I have been thinking about this post for weeks, and I have wanted to write something organized and transformative about suicide, but sometimes life and stories don’t work that way.
Earlier this month I attended the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in San Francisco. I volunteered to photograph the event this time. Three years ago I walked with my two children.
I don’t know if the camera helps me connect or if it keeps me isolated.
There are two national walks each year. This year the walks were in San Francisco and Boston. Father’s Day was on the weekend between the two walks. I lost my father to suicide the year I became a father. The last several weeks, I thought about him often, and I thought about what it means to be a father..
I was surprised this year that I struggled. I struggled to write.… Read the rest
Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Epilepsy Foundation of Northern California held their annual gala at San Francisco’s Four Seasons Hotel on Saturday, November 10, 2018. It was a 1920’s themed event with dinner, dancing, auction and speakers. The fundraiser was pretty good, but it left me “feeling so Gatsby.”
While I understand the desire to go back to a more simple time like the Roaring 20’s, these events erase history and devalue my experience. In the 1920’s, we were sent to our own colonies or asylums, (the colonies were for the “epileptic insane”). Laws restricted marriage for people with epilepsy. The EEG was not “discovered” until 1929. Hitler would soon begin experimenting on those of us with epilepsy.
If we are going to play make believe, could we at least go back to the era of “the sacred disease” when a son of Zeus became a hero?… Read the rest
This is the first season that Bay Area Derby has skated at the Palace of Fine Arts. BAD changed their teams, uniforms, and regular season home. The Palace of Fine Arts was originally built for the 1915 World’s Fair. It is one of the few remaining structures; it is definitely the most recognizable.
I have been photographing roller derby since 2011. Sometimes I wonder if I have been doing this too long, but I felt younger next to some of the structures at the Palace of Fine Arts.
My fourteen year old daughter attended the first bout between San Francisco and Berkeley. When she first started watching derby, she liked the vendors. Now she is looking for the opportunity to join a team.… Read the rest
Last month, I photographed Skinny Lister during their current United States tour. Will Varley opened at The Independent in San Francisco.
This was my third time seeing Skinny Lister. Before the show, I asked people at The Independent how they had become fans. Many people had similar experiences to my own. We had seen Skinny Lister perform as an opening band or at a music festival. One person saw Skinny Lister play during the 2012 SXSW in Austin; they played on the sidewalk.
I first saw Skinny Lister in the Summer of 2012 during the Vans Warped Tour. I photographed about 30 bands that day. At a festival known for unusual performances, Skinny Lister was different. I wanted to see them again. In 2016, I saw them in San Francisco. I photographed their show and wrote an article.
Winter, spring, summer or fall… but mostly fall.
I have had epilepsy for more than thirty years. I have been photographing epilepsy events for almost ten years. Those of us with epilepsy have been searching for ways to communicate what we experience. Besides writing and speaking about epilepsy, I give pictures.
Another person with epilepsy created a virtual reality experience. People without epilepsy could “take a first glimpse into the world of Jane.” As I understood the experience, Jayne says what she feels, thinks and hears after a seizure. Participants could see how Jane struggled to make sense of some of her surroundings.
I would like to create a virtual reality experience application for smartphones that we could install for each season.… Read the rest
I haven’t posted in a while, especially about music. I keep waiting for the right day, and since I pretend that I am not superstitious, today seems perfect. It’s Friday the 13th. (and it’s October)
For the last several months I have been receiving press emails about the female-led band Barb Wire Dolls. I went to the Tuesday show in San Francisco hoping that the band would be decent. I went to the Sacramento show the next day, because they were better than decent. (Most of) these photos are from the Sacramento show.
Last month I photographed “YES”, a band that was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. When I was younger, YES was one of my favorite bands. Their recent performance was excellent, but they lacked a new band’s hunger.
Last month, Melrose Leadership Academy’s fifth graders traveled to San Francisco’s Chinese Historical Society of America. We walked to a nearby playground in Chinatown before we visited the new permanent exhibit “Chinese Americans: Exclusion/Inclusion.”
We took a bus across the Bay Bridge from Oakland. I took some pictures. I included the photo gallery here. (The individual photos are from the gallery.)
San Francisco’s Chinatown is a popular tourist destination, but its history is often overlooked. Chinatown was almost lost after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act restricted the number of people who could become legal citizens. Americans enforced the restrictions. During the field trip, the students learned how some of the immigrants were tested at Angel Island and other sites.
The new exhibit asks, “What does it mean to be American?” This is a recurring question for our country. It seems that some people are allowed to sail across oceans and land on our shores and become Americans.… Read the rest
On Saturday November 19, I photographed the 2016 Candlelight Gala for the Epilepsy Foundation of Northern California. (I have included the entire photo gallery from the Westin St. Francis with individual selections throughout this post.) Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars was the guest speaker.
