22 December 2010

A Soldier's Christmas - A Poem

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." 
- Albert Einstein

One Christmas song I really like is "Happy Christmas (War is Over)", by John Lennon, who ironically proclaimed he was more popular the man the Holiday is for. For years, I never knew what the kids in the background were saying and just now decided to look it up. It sounded good, that's all I cared about. So I looked up the lyrics and discovered they sang:

May 2008 Art Nude Workshop, Model Tiffany
"War is over. If you want it. War is over, now."

Its very beautiful and melodious. I just couldn't understand what the words were. Ironically, as a soldier, I can still relate to the words. I've never been a soldier who craved conflict. I believe, with all sincerity that I was good at being an infantry soldier. I trained may ass off and did my best to make sure those under my charge were technically and tactically proficient, as well as highly motivated with the intestinal fortitude to accomplish the mission. I did the job with the understanding that somebody had to do it. Somebody's got to stand in the gap and every since I was a kid, I've felt like that responsibility was mine to shoulder.

According to Wikipedia in the following quote, this song was written as protest to the Vietnam War. [Ha! Its now playing on my internet radio!].

July 2008 Art Nude Workshop, Model Faerie
"The lyric is based on a campaign in late 1969 by Lennon and Ono, who rented billboards and posters in eleven cities around the world that read: "WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko". The cities included New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Helsinki. At the time of the song's release, the US was deeply entrenched in the unpopular Vietnam War. The line "War is over, if you want it, war is over, now!", as sung by the background vocals, was taken directly from the billboards." - Wikipedia via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_is_over;

I've never been a protester over our own wars. I haven't felt that soldiers have that luxury. There's definitely a time to speak up about orders that aren't lawful, or when you utterly feel that your commander is too stupid to be in charge. So far, that hadn't extended to the Commander in Chief. He doesn't make those decisions alone. That's one place were a soldier's got to have faith that those involved are NOT stupid. Now I'm speaking in general terms. I am by no means trying to defend, justify, or explain why were are at war now. I don't want that debate, here. I'm just looking at the paradox of a meaningful song to me that's was originally made in protest by someone who may or may not share my beliefs in terms of my faith or my former occupation. I find that interesting is all.

Sept 2008 Art Nude Workshop, Model Clarissa

Another song that comes to mind is Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time is Here". You may remember that melody from the Charlie Brown Christmas specials. Either a friend or a relative made an observation that the reason I like that song so much is because of my somber disposition during Christmas. Its not the first time that someone has told me I get moody around Christmas. Moody...? I'd much rather say I'm sentimental, maybe even nostalgic. My Christmases as a kid were the absolute most meaningful days in my life. Christmas at my grandparents in my early years were particularly special, but then we started having Christmas at my own home. I recall an occasion once were I heard something on the roof and looked up out the window. I swore to my mom that I saw a dear hoof slip of the edge of the roof!

Dec 2008 Art Nude Workshop, Model Sarah Jane
After having my own kids, I can recall at times having to be the one to wake THEM up! Me...I could go all night without sleeping as a kid. When I did sleep, I was up by 6am at the latest. As a solider, I was blessed enough to spend most of my Christmases at home. It was late in my career when I was deployed away a few days before Christmas and I spent Christmas night in a barracks room, alone and on the floor wrapped up in my poncho liner, (affectionately referred to as a "Woobie"). I was reminded of a poem in circulation that was supposedly written by a marine in Okinawa. Regardless, THIS WAS ME, on that particular night. And I hope you all take a second to remember our troops still deployed away from home. Whether you realize it or not, that joyous feeling you get when you share that quality time with your family is at the expense of their's! You don't believe, me? Ask my kids...























- Author Unknown

18 December 2010

The Week After River Walk

Little Known Facts about "The Nutcracker": When the ballet debuted in Russia in 1892, critics sounded off. Some felt the score was bland and the choreography was weak. Like a fine wine, time has been kind to the ballet.

Dave Rudin just posted on his blog about his trip here in Las Vegas. He's actually got one of the better pics of me on his latest blog post. I don't have a single pick of us. I had anticipated on getting to see him more than the once for breakfast that Saturday morning, but that was it. Even than, I had to make short to tend to other business, but we got in a few hours at least. Its always good to have him here.

The weekend after Dave was here, another good friend of mine also came to town. Cameron and I served together some 15 years ago at least and have stayed close since then. He got to spend 5 days here with his fiancĂ©e. Right now, he sort of looks after my young'uns even though they are all grown up. He's got his own kids who are quite young. He got to see several of the sites of Vegas and he brought me along on several. I think the best highlights was in seeing Hoover Dam and getting to enjoy Phantom of the Opera on our last night.

The weekend Cameron got here, I had RSVP'ed for a hike out at Valley of Fire. It was some big time scrambling, which I loved, but its hell on my knee when you gotta wear a metallic brace. Trust me, I paid for it in pain-killers that night. Some of these hikes are hard on me, but if I wasn't doing them, I'd go plumb crazy and that's no joke. So I'll do them while I can. I have to go be out in nature from time to time.

That reminds me... I was glad to hear that the knuckle-head(s) who defaced ancient petroglyph out at Red Rock Canyon, just west of Vegas, were caught. Tourists travel out there by the thousands to see some of the most beautiful rock formations in the world. But then we've got stupid people. I really don't understand how stupid you have to be to not know that you can't be that stupid enough to spray paint ancient artwork. Fortunately, they caught the guy, but they think its gang related. He's 17...still a minor. I'm curious to see what they do to this kid and what precautions they'll take to prevent future stupidity like this. You can't do security checks on everybody for spray paint cans. So are they going to make an example out of this kid? And if so, how so? They've got to create a deterrent of some type to make people respect our parks and natural areas. Til now, people have simple known to leave natural areas alone. Stupidity knows no bounds.

