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.
Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This rather modest and self deprecating statement, is an admission that all that we know and all that we achieve is only possible because of the hard work of those humans who did the work before us.
Now it is our turn. To journey, to seek. To find truth. To make great art. To make a better world than the one we inherited.
It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
We are the shoulders from which the next generations will launch.
If we do not contribute to human knowledge. If we do not bring woman-kind closer to world peace. If we do not come closer to making a sustainable use of the world’s resources.
We will be forgotten. Or worse, we will be held responsible. We will be condemned.
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.
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)
Come to my upcoming show! This Thursday. From 5 pm to 8.
Then, let’s go to E.J. Phair, the local brewery for a beer on tap and the best pizza in Northern California!
I am participating in Art Trax in Pittsburg, CA. I will be showing 13 of my pieces.
This will be Pittsburg, California’s first art walk. It is an art walk through Old Town Pittsburg, with 20 venues and 24 artists. Open every third Thursday of the month, the art walk features the artwork of local artists.
Where: 777 Railroad Ave (My Beauty Salon), Pittsburg, California. 40 minutes East from Berkeley. Right on the Bart.
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.
When I’m looking for ideas for photography, I look for inspiration wherever I can find it.
Recently, I watched Chef’s Table on Netflix. Chef’s Table is a series developed by David Gelb who filmed Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The cinematography in the series is visually rich, the stories are engaging, and the film is escorted by the music from Philip Glass and Vivaldi.
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.
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.
When my children were little, I felt guilty when I worked on photography. Who had time to work on art when there were all those dirty clothes to wash and diapers to change? Dinners to make. Children and husband to tend to?
I got around this problem by making my girls my models. “OK. Katie sit here. It will be just a minute, then we’ll make scones. I promise. No…just a few more minutes. I’m almost done. Hey, Shauna, please come get in this picture, too. It’ll just be a minute….”
I’ll admit it, I do sometimes take photos in color.But, I don’t think of those photos as real photography.You know, art photography.
Rewind.Let me backtrack.Color photos of family. Babies, grandparents, the latest vacations.Those are wonderful photos. They are snapshots of our lives.Of our times together.I love looking at them.I liked sharing them on my iPhone. I like to sit with my girls, laughing and talking about the adventures in those photos.Continue reading “What flavor do you like your photos?”→
There are different kinds of crowds.There is the Sunday-go-for-a-walk crowd.There is the tourists-watching-the-street-performer crowd.There is the parade-watching crowd.There is the March for Women crowd.There is the protest crowd.There is the riot crowd.
For a street photographer, a crowd is a gift. No one pays much attention to the photographer and there are plenty of opportunities to get interesting candid pictures of people.
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.
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.
“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.””→
I first saw an image rise up from a pan of Kodak D-76 in 1995. I cried. It was a miracle, and I had created it. Well, Nikon, Kodak, and a bunch of chemicals had created it. The blank 8 x 10 piece of paper morphed into a black and white image of a freckled girl becoming a woman. I didn’t realize the experience would be so personal, so intimate. I needed my own darkroom. I picked up a newspaper and searched for a used enlarger. I found a 30 year old, 3 foot tall, Omega D6 on sale by an 85 year old man. He sold me his entire darkroom: light box, loupes, timer, safelight, tongs, easel, and enlarger. Continue reading “My first darkroom image”→
“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, ayoung 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.”
To my followers and visitors: I’m traveling to the States this week. I’ll be gone for 5 weeks for an exciting and happy visit with family. I hope to continue blogging. Please keep coming to visit; I really like comments. Thank you for encouraging me. I appreciate being a part of a network of fellow travelers through cyberspace. Have a fruitful and art-filled summer. Maureen