Friday, December 25, 2009
I wish you all a day of simplicity, of sweetness, and - most of all - love.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Letters held my family together, as they would a generation later when my parents were again separated by war. I treasure the letters left to me, creased and yellowed, carefully guarded in pockets, held close to hearts, read and re-read by dim lantern and firelight. Their written words alone bridged the endless miles and brought them home again.
Friday, December 11, 2009
I thought, however, on this windy and frigid morning, we could all use a little sunny warmth. I shot this still life in August, during a gorgeous week at the beach. The idea for it stemmed from a dinner-table discussion my husband had introduced the night before: "what would be your perfect day?" I listened as the boys described running, playing, and general adventuring. I listened as Marty described similarly high-energy activities. I listened as all three invented a 24-hour day completely packed with a weeks' worth of fun.
When it was my turn to share, I just smiled: this picture was already forming in my head. All I need is a cold drink, a good book, and a warm beach. That, my friends, is the most ideal day I can imagine.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I saw these images in my head long before I took them. It took me a while to find the right spot because a city like Philadelphia doesn't really offer any unobstructed, building-free views with rolling green paths leading on to nowhere. But find it I did - on my way back from collecting work from an exhibit in Phoenixville, I drove through Valley Forge and nearly went off the side of the road when I saw this view.
Did I mention the husband and kids were along for the ride?
Marty: "What are you doing?"
Me: "Pulling over! I have my camera with me! Look, actual TREES!!"
Marty: "Wow, and grass without parking garages on it too...who knew?"
Me: "I have just one favor - please, please keep the boys occupied for a bit until I get the shots I want, then you can let the run free."
Marty: "Sure hon, no problem!"
I started walking down the path, camera raised to my eye, when I saw a set of fingers reach for the lens.
Me: "Hello, Daniel."
Dan: "Hi Mom! You can take a picture of me now!"
Lucas: "Me too! Me too!" *as he runs into the back of my legs, not wanting to miss anything*
Marty: "Boys, come over here - Mommy has work to do!"
Me: "Thanks ever so much, darling..."
Again, I scan the horizon for interesting shapes and am about to set off once more, when I hear Danny scream.
Me: "What's going on?"
Dan: "I stepped in a PUDDLE and my shoe is WET!"
Marty, realizing I might be a little annoyed, gestures that he's got the situation under control.
Marty: "I've got it, sweetie! Just go do your thing, don't worry about us!
Lucas: "Ow, Danny PUSHED me!"
Dan: "Nu-uh, I did NOT push you. I SHOVED you. There's a difference."
At this point, I gave up. The boys came galloping down the hill behind me, thrilled to be let loose in a sea of rolling amber and green. After about thirty minutes, they all voluntarily headed back up to the car, their shoes covered in mud and their hair full of downy seedlings from the cotton plants they discovered along the path. It occurred to me then that exhausting the children first was probably a better plan than holding them captive.
I grabbed a few moments of solitude and captured these three images as their voices faded and floated away by the fall breeze. By the time I reached the car, they were all buckled in to their seats, waiting patiently for me, tired smiles on their rosy faces.
Friday, November 27, 2009
College. That one word brings back a swirl of emotions, not the least of which is nostalgia for a time in my life when I was simultaneously a genius and an idiot (for those of you who knew me then, I appreciate your silence regarding that latter part). It was my time to discover what I was good at (analyzing, writing, getting by on very little sleep) and what I was not good at (all things math, making it to 8 a.m. classes, staying awake in 8 a.m. classes). I was thrilled to find that I could take a ballet class to satisfy some of my credit requirements. I hadn't danced in years, having long since found horses more appealing than barre work, but I didn't let this deter me. I was nervous my first day, not sure what to expect of a college dance professor (Serious? Tall? French accent?). Susan was none of the three. She was a petite blonde pixie with a wicked sense of humor and an uncanny ability to not laugh at her students, no matter how horrible their performance. I saw her eyes laugh, but her face never broke form (I ought to know - most of that laughter was definitely directed at me). Still, I loved dancing in Susan's class. She knew I couldn't pick up choreography at all, and she mercifully let me hide in the back for four straight years. That fourth year, however, something changed about her. Her once thick blonde hair looked thinner, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She started wearing a sweater tied around her waist, and only one time did I glimpse the chemotherapy pouch that lurked underneath. She never missed a class.
The winter of my senior year, I decided I wanted to try a pointe class. Susan didn't teach pointe classes at the college, but she did have a Friday night class with the local dance company. For ten year-olds. I asked her permission, and I was in.
I stopped going out on Friday nights, and instead spent hours sweating and bleeding through my new shiny satin shoes. If anyone has any questions about how brutal pointe work is on the feet, let me assure you it's much like having your toes caught in a bear trap, if not worse. On full pointe, I was at least a foot taller than all the willowy little girls in that class, but again, Susan never laughed. Smiled, but not laughed. She taught me it was perfectly acceptable to be the ostrich in a room full of little swans.