No pics this time. Enjoy this "How it Should Have Ended: Holiday Special", instead.

08 December 2010

River Walk

"Before you walk off into a river, check your pockets. You may need to remove your iPhone!" ~ Me

As always when its been more than 2 weeks since I make a post, there seem to be lots going on. My friend Unbearable Lightness has certainly been getting some attention in her world and that's putting it mildly. She's fed up with dA and yesterday she "came out". Not about being gay, but rather came out from behind  her alias and has revealed her true identity as Dr. Carla Johnson. You can read more about it HERE.

Recently, I've had my hands full in photo projects, but its slowed down a little now. For the first time, I think that's a good thing. I need the time to prepare for some other endeavors and shooting and editing will have to wait for a spell. I've taken up helping teach a photo works to a few people, one of which is an aspiring young woman whom I recently met through her dad. He and I had been in conversations recently and we both have daughters who are starting out in photo. Its a good thing to teach every now and again. Its always the right thing to give back, but it also helps you stay sharp as well. For me, it brings to my attention the unconscious things I do naturally and makes me think about ways to improve the way I see things. Its also sort of refreshing since I am no longer running my art nude workshops. This is another way to help aspiring photogs. Someone once argued that I am potentially creating my own competition. Well, that may be, but I know I feel better giving back and its part of my good nature to teach. I don't see how I can go wrong with that. Granted, there are some that abuse my hospitable nature. They look at what I do and use it to their own design and interests. This has happened to me a few times and at times from people I thought were my friends. I try not to worry about that. All I can concern myself with is getting better, developing healthy relationships and partnerships, and letting the rest of the cut-throat riff-raff do their thing. I'll control whats in my power to influence and with the help of God, I'll be content with that.

I lost my phone on a recent hike. The scenery was so beautiful that I walked off into a river with it in my pocket and was none the wiser til I was chest deep. I tried not to let it spoil my day and it eventually worked out. My initial concern was that I may have had to wait a month for my phone upgrade, since the iPhone is not insurable. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do without my phone. It took me about 2 days before I got a new one. I wanted to let my iPhone 3G dry out as best I could. I kept it in a bag of rice for those few days before I took it in to an AT&T store. I can't say AT&T have been my favorite carrier. Verizon was much better in my opinion and I had been with them for 8-10 years. I only switched 18 months ago because their phone selection sucked. I only see one Service Rep at AT&T and he's always left me satisfied. The 3G worked momentarily, but it wouldn't hold a charge. So I upgraded and got the iPhone 4G. I didn't even know I was already eligible for the upgrade, so that was good. All is well now.

19 November 2010

Harry Benson

"Growing up in the war, listening to Churchill's speeches, being bombed in Glasgow every night - that brought me to photojournalism. It was the drama - I wanted to be close to the center of things."

"I was next to Bobby (Kennedy) when he was shot. It was hideous. Part of me wanted to crawl away. I couldn't. That was when I had to deliver. I was saying to myself, 'Don't fail now, fail tomorrow.'"

The Kennedy thing - I still wake up in the night and think about it. I even remember the f-stop. It was 1.4" 

- Harry Benson - Vision - Lowepro 2004/2005, page 29

Model, Outdrbeauty
Just puttin' this out there, but if ya'll are thinking Christmas work and photos, ya-betta hit me up now! Most people aren't thinking about this till sometime in December. Granted, I wouldn't mind the sudden rush of photo work, but you can make it easy on me at least.

So, Anyway! This past Wednesday evening was an interesting one. Harry Benson came to the Community College of Southern Nevada to talk about his photos and life's work. I've seen his work before...who hasn't? However, what made this particularly a blessing to witness was the story behind his work. Its one thing to see his shots in a book. There might be a caption or a title accompanying the imagery. You get a sense of what's going on, where they are, maybe the different parties involved if its not already apparent. I went in expecting to hear about a man and his career...how it made it, his challenges, and his heart-breaks. I envisioned the man addressing us from a podium giving an hour long speech that he has probably done several times already that week. Well, part of that was accurate. He did come up to the podium and began a slide show of his images. But it wasn't just a man talking about what he's done. It was more akin to listening to your grand dad tell you about his exciting adventures that maybe you've already heard him tell many times before, but still enjoy hearing again.

You got to hear the story behind the shot. Some of it was as of a result of  his own intuitiveness. However he also told us of how he once almost went to a bar or club with some friends, but instead felt inclined to go to the Ambassador Hotel. Robert Kennedy had just won the California primary. He told us of how it was too crowded to leave the way he came, so he decided to head out through the kitchen area instead. The rest is history. Just like his photographs, none of his stories were boring. You laughed, you cried....well, maybe not cried, but you could definitely feel the collective emotions in the auditorium no matter the mood. He was superb in his presentation and he continued to engage his audience, particularly doing so with interjecting jokes about his friends, Stacey and Michelle.

After the session, I was one of the final people to get to ask him a question. In the end, I got to talk to him for a bit and gave him a card. I had asked him to reflect on why we never see more introspective work of himself or those personally close to him, given that he's shot so many famous people. We never saw him or his family in any of his published work, despite the fact that he's so famous as well. Then I asked who would be the photog to shoot him, should he desire it, much the same way lawyers warn against representing themselves. His reply was sort of astonishing. He said, "I don't know. Maybe YOU!" Trying to be as quick, I responded with, "I don't know about that. I might be able to work you in before Christmas though!" In reality, I'd love to follow him around over the course of a few years just photographing him doing his thing whether that be working, or chilling out with the family. Great biographical work for some of my Legacy projects. I don't think I could do him justice writing it, but I know I could handle the pics department. Yeah, we need to get on this, HARRY!