Since I had my first seizure when I was 16, I have been reconstructing reality. Each time I had a seizure, I felt as if I had entered a movie or television show. In 2004, something similar happened when my father shot himself. I felt like Humpty Dumpty in a surreal reality show. Coincidentally, November 19, 2016 was Survivor Day (International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.)
My father shot himself with a gun he purchased from a Las Vegas pawn shop.… Read the rest
Sometimes I participate in magical thinking, even when I participate in fundraisers. On Saturday May 21, 2016, I participated in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Originally, I had also planned to participate in the Stroll for Epilepsy earlier on May 21st.
When the dates for both events were announced, I thought it was a divine message. three years before both events on May 21, 2013, I wrote “A Letter To Fathers Considering Suicide in the Digital Age.” The blog post explains how I experience my father’s suicide. The experience is a struggle… a struggle that has given me many gifts, including the strength to talk and write about epilepsy. When I wrote the May 2013 post, I didn’t realize it would become one of my favorite pieces, because it is extremely personal and vulnerable. Now I realize that it has become one of my favorites because it is personal and vulnerable.… Read the rest
“Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the photo as a judgment that the photograph is good.” – Garry Winogrand
I regularly ask my students to choose their favorite photographs and their best photographs. These are separate activities; however, for the reason that Winogrand mentions above, beginning photographers often confuse the difference. Students can mistake their positive memories for positive assessments. Other times, students’ memories cloud their ability to judge (or see) their best work. In other words, if a picture doesn’t feel good, it must not be good… or so it would seem.
Gary Winogrand is not my favorite photographer. Nor do I think he is the best, but there is no doubting his influence, especially in the world of street photography. Three years ago, during the JEA/NSPA 2013 Spring National High School Journalism Convention, I visited SF MOMA ‘s Winogrand exhibit. Two days earlier, I had taught a photo workshop to student journalists.… Read the rest
Two weeks ago I photographed the Women Who Code Executive Council celebration. Women Who Code is a global non-profit that increases women’s participation in technology fields. As of last month, WWCode has connected more than 50,000 women.
For Giving Tuesday, Google featured Women Who Code on Google’s “One Today” page. This is another indication that WWCode has led more than 2,000 successful events in 20 countries.
Even if I do not understand computer languages, I related to the community bonding. I just did not realize that it would be so three dimensional. One of the WWCode organizers, Kaitlyn Hova played her “Hovalin,” a 3-D violin that she and her husband designed and printed. The instrument looked and sounded like a violin.
Hova is an incredible performer. She hears music in code too, so it was probably natural that she would design a 3-D printed instrument.
There were other multi-dimensional conversations… several people discussed 3-D printing. … Read the rest
On Wednesday, I drove into San Francisco to see Nina Diaz perform at the DNA Lounge. I photographed Nina Diaz and her band Girl in a Coma two years ago in Oakland. (You can revisit my earlier review and photos.) When I saw her in Oakland, I wondered if Nina might become a superstar. Now I am wondering if it matters. Nina seems focused on bigger things… Nina seems happy.
I still question why Nina is not more popular. Is it because she is a woman? Is it because she is a woman of color? Is it because she had an addiction problem? None of these issues disqualify some artists. When she takes the stage, Nina becomes electric. She impressed me off-stage too. I brought my eleven year old daughter to the all-ages show; Nina visited with us. Nina was self deprecating. At one point, Nina said that she was part of “the lazy generation.” (Nina was sweating before the first song ended and on the road to El Paso after the concert for her next show.) I also watched Nina interact with other guests, musicians and friends. … Read the rest
I attended the 37th annual San Francisco Carnaval Parade on Sunday May 24, 2015. This was the third consecutive year that I have attended as part of the Fogo Na Roupa contingent. I am allowed to walk the parade route with my camera, because my eleven year old daughter dances. I took some photos again this year.
There were more than sixty groups participating this year. We arrived about two hours before the parade started so that we could park and find our spot.
I probably enjoy the parade preparation more than the actual parade. Photographers and groups mingle with each other. The dancers rehearse and complete their costumes.
Some participants finalize their floats.
Once the parade began this year, I still enjoyed myself. It’s Carnaval.
Even the dogs are friendly.
People of many different ages and appearances participate at Carnaval. Carnaval provides a positive experience for many body types and abilities.… Read the rest
The Bay Area band Train is touring California again for their new album Bulletproof Picasso. I photographed two shows during their previous Mermaids of Alcatraz Tour for the California 37 album. The Script and Gavin DeGraw played both shows. Ashley Monroe joined Train during their set in August of 2013.
Can’t believe how time flies by.
