In Memorium – Volodymyr Kovalchuk

Volodymyr Kovalchuk. Lutsk,Ukraine. 1998.
mbfitzmahan. Volodymyr Kovalchuk. Lutsk,Ukraine. 1998.

Volodymyr Kovalchuk of Lutsk, Ukraine, and my friend of 20 years, died on May 1, 2017.

He died of stomach cancer. “Volodymyr thought you were a very noble person,” my friend wrote me.  “I saw him about 6 months ago.  We stood outside my apartment and reminisced about those years when the Fitzmahan’s lived in our town.  We talked about how much we looked forward to working together to help with your next book.”

Many of my friends from Ukraine are suffering.  Jobs have dried up.  Pensions are not sufficient to pay for retirement.  Many have left and moved to other parts of Europe.

Those who can not leave, stay behind dreading the Russian invasion and fear for their survival.

Continue reading “In Memorium – Volodymyr Kovalchuk”

The salon – The Art Junket

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mbfitzmahan.  The first Art Junket Salon.  2015

The Salon

After 2 years of sharing my photos on social media and exhibiting my art, the best thing I do for my art is to work in a salon experience.

A salon is a gathering in the home of an inspiring host,  to show and discuss art. The salon is an  ‘incubator’ for new ideas.  It is where rising artists can gather and draw inspiration.

The salon of the 21st century is a continuation of the spirit of the cafes in Paris where great artists and writers met in the 1920s and 30s.  Over cups of cafe noisette Hemingway sat in Le Select writing, smoking, and meeting with other writers and artists.  Hemingway escaped the claustrophobic confines of his small apartment and daily took up residence in Parisian cafes where he wrote The Sun Also Rises.  My favorite Hemingway book is his autobiographical account of his early years in Paris, A Moveable Feast.

It was in the cafés and salons of Paris that artists broke away from the stultifying and male dominated art world in Europe.

Continue reading “The salon – The Art Junket”

Temple incense

mbfitzmahan. Temple Incense – Boys and old man. Osu Kannon Temple, Nagoya – Japan. 2012.  Framed: 18 x 18 in.

Giving off aromas of deep green woods, a massive bronze incense burner is central to the Japanese temple.

A wayfarer embraces the smoke.  Clinging to the remains of the sandalwood, he applies the wood scent to his hands, hair, and clothes.

Roma women and children

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mbfitzmahan. Roma Family. Romania. 2006

In October 2006, I traveled to rural Romania, to volunteer at a nonprofit orphanage in Romania.

One evening, I took this photo of Roma mothers and their children.  The women had been raped, abandoned, and left with babies.   The orphanage built a home on their property, giving these women basic housing and food.  The families lived together in one small house –  a modest existence, but they were safe from the poverty and horrors of the city.

Hours after I took this photo, in the deep night, this house burned to the ground.  All the families got out.  But, homeless again.  Just before the harsh winter.

 

Roma child

mbfitzmahan. Roma Child. Evora, Portugal. 2008 (black & white photograph.  framed: 16 x 16 in)

Just a little girl.  Barefoot.  Wearing a torn white shift.  An enigma – poor and lost.  Is she cold?   Where did she come from? Where is her mother?

These are questions that could be applied to all Roma people. Where do they come from? Where do they live?  Who cares for them?

I took this photo during a visit to a sleepy little town in Portugal. Very quiet. No tourists.

Roma music plays an important role in many European countries. The Gypsy Kings, a popular group of salsa singers from Arles and Montpellier (in the south of France), were mostly gitanos, Berber-Moroccan and Spanish gypsies who fled Catalonia during the 1930s Spanish Civil War.

Roma are also associated with a romanticized idea of their mystical powers and passionate temper. Fortune telling grows out of folklore associated with Renaissance magic, closely associated with the Roma.

As of 2013, with a population of 12 a 13 million people, the Roma people were the largest minority group in a Europe. Communicative Methodology of Research and Recognition of Roma People

The Roma generally are reticent to assimilate with local cultures.  Refusing to educate their children in national schools, suspicious of  local and national laws, and following their own singular customs, have made these people a pariah in many countries.  Associated with chronic poverty and criminal behavior, the Roma people often suffer persecution, prosecution, and mistreatment.

In the 1940s, the Nazis tried to exterminate the Roma people in a process known in Romani as the Porajmos. 1,500,000 men, women, and children were  killed.  Later, the Soviets conducted a universal sterilization of Roma women.  Today, post Soviet Eastern Europe is rife with discrimination and persecution of the Roma people.