I went to her house shortly before my graduation when she kindly agreed to sit for a portrait with her daughters for a final exam I was completing. I met her husband, played with her dogs, fell in love with her two little pixie blonde girls who climbed all over their mother and gave me some of the most breathtaking images I've ever shot. I aced the final.
Susan died of breast cancer two years after I graduated. She left behind two beautiful little girls and a world that was a little less sunny without her. I'm thankful every day for her influence. She was funny, but never laughed at us. She was beautiful, but never made us feel awkward in her presence. She was fighting a battle, but she never let it harden her. Thank you Susan, for showing me that grace and beauty are not reflected in a mirror, but in my actions.
Friday, November 20, 2009
He was standing in the back of the boathouse, looking for something, and I walked in with my 26 foot single balanced on my head. My excuse, to this day, is that my eyes had yet to adjust from the bright sunlight.
He was not necessarily my type. I tended to like the kind of man that was "emotionally unavailable" (yes, that is an actual quote by an actual ex-boyfriend. Twenty dollars to the person who can tell me what on earth that really means). I fell for the arrogant ones who were, oddly, threatened by my own confidence. I seemed to like the ones that were less than honest and hid things about their past from me.
Yet there he was: unassuming, emotionally available, and completely honest. And, of course, grimacing and holding his head which I had just rammed with the bow of my boat. He likes to say he didn't regain full consciousness until we were at the altar. This is usually the point where I hit him again.
For ten years I have been grateful for the perfect timing of that one morning row. I'd like to think that even when I'm 90, I'll still remember the moment I realized I'd finally met the right one.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Memories. Memories come in the strangest of forms. I never met my great-grandmother, but her four daughters were an integral part of my daily life. They shaped my world, spoiled me, taught me, loved me. Of all the things they collected and treasured, the drawers full of their mother's tarnished silverware is the most beautiful. Of all the things they sold in order to keep food on the table and clothes on their children, they always protected the silverware. I refuse to polish away the patina and fingerprints, the years of use that have darkened the monogrammed "R" that adorns the graceful handles. I never met my great-grandmother, but when I look at these pieces of silver, I have memories of her Christmas dinners and Sunday lunches. I never met my great-grandmother, but her four daughters taught me everything I needed to know: love deeply, laugh loudly, and life is too short not to use the good silverware.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
In my career as a wedding-attendee, I've worn every color of taffeta, carried every form of bouquet, and danced to every Village People song around. I've caught flowers (and promptly thrown them at the next unsuspecting girl), dried my eyes, made toasts, and carried one particular friend over huge drifts of snow so we could fit her and all her dress into the car during an epic East Coast storm. That said, I have never been to a wedding where both the brides wore skates.
It wasn't traditional. It wasn't expected. It wasn't even legal (Maryland is still a little behind the evolution curve in these matters). It was, however, the most joyous, crazy, wonderful, loving, and funny union I've ever had the privilege of witnessing. When we formed a circle at the end, so the brides could skate past and high-five everyone at the reception, I cried like the sentimental fool that I am. We should all be so lucky to live our lives like that wedding day: have fun, break the right rules, and thank your friends.
Friday, October 30, 2009
"Mommy, come look what I found!" called Danny during a walk on a beautiful September evening. "It's a faerie house!" I crawled under the branches with him, and saw this beautiful little spot he had discovered. We could hear the footsteps of passersby, but they could not see us, nestled quietly under the canopy of leaves. "I think the faeries come out and dance when they think no one is looking," he whispered. I nodded quietly as we watched the glow of the sunlight together, waiting for the faeries to appear.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I'm just popping in mid-week to let everyone know I've started a blog dedicated entirely to the books in the Alphabet Soup! series. Stop in to read more about the Stitch Your Heart Out Campaign and other updates as they come. I'll be taping a radio interview about the original Alphabet Soup! this weekend (eeek!) and will post the link as soon as the show airs.
I'll be back tomorrow with my "Story Behind the Picture." In the mean time, have a lovely Thursday!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Every Friday I have a story to share, and this one is no different. Rather than just one photograph, I'm sharing the on-going process of an entire series that is incredibly meaningful.
A little background: Loose Thread Stitchers (LTS) and mkc photography have partnered to create a gorgeous coffee table book dedicated to the art of cross stitch. Twenty-six different letters, twenty-six different designers and companies who have supported this project, twenty-six different beautiful pages that even non-stitchers will love. Why are we doing this? Colleen (the CEO of LTS) and I are dedicated to championing causes that support women. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women world-wide, and CAROL for Heart works to educate women about heart health. When Colleen saw my original "Alphabet Soup!" book, she knew this was a concept she wanted for the "Stitch Your Heart Out" (SYHO) campaign.
