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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?”→
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.
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.
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.””→
“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