16 November 2010

On Model, Outdrbeauty

“It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.”

- Paul Strand

Model, Outdrbeauty - MM #868167
I hadn't been away that long so quit trippin'. Besides, I know I'm not your early morning cup of coffee that you can't start your day without, so I ain't trippin' either. I do miss reading and following up on some of the other blogs I track, though. I hadn't been up on the boards as much lately, so I think I've been out of touch with some of the people who usually hear from me regularly even when a few weeks pass on my own posts. As I'm sure is the case with many of you, lots has been going on.

It's certainly been a while since I've had to do so many photo editing as I've been doing lately, including for other photogs. I've had to just walk away from the computer from time to time and just do something other than shooting or editing. In those cases, I try to not even think about a camera, pictures, or the work. I go see a movie, do a hike, or just try to hang out with somebody that is not affiliated with photography. J.L.Wolfe is an actor and photo enthusiast who has been my friend for the last 3 years, but we hadn't seen each other in ages. We kept planning to hook up, but just didn't, for whatever reason. I gotta say it was so good to see him again and our catching up was one of the...well, I don't know how to really describe it, but I left there feeling a stronger kindred. You're right, I'm not going into details, but having a beer, some burgers, and excellent conversation with him was absolutely great. He's a very wise man and we must have been there for 3 hours sitting in a late night Japanese burger joint catching up. I left there feeling like some healing took place. It was marvelous. John is cool.

I need to catch up with my buddy, Felix. He used to be all over my blog talking about the latest adventure we'd gone on, or something we've done. That hadn't been the case of late. He's gotten busy and so have I. I think he's one of the best natural photogs I know. We have some different styles of shooting but often some of the same ideas. I was really happy when he called me up, a few weeks ago. It wasn't as if we hadn't talked in a long time, but I was already on another important call, and elected to get back with him. I then got a text message to call him right away. At that point, I figured, I needed to get back to him right away in case this was urgent. There was no emergency. Felix was just going on and on about how much he liked this latest shoot of mine. I kid you not...it must have been a little longer than 20 minutes with him raving like a mad Mexican on this shoot I did and how the shots got better the more advanced through the gallery. THAT was a first! Felix has liked some of my work before, enough to where if he needed a back-up, he'd call me. But this was just too funny! I admit it almost made me choke up a bit. Its always a good thing to be admired by one's peers, but even more so from ones you respect so much. Thank Felix.

After what seemed like months, I finally got to work with model, Outdrbeauty. We got together a little more than a week ago and put together a shoot. I got some pretty decent shots, but we ended up losing the light due to the time change and the sun setting faster. Because of her work schedule, it couldn't be helped. Then when we finally got on location, there were more people out than expected. I hadn't shot out in this spot in 2 years and since then, there have been developments. John, in fact, had told me about some of it before hand, but I really had no clue til we got out there. People kept walking into out shoot. We decided to pack it up, but on the hike out, there was a light in the clouds that was simply a must-do. It simply did not matter that a guy with his dog was right behind us, but in the time it took her to get naked again and for me to get out the camera, we lost the effect. It was gorgeous. I got "a" shot, but not "THE" shot. She and I will be hooking up again soon, hopefully in the same area before it gets too cold, to finish this shoot. The shots you see here are some quick edits I did in hopes of continuing again later.

One other thing that has kept me from writing is the nature of the way I write. I tend to write with my emotions on the keyboards and there have been a few things that have just been too raw to put out on the net. Some emotions are just too strong and some of it had nothing to do with photography. So rather than getting into an opinionated rant, I just held my tongue...or fingers, as it were. A few cases had to do with bad experiences and pain suffered by a friend as well as one who was not a friend, but rather whom I was affiliated with. Tragedy and loss haunt us all at some point. I will indeed blog about some of it at some point real soon, but to do so, so immediately might end up hurting some feelings or put people on the spot. So wisdom and consideration might dictate a need for some patience. I try to concede to wisdom every now and then. Timing is important.

Trying times lie before, but I take solace in the fact that trying times have also been overcome behind me as well. Despite all, I'm still here...

28 October 2010

Flawless? Did She Say Flawless?

"Being taken for granted can be a compliment. It means that you've become a comfortable, trusted element in another person's life."
~Joyce Brothers

"Ummm...No. Not feeling that one."
~ Me

"Do you REALLY wanna keep tickin' me off?"
Where to start....? You ever get that feeling that you're being attacked on all sides via a series of unrelated circumstances? Its maddening is it not? I made a comment that I felt the need to check my bathroom mirror to make sure "PUNK" wasn't stamped across my forehead or maybe some other word that identified me as a push-over that like to take it in the rear with a smile. Often, I am sure people mistake kindness and goodness for weakness. Because I can be polite and accommodating, some perceive my time is theirs to dispose of as they will. Since I choose to acquiesce from time to time, respect comes in lesser and lesser quantities. Maybe I've gotten soft. Maybe I've been giving off a victim-scented pheromone that attracts those who take advantage of others, like bullies. Maybe I am too tempting an offer to the otherwise honest person. I don't know. Lately, it just seems like a string of events have all transpired that hinder my goals by not returning simple courtesy. So be a little wary of me for a bit. If I seem like an ass, forgive me, but I have much needs to rectify this persona that people ill perceive. Okay, enough of that. On to something important.