When these beautiful pieces arrive to me, I can't help but marvel at the time and love poured into each one. Some are actual stitched designs, some are creative tools to make stitchers' lives easier, but all are little pieces of art. Little pieces of art that connect generations of women who teach one another and keep the traditions their mothers and grandmothers taught to them. It was once forbidden for a gathering of three or more women to stitch or weave together: the churches feared the power of such unchaperoned meetings, feared the agency and power associated with creating such elaborate and bewitching designs, feared the outcome if too many women were united in their single pursuit. Silly, isn't it, to think that something woven or stitched by a women would be dangerous? Yes, I suppose, unless you've read the story of Medea...
These images are a tribute to the beautiful art of cross stitch that should be treasured - and taught - for endless years to come. Keep stitching, ladies!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
This particular invasive species was the only spot of white on the otherwise perfect green lawn of the Morris Arboretum in the middle of March. I thought it a very special dandelion - it alone had weathered the winds, rain, and freezing temperatures. Most visitors that day were admiring the statuary, the ivy gently climbing the stone walls, the swan gracefully swimming in the pond. I think I may have been the only one laying on the cold ground with my camera, photographing a common weed.
Marty: "Boys, have you seen your mother anywhere?"
Lucas: "Why are you on the ground, mommy?"
The softness of the dandelion clock against the dreamy blue sky was too pretty to miss. In the end, it was worth getting my jeans dirty and embarrassing my family, don't you think?
Friday, October 2, 2009
This is the view we rowers see on clear mornings, the mornings when the rising sun turns the sky into a watercolor painting of soft blues and pinks. The streetlights on Kelly Drive have yet to dim, but the hum of daily traffic is just audible over the chirping birds and gentle splash of the oars as they enter the water. Sometimes you’ll even catch the mouthwatering smells from the bakeries in East Falls and Manayunk as they drift downriver. This view is from the Twin Stone bridges in East Falls, where most boats spin to begin their journey back toward the boathouses.
Some people ask why rowers choose a sport that requires us to rise at unimaginably early hours, launch from the dock before dawn, and endure often unpleasant weather. This photograph is my answer.
Friday, September 25, 2009
It was a delightful summer afternoon. I gathered up the boys and we took a lazy stroll around the neighborhood, enjoying the shade of the trees and the sounds of the birds and tree frogs singing as we walked underneath. I think we only actually walked a few hundred meters, but it took almost an hour - curious little boys love to stop and investigate every leaf, flower, and blade of grass they encounter. As we walked back up the hill to our house, I saw this dandelion glowing in our front yard as the sun began to dip low in the sky. Danny squealed with delight and raced ahead to grab it, but I begged him to wait until I took a picture. He and Lucas stood patiently while I took my usual ridiculous number of photographs, and when I was finished, I gave them a smile. Danny raced to the dandelion and blew the little fluffy seeds all over our front lawn. I watched him dancing around as they fell to the ground, knowing there would soon be a new, larger crop of weeds for him to enjoy. My husband finds it odd that I photographed a weed. I told him he needs to look at it from a child’s point of view.
Friday, September 18, 2009
You can have your football and baseball. You can keep golf. You can even have basketball. After watching my sister-in-law skate in a Roller Derby tournament, that's the only sport for me (to watch, mind you, not to play...I used to play rugby in college and it wasn't half as rough as what I witnessed in that skating rink).
Do you need to understand the rules to enjoy it? Not at all: just cheer and scream for your friends (or sisters) as they fly around the rink and crash into one another. Somewhere, points are tallied. I think points should also be awarded to spectators who successfully avoid being hit by the occasional skater careening out of control.
We brought our two boys to witness the event: "Knock 'em down, Aunt DeeDee!!" became the battle cry of the evening. They sat on our shoulders and cheered louder than most adults could manage. They saw tough, agile athletes compete. They realized girls could play just as hard as boys. Would I ever lace up my skates? Heck no: I've seen the bruises on those women! But count me in as a fan of the unpaid, unpretentious, and unbelievable athletes of this awesome sport.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Not until I saw the images on my computer did I realize I had chosen the same number of pears as the children in my husband's family. I'm an only child, but I married a man with five siblings. Those six children are the most wonderful, yet diverse set of individuals: each is an incredibly unique personality, each has their own set of gifts and strengths, each leans their own way. The way these pears are sitting mirrors the personalities and the relationships of all six brothers and sisters, yet the effect was entirely unintentional. A dear friend just told me it reminded him of "The Last Supper." With fruit.