The Italians don’t know what to do with the 150, 000 Roma people that crowd their streets begging from visiting tourists.  “With the addition of Eastern European states such as Romania into the European Union, Italy has seen an influx of Roma people in the past decade. The attitude towards the Roma people is for the most part hostile, accusing them of opting for crime over a legitimate job and isolating themselves from Italian society (and taxes) by living in illegal camps. One survey in 2008 found that 68 percent of people in Italy wanted all Roma expelled from the country. ” (The Roma People and the Italians: A Strained Relationship)

Kafé Japan

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mbfitzmahan. Kafé Japan,  Kasugai,  Japan. 2012

A cup of coffee cost a whopping $5.00 or $6.00.  That is more than $20 in today’s money.  American journalists loved to report how exorbitantly expensive Tokyo was by quoting the cost to buy a steak dinner or a cup of coffee.   

I didn’t care much about steak dinners, but I loved my coffee shops.

In 1968, I was surprised to find a booming coffee culture in Tokyo.  I expected to see a plethora of tea shops.  You know –  tea, temples, and geishas.  Actually, I found it challenging to find a tea room in the city.  Instead, I found that Tokyo had the finest coffee and coffee shops outside of Europe, perhaps the world.  The kissaten.   

It was in Tokyo that I learned to love coffee.

Continue reading “Kafé Japan”

A case of WAIGTBWIGU

mbfitzmahan. Taboo.  2015.

When I was 26, I thought I was finally all grown up.

After many years of schooling, I had just passed the bar exam. I was a REAL attorney. With a real job.

Continue reading “A case of WAIGTBWIGU”

Sierra Leone 2003

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mbfitzmahan. Gold earrings. Sierra Leone, 2003.

This young girl picked ground nuts.

She smiled shyly as I took her photo.  I was happy to see smiles amongst all the tears.

I worked in Sierra Leone a year after the end of the 11 year civil war (1991-2002).  50,000 people were killed.  I was hired by the Sierra Leone TRUTH and RECONCILIATION COMMISSION to write the history of the civil war.

I met a 20 year old boy.  He didn’t have any hands.   I don’t know how many people lost their arms and legs during the war.  The villagers were forced to line up,  and the rebel soldiers chopped off limbs, one by one.  “Go back and tell that government of yours that you will never again use your hands to vote for their corrupt government.”

Many, many more people were left homeless, without families.  In many villages and towns, all sense of family was destroyed.  Young girls were wrenched from their families, and forced to become ‘brides’ to rebel leaders.  Fathers were killed, boys were drafted into rebel forces.  Old women were killed.

Innocence destroyed.

Left for another

mbfitzmahan. Left for another Woman.  Tallinn, Estonia. 2008

This photo was taken inside a large abandoned movie theater in Old Town, Tallinn, Estonia.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, the movie theaters closed down. The Communist Party used movies as an effective tool to educate, entertain, and to inculcate Party values in its youth. Soviet movies were the best entertainment in town.

The communist occupiers were thrown out of Estonia in 1991. Democracy and capitalism were adopted, and the aging old movie houses were replaced by ungainly concrete movie complexes. Going to the movies in Tallinn today is like stepping into an AMC movie complex in Walnut Creek, California. Popcorn, Coke, M & Ms, jelly beans, and Brad Pitt.

In 2008, when I was teaching photography in Tallinn, Saskia, one of my students, cajoled her father to allow me to take photos of the abandoned movie theater he owned in Old Town. Saskia’s father was one of the deeply wealthy nouveau riche in Tallinn.

How Saskia’s father, a Russian-Estonian, moved up from being a common worker of the communist Soviet Union, to a multimillionaire is part of a murky tale of acquisition of wealth in the early years of independence.

The Russians of Estonia, unlike Putin’s oligarch friends, did not walk away with political power in Estonia, the smallest of the Soviet republics. But, great wealth during privatization of property was grabbed by a few.

Provocative Photography

 

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mbfitzmahan. 2017. Oakland Women’s March. Women are Human Beings.

Photography has the ability to influence world politics and public opinion.  I took the photo above three weeks ago, the day after the Trump inauguration.   I marched with my husband, my two daughters, and their families and friends down the streets of Oakland to not only say we support women’s rights, but to advise the Trump administration and the Republican Congress that,  “We will not go quietly into the night,” to paraphrase Dylan Thomas.