I wrote a really good review for me … I mean, I wrote the review so that I would enjoy reading it. I don’t know if anyone else would find the review useful, but I thought I was quite clever. I liked my pictures too. I photographed the bands and the audience, and while some of the pictures were decent, I never posted my single most amazing concert photo. Perhaps I will share it with the lead singer some day.
A couple years ago, I was developing a project about artists who donate time and money to charitable causes. … Read the rest
“The beauty that shimmers in the yellow afternoons of October, who could ever clutch it?” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I found the Emerson quote in the new National Geographic book Life in Color. I bought the book a few days before this year’s Treasure Island Musical Festival. I photographed the two previous festivals and I was looking for inspiration. TIMF is a colorful festival and I needed expert photographers to explain color.
I attend this event with one of the vendors, so I do not shoot many of the musicians. When I attended the first time, I was disappointed, but I quickly realized that I was able to see the event better. This year, I took more than 700 pictures each day, which is not many considering how many musicians performed. You can see my edited pictures from 2014 day 1.
I spend most of my day with the artists at the Painted Wonderland body paint booth.… Read the rest
So, today is the 10 year anniversary of the day my father committed suicide. I was going to write a very dramatic blog post about how tragedy has visited my life too often and my life was unfair, but a funny thing happened on the way to this ten year anniversary. I started to see my life differently.
If life is unfair, I have the advantage, at least for today.
Since I met Brad Paisley two weeks ago, Robin Williams committed suicide. Williams was 63, the same age that my father was when he committed suicide. On August 14, 2014, Paul McCartney played the last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Tonight I danced with a kind woman from the Havin’ Fun Bunch. I returned from photographing roller derby just in time to hear the song, “When I’m 64.” The Havin’ Fun Bunch had a Disney themed party this year.… Read the rest
The B.ay A.rea D.erby G.irls held their second Double Header of the 2014 home season in San Francisco at The Armory on Saturday, April 26, 2014. I posted a few photos on my Facebook page already, but the images look better on my derby photography website. I almost always upload galleries at www.AFlatTrackMind.com after a bout. There is a gallery for bout 1. You just need to keep reading.
This was my first time shooting at The Armory. (This was my first time inside the building ever.) For part of the evening, I almost lived up to my really cool derby name. (P Giddy) I smiled a little more often than usual.
I met new people who can teach me how to smile even better. I saw familiar friendly faces too. You can probably see familiar faces in the gallery. You need to keep looking.
There was also a cool half-time show.… Read the rest
When I started writing A Letter to Fathers Considering Suicide in the Digital Age, I knew that there were no good days for a father to commit suicide. I quickly realized that there were not any good days to discuss suicide. I eventually published on my mother and step-father’s 25th wedding anniversary. I could have waited another day. I love my mom and my step-father, but every other day is horrible. Yesterday was the birthday of one of my father figures who I talk to regularly, including every Father’s Day. I could have posted on the 22nd, but 22 reminds me of Taylor Swift (which reminds me of my daughter), and I did not want to ruin any more music. I could have written on the 20th, but there was an event honoring my father’s good friend. I could have posted on Mother’s Day, or my birthday (the 16th), or my son’s birthday (the 10th)… I could have written on Sunday, but who wants to ruin Sundays?… Read the rest
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding – Nick Lowe
I had already decided to write about poetry for this blog post when I heard the Elvis Costello version of Peace, Love and Understanding and decided to change direction again. (There is a Nick Lowe version too.) I have finally filled in the third blank but I do not feel that I have solved the puzzle. For the last several weeks, especially since the convention, I have felt like a passenger on a strange Dr. Who adventure bus. My dyslexia is bordering on the psychedelic. I am confusing Abbott & Costello with Elvis Costello and Elvis Presley. I dreaming in neon green and gold about the Queen of California. Where did she go?
Anne Howard inspired me with an article about looking to poets and saints during difficult moments. Anne explained that when the going gets tough, she “count(s) on poetry to tell the truth when prose gets thick and tiresome.… 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. We can invest ourselves. We can also become more vulnerable and admit to our community that we have a disability. (I have had epilepsy since high school, but I did not talk about it until the last few years.)
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
Last week I attended the Epilepsy Foundation of Northern California Candlelight Gala. In previous year, I have missed the gala, because I had already committed to a journalism education conference in a different part of the country. This year, the Journalism Education Association has their Fall conference two weeks later, I can attend both events.
I am not sure what I had expected, but the event was better than I had imagined. For those of us who live in the epilepsy world, we are often isolated. Many people do not know what we experience, whether we have epilepsy or whether we work in the field. At the gala, most people appreciated the desire to connect. This year’s gala was especially meaningful, because two national leaders discussed a new merger that will increase connections. Phil Gattone of the Epilepsy Foundation and Warren Lammert of the Epilepsy Therapy Project shared the new vision for our movement.… Read the rest