I love to see my own children growing into their little unique selves: diversity is a beautiful thing. Just like these little pears.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
I love the beach in the morning. The surfers paddle out, waiting for the perfect wave. Fishermen, clad in waders, patiently wait near the ends of the jetties. The sand, smooth and clear, bears only a few foot – or paw – prints from the early risers. The beach, in the morning, is full of possibilities. The black rocks of the jetty still feel cool underfoot, the seagulls still stroll at the water’s edges, the sun still climbs lazily out of the sea. Soon enough it is time to head home and begin the real work of the day, but the stolen moments at the beach in the morning are enough to carry me through.
Friday, August 28, 2009
My most vivid memory is of the night we weathered Hurricane David aboard my parent's boat in Virginia. My father decided we needed to move the boat to a more sheltered location, and thought we would have plenty of time to make the trip before the eye of the storm drew close...perhaps the fact that he was a career Army, not Navy, officer should have prompted us to question his judgement. As David caught us in the middle of the open, unprotected water of the Chesapeake Bay, my mother strapped me in a life jacket and locked me into my little sleeping bunk below deck (more questionable judgement: are you supposed to lock someone into a boat that might capsize? Not much need for a life jacket if you're trapped below, right?). Obviously I managed to survive the night, but it does provide me fabulous ammunition with which to harass my parents.
I created this image because, when it comes to sailing, I prefer my seas calm and my winds fair. I prefer the days where the sun glints off the top of the water, scattering "poor man's diamonds" across the surface. I prefer the puffy white clouds that tower high above and take the shapes of animals as they float by in the gentle summer breeze.
Friday, August 21, 2009
This series of photographs was born from a mother's desperation (mine, to be more specific). During one of the rainiest weeks of the summer, my boys decided to the best activity they could conjure up would be to fight with each other.
All the time.
After 34 trips to the naughty step (each) in a single morning, and loosing my voice from yelling, I realized I had two choices: sell the children on Craig's List or send them on a scavenger hunt of some sort. Inspiration came in the form of pain as I stepped on yet another little metal toy lurking in the shadows of the carpet (it was the airplane).
The alphabet scavenger hunt was on! As the boys brought me their treasures, all the prints that you see in the collection gathered in my mind. Danny insisted we use his beloved "Lamby" for the "L"...I had to gently explain that while a threadbare, flattened, missing-an-eye stuffed lamb might be the love of his life, it wouldn't really appeal to folks to didn't know Lamby personally. When I was uploading the images later that night, I found a photograph of Lamby. He must have snuck in to my studio and used the camera and tripod while I was making lunch.
Danny and Lucas are proud that the airplane their grandfather gave them, the baseball from their cousin, the car they bought on vacation, and the vintage wood dog from their great-grandmother's house are just a small part of this collection of prints/children's book. I'm just happy I didn't have to sell my children on Craig's List.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
This photograph was inspired by the Polaroid images of my childhood: the images that seemed to take ages to develop, no matter how much I waved them impatiently in the air. I loved the anticipation, the suspense, and finally, the satisfaction of seeing the picture coming fully to life.
There was something about the quality of the film that made it seem instantly aged, a faded warmth that 35mm film could never replicate, so I tried to recapture the same sense of history with "Sea, Sand, and Sky" by shooting in digital format through a vintage lens.
This is the beach on which I played, flew kites, and built sand castles as a child. I took this photograph as my own children chased seagulls and searched for hermit crabs in the early morning sunshine. I hope they have the same lovely memories when they have children of their own: memories of sea, sand, and sky on a warm summer day.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Welcome to the silly scavenger hunt called "Alphabet Soup!"
Learning letters has never been this fun! If the weather is stormy and you are stranded inside, never fear - your home is an alphabet safari waiting to happen.
Find a friend and start your search...what things will you discover?
Available now as a soft or hard cover book - click here to preview the book and purchase your copy today!
Friday, August 7, 2009
Sometimes the most beautiful pictures are the ones we dream in our minds. I created "Flying in the Stars" on a particularly dreary and cold winter day after the boys and I spent the morning snuggled under a quilt, reading Phillip Pullman's "The Golden Compass." One of the characters is an aeronautical explorer who flies his hot air balloon into fantastic adventure, and Pullman's vivid words carried me into a world where we too could soar amid the clouds and stars. Later that afternoon, as the boys napped peacefully in their rooms, I started combing through my ten-thousand image library until I found the pieces to layer together in this collage. It's my hope that when you see this piece, you escape for a moment from the traffic and telephones and to-do lists. Let's go flying in the stars together.
Friday, July 31, 2009
This photograph is a macro view of the keys on my husband’s bass guitar. While I’ll often make fun of his dancing (see above) or his singing (dying goose, anyone?), his skill with instruments is remarkable. This guitar is a fixture in our home, and I’ll often find him with one of the boys on his lap, teaching them to play their beginning chords. Someone recently mistook the keys and strings in this photograph for the cleats and ropes of a boat, but I find the similarities more than just visual: music takes us on journeys, lets us explore, allows us to travel. For those reasons (and many more), our children will always live in a home filled with music.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Two and a half years ago, Marty decided he just had to have a blue Mini Cooper. The reason? His arduous and lengthy commute to work: the Mini is quite efficient and uses very little gas.