As I've mentioned before, my little girl is in photo school right now. So she's trying to do her thing in photography, not necessarily like her Dad, but in her own way, I think. Well, she calls me up (or texted me...I don't recall which) to let me know that of all the different student photos getting critiqued, her's was the only one that was termed "FLAWLESS". Now, right there, I knew there had to be a mistake. My first conclusion was that her teacher was coming on to her. She of course disagreed and thought I was wrong for not being able to accept that she has some talent. Well, that couldn't be any further from the truth. She's MY daughter. Of course she's going to have some talent.

When I was in school, one of the first things the prof told us was that were were not allowed to take shots of our kids, circular stairways, flowers, or any of the other cliche' compositions that have been done like by everybody already. Cassie shot her 6 month old baby. The other reason why we were told not to shoot our kids was that it was too easy to take a critique personally and then emotions flare. Next thing you know, there's a chalkboard eraser flying at somebody's head and then things get ugly.

My FLAWLESS granddaughter!
I contend that no photo instructor should be telling a first-year student that an image is flawless. There should be SOMETHING that you can gig them on. Cassie and I went back and forth on this til I finally told her to send ME the photo. I promised to be objective, but at the same time not treat her special, which she didn't anticipate anyway. So no kiddie gloves. She sent the photo. I suddenly realized my mistake. I hadn't taken into consideration that I would be critiquing an image of my own grand kid. That was not a fair! I can't find a gig on this shot at all. Granted, I posted it in an earlier blog posting, but here it is again.

Below is something I came across the other day. I think this is why the iPhone has remained so popular despite some of the drawbacks that Verizon, Droid, and Microsoft keep pointing out. Here is the article:
Brooklyn's Atomic Tom iPhone It In During Impromptu Subway Jam. This band gets their instruments stolen, yet they can still rock the hood using musical aps on their IPHONES! Sounds good, too.

Here is the vid: Atomic Tom singing, "Take Me Out", live on a NY subway.

20 October 2010

Civil Rights News on My Deceased Grandparents

“From slavery to segregation, we remember that America did not always live up to its ideals. In fact, we often fell far short of them. But we also learned that fundamental to our national character is the drive to live out the true meaning of our creed.”
~ Bill Frist

It was a cool to receive some information that I never knew about my grandparents which is featured in a cold case study by the Northeastern University School of Law, entitled "Lost Life, A Miscarriage of Justice: The Death of John Earl Reese". There is not even a Wikipedia page on him. My mom and my aunt have been recently associated with efforts to memorialize and honor John E. Reese, 16 who was sitting in a local Cafe on October 22, 1955 in Mayflower Texas having a soda when he was shot and killed by white supremacists bent on stopping a new school for black kids from getting built. My grandfather was the school bus driver at the time and he helped organize and ferry black voters to the polls which helped spur the funding for the school. There wasn't much publicity on this case. This travesty of justice occurred on the heels of Brown vs. The Board of Education as well as the equally horrific Emmit Till lynching. This cold case report revealed that my Grandfather, H.C. Thompson had overheard men talking of murder since the town had the go-ahead to build the school. A couple of guys got in a car and basically did a drive-by, shooting and injuring two girls, ages 15 and 11, and killing John Earl Reese with a shot from a .22 rifle in the head. They then preceded to shoot up more houses that happened to belong to more of  my kin as well as paying a visit to my Grandfather's residence. They shot up his school bus and car parked at his home. You didn't leave the buses at the school in those day.

My grandmother gave a report on the incident expressing a lack of faith that justice would be served. Just as she feared, a cover-up ensued and it was revealed that public officials were actually related to the shooters, such as the town judge who was a cousin of the guy who pulled the trigger. In one such instance, the grandmother of the girls who were shot was arrested. They tried to say she conspired to kill the two girls for insurance money. Other black men were brought in for questioning to elicit a confession. It wasn't until the Texas Rangers got wind of the matter and began a state investigation. The real culprits where finally brought in and a confession was given. A trial ensued, but the man was released when the jury let him go with a 5-year suspended sentence from a guilty without malice verdict, ruling the Reese's death an "accident". Around this same time in Birmingham, Alabama, Time Magazine reported on Reese and pointed out that another similar trial proceeded where black man was on trial. He fire his own court appointed representative and tried to defend himself to prove that he was not guilty of burglary. He lost and was found guilty. He  got the electric chair. The school in Mayflower was eventually built, but was abandoned 12 years later due to integration from the Brown ruling.

All efforts in the Civil Rights movements did not go lauded into the history books. I had never even heard this story til now. My granddad (I called him Daddy) never sat me down to speeches of hate, nor a malice of heart toward white people. He did quite often talk to me about Jesus, the Bible, and love. He always appeared to be sleeping in church, but when I "told it on him" to my Grandmama, she clued me in that he wasn't really sleeping. Sure enough one eye popped open and stared at me for about 10 seconds. Scary..

My grandmother welcomed my white ex-wife into the family and even brought her into the kitchen and taught her how to cook. (My wife sucked at cooking when we were first married.) Daddy used to play with my son on his knees, refusing to call him Jeremy, insisting on Jeremiah instead. Daddy was a little frightful at times. By the time he met my kids he didn't have but a few teeth left in his head. He had a scruffy, yet sometimes high-pitched voice, and a bald head. Little kids were scared of him til they got to be familiar with him. Except for his asthma, the man looked in pretty decent shape for his age. A firm grip was his handshakes. He liked to laugh but he didn't put up with mess. His memory was more intact than mine when I was 20. He taught me to drive before I was a teen-ager. I drove to church along back country roads or to the "Store", which was reminiscent of the General Stores, where I bought a Baby Ruth and a RC cola. How did I get my own money? Daddy drove slowly behind us while my brother and I collected cans along the highway. There weren't lawns to be mowed or cars that needed washing. Houses were further apart and they usually had their own kids to take care of that, or you needed a tractor to cut grass.

