This is the eighth year that I have photographed the Melrose Leadership Academy dual immersion kindergarten students. I have photographed every kindergarten class since MLA introduced the Spanish bilingual program. My daughter was in the first class; my son started two years later. I have also photographed other activities, often as the Historian. (See the MLA Collection of Galleries.)
MLA is an OUSD district school. We have created something special in a place where failure is expected. If I did not have my pictures, I would question whether we ever built the school. Some days, I still wonder if I am hallucinating.
One of my mentors, Jim McNay, recently sent me an article about long-term projects from the Magnum Photo Agency site. The authors provide “Five lessons in developing and sustaining a long-term photographic project.” The first lesson: have a mission statement. Why is this story important?
My goals have changed during the eight years, but my reasons have remained consistent.… Read the rest
Last month I photographed the Hot Couture fashion show at Oakland’s Crucible. The 2017 Hot Couture fashion show was inspired by the artist Prince and called “The Beautiful One’s.”
This is the fourth consecutive Hot Couture that I have photographed and I tried to be inspired by Prince. I created an 84 image photo gallery. Prince released the album and movie Purple Rain in 1984. “The Beautiful Ones” is a song on Purple Rain.
While “The Beautiful Ones” is not my favorite Prince song, it probably captures my feelings about him. The song captures the contradictions. He was an artist who was passionate. (“You were so hard to find”) He was a passionate artist who yearned to “paint the perfect picture.” He was like all the beautiful ones, “You always seem to lose.” We lost him too early.
When Prince died, I lost something. One year ago today, Prince performed in Oakland.… 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
Twilight, lost my way
Twilight, can’t find my way
In the shadows, boy meets man (from U2’s Twilight)
Last week I photographed Inventing Our Future 2016 at Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, California. The three day event was the Fifth Annual Integrated Learning Summer Institute sponsored by Alameda County Office of Education and other regional partners. The conference emphasizes how art can improve education across the curriculum. I have attended the last four summer workshops.
As the photographer, I visit all 33 workshops. I also meet the morning plenary speakers. I follow each day’s theme as I follow the schedule. On day one, we explored “compassion for self and others.” Several of the workshops focused on trauma. How do we help ourselves? How can we help our students?
Each year, I listen to music while driving to the workshop. This year I listened to U2’s first album Boy.… Read the rest
I have been photographing performances at Melrose Leadership Academy longer than many people have been taking pictures. Earlier this month, I photographed my 14th “Performance Expo” at my son’s dual immersion Oakland public school. You can access the Spring 2016 photo gallery here.
I am an educator as well as a parent, so I probably view these performances differently than some people. I look at the educational and developmental value. As a photographer, I am continually looking for the visual opportunities. Every time I photograph the performance expos, I find opportunities and value.
Earlier this year, I shared some photos from previous expos. In the January 2016 post, I also wondered if educators could create a standardized test for collaboration. You have probably heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone is working on the standardized test yet, so I keep dreaming.
When I attended an art educators meeting last month, I claimed that art is an afterthought… it is an add on.… Read the rest
Last weekend I photographed the 2015 Girls Inc of Alameda County Taste Event. You can view my final photo gallery of 161 photos and you can scroll through this post and preview several of the images from the event in downtown Oakland.
I photographed the 2014 Taste fundraiser last year too. It was also at the Rotunda. I have included the blog post. I am also including the photo gallery. Last year, the event started at the Girls Inc’s Simpson Center across the street from the Rotunda.
I did not taste much of the food this year, but I photographed the preparation. I hope I captured the excitement on both sides of the curtain.
The auctioneer was excellent again this year. When I was in high school, my mother worked for an auction house, so I know the rhythm of a good auction. This experience probably helps me photograph an auctioneer, especially when there is a good one.… Read the rest
Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand…
And you can tell right away at letter A….
Stevie Wonder, “Sir Duke,” album “Songs in the Key of Life”
Where do we begin?
Last week I photographed the three day Inventing Our Future Integrated Summer Learning Institute at The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California. The Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership organizes the ILSI so that area educators will be better prepared to integrate art into their curriculum. After I photographed last year’s conference, I wondered if educators would love connecting with each other as well as the content. This year I will remember how students inspired me to wonder about a different question.
How does one distinguish between Courage and Good Art?
The institute is one place where everyone accepts that art education is important. I can relax and learn from others without feeling that I must continually justify arts integration. Let’s face it, America is just not that into integration.… Read the rest
When my 11 year old daughter began kindergarten at Melrose Leadership Academy, I had a simple idea. I thought I could photograph each kindergarten class as long as my children attended the school. I live in the neighborhood. How difficult could it be?
As I tell my photography students, simple and easy are not the same. “Simple” is difficult and my simple idea has become more difficult this year. I teach in a district an hour away from my home. We have the same breaks, so I don’t have a week to visit the school.