Me: "Of course it uses very little gas: it's a toy car!"
Marty: "I'll pretend I didn't hear that."
So off we went to the Mini dealership for a test drive. Oh, did I mention that I was 8.99 months pregnant at the time of the aforementioned test drive?
Me: staring at impossibly tiny front seat "I'm not going to fit in that car."
Marty: "Of course you will! Just try it!"
Me: "Greenpeace just put me on their latest watch list - I look like Shamu in a dress - no way!"
I made it inside and was able to clear the dashboard with several relaxing nanometers to spare.
Marty: "Hey, if you fit in here now, then image how comfortable you'll be when you're not hu-"
Me: "Not what? Not HUGE?"
Marty: sensing the danger "I love you, honey!"
We bought the Mini. And every Saturday since, my husband disappears to the garage to undertake the same ritual: detailing the car.
Marty: "Honey, where are my socks?
Me: "On your feet, darling."
Marty: "Oh - thanks!"
I don't mind sharing him with "the other woman," as I now call her. She's quite fun to drive and you can squeeze into impossibly tiny on-street parking spaces in Philly (Ha! Take that, overcrowded, overpriced parking garages!). She's also quite boxy and cute, perfect for the square format of the vintage viewfinder, so I immortalized her for my husband and boys to enjoy, long after Marty is too old to pull off the driving-a-tiny-blue-car look, and the boys are too tall to fit in the back seat without complaining that their knees are bumping into their chins. Until then, if anyone is looking for Marty on a Saturday, he's probably in the garage with the other woman.
Friday, July 10, 2009
This weekend I had the incredible honor of attending my dear friend Keith’s wedding: he and his bride Sarah kindly invited my whole family to the beautiful event (even the boys, who miraculously behaved like cherubs ...I’m wondering if my father bribed them with the promise of new cars on their 16th birthdays). In case it isn’t obvious from the photograph, Keith and his family are Scottish - his father, John, agreed to pose proudly with his son for my photograph. Afterwards, he looked down and noticed the way Keith had tied the laces of his shoes.
Keith’s dad: “You’ve tied them wrong!”
Keith: “I’ve done no such thing!”
Keith’s dad: “Yes y’have! They should be tied to the side, like mine, not in the front! I can’t take ye anywhere, can I?”
This, of course, is banter I’ve been privy too for the eleven years that I’ve known Keith. We met in graduate school at a Caleigh dance where there were quite a few inebriated folks performing what was meant to be the “Highland Fling.” My rendition was probably more “fling” and less “Highland,” but Keith and his friends took pity on the loud American who was, at the very least, putting forth a good effort. Luck was very much on our side when we ended sitting inches from one another for the next year: I in stroke seat and he in the coxswain’s “throne” of several extremely fast eights. Keith was - and is - the best coxswain I’ve ever had the privilege of rowing with. All jokes aside about short, bossy people with loud voices, having Keith in that seat was tantamount to walking in a bad neighborhood with a pit bull: no one stood a chance against us. Better yet, he never yelled at us, he yelled for us, a difference that I’m convinced is instinctive and cannot be taught. My husband (also a rower) always laughs when I insist it’s just as physically demanding to cox as to row a race, but I don’t think he’s ever seen someone invest themselves the way Keith did. Even in practice, he brought legendary intensity: no matter the weather (usually rain) or the exhaustion level (usually high), he found our speed for us.
Keith is the same in friendship as he is in coxing - unwavering, intense, complete. He actually helped pick out the shoes I wore on my first date with my husband:
Me: "Which ones should I wear?"
Keith: “That pair says ‘take me seriously, I’m highly intellectual.’”
Me: “And these?”
Keith: “They say ‘I’m a complete tart and I’m here for a good time.’”
(And no, I’ll never tell which ones I chose).
Keith has steered me into more blade clashes than any other cox (we never lost a single one), has baby-sat my children (although he looked very panicked as I left the house), and has climbed atop rickety scaffolding to paint our hallway (because we finally had to put him to work during a visit where he sat on our couch for over a week). I look forward to spending decades more with Keith and Sarah, and sharing this photograph - and my memories - with their children.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
This hydrangea lives outside a firehouse in Old City, Philadelphia. I found it one sunny fall afternoon as my husband and boys watched the fire crew wash and detail one of their engines. Unlike the gentlemen, I was not quite as mesmerized by the shiny metal and vibrant red paint, so I strolled along the street, photographing the flowers that still bloomed in the early autumn warmth. As I worked, a woman approached. Her unwashed hair was streaked with gray, her clothes needed mending, and she held tight to her large, threadbare bag as though it was her habit to carefully guard this one possession. Her kind brown eyes completely disarmed me: I found myself smiling as she stopped next to the hydrangea.