He was born in 1901 and died in 1996. It was the first time I ever had anyone close to me pass away. I can tell you I hurt so bad, I passed out. I was in Korea at the time, serving in the Army. My job was to Patrol the DMZ. I hadn't been in country 3 weeks before the North Koreans, got stupid and felt like playing games. By the end of the situation, I found out that news of my Grandfather's passing had been intentionally kept from me til after the situation was over with. So when we were ordered to finally stand down, and the North Koreans retreated to their own side, I was approached with a Red Cross message, but was not told about who was in trouble or what the situation was. One of my superiors understood that I was getting ready to blow my stack. I was still heavily armed at the time. He pulled me off the side and told me the deal. I walked away and got no more than 5 steps before I planted my face into the gravel. My armaments, grenades, and ammo were stripped from me, but while I was being hoisted away to medical, I came to. I was running out of time. The delay was putting me at risk of not making it home in time to honor the biggest man in my life at his funeral.

My cousin was former military and was familiar with how to address the Red Cross message. If he hadn't said I was raised by my grandfather, I would not have been allowed to leave. His statement was partly true. He did raise me for the first 2 years of my life while my mom was in college, but afterwards, he still took part in my rearing, just indirectly. It also helped that I had become close friends with my chaplain. Taking the bus to the different Commands and bases to get signatures and then get to the airport would not have been doable. The Chaplain called ahead so I got the proper clearances and let me use his car and driver. I'll admit we had a minor accident on the highway when he almost missed his exit, but I ordered the driver to not stop under fear of pain to get me to the airport. I'd deal with the consequences when I got back. We made it with 11 mins to spare. I attended my Grandfather's funeral in my Army Dress Uniform since my personal clothes were still on a ship heading to Korea. Yeah, that was my Daddy.

11 October 2010

On Parenting a Photographer

"I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: Checkout Time is 18 years."  ~ Erma Bombeck

"A child, like your stomach, doesn't need all you can afford to give it." ~ Frank A. Clark

"My mother protected me from the world and my father threatened me with it." ~ Quintin Crisp

"If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent." ~ Bette Davis

"Love well, whip well." ~ Benjamin Franklin

I had to apologize to my grown-up daughter this past week. Sometimes its not as easy a thing to remember that she's not a little girl anymore. There are still a few things I'm going to put my foot down for, but for the most part, I still understand that she's got to make her own mistakes. In those areas, I try to back off. She's got her own life to live. She's got her own decisions to make. She's got her own family to take care of as she and her husband feel is best. There's a good side and a bad side to that though. I'll let her make the call on decisions in her life now (most times). She's an adult. Even when I know she's not making the best choice, its still her's to make. At the same time, I'm also going to let her stand on her own two feet and buy her own friggin' CAMERA!

Yeah, little Miss Pretty is now in school for photography. I didn't find out about it til she'd already enrolled. I wasn't exactly all that pleased at the idea. I already know this isn't such an easy thing to do. Its expensive as hell if you want to be good at it and earn a living from it. But I want to still respect her and give in to the fact that she's her own person now. That's what she's telling me. She's well into her first month of school and reality has set in fairly well. I'm giving her respect by letting her stand on her own two feet. AND I'm going to further show her respect by letting her pay for it all. Sure, I loaned her a camera. I'm not a parental beast...but the operative word is LOAN. It starts with an "L", that makes a *Lah* sound. Granted, it may sound like OWN, but it is not. It is "LAH- oan". Now she's realizing all the other cost factors involved...like LENSES. I let her use my 50mm 1.8 and it was all good at first. But now, guess who's the only one in the class that doesn't have a zoom! And lets not forget this school requires a Mac laptop. Yeah, it just keeps adding up. Ha! Its so precious. Much better than an "I told you so." (is that mean?)

I had to apologize, because I recognized I was wrong for sort of snapping at her for calling me in the middle of her homework assignment to ask about camera operations. Now for me, I would have read the manual thoroughly before I had a gig to do. I would have familiarized myself with the basic functions. I don't expect her to know everything. I don't know everything about my camera, but I do know the main stuff that I use on a regular basis. Everything else, I keep the book handy. So I may have chastised her just a little, but only to emphasis how important it is to be prepared. Soon afterwards, I realized that I went about it the wrong way. I don't want her to NOT call me up when she needs help. If your dad's a photog you should be able to call for help, you would think. I want her to stand on her own two feet...yes, but a little helping hand isn't a bad thing. Besides, its cool when you can talk photo with your kid. The other day she called me up while she was driving home and she was telling me about how she can't look out her window without seeing elements of the scenery as exposures and how she might correct or adjust the camera to compensate. All I could say was, "Welcome to my world." I don't look at exposures so much as I do compositions. Every where I go and everything I look at, I'm composing. One thing I can say I'm sort of jealous for her about is the fact that she's picked up  photo at the time her own little daughter is born. These are her shots of my Grand-kid.

I don't know how many of you liked the "Wizard of Oz", but this animated parody if funny!

27 September 2010

Not for the Faint of Heart - Vagina Talk

Okay, how about something a little unorthodox... Can you handle a whole day of talk about VAGINAS?

Dr. Virginia Braun, Psychology Dept, Univ of Auckland, New Zealand

Sunday was a most interesting day for me. Model, Samantha invited me to a women's conference on Sunday at UNLV called, "Framing the Vulva: Genital Cosmetic Surgery and Genital Diversity". Sam and I have had extensive discussions on the matter and she thought I might be interested in attending this conference. It was put on by UNLV and the New View Campaign, who has a slogan that says: Challenging the Medicalization of Sex.