There is another complication. I try to create something different each year. MLA was at a different site the first three years, so those pictures all look different from the more recent images. Each year I wonder how I am going to create something interesting. Last year, I gave the kids magnifying glasses. This year, the students photographed me with my smartphone.… Read the rest
This is going to be a short post, but I could probably write a book… except I am not an author. (Sometimes I forget that I am not an author and I write too much.)
Last week I attended an event where two best-selling authors, Gayle Forman and Jay Asher, promoted suicide awareness and I remembered that I am a survivor of suicide. It is not as though I had forgotten, but sometimes I become disconnected to that part of my life. It is easy to forget because I belong to many other families and I am involved with all of them. Besides, there are times when I forget that any of this is real. I listened to a couple fathers who lost daughters to suicide. That made it a little more real too.
One of my college friends recently posted an Abraham Lincoln quote (or maybe it was attributed to Mark Twain) that people too easily accept that which is posted on the internet.… 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
Before I continue writing about Hot Couture 2015, I should include a disclaimer. I wore a beanie both nights to the annual fashion show at The Crucible in Oakland.
I know enough about photography that I thought about “The Fashionable Gordon Parks” and his fashion photography while I shot and edited. Parks photographed runways without flash photography. He used movement to his advantage. His New York fashion pictures captures something real and artistic. Perhaps that is the nature of fashion. It is art and reality.
Last year when I photographed the fashion show, I was inspired by designers. Occasionally I return to my three posts from last year when I need motivation.… Read the rest
One month ago I was invited to attend my second Kwanzaa Celebration. I photographed the event at the Partnership for Affordable Housing in Oakland, California on December 26, 2014. I returned with my two children last week to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.’s birthday. The Partnership for Affordable Housing operates a transition home. While I was photographing the Kwanzaa Celebration, I kept thinking about my first Kwanzaa and how everyone is in transition.
In 1991, I did not have a place to live. I had assumed that I would be finishing my final year of college, but then my financial aid was unexpectedly cut and I did not have a place to live. A family invited me to their home for Kwanzaa and I enjoyed the company. I still remember the grateful grandmother tell me how to avoid growing old. (Die young!) I also remember their concern for me.… Read the rest
On Saturday September 13th, 2014, I photographed the 1st Annual Taste fundraiser for Girls Incorporated of Alameda County. The main event was held in the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland. Guests gathered at the Girls Inc. main headquarters across the street before dinner and the live auction. (HERE ARE THE PHOTOS)
I asked to photograph the event. I had photographed the 2012 Women of Taste fundraiser, and I was impressed with the organization. Though the 2014 version of “Women of Taste” was different, I still wanted to contribute. I explained some of my personal reasons in my blog post two years ago. Those reasons still exist.
Before the event, one of my friends asked me why I wanted to photograph this year’s fundraiser. I never know how to answer these types of questions. Usually, I answer honestly, but I omit some of the more compelling reasons. Why was a Women’s Studies major?… 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
Last week I attended the third annual Art is Education summer institute in Oakland, California. The Integrated Learning Summer Institute: Inventing Our Future was held at the Chabot Space and Science Museum from August 12-14, 2014. The Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Leadership organized the event.
For links to the galleries and notes, visit my More Than Kids blog where I have started keeping Notes on A Blog.
Chip McNeal opened the first day with a quote from astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson that underscored the theme of the three days.
“(W)e are all connected to each other… It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
By seeing the world this way, Neil DeGrasse Tyson feels “quite large.” Perhaps art educators would benefit by viewing our work similarly. Are we limiting ourselves when we say that education starts (or ends) with art?… Read the rest
My two children attend Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, California. MLA is a Spanish dual immersion K-8 school. Our school is part of Oakland Unified School District. In previous years, I have posted more frequently about our school, but this year I have been busy teaching photography and yearbook at Pittsburg High School. Both school districts finish their year next week. In this post, I will share a few events I photographed during 2014.
When I walk into the school, I “read” the signs on the wall. I see many of the signs when I am editing my photos. There is one sign that I seem to see more than any others. It reads, “Somos responsables de nosostros mismos y de nuestra comunidad.”
We are responsible for ourselves and our community
I do not speak Spanish, but I can look at my pictures and see people caring for each other.… 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
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
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
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
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
How do you measure success? It seems that education reformers want innovation, but use outdated test scores to measure achievement.
How do you measure parent involvement? Do you measure fundraisers by the amount of money raised or by something qualitatively different? If you are a parent, do you want your children to learn by your example? Do you merely want your children to give money or give something more substantial?
Do you picture your children learning how to become better community members?
At Melrose Leadership Academy, our students take tests and our parents donate money. We also donate time. (Considering our size, we volunteer a great deal.) Our community also does something more.
We trust each other.
Even when it is uncomfortable, we trust that our diverse community is creating leaders for the next generation. We trust each other when we stop for another parent to translate English to Spanish (or Spanish to English).… Read the rest