“Would you like a portrait drawn?” she asked. “I’m an artist and I’d be happy to do one for you.” Danny had recently posed for a caricature at a local fair, but Lucas had refused to comply. “I would love a sketch of my youngest son,” I replied, “if we can convince him to sit still.” We found a little park nearby complete with fountain and pigeons for him to watch. We officially introduced ourselves, and Lucas sat quietly as Carol pulled out a thick tablet of paper and a blue magic marker. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw the marker…I assumed it would be a childish drawing, perhaps even as limited as my own abilities with pen and paper.
I looked away for a moment and watched the sun glint off the surface of the water, sending patterns of light over the brick walls of the courtyard. When I looked back at the tablet, tears welled in my eyes as I saw Lucas’ face coming to life on the paper. The shape of his chin, the waves of his hair, the length of his eyelashes: all masterfully captured by the talents of Carol’s weathered hands. She spoke to herself as she worked, muttering many things I could not understand. I did catch a few snippets of her life: her previous life as a teacher, a sister that lived in Michigan who begged Carol to come live with her. “Will you go stay with her?” I asked. “I’ll think about it,” she said quietly, never letting her eyes drift from the paper.
I saw Marty’s amused expression as I handed her more than the amount she requested for her services. “I’m surprised you trusted her,” he said after we said good-bye and we watched her shuffle away down the sidewalk. “My intuition told me she was a sweet lady,” I answered quietly, hoping Carol would let her family take care of her before the frigid winter weather took hold of the city and the lovely pink hydrangeas became wind-dried memories.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Grocery shopping with two young children is, frankly, a nightmare. Now that he can read, Danny spends the majority of the time asking if we need certain items:
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I used to be annoyed by what I once considered to be his insane attention to detail, his documentation of every mundane item or event. Then, yesterday, someone asked me to name my favorite thing to photograph. I paused and had to laugh at the answer that came so easily. I, too, photograph the little things, the seemingly unimportant. I find myself sitting back and watching, taking note, just as he’s always done.
My dad took this photograph a few weeks ago on a beautiful night at the boardwalk. His camera wasn’t anything special (just a little digital point-and-shoot we gave him last Christmas), but then again, photography isn’t about the equipment: it’s about finding the calm inside the chaos. In the midst of all the lights, music, voices, and crowds, my dad captured a wonderful image of his oldest grandson swinging high over our heads on the giant swings. I recognized a striking synchronicity in their expressions as they both quietly absorbed all the sights and sounds.
Today, I would like to take a moment to thank my dad for teaching me the important things:
1) Sit down and be quiet.
2) I don’t know everything. (although I do find this item to be, at times, debatable)
3) Don’t shake the camera.
I’m sure there are things I’m leaving out. I’m sure I’ll think of them later. I’m also sure that these are the three most important things to remember, the ones I use every day.
Friday, June 19, 2009
At the same time as I’ve been honing my tuning-out-the-screaming skills and the mediation-between-warring-factions-while-on-the-phone skills, I find my work has been affected – for the better – by being a mother. I used to photograph strictly in black-and-white: I had no desire to work in color or veer away from the moody, contemplative images I created. I have changed. I listen to advice of my littlest assistants. I see the colors. I climb into tents built from sofa cushions and blankets. I remember the rainy afternoons when I hunted for that magical closet that would finally lead me to Narnia.
This photograph, while taken on a perfectly ordinary day on a perfectly ordinary boardwalk, is anything but ordinary for me. It is the techni-color dream of castles and kings, captured by my eye, inspired by my (energetic, sleep-deprived, imaginative) life with children.
Friday, June 12, 2009
By February, the winter months begin to take their toll: the unbearably short days, the frigid temperatures, the endless ordeal of coats/hats/mittens/boots that turns even the simplest errand into a Herculean effort. I was tired of photographing icicles and bare limbs, so I visited our local florist and spend a half hour browsing their selection of flowers until I found the perfect pink gerbera daisy. The florist actually joined me in my search when I told her I planned on photographing a floral still-life, and she suggested this particular daisy because “it had great character.” I laughed – this was a woman who truly loved her flowers.
My next challenge lay in the lighting: the pale winter sun coming through our windows wasn’t bright enough to properly light the flower. I placed the daisy in a white vase of water and decided to set it aside until the afternoon. As I escorted the boys to the bathroom to wash hands before lunch, I noticed that the bright white tiles reflected and amplified the light from the window to a wonderful level, perfect for what I had in mind. “Everyone head downstairs!” I called, “Daddy’s making lunch today!” I gathered my equipment – and my daisy with all that character – and climbed into the tub.
Danny: “Mommy, what on earth are you doing?”
Me: “Taking pictures, honey.”
