santa Barbara’s history, you may think that the town is a liberal college tourist town. Oil exploration arrived decades before UCSB. Santa Barbara was a conservative county for most of the 20th Century. In 1969, a Republican from California was the President when the Environmental Protection Agency was formed.… Read the rest
It is a few minutes past midnight on Sunday March 9, 2014. I have just returned home from Fresno County and I decided to post my photos from my last Fresno County visit. I wanted to post while it was still International Women’s Day, because this story reveals something unexpected about the struggle for liberty. The post is late, just as liberation often arrives later than desired.
In January, I published the first installment of my long term project about Japanese Americans Internment Camp Survivors. When I returned to Reedley, California three weeks ago, Libby and her mother joined us. Libby and Tisha are related to many of the people I photographed in January.
Libby is my friend [wb_fb_f name=”Carol Egoian” id=””]’s granddaughter. Carol is my connection to the story. Carol introduced me to the Art of Gaman and she introduced me to many of her family members, including those who survived the relocation camps.… Read the rest
On Saturday March 1, I attended two season openers. One was a campaign and the other was a sporting event. There is probably a cheap joke here, but neither event felt cheap.
In the morning, I attended Libby Schaaf’s “Libby for Mayor Oakland Campaign Kickoff.” (I took a few hundred pictures; here is the edited photo gallery.) In the evening, I photographed the Bay Area Derby Girls Season Opener. The events felt similar. There was music. There were people from different ages and backgrounds. Young people held signs. Older people cheered. Everyone seemed committed. Positive.
As someone who pretends to be a journalist, I do not officially endorse anyone, but I support many people and causes. I support Libby. Before she was elected to City Council, she supported my kids and neighbors. I support people who help my kids and neighbors.
People at derby support me and my kids.… Read the rest
A journey is a person in itself… We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. – John Steinbeck
Sometimes I have to let go. Too much happened in February. I want to understand it and explain all of it. Now. I want to explain one February and the last 140 years of the Central Valley… and I want to explain it all with one blog post, five photos, a Steinbeck quote and a country music song.
On Valentine’s Day, I took a trip through the San Joaquin Valley. The same day that President Obama visited Fresno to discuss the drought with area farmers, I visited Fresno County to continue a project about Japanese-American internment camp survivors. I wondered which US President I would want to share a drought with (not draught beer), especially if I were a small farmer. Has any US President supported the interest of the small farmer in the Central Valley?… Read the rest
While I maintain the romantic belief that I can change the world with my pictures, I know from experience that meaningful long term photo projects usually change me more than the other way around. I can already feel the transformation now that I have started a new project about the Japanese American Internment Camp and The Art of Gaman.
Before a new project comes into focus, there is a paradoxical excitement that Robert Frost never quite captured. There are infinite roads and I want to rush down all of them at once… into the past and back to the future. There are so many more roads not taken than I was led to believe.
If there is such a thing as “an official start” to this new project, it began during the Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. Day On at the California Museum in Sacramento, on Sunday January 19, 2014. The next day I visited families in Reedley, California. Unofficially, the project began many years earlier when I met Carol Egoian at my local farmers’ market in Oakland. Carol lives in Reedley which is near my childhood home Fresno, California.… Read the rest
Last weekend, I photographed The Crucible’s 15 annual fashion show in Oakland, California. The Crucible is an arts education non-profit that promotes collaboration. Here are my photos from Runway Show 1.
As an art educator, I appreciate the collaborative process. I also understand that if something is easy, it probably is not art. Nothing about Hot Couture seemed easy, but it was artistic.
The designers and industrial artists prepared three separate walks for Hot Couture 2014: The Fusion of Fashion & Fire. Kimberly Ayotte, Heather Wakefield, and Jennifer Remmers, designed costumes for Runway Show 1. Perhaps because this was my first Hot Couture, I have slowly been captioning photos. If you notice an omission or error, please help me update the information. Did I miss John Williams?
Hot Couture might not be your standard fashion show, but it has something in common with popular fashion shows — the designers do not create outfits for the general population.… Read the rest
Be careful what you wish for… it may come true.
On Thursday evening I was relaxing in my Maxwell Park home noticing the stillness. My life has been busy recently and I missed the excitement. About five minutes later, two neighbors walked past our house and mentioned a memorial service for a neighbor who had been shot a day earlier. I did not miss the excitement that much. (Photo Gallery Here)
I had been so busy with my own life, I was unaware that Judy Salamon had been shot. I had noticed the helicopters hovering over our neighborhood the day earlier, but I hoped that they were visiting for an afternoon traffic incident. Helicopters and homicides are too common in my neighborhood. It is easier to pray for bad traffic.
Perhaps I would have learned about the memorial online, but on Thursday, our internet modem broke, so I missed all the messages from our neighborhood listserv.… Read the rest
I met Tommie Smith on Saturday during the tenth annual 2013 Tommie Smith Youth Track Meet. The two day meet occurred at Edwards Stadium on the University of California campus.
I am still excited.
