“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
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
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
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
The Fresno High School Senate was established in 1890. Until the 1970’s, the club only admitted boys. (There was an equivalent for girls during part of the first 80 years, but the club is so old, American women did not have a Constitutional right to vote when the Fresno High Senate started. )
We’re talking old.
When I joined Senate, MTV was a few years old. My classmates and I raced home and watched new wave music videos. Now, I am starting to sound old, which I have been for several years at Stogie Bowl. This year, I was the second oldest.
Most of the people were not born when I attended my first game in 1984.
Sometimes Senate seems as if it is merely a debate club with a football problem… or is it the other way around? We love a good debate. (We love any debate, but we love each other.) Senate trains its members to argue assertively and respectfully.… Read the rest
While I was preparing for my final presentation, a sales person approached me in my hotel lobby. The woman wanted to sell me something similar to a timeshare, “but it was not a timeshare.” I stopped preparing my presentation while my tea finished steeping. She continued asking me questions loud enough so that I could barely hear the newscaster discuss the recent CIA Director’s resignation. Then the salesperson inside my hotel asked me, “So what do you think about this David Petraeus thing.” Before I could respond, the salesperson continued,
“I think that Obama is a secret Muslim and he is covering up Benghazi.”
I paused before responding… I paused several times. My answer was quite brilliant, and I will share it for you in the comment section in case your hotel sanctions similar sales tactics. For now, I want to illustrate a different point.
Some people will make up “the story behind the story.”
At the San Antonio JEA/ NSPA National High School Journalism Conference, I presented a photo story workshop with Dave LaBelle.… Read the rest
A year ago today, my family returned from Redding, California before our kids began school. My younger child was beginning kindergarten and my daughter was starting second grade. I am posting these photos from the Sundial Bridge at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park.
I have learned that when I am in the middle of processing my Mothers of Angels photos that it helps if I continue to enjoy my own children. I have also learned from the mothers to enjoy my family the entire year. The mothers remind me to honor life… not to take it for granted.
I showed these photos to my six year old today and he remembered our visit to Paris. We have never been to Paris, but then we have never been to China either. (Yesterday, he confused Chinatown with China. Before I could decide whether I should correct him, his sister solved my problem.)
My children have traveled enough for their age and they have done enough for their age.… Read the rest
Napa seems far away from Oakland. Napa Valley is not really part of the Bay Area, but Napa is closer to Oakland than other Bay Area cities. If traffic is light, I can make it to Napa in about an hour. On Friday, I went to Napa to spend the night with my wife. We worked during the day and visited downtown Napa on Friday and Saturday.
I have been experimenting with my new cell phone camera. At the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, I photographed an interesting French antique at Heritage Culinary Artifacts. I returned the next day with my real camera, but the piece was being packed for a new buyer. The blackberry photo was also taken with my Android cell phone.
The Oxbow Public Market hosts a Saturday Farmers’ Market.… Read the rest
I attended UCSB and lived in Santa Barbara for twelve years. Two weeks ago, I returned with my daughter to meet many of my good friends. I wanted her to meet the people who shaped me and to learn how to create community. We visited my old school and my old church. My daughter met my old friends. It was one of my all-time favorite weekends.
I planned the trip around Sarah Fenstermaker’s farewell party. Sarah was the Women’s Studies Chair when I became UCSB’s first male Women’s Studies major. She is leaving Santa Barbara for Ann Arbor where she will direct the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender. When Sara and I first discussed my becoming a Women’s Studies major, I do not think we realized what I was giving up. I also did not realize the life-long relationships I would gain and that my own daughter would meet Sarah’s daughter.… Read the rest
About three years ago, I changed my diet. I forgot how much I enjoyed restaurants until my recent visit to Washington, D.C. when I ate at Vapiano three times. The last two times I photographed the chefs.
In 2011, during a family visit to Washington, DC, my wife and two children found Vapiano. My kids still remember it. When I visited this year for a late dinner, the atmosphere was more energetic. Perhaps the “European lifestyle” encourages families and young adults to enjoy the same restaurant. I love the healthy food, happy chefs and open light.
Light is important.… Read the rest
One month ago, I traveled to Washington DC for the National Walk for Epilepsy. The night I arrived, the Wil Gravatt Band was performing downtown at the Hill Country Boot Bar. Wil Gravatt operates Wil Gravatt Entertainment when he is not performing. Wil also helps my friend Chad Barth organize the Concert for Epilepsy.
In 2007, Chad started the benefit to honor his sister. The first event, a “Karaoke-off,” raised $2,500. By 2011, Chad had recruited experienced event organizers and he was able to organize a benefit concert with two well known country acts. Gravatt deserves some credit for sharing his expertise with Chad. I have only met Wil a few times, but each time, he feels like an old friend. I am looking forward to September when we have the 6th Annual Concert for Epilepsy.
BF… Read the rest
I live in Oakland, California. Depending on traffic, Oakland is about thirty minutes from Concord, California. On Saturday April 7, I was listening to the news when I heard that a Concord family was beginning a horrible journey that started when a teenager lost control of his Cadillac Escalade. The father, Solaiman Nuri, had taken his two daughters for a bicycle ride. Both daughters were hit. Solaiman and his nine year old were killed. One daughter survived. Solaiman Nuri and I are about the same age. I have an eight year old daughter. It was easier to imagine that something similar could happen to my family simply because I was being a good father.