Danny: “In the bathtub?”
Me: “Yes, sweetie – in the bathtub. The lighting in here is great!”
Danny: “Oh. Okay then. Anyway, Dad said lunch is ready.”
I started to laugh as Danny walked back downstairs and wondered if he’d tell his friends and teachers the next day that his mother was in the tub, fully clothed, taking pictures of a flower. If anyone thinks I’m crazy, I’ll inform them I’ve simply got character…just like my daisy.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
He never returned home: the plane he piloted was lost over the sea, the entire crew still missing today. It has been nearly 70 years since they stood together on that altar, the full moon rising high above, the priest smiling sleepily as they their exchanged vows, and my aunt has never found another who hung the moon quite the way he did.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
This morning he let the boys come within inches of his tiny yellow beak and he seemed oddly calm. A few hours later he was still in the same position: fluffy little body snuggled down into a patch of long green grass, his eyes barely open. I looked around for mom and dad, but did not see either one, which made me terribly sad: they would never have left a healthy fledgling unattended. “Mommy,” said Danny with a frown, “the baby bird seems really sleepy.” I found a pair of gardening gloves and gently picked him up, checking to see if he’d been injured. He seemed to be fine, other than the fact that he settled down into my gloved hands and closed his eyes. The boys gathered around and we watched him sleep, Lucas’ breath so close that it ruffled the baby down still peeking out from under the new adult feathers.
I came back out to the yard as the boys napped and stayed with him until he stopped breathing. I buried him in our flower bed and hoped, as I patted the damp earth back into place, that he enjoyed his day of freedom in our little yard.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Date: Mother's Day, 2009
Objective: To Determine Whether or Not My Husband Remembers His Mother's Day Plan to Cook Dinner for Me
Me: *surreptitiously glancing at clock* "Have you decided what you are making me for dinner? It's already four p.m."
Marty: *looks up from newspaper with panicked expression on face* "Er, you were serious about that?"
Me: "Yes dear. You asked what you and the boys could do for me today. I asked you to cook dinner."
Marty: "Or we could go out to eat!"
Marty: "It would be fun!"
Me: "No. Dining out with a 2 and 5 year-old is not fun. Urban warfare, yes. Fun, No."
Marty: *grabbing wallet and keys* "I'll be back with ingredients!"
Me: "Great! Could you pick up some fresh fruit while you're out?"
Lemons. My husband comes back with lemons. Not one lemon. Not two lemons. No, a full-on 25-pound economy-size bag of lemons. No normal fruit such as, say, apples or other things that children and other humans enjoy eating.
Me: *staring at 50 pounds of lemons sitting on kitchen counter* "Seriously? Lemons?"
Marty: "They were on sale."
We are still drinking lemonade at our house. Lemonade that Marty makes fresh daily and will probably continue to do so for the next ten years, given the amount of lemons in our house. I couldn't resist taking a few pieces of the beautiful yellow fruit and grabbing my camera: I'm thinking of putting this over our fireplace so that even when we are old and senile, he will never forget the day he went to the grocery store unchaperoned and bought 100 pounds of inedible, sour fruit. Lemonade, anyone?
Friday, May 15, 2009
This was my mother's opening comment, several phone calls ago, not-so-subtly hinting at her Mother's Day gift. It made me a little nervous, frankly. I've stood on narrow, wobbly boat decks, laid in the gnat-infested grass near the hooves of a very protective momma horse, and climbed atop my husband's shoulders to capture my images. Taking a photograph of my own children's feet should be no problem, right?
Me: "Danny, Lucas, come stand here by mommy."
Lucas: "I waaaaaant my SHOES on!!!!!"
Me: "No, sweetie, grandmom wants a picture of your toes. Without shoes."
Danny: "Gee Lucas, a bee might sting your foot if you step on it without your shoes..."
Me: "Daniel! Don't scare your brother!"
Lucas: *clinging to my leg* "are der bees out here, mommy?"
Me: "No sweetie, no bees. Daniel, get back over here!"
I finally decided against photographing bare toes in grass, and when I spotted the old white Adirondack chair with the peeling paint that sits in a shady corner of our yard, I had a moment of inspiration: I could trap the children in it!
Danny: "Mommy, I can't get out of here! I keep sliding back!"
Lucas: "Stop touching meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
Me: "I'll let you out when you both stop complaining."
It worked. For fifteen whole seconds I had two silent children glaring at me from the depths of their slope-seated prison, chubby bare feet perfectly placed for my photography efforts. This was the last shot I took, the one where Lucas decided to tickle his big brother's foot and they both laughed and held hands. For a nanosecond.
Danny and Lucas in unison: "Are we done YET? OW, he hit me! STOP IT!!!!!!!"
Ah, the joys of motherhood...
Friday, May 8, 2009
1996, phone call placed to my room in England:
Dad: "Did you take my camera?"