The goal of the New View Campaign is to expose biased research and promotional methods that serve corporate profit rather than people's pleasure and satisfaction. The Campaign challenges all views that reduce sexual experience to genital biology and thereby ignore the many dimensions of real life.

Morning plenary session, 150 attendee
I gotta tell you it was quite enlightening. Over the years, I've had situations where several models have confided in me about horrid stories regarding the way they look "down there". The conferences main focus this weekend was addressing the negative perception women have about their vaginas that lead them to undergo cosmetic surgery called labiaplasty which is the surgical removal or trimming of the labia minora. I won't go into detail here, but I could share with you a myriad of stories of women as young girls who were traumatized either throughout their childhood or at least at some point in their lives for having labia that hangs out or extends past the vulva more than what some women might deem as being normal. In addition to these experiences, I've had sex classes in college both from a sociological perspective and psychological. So these topics of discussion were not new to me, but it was still interesting to see some of the more recent empirical research and data on this topic.

Dr. Marta Meana, Prof of Psychology, UNLV. Afternoon workshop
"Ewww Factor" Workshop, Dr. Meana, UNLV

2nd Afternoon Workshop "Empowerment Through
Vulva Photography"
The main reason this conference was held was actually as a COUNTER-conference to the Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery Conference that was held this weekend at the Venetian Hotel and Casino which hosted people in the medical profession that promote labiaplasty and other cosmetic surgery of the genitals. This organization points out that there is more commercialization of these procedures as opposed to actual treatment with the individual in mind. They DO NOT like Dr. David Matlock, who you may have seen on Dr. 90210 and the View. He's even got new procedures now that give you a Brazilian Butt. One procedure that was new to me was a means of restoring the pink color back to the labia. We were also presented with lots of great input on why women do this, but the primary focus has been on the societal pressure to appear as the women you see in print media for the pornography industry where depictions of the vagina are on constant display however the trend is for the "clean and neat" vaginas which mean the inner lips are small and are not as visible. Some of the research I didn't totally agree with and some could have been better, but for the most part, they were informative. Discussions during the first half of the day included, Embracing Genital Diversity, Pleasure and Sex Ed, Art Activism, "Retail Medicine", and a critical view of the conference at the Venetian.

Photographer/Sexologist and "Petals" author, Nick Karras,
along with Carolina Ramos and Sayaka Adachi

Sexologist, Sayaka Adachi of San Diego during the
Vulva Photography Afternoon Workshop
For me, the more interesting part of the day was the afternoon sessions where we broke up into separate workshops of which we could select 2 of the 6 activism workshops available. My first session was the "Eww Factor: Clinical Reflections on the Role of Vulva Dissatisfaction/Disgust" done by Dr. Marta Meana, Professor of Psychology, UNLV. My second workshop was "Empowerment through Vulva Photography" which focused on the artwork of photographer/sexologist, Nick Karras who authored, "Petals". Nick was accompanied by Carolina Ramos, Program Director, Latino Services, San Diego LGBT Community Center. Also leading this workshop was Sayaka Adachi, clinical sexologist and orgasm coach also in San Diego. About 150 people attended the conference. It was also a different twist when one of the participants gave some excellent points with reference to how Christians might look at this issue. There is really just too much information that I'm almost tempted to get into, but I think the basics will suffice rather than breaking down the details of each class, topic, and bullet points. Anybody with more interest can visit some of the sites and links or just contact me for more details. Thanks Sam for the invite.

23 September 2010

Dave's Visit and the Sara Ziff Documentary

"We might need to see you without your bra, he told me. I was 14... I didn't even have breasts yet." 
~ Sara Ziff, supermodel

This is not Sara Ziff
I know I wanted to keep Tara, The Organic Sister's post up for a spell, but I didn't mean for it to be this long before I posted again. I've got a couple projects I'm working on and am behind, actually, so that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.


Got to chill out with the incomparable Dave Rudin last week. That's was cool. I took him around some of my stomping grounds near Red Rock to scout out some locations for a shoot, which didn't happen. That was still okay. It just didn't work out timing-wise with the model who was traveling through Vegas. Dave still got to shoot another local girl while he was here. Breakfast, as always was at The Original Pancake House and I had my same old French Toast. We also got to head out to Valley of Fire since Dave hadn't been there in a long time. I thought I was going to have to take it easy on the guy, but hell, not only did he keep up, but he was out-pacing me at times! It was good to see him again. I guess its my turn to head back to New York for a change. Let me just go book a ticket right now...

Hysterically, I just popped over to Dave's Blog. He's basically already done yesterday the same thing I'm doing today only he's posting shots of me and also regales his adventures while here. I just wanted to point out that it was by mere coincidence that we are at the movies both wearing red shirts. Just thought I'd clear that up. COINCIDENCE!

Dave must have forgotten that he can't be a Vulcan.
All Vulcan's names begin with a letter "S".
(I apologize for knowing that.)

I'm hoping to find the new autobiographical documentary by supermodel, Sara Ziff called, "Picture Me: A Model's Diary". What started out as personal videos has turned into a full on feature length movie where she gives some insight into the darker side of the modeling industry. This following is an exerpt from Sheila Marikar's article, "As Fashion Week Trots On, New Documentary Exposes Exploitation Behind the Scenes", 16Sept2010

"Picture Me" follows Sara Ziff, a New Yorker who started modeling at age 14, over five years of falling in and out of love with the fashion industry. She struts for Calvin Klein, Chanel and Marc Jacobs; she poses in London, Paris and Milan. But backstage footage of Ziff and her friends (shot by Ziff and her then-boyfriend, filmmaker Ole Schell) reveals realities of the job that few outsiders ever see: models crying as shameless photographers snap them semi-nude, stylists pulling at scalps and tugging at limbs as if their subjects were Barbie dolls." 

