This feels more like an obituary than an anniversary… an acknowledgement that a language has died, or as John Lennon sang, “Everybody’s talking and no one says a word.”
13 years ago today, I began working at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. At the time, Brooks was a visual art college respected throughout the world. If you believe the press reports and Facebook postings, Brooks closed last month. I don’t believe everything I see about Brooks. While working for Brooks, I learned how imagery can be manipulated. I also learned to question the parent company that owned Brooks during the nearly five years that I worked for the school.
I was going to start the post with the phrase, “Life is a paradox,” and so it was with Brooks. Many of us who worked for Brooks were loyal to the college, but not the company.… Read the rest
Today is Purple Day. Purple Day is for those of us with epilepsy. Canadian Cassidy Megan started Purple Day in 2008 so that people throughout the world could connect with each other and transform how people saw us. I was 16 when I had my first seizure. Cassidy is still only 17.
When I was 16, I was encouraged to hide epilepsy. I did not have a camp or event… or color. Now, I see purple often, especially on days like today. I saw a purple flower at the first Camp Coelho summer camp I visited in 2009. It was in plain sight. It felt as if it were there for me.
Having a color means that I have people. I have people who have been there for me when I need them. They are like miracles. People love me when I feel that I am unloved. People encourage me when I feel that I can’t move forward.… Read the rest
Some of you may know that I have epilepsy. Some of you may know that next month I will have had epilepsy for thirty years. Others may know that I have been an advocate and spokesperson for several years. I speak, write, photograph and wear t-shirts. I was a Featured Blogger on the old Epilepsy Foundation site. Sometimes I am interviewed by news organizations. Sometimes celebrities talk to me. Other times, I am completely ignored and disrespected. It is possible that I forgot to shower and/or brush my teeth, which I must have forgotten to do so often the last year that I have decided to step back as a spokesperson.
To help with my decision, I read some of my old posts. Five years ago I wrote about my first seizure. Below is an excerpt.
There were many reasons that I chose to hide having epilepsy. This is difficult to explain without sounding like a whiner.… 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
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
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
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
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.
On Saturday, Dave LaBelle and I presented a workshop at the 2012 Spring National Scholastic Journalism Conference. This was the first time that Dave and I presented together although we have critiqued and judged photo competitions several times. At the last three conventions, the Journalism Education Association introduced a photo story category. Dave and I noticed that contestants did not seem to understand how to create compelling stories.
Students were submitting groups of photos that were often related, but missed important elements. While structure is not the most important aspect, it is not inconsequential either. As I stated during my presentation,
“Saying a photo story is about structure is like saying a good written essay is about having five paragraphs.”
A good photo story changes the participants, including the photographer, but also the viewer and the subject. Photo stories are interactive. I used the photo above to illustration interaction. The photo also has a deeper meaning.… Read the rest