Me: "I'm sorry, I can't hear you: must be a bad connection."
Dad: "I SAID, did you pack MY camera in one of your eight hundred suitcases?"
Me: *crinkling wad of paper in background* "Dad, the static on the line is terrible. I'll call you later!"
That was the semester I studied abroad and, inadvertently, packed my father's 1968 Asahi Pentax in one of my eight hundred suitcases. I held it hostage even upon my return, continually evading the question of its whereabouts until he finally conceded and bought me a near-identical model (1972) for my college graduation. I loved the delicate light meter, the sound of the shutter ticking closed after a particularly long exposure, the weight of it in my hands. I loved that the film would slip unless I aligned it perfectly, a fact that prevented me from rushing though the process of readying my camera to shoot. I loved carrying it with me when I traveled, its weight a reassuring presence of an old friend.
The cameras in this photographs are those belonging to my family: a collection that reminds me of holidays, graduations, first communions, vacations, life. They all adorn a shelf in our living room, and my oldest son loves to sneak off with the plastic Diana camera that once belonged to my uncle.
Me: *calling up the stairs to his room* "Danny, where is the little black camera?"
Danny: "What camera?"
Me: "The one that is missing from the shelf."
Danny: "I can't hear you mom! What did you say?"
I can't help but smile. My father, of course, finds it hilarious.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
There's no easy way to begin, so I'll just come out and say it: I used to read the encyclopedia for fun. This fact alone could be the reason I always had to take my science lab partners to prom/homecoming in high school. That, combined with the fact I was on the math team. And I won science fairs. And I watched Jeopardy! with a fanaticism unparalleled by most teenagers on this planet.
I adore books. In my prime (before toddlers and laundry and, well, life, entered the picture), I could read three books a day. In college, I worked as a book repair technician, gently renewing and repairing the beloved collection of the college library...I revelled in the comforting smell of the pages and the texture of the woven binding cloth. When I moved on to graduate school and saw the truly epic reading list attached to the syllabus, I smiled as those around me wept. My husband laughs and simply refuses to believe I can read - and comprehend - a 300 page book in less than a day. He also refused to accept that I read an entire collection of encyclopedias for entertainment value until I quoted the publisher (Grolier, 1968) and he called my parents to confirm.
Marty: "Do you have a set of encyclopedias in the house?"
Mom: "Yes dear, why?"
Marty: "Michelle insists that she used to read them for fun."
Mom: "Yes, well, she did. We had to drag her out of the house to get a bit of sunlight every now and again."
Mom: "Yes, well, we all know she's a little...strange..."
Marty: "You mean nerdy?"
Mom: "Yes, that's really the best way to describe it."
I used my Duaflex viewfinder and set up the still life with all manner of books from around our home, including a Greek-English dictionary that once belonged to Marty's grandfather. It was clearly well-loved, full of hand-written annotations, its pages folded and marked for repeated use. Marty says he cannot remember a day that his grandfather wasn't reading the Classics in both Greek and Latin. Had I been lucky enough to know Dr. Hayes while he was alive, I know we would have gotten along famously.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Spring is such a glorious time of year, yet this is a particularly difficult week for me to write. For once, I am at a near loss for words. My grandmother did not recognize me this week when I sat at her bedside and held her weathered, weakened hands in my own. I have spent my birthday with her each year for the past thirty-three Aprils. She has helped me blow out my candles, sung to me, kissed me, and wished me her traditional "lots of luck and happiness." Each year, no matter where I lived, I spent my spring birthday with her. This week was no different, despite the fact I had brought her in to the emergency room a few days before, despite the fact that she now lay in the ICU, her piercing blue eyes unable to recognize my face.
When I think of spring, I remember running thought her vibrant green lawn in my new party dress, being scolded for climbing the rock wall that ran along side her house, swinging on the front gate when I thought she wasn't looking. When I think of my grandmother, I think of spring: the sky the color of her eyes, magnolia blossoms the color of the dress she made for my eighth-grade graduation, white clouds the color of her soft hair.
I noticed one of her nurses had written "Tuesday, April 14th" on the message board at the foot of her bed. Before I left, I pointed to the date. "Grandmom, do you know what today is?" I asked. The pain and exhaustion that clouded her eyes floated away long enough for her to turn and whisper, "it's your birthday."
Friday, April 10, 2009
This was a night I was grateful to have my camera in the car with me. I promised him that although I couldn't lift him high enough to hold the moon, I would indeed take a picture for all of us to keep. I snuck onto my neighbor's lawn for a better view and, with my telephoto lens, managed to capture "our" moon.
I created this collage to reflect the magic a child sees in the night sky, and the wonder that prompts him to want to hold that glorious full moon in his hands. We all have our dreams, but sometimes we need the imagination of a child to remind us of what they are.