Solaiman Nuri was an excellent father. His daughter was happy. She left behind a mother, a sister, and a large loving family. Many of them attended the vigil in Sacramento, California.
Impact Teen Drivers honors those affected by distracted driving, such as the Nuri family.… Read the rest
Student press supporters often claim that students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” At a recent national journalism education conference, I noticed a different version of this quote. Outside the schoolhose gate, students express themselves too.
Fourteen year old Malcolm Sutherland-Foggio, started a non-profit for pediatric cancer research after Malcolm watched his friends die next to him in the hospital. Malcolm and his mother brought the national angel quilt to Seattle, and coincidentally, were stationed at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. The journalism students and educators from JEA/NSPA would pass his table several times each day.
During the convention, I met with students from the Carlsbad High School Lancer Link. These students somehow operate inside the school gates with readers throughout the world. I was familiar with the publication before the teacher asked me to critique the publication.… Read the rest
At the 2012 JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention, Mark Murray and I presented a photography portfolio workshop. We have presented thirteen portfolio workshops at the last twelve JEA/NSPA national conferences starting in Nashville, Tennessee. (We have also presented at other conferences separately.)
At last year’s Anaheim convention, we presented with Jim McNay. Jim is an influential photojournalism educator who helped us create the original presentation. I can trace most of my photography relationships to Jim. Jim also connected me to Grant Morris the photographer who allows Mark and me to use his college photography portfolio for our presentation. Grant was a student at Brooks Institute and the Eddie Adams Workshop. Jim started the Visual Journalism program at Brooks and he has worked many of the Adams weekends.
Just as I am about to lose faith, I meet someone like Tyrone.
I am in the Washington, D.C. Metro area for the 2012 National Walk for Epilepsy. Yesterday, I flew into Baltimore Washington International Airport. I spent the night in Baltimore and took the MARC train this morning from Baltimore’s Penn Station to Union Station. Since I visited Baltimore last year, Penn Station celebrated its 100 year anniversary.
While I was photographing Jonathan Borofsky’s Male/Female aluminum sculpture in front of the train depot, a homeless man approached me. We both saw an opportunity.
I probably over share. Sometimes this is a character flaw, but other times, I meet people with stories they want to share. Tyronne needed money, but he probably wanted me to take his photo even more.… Read the rest
When I was a child, I loved the snow… or at least I loved the idea of snow. Once my ears froze, I wanted to play a different sport. I was afraid. I was afraid of failure and falling. I did not understand ski culture, even though I realized that many of my friends enjoyed skiing. Every four years, I watched the Olympics and imagined that I would “Ski the Peak.”
My children are creating different memories. On Presidents’ Day, our family visited China Peak. (We purchased a special lesson and lift ticket plan, so they children received lessons before snow boarding.) My five year old son was fearless. His older cousins and eight year old sister were successful. I was both proud and envious… but more proud.
Do you believe digital photography is easier than film photography? What makes digital easier?
Digital cameras store information that many photographers would write in a notebook or on the back of printed photos. The shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO information is stored automatically. The above photo is mostly about shutter speed. After taking photographs for twenty years, I already know that the shutter speed was at least 1/250, but there are many times when I learn something from the exposure information. I also save time, because I do not need to record the data.
Depth of field and shutter speed are the same with digital photography as film photography. This photo is all depth of field. I focused on the small icicle with an f-stop about 1.2.
With digital cameras, photographers have access to an exposure graph called a histogram. Usually, when I am looking at the back of my camera, I am looking at the histogram.… Read the rest
NOTE: These photos were updated on 12/12/12, primarily because of site changes that a viewer can’t see. All of these were outtakes from the wedding of Courtney Stout and Nick Maksimowicz on December 10, 2012.
Last weekend, I photographed the Carmel Valley, California wedding of Courtney Stout and Nick Maksimowicz. I also photographed their rehearsal and portrait session. One gallery is at the bottom of the post. Other photos can be found on my website.
If every wedding were like Courtney’s and Nick’s, I would shoot weddings more often. Despite the Monterey Peninsula location, the wedding was more about friendships and commitment than it was about wealth. The couple’s friends organized the wedding. I was recruited by the bride’s childhood friend.
I spent two days with the couple and their friends. After two intense days, I have new friends too. When I left, I missed Nick and Courtney and the other people who attended.… Read the rest
When my wife and I drove up to the Pigasus Horse Ranch for our children’s riding lesson, I asked my wife if she had ever wanted to ride horses as a kid. I was surprised by her response. “Of course, every girl wants a pony.”
My mother and step-father live a few miles from the horse ranch. This summer, my children took their first lessons. Yesterday, my wife took her first lesson. (Click on the top photo to launch the slideshow.)
The first photo reminds me of Dave LaBelle’s The Great Picture Hunt cover. There is another photo in the slideshow that is more similar, but this photo seems like the “before photo.” Mom and daughter were beginning to connect to the horse and the horse had not decided yet.
Even before I started shooting, I also thought about one of my favorite photographers, Bill Frakes, who always seems to catch the perfect lighting and shadows while telling a great story.… Read the rest