Friday, September 18, 2015

While on the water

I haven't mentioned the birds lately, have I? I'll do that soon. In the meantime, while I was on the water photographing my birds, these three dolphins started playing.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Campbell Chapel, African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bluffton, South Carolina. A.M.E.

I went alone. I had no idea if I'd be the only white woman there.
But it didn't matter.

I don't often go to church. A wedding or a funeral maybe but, while I believe in God, belonging to a church has never been a big deal.

That didn't matter either. I had to go.

This was the Campbell Chapel of the A.M.E. Church in Bluffton, South Carolina. Clementa Pinckney used to be a pastor here. He was also a State Legislator in my district, although I’d never met him. He was a man of faith. He was a Democrat. He was black. He was 41 years old.

He was murdered with 8 others in a place of sanctuary. A place of hope. A place of love. A sanctuary is a place of safety, protection, shelter, immunity, and asylum. This is an understanding most cultures share across the timelines of history, of races, and of nations. It is a line that isn’t often breached. On June 17th, in Charleston, it was utterly defiled.

Two days later, at noon, the Bluffton church had black and white police officers working security together and directing traffic. Cars were parked everywhere. All kinds. From trucks, to old Junkers, to midrange SUVs, to costly sports cars, and luxury sedans. Income inequality didn’t matter.

The service was getting underway on time, but there were still a few of us in the hall. We filed in after the opening prayer and we lined the walls. Soon, a black man appeared with folding chairs and set them up for us. He smiled. I thanked him and sat. There was a heavyset older, white man dressed casually in shorts and a ball cap next to me. He removed his hat. It was a sign of a respect.

The service was a series of prayers from many pastors from the surrounding churches, both black and white. The prayers were interspersed with hymns and psalms. The Republican state legislator, a white man, spoke. The congregation clapped. The mayor of the town, a white woman spoke. She cried. The congregation clapped harder.

Psalm 121 was one of the Psalms read. Back before religion was banned from school, my 7th grade teacher, a battle-ax known as Mrs. Smith, made the entire class memorize it as part of our graduation ceremony. Or maybe it was Easter. But I knew every word thanks to her. I thought of those days as I recited it. Never in a million years would Mrs. Smith have guessed that I would have brought her with me to this Church on such a day. But I did.

Once, when I was about 7 years old, my father whipped me for playing with a little girl in a pretty, pink dress. Her family had just moved in across the street. She was black. I didn't think I deserved a whipping. I didn't think it was fair. To her or to me. That whipping didn't affect me the way it was intended. My rebellion against injustice started that day. Pink will always remain my favorite color. I never knew her name but I brought her with me to the church, too.

When I was seated, the first prayer made me cry. I had brought an old, embroidered handkerchief of my grandmother's just in case. She was born in Liberty County, near Savannah, Georgia. I brought her to church with me also.

As I tried to get myself mopped up, I thought about my friends, some on Facebook, some in my neighborhood, and some from grade school. Some of them will go to their churches. Some will emote on Facebook and Twitter. Some will ignore it because it's all so damned ugly. Except it shouldn't be ignored.

And there is no great loss without some small silver lining. We must always look for that.

So I went to church and I brought memories, friends, distant voices, hopes, and prayers with me to lay on the alter. Because, people, no matter how you identify yourself:  black, white, male, female, Democrat, Libertarian, Republican, atheist, believer, old, young, rich, or poor, you can't hijack hope. I refuse to allow mine to be taken from me. Those filled with hate or an agenda, you can't program me with your agenda and tell me whom to hate or whom to love. You won’t stop me from standing up and speaking out. You can't send me to fight in a war that exists only in your paltry mind. You will never stop me from standing up for the innocent and I should never be told that I have to agree with them on order to stand up for them. You will never stop me from being strong enough to care for those I don't understand. I refuse to hate people who are guilty of nothing except being different than me. I will not stay away just because honor, respect, and reverence have become unpopular. I will not abandon my friend in order to be true to my own creed for that would indeed falsify my creed. I cannot be made into less of a person over the acts or behavior of someone else.

I went to church to stand up for the innocent and to represent, by proxy, all those voices that share this creed but could not be there. Death, now, has silenced many wise voices. I will lift up my tear-damped face for them. And I will not be silent.

And after all, though I went to church by myself, I was never alone. Neither in place nor in determination. We sang "This little light of mine" and smiles began to appear on faces. See a local report on the service here.

And the silver lining? It surely appeared there in that sanctuary filled with brave hearts.

As the first psalm was read, a black man in the nearby pew turned to me with a Bible in his hands. He had found the right place and handed it to me.

He didn't have to do that. He had every reason to ignore me. He had every reason to pretend I wasn't there.