Dave Rudin, just messin' around
I found this 2009 interview by Louise France, for The Observer to be most intriguing. Its like she's a whistle-blower on the entire industry and is leaving no one without guilt, though she doesn't name names. I'm imagining that the more this documentary is publicized, the more investigative work that will be done and then those names will be revealed. Some type of federal intervention will ensue, maybe some prosecutions (because she details sexual assault), and then possibly a congressional oversight committee will be established to create some rules called the Sara Ziff Laws under which the Fashion Models Guild will be created to unionize the business. So there's plenty of controversy regarding Sara's documentary and the motives that cause her to shine the light on an industry that has made her wealthy and internationally known. When I do get to see it, I'll be sure to review it here, on PHOTO ANTHEMS BLOG, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here is another Sara Ziff interview done by Mother Jones.

On a much more solemn note, I wish to express my condolences to the family of photo peer, Scott Leighty who died last weekend of a massive heart attack or a stroke. He was a member of a photo society I help run and also worked at my favorite camera store here in Las Vegas, B&C Camera

Picture Me Trailer from Blake on Vimeo.

13 September 2010

Your Attention, Please! I Give You...The Organic Sister

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." 
~ Helen Keller

"Tara Shines", photo by Sara Janssen
Every now and again, you run into somebody that who truly epitomizes the human spirit. I initially wanted to describe that as the American spirit, but I gotta say this person goes a little bit beyond that. This isn't so much about national pride as it is about simply a good and responsible human being. I like Tara on 4 different levels. First, I was attracted to her head. She a pretty girl and all, but she's got dreads that make for a good picture. So, yeah, I'm thinking like a photographer first. She used to be a member of a photo society I belong to and I could never lock down a commitment to shoot her. Now she's not here. Everything else I learned about her came after she left. So secondly, I gotta say I admire her boldness to go forth on the road and experience life as she and her family saw fit. Screw normality. She's making her own rules. Third, she's someone who sincerely cares about our planet. I dig that. And fourthly, (if that's really a word), she's a damn good photographer. You can read about her journey and adventures on her blog, The Organic Sister.

So please help me welcome TARA WAGNER to the show.....**APLAUSE**

"The Open Road", © Tara Wagner
Hello Tara. Give me a little bit on who you are and why you're on the road.
     My name is Tara Wagner. I'm married to Justin and mama to an 11 year old son, Zeb. We currently travel full-time in a "vintage" (my alternative to the word "old") Winnebago [...that would be Benny] converted to run on waste veggie oil and solar power. We made the transition to full-time travel after Justin found out he was facing a layoff last year in Las Vegas. Our goal is to eventually find a new home to "settle back down" and just enjoy the hell out of life while we can. 

As it pertains to your 2 goals, how will you know when you find home and what have you absorbed on the road so far? 
     We have a list of criteria in finding a new home, most of it pertaining to our dream of building an off-grid home. So things like rainfall minimums, flexible building requirements and fertile soil are high on the list. We also care deeply about great homeschool laws, local communities and resources, low taxes, etc. But ultimately, I think we'll just "know".

"Good Morning Anne" © Tara Wagner

As for what we've absorbed, it's impossible to describe. We've learned so much about ourselves and each other, things you just can't learn without ample free time and new scenarios and subcultures pushing you outside your comfort zone. A big part for me has been the understanding that my sense of security has nothing to do with my surroundings; it's an inner sense of comfort and home that I think we've all begun to tap into. 

"Red Barn Windows" © Tara Wagner
How long have you been on the road now and how long do you think you'll continue to do this? 
     We left Las Vegas March 5th of this year with the understanding that we'd give this one year before making any permanent decisions. The last 6 months have been amazing and although we still plan to reevaluate this lifestyle next March, I think we're all gravitating toward continuing some form of travel to some extent long-term. Whether that means staying on the road full-time for several years, or being "snow-birds", we're not yet sure. Mostly we're just really enjoying living in this moment. 

Where exactly do you think you'll be in 5 years? 15? 
     You know, we used to have a 5 year plan, determined down to the month! We're now really enjoying being unplanned; it's a pretty new thing for us. I'd like to see us continue traveling for as long as that feels right and then settling down into an off-grid home or eco-community of some sort when the timing works out. 

"Sunset" © Tara Wagner

What's been your most memorable moment so far? And one you'd like to forget? 
     So. Many. Moments. I think some of my favorite moments have been just driving down the road. There is something magical about having your feet on the dash, listening to Free Bird and watching the world flash by the window. It's liberating to feel the sense of timelessness and endless possibilities.
As for the ones we'd like to forget, we have a few Events Which Shall Not Be Named. Most of them involve rain, a fairly new phenomenon to those of us from Vegas. 

I remember when you were in our photo group in Vegas, you had the Un-rules thing. Explain Un-schoolers.

"Sunset Cruiser" © Tara Wagner
     Unschooling is based on a philosophy of trust, respect, unconditional love and a passionate pursuit of one's interest. It tends to explain an educational philosophy that says coerced learning isn't real learning and that true education happens through self-teaching or "autodidactism". As unschoolers, we trust the natural curiosity of children and their interests to lead them to every "subject" they will need to thrive in their life. We haven't found a need for things like textbooks and test scores; we've seen that learning happens naturally as a by-product of living an interesting life.

We consider ourselves Whole Life Unschoolers, mainly for lack of a better term. This means everything we do is filtered through those principles of trust, respect, love and passion and is applied to every aspect of our life, from "work", to our health and relationships. 