Continue reading “Provocative Photography”

What did you do with it, while I was gone?

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mbfitzmahan. 2017. Marching

I sit here feeling sorry for myself.  For my children.  And, yes, and for the rest of the country.  In the shadow of the 2016 presidential campaign and election,  I grieve for the losses in my country.  I weep.  I mourn.

Continue reading “What did you do with it, while I was gone?”

Quiet refinement

Jōkōji, Japan
mbfitzmahan. 2012 Jōkōji, Japan. A weed deserves to be noticed once in awhile.

I have two deep passions.  Black and white photography, and kanji, the system of Japanese writing.   The allure of these two systems comes from my attraction to Japanese aesthetics: simplicity, suggestion, irregularity, quiet refinement. 

Both photography and kanji can be minimalistic, complex, esoteric, mysterious, and enigmatic.    Continue reading “Quiet refinement”

For Women – The Women’s March Oakland

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mbfitzmahan. 2017 Oakland, CA. The Women’s March.

Over 100,000 people came out to march.  Women, girls, men, boys.  Black, White, Asian, Latina, Native American, Irish, Russian.

This was a protest march for women.  About issues that concern women.  Women’s health, babies’ rights, children’s education, African American rights, Latinos rights, immigrant issues, voters’ rights, the environment, men’s rights, LGBTQ rights.  Prisons, police abuse, rape.  “So many issues, so little sign,” was my favorite sign of the March.

Continue reading “For Women – The Women’s March Oakland”

Photographing President Bush

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mbfitzmahan. 2006 Tallinn, Estonia. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

10 years ago, I taught at a small international school in Estonia.  A handful of the American teachers were invited to a reception for the President.

Out of ethical opposition to the standing president, my friends refused to go.   Being the most liberal of the bunch and a supporter of Al Gore and John Kerry, everyone turned to me to lead the protest, to refuse to attend the reception.

No way!  I jumped at the chance to meet President Bush.  What an awesome photo opportunity!

Continue reading “Photographing President Bush”

All Human Life in a Frame

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mbfitzmahan. 2016. New York. All Human Life in a Frame.

A solitary man.

The cuffs of his pants were frayed. His coat torn.  His shoes were worn.

I was walking through Central Park in New York, when I took this photograph.  I sat across from this spot for about ten minutes.  Waiting for the right light, the right composition.  I wanted to take this picture without obviously being noticed.

Continue reading “All Human Life in a Frame”

The empty bus rattled down the road. In the wrong direction.

Black and white photograph of figure walking down a dark hallway to the foreground where there is a lit door
Dark hall of Lesya Ukrainka University. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1997

“Just take the Number 8 bus,” the secretary said. “You’ll have no trouble getting home.”
“But all the buses look alike,” I pleaded, with what I thought was perfectly good logic.
“Don’t worry. You won’t get lost,” she said with a smile and then returned to her magazine. Continue reading “The empty bus rattled down the road. In the wrong direction.”

“We Ukrainians are depressed. So we smoke and we drink coffee. Unless we drink vodka. But, I don’t have any vodka today.”

Two girls peeking around the corner of a dilapidated stone wall.
Friends. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1998

Nora puts herself in her art. Pointing to her sketch of a pregnant woman sitting on a turtle, she said,  “See here. It’s my nose. I can’t paint without putting it in.” I bought this sketch, The Spanish Lady, from Nora in 1998.  For a $100.  I smuggled the piece out of Ukraine, rolled up in my guitar case.   

Continue reading ““We Ukrainians are depressed. So we smoke and we drink coffee. Unless we drink vodka. But, I don’t have any vodka today.””

“Hide your papers,” he advised, “under the potatoes.”

Black and white photograph of four youths climbing stairs in post-Soviet Lutsk, Ukraine in 1997.
In the Neighborhood. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1997

“A man came to the KGB office.  He looked frightened.  ‘My talking parrot has disappeared.’ The agent was confused.  ‘That’s not the kind of case we handle here. Why don’t you go to the police?’ The man frowned, ‘I know that, but I am here to tell you officially that I disagree with the parrot.’”  Viktor, dean of the law school, was a man who liked a joke.  I once read that every nation likes political jokes, but to the people of the Soviet Union, jokes were a national sport. 

On my first day at the university, Viktor took my hand and smiled,  “I am happy you are here to help us get a new perspective.  A class in comparative law is just what we need. I must warn you, though, we have no textbooks, no printer, and no computers.  Sometimes we don’t even have lights,” he laughed.   Continue reading ““Hide your papers,” he advised, “under the potatoes.””