I meet interesting people almost every day, and I met many interesting people during the track season, but Tommie Smith is an international hero who I have known about since I was a kid growing up in the San Joaquin Valley. Besides being an Olympic Gold Medalist and former world record holder, Tommie Smith is a civil rights icon. He is a role model. I was so excited, I unintentionally ignored UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Chancellor Birgeneau seemed excited too. There is only one Tommie Smith.
The 100 Black Men of the Bay Area sponsor the year-round track and fitness program. My daughter’s team is led by former NCAA All-American Willie White. (Coach White was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.)
Many of the teams are coached by former college athletes.… Read the rest
Dorothy Gale! This morning when I woke up in my own bed, I finally had an explanation to my recent eight day odyssey. I had survived three (?) Emerald Cities in eight days. I photographed two epilepsy awareness walks (Here are photos from yesterday’s National Walk for Epilepsy). My adventure included lions and super shuttles and service dogs. On Friday night, there was a tornado warning in Washington, D.C. Two nights earlier, the storm nearly trapped me in Chicago.
My blind faith was tested often the last eight days. When I photographed the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County fundraiser, I felt disoriented. I was in the valley of the blind… and I was not the person who had one eye. I needed a service dog just as much as anyone else.
On Wednesday, I left Oakland for Washington.… Read the rest
I visited the San Joaquin Valley twice in March to photograph the Fresno Country Blossom Trail and surrounding area. Compare my photos from the first visit and the second visit. During the drive to and through the valley, I reflected on ”being from the Valley” while listening to the radio. On my first visit, a local radio station asked listeners to name their “theme song.” A theme song was described as the music that would play whenever a person walked into the room.
Well, I knew my theme song (or at least I thought I did.) It was Bad Company, by Bad Company. Yeah, this guy with a face of fear “chose a gun and threw away the sun.” It does not make sense. It is a great song, but as far as a “theme song” it falls apart after the first two lines.
Company always on the run/ Destiny is the rising sun… after that, who wants a theme song that announces your bad disposition and willingness to die using firearms?… Read the rest
Last weekend, I took my new derby persona, P Giddy, on the road to Santa Cruz. I also took my family. We live about 2 hours from Santa Cruz, and my persona did not adjust until I walked into the new Kaiser Permanente without the kids … and Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation played. If P Giddy had a patron saint, it would be Joan Jett, though the Wilson sisters influenced his style guide.
Women’s Flat Track Derby is many things to many people, but derby is more Afternoon D-Lightning than Starland Vocal Band. At it’s core, derby is Rock and Roll… and I love rock and roll. To prepare my children for their first bout, I showed my kids the I Love Rock N Roll video by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. The video starts with Bad Reputation, so the kids learn TWO JOAN JETT SONGS.
My son, who turns 7 this May, might love Joan Jett more than I do.… Read the rest
Lately, I have wondered if God were my D.J. At the exact moment I need to hear a song, Pandora, Whole Foods, or some random person selects the song with the appropriate message. During the last two weeks, I have heard John Denver’s Country Road two times. I am not from West Virginia, yet the song reminds me of my old Central Valley home town. The day after hearing the song a second time, my favorite Fresno County farmers told me to visit the Fresno County Blossom Festival. NOW!
On my good days, I trust that God and farmers will feed my soul and nourish my body. I am grateful that I listened last week. I woke up two hours before sunrise Wednesday morning, turned on the radio, turned onto the interstate and headed for the country roads. As the sun rose, “I (could) hear her voice, in the morning hour.” Fresno called me… taking me home.… Read the rest
When I fell in love with women’s flat track derby, I was already a fan. Derby answered a nagging question… or rather, derby helped me answer all those people at UC Santa Barbara who nagged me with the question, “So, what is a man gonna do with a BA in Women’s Studies?” This man is gonna listen to Joan Jett, drink a beer, eat a vegetarian tamale, and watch women skate around in a circle and hit each other.
Finally, I could go somewhere an not worry about my bad reputation (not that I really worry anyway). Derby had all types of women competing and every demographic supporting their aunts, sisters, mothers, girl friends, daughters and friends. Derby was like Glee all grown up, except I knew the music, I understood the references, and every competitor was someone I wanted my daughter to meet. One of the skaters even named herself belle RIGHT hooks!… Read the rest
I am like an official women’s derby photographer now. I am more than a little excited. I’m running and I won’t touch ground. Eva Menace, the PR person for The B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls, invited me into Saturday’s season opener on March 2, 2013 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California. Now I can take photos of REAL LIVE DERBY GIRLS like Lulu Lockjaw. Lulu actually let me take her picture. Wow. What’s a boy to do?
I think I have a found my derby persona too. As I understand derby personas, they are like an alter egos. My derby alter ego uses the word “like.” He also has the exuberance of a respectful high school sophomore boy who happens to drop his camera and damage his lens. (Assuming this never happens again, it was worth it.) If you are one of the five people who read my blog, you know that I usually take my self way too seriously.… Read the rest