  [aw-toh-dahy-dakt, -dahy-dakt] –noun  a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of teacher or formal education; a self-taught person. 
- Dictionary.com]

So what have you been doing lately with photography? Do you have any fave artists? 
     Having fun. :) I always kinda felt in order to make money as a photographer I had to a) shoot portraits and b) be professional. But neither of those appeal to me. So instead I'm goofing off. I'm climbing on trains or shooting from the hip. I'm learning and stumbling and surprising myself. It feels pretty damn amazing to be a self-taught photographer with my photographs hanging internationally.

As for my favorite artists, I tend to enjoy the everyday people the most. It's the mamas and papas and kids just doing their thing, capturing the common and the absolute and the magical bits of life. 

"Tara Toes - Railway Edition"
© Tara Wagner
How does Zeb like it on the road? 
     Zeb loves the new things we've discovered like Jr Ranger Badges and meeting new friends. He likes visiting family we rarely get to see and visiting zoos and museums. He likes chilling out with a game or book too. And he's met some amazing people who have inspired him to do some amazing things. But sometimes it's hard to find kids to connect with and he misses his friends in Vegas, as we all do. Some days he's ready to settle back down and some days he can't imagine ever stopping. We'll see what next March brings. :) 

What was your childhood like socially and academically? 
     I was a pretty quirky, independent kid. Mismatched socks and a serious sense of that I could rule the country if they'd only vote for a 10 year old. Academically, I loved to learned (and still do) but got bored easily. Thankfully my mom supported my decision to leave school and learn on my own, although we hadn't heard about unschooling and didn't have much support. It was a very empowering decision, however, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity . 

Do your and Justin's folks like what you guys are doing? 
     I hope so! :) All of our family has been incredibly supportive. They all brought up legitimate concerns for us to consider but overall have been very supportive and encouraging. 

I have a Pontiac Grand Am. Could Justin convert it to WVO? How's Benny? 
"My Version of a Turkey Shoot" © Tara Wagner
     Justin can convert almost any diesel engine to run on waste veggie oil (WVO); some diesel engines don't take well to the conversion. Benny loves his conversion! He actually runs better on veg than diesel. Overall, for such an old engine and for how long it sat unused, we've been amazingly blessed. He is a bit leaky, but then so are many 28 year olds. ;) 

What is "beyond green"? 
     I tend to see "green" as the trendy stuff, the stuff that should be an obvious, like recycled paper or organic foods. It's the stuff that's easy to greenwash. Beyond green is not just what is "environmentally-friendly", it's also what is sustainable; what can last generations to come without worrying about dwindling resources or environmental impact. Things like permaculture instead of agriculture, solar and wind instead of nuclear or so-called "clean coal," relocalizing communities instead of globalization. 

Helen Keller. What does her quote you use mean to you and how does she inspire you? 
     I love quotes. And I love Helen Keller's story of beating the odds, doing more than people expected of her, living an amazing life against what other people would call "the odds". Her quote, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing," is a reminder to myself to beat my own odds, to live brave and to do the things I will later regret not doing. I don't think I'm here to sit quietly, to work a job I hate, to live a life without purpose. Like Emile Zola said, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: "I am here to live out loud” 

Who else are your present day people you admire and are inspired by? 
     I'm inspired by the people who push their own boundaries; the people who question and rethink the norm and consciously choose their own answers (whether they choose the norm or not). I'm inspired by people who inspire themselves, who live their dreams and don't settle. I've met so many amazing people on the road, people who deserve to have their stories told, and do what they do regardless of a lack of recognition simply because it's what they love. I'm inspired by the people who give with conditions, both to others and themselves; people who are doing amazing things just because they know they can; people who genuinely want others to do the same. That's the kind of person I want to be. 

"One Side of Benny" © Tara Wagner
You sure have a lot of followers. What do you think they expect from you? 
     I hope they expect me to be authentic, because that's what I am regardless. My blog is my creative outlet, my personal journey and my way of connecting to some really amazing people. I love that! And I love that it inspires those people just as much as I've been inspired by other bloggers. I love blogging; it's a truly amazing form of connection. 

What other links do we need to know about? 
     You can find me on my Facebook Fan Page 
My Twitter Page
Follow my blog, The Organic Sister
And check out my photography site: http://www.redbubble.com/people/tarawagner/art
By the end of this month or next I'll have a brand new site up and running devoted completely to green living and sustainability! [Check back often. Be sure to see her blog for Unschooling Coaching and Mentorship as well as some of the other Mobile Services they provide.]

What's next for you and your family? 
     Life! It's pretty exciting. :) 

How can we help? 
     Subscribe to my blog! Buy my photography! Send me love notes! Tell us about some cool place we should visit! Invite us to dinner! We'd never turn down foot rubs and gluten-free cookies either. ;)

"Benny on the Road Getting Towed" © Tara Wagner

So that's Tara, folks. Although she might not say it, I'm going to let you know how else you can also help.  DONATIONS!  As you can see from her latest blog post, old Benny broke down (and in the pic above) there was no calling a regular tow truck to come help. That's the more expensive kind. So maybe you can help with repairs for Benny. She's got a Paypal button on the sidebar of her blog. You may have to scroll a bit, or you can just click *HERE*. So help a Sista out. This is a hippie-chick with purpose and she's on a mission that benefits you too! At the very least, send her a note and let her know you support her. Show yo' love folks.

Thanks Tara for the interview. Say hi to Justin, Zeb, and Benny!

All photos related to his post are copyrighted by Tara Wagoner or Sara Janssen (Tara's Portrait), so please respect their copyrights.