“Is OK. I speak English. Not very well, but we will be fine. We will talk photography.”

Volodya - Volyn Studio. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1997
Volodya – Volyn Studio. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1997

“Hey, Volodya, take care of this American lady,” Borys hollered down the hall.  A gangly young man peered around the corner.  Grunting to Borys in a “Ja, ja,” but smiling at me like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins, a young man took my hand and guided me down and around into a long narrow room soaked with the smell of chemicals.  “Is OK.  I speak English.  Not very well, but we will be fine. We will be friends.  We will talk photography.” Pointing to the enlargers, he said, “These are old Russian machines.  Not bad.  Nothing like you have in America, I bet.”

Continue reading ““Is OK. I speak English. Not very well, but we will be fine. We will talk photography.””

Japanese aesthetics

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Imperial gardens, Kyoto – Japan

women’s only train car -Nagoya

woman's only train
women’s only train. June 13, 2013. Nagoya, Japan
iPhone 5. ISO 50. 4.1 mm. f/2.4. 1/127. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2

a journey – even today

a journey - even today. June 13, 2013. Nagoya, Japan iPhone 5. ISO 50. 4.1 mm. f/2.4. 1/30. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2
a journey – even today. June 13, 2013. Nagoya, Japan
iPhone 5. ISO 50. 4.1 mm. f/2.4. 1/30. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2

if I hold the tears, they sparkle – autumn dusk

Miyajima dusk
Miyajima. October 10, 2012. Hiroshima, Japan
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G. ISO 400. 18mm. 1/13. 1/640. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.

I like to wash, the dust of this world, in the droplets of dew (Bashō 1644-1694)

droplets of dew
droplets of dew. February 18, 2013. Kozoji, Japan
iPhone 5. ISO 80. 4.1mm.f/2.4/1/20. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2

the full moon – give it to me – the child cries (Issa 1763-1827)

Happy Anniversary!

WordPress.com for

6 years !

give it to me. March 29, 2013. Kyoto, Japan Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G. ISO 800. 35mm. f/2. 1/800. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2
give it to me. March 29, 2013. Kyoto, Japan
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G. ISO 800. 35mm. f/2. 1/800. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2

名月を 取ってくれろと 泣く子かな 一茶

meigetsu wo – totte kurero to – naku ko kana (Issa)

smoke – whispers – an ancient wood

smoke. October 13, 2012. Oso Kannon – Nagoya, Japan
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 G. ISO 400. 35mm. f/2. 1/400. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.

In Edo Japan, the nape of the neck was seen as the most sensuous part of the body.

美人画 -(bijinga) beautiful women. . March 30, 2013. Kyoto, Japan
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G. ISO 400. 35 mm. f/7.1. 1/200. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.

Kyoto

Kiyomizu via iPad 2-3
Kyoto. March 29, 2013. Kyoto, Japan.
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 G. ISO 800. 35 mm. f/8/ 1/250. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.
Kiyomizu via iPad 2-2-2
Kyoto. March 29, 2013. Kyoto, Japan.
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 G. ISO 400. 35 mm. f/9. 1/320. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.

 

Kiyomizudera – Kyoto

Kiyomizu via iPad 2-2
Kiyomizudera. March 30, 2013. Kyoto, Japan
Nikon D7000. AF-S DX Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 G. ISO 400. 35mm. f/7.1. 1/200. Lightroom. Silver Efex. Pro 2.

two cars on the train

two cars
two cars on the train. June 6, 2013. Nagoya, Japan
iPhone 5. ISO 100. 4.1 mm. f/2.4. 1/20. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.

teens on a train

teens
teens. June 6, 2013. Nagoya, Japan.
iPhone 5. ISO 5. 4.1 mm. f/2.4. 1/171. Lightroom. Efex Silver Pro 2.

the bus ride

the bus ride
the bus ride. November 14, 2012. Nagoya, Japan.
iPhone 5. ISO 250. 4.1 mm. f/2.4. 1/20. Lightroom. Efex Silver Pro 2.

street fashion – ‘kawaii’

'kawaii' and. May 31, 2013. Nagoya, Japan. iPhone 5. ISO 50. 4.1mm. f/2.4. 1/24. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.
‘kawaii’ and. May 31, 2013. Nagoya, Japan.
iPhone 5. ISO 50. 4.1mm. f/2.4. 1/24. Lightroom. Silver Efex Pro 2.