I looked him in the eye as I thanked him and he smiled. He didn’t have to share that Book but then again, I didn’t have to bother to show up to this church. It was one, small, perfect moment of understanding, largeness, and accords. Strangers in a moment of instant agreement, a black man and a white woman silently agreed…This will not beat us.

And now, I have a question. Will it beat you?

Having read my thoughts and identified with many of them as you read along, will it change how you feel if I were to tell you I’m a Republican? Because if it does, that, right there is the kind of thinking that created this horrible reality.

Never hate anyone like that. Not ever.
We can all choose to be better than that.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring. The Ties that Bind.

This is an image I shot in-studio of a wrapped bundle of spring flowers. I focused on the raffia tied around the stems rather than the flowers.

The tie that binds. It's a comment on the connections we hold dear and the value of the simple and, sometimes fragile, things that hold us together.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


One day as I was out roaming with my camera, I happened upon a broken umbrella next to a large metal lampost in Savannah. I could almost hear the "Clung" as I stood there with my attention arrested. I took the shot as this news story unfurled in my mind.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Victoria Magazine

I put a post on my Facebook page yesterday that spoke of Victoria Magazine. I think they need me but that's not what this post is about.

If you aren't aware of this magazine... it was a Hearst publication back in the late 80's and 90's. It was laid to rest in 2003 but only with an outcry from people who knew something magical would be lost. My mother sent me a subscription every year for many years. She loved it. So did I.

Several years later, Phyllis Hoffman revived it. She's done a masterful job of keeping it the same so the long time fans would still love it but she's had to update it. Print magazines have a hard time in the digital age. Print magazines that appeal to women who don't sneer at being feminine are really struggling. But Phyllis keeps at it. I suspect it's now a labor of love rather than a lucrative publication.

I think this is a crying shame, not only for the magazine but for the millions of young women who have no clue about their own feminine magic, allure, power, and mystique. They lost so much when they twerked away their appeal.

The magazine's founding editor was a fabulous woman named Nancy Lindemeyer. The literary quality of the magazine and the breathtaking use of words created a mental and emotional retreat. Reading it each month was nothing less than a series of affirmational moments strung together like smooth, natural pearls. The beauty of the magazine was portrayed by a talented photographer named Toshi Otsuki. (He is now retired and living in Japan. Fan Note: He survived the tsunami and devastation in 2011.)

His body of work arrested us, soothed us, and helped us dream. Other photographers did beautiful work in the pages of the magazine but his set the tone for how we interacted. From a branding standpoint, his work is the one that taught me how important it is to tell a visual story. I went back to photography school in 2003 and I brought pictures from Victoria Magazine. I said to my teacher that if I could make images like this, THEN (and only then) could I call myself a photographer.

Of course, my teachers taught me to make pictures for every need. Fashion, Products, Journalism, Lifestyle. I found I liked shooting still life, food, and homes. I like Fine Art imagery and images that engage the emotions...positive emotions, anyway.  Of course, I found my own style but I remained inspired by Toshi Otsuki's work.

Then, recently, I found a post on Buzzfeed that was insulting the magazine.  I gasped right in my heart. Not only for the "Mean Girl" jeer at my glorious mentor but for the Mean Girl herself. The hateful littleness.

She didn't get it. She completely missed it. Hard, like a swan dive onto concrete and it hurt to watch. 

Yes, she got the smallness. She understood the fun of deriding an old, fusty magazine. She poked nastily at the silliness of Being Feminine. She dropped an F-Bomb for the shock value. (Honey, we know all about it. Yawn) The Vintage clothes. The blue and white dishes. The gardens and the wisteria, which she ignorantly labeled as violets. The romantic bed that she was sure no man would want to visit. (Ahem. Nakedly revealing that she knows not one THING about men. Guys perhaps, but not Men.

I feel sorry for her and I realize that that poor girl is lost in her own coolness. Really. Lost as in ignorant of so many of the basics of being a woman. Like OMG Totes. (Where is her MOTHER?)

One day, it'll hit this girl-child the way life hits us all and she'll find herself wanting a spa moment just to chase away the hurts, sickness, losses, fears, and worries that are always embedded in real life. A child of her heart will hand her a drooping rose and she will begin to understand the soul of a rose. A note from her childhood is in an old box somewhere. She'll find it one day and understand the value in old written words.

So. That's her issue.

But. BUT. 

Here is something women need to do. We need to link hands and share what we know so this kind of ignorance is educated out of existence. Life Ignorance is just awful to watch.

We need to keep Victoria's spirit alive.
So go order a subscription and send it to your daughters, nieces, and grandchildren. Share and link it on facebook. If you own a female-oriented business, advertise in it.

Just do it.