Someone wrote on a board some tips I had for a recent class I taught. I need to remind myself of these things!
Just saw the permanent display at Mercy Corps International headquarters, and they used many of my portraits from around the world.
Here is a link to the Action Center. It is very interactive! They have tools that people use in developing countries, videos, many things to touch, see, experience. It is a great place for kids and adults, as children can teach us many things about our preconceptions regarding developing countries and what they have to offer the world.
Take a young person’s hand and bring them there with you!
Holy Moly! Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, is taking the world by storm!
Her book is everywhere, she is being interviewed on all kinds of programs in numerous cities (at once!) and soon she will be riding the Hollywood train, as her book movie rights were purchased by Reese Witherspoon, who will produce and star in the upcoming movie.
I can’t keep up with her, and where my author photo is landing. Here are a few places.
He sits there in a heap, crying like a baby, begging for something. At first glance, I assume he wants money. Or a fix.
All I hear is a mumbled “Al Pacino”.
“Al Pacino is coming here. I’m waiting for him. I’m gonna wait four days for him. Right here.”
My gut tells me to walk by, eyes ahead, avoiding the possibility of incidental contact. But that’s not why I am in the Castro District of San Francisco today. I am here to take photographs. I stop to look into his pleading and exceptionally beautiful green eyes.
“When is he coming?” I ask.
He doesn’t hear my question. Instead, we start to list all the movies we could think of that Al Pacino is in. And then, as though he finally registers my initial question, he nods upward toward a poster on the Castro Theater wall announcing that Al Pacino will be there in a few days for a movie opening.
My inner Midwestern upbringing good-girl mentality kicks in, and my brain goes straight to: “Don’t photograph this poor soul. It would be exploitative.” But my gut is starting to have the upper hand in my life these days, and I proceed to hang up my piece of black velvet with the help of my body-builder friend Mark who had agreed to meet me there. I can’t get it to stick on the side of the building because of the soppy rain spots, but Mark helps to hold it in place. When I bring my camera out, Mr. Castro perks up, as much as his wobbling head will allow.
“Want me to photograph you?” He chokes out the words, a little shy-boy look across his face peering out from behind his dangling wet hair.
Sure! (Are you kidding me?)
I give him my camera making sure to secure the strap to my hand. He’s an active, erratic and currently high addict. His eyes get glassy and he tries to take the camera from me, saying he needs to get a better handle on it as he frames me. I don’t let go.
He can’t find the shutter release, even though I show him about ten times where it is. His fingers keep slipping off the camera. He starts to fall. Twice. My hand grips the strap even harder, waiting for him to begin his descent, ready to whip the camera over in my direction before it could crash along with him into the sidewalk.
What in the hell have I done?
When he finally snaps the photo, I try to pry the camera from him, but he insists that he needs to hold it to see the photo. I say ok, no problem, and try to show him how to view it on the back of the camera. He reluctantly lets go, but not without first looking stoically into my eyes and holding his gaze on me, as though to say, I know your game. You would never trust me.
I start to pack up, giving up the notion to photograph him, as badly as I would like to do it. He is right: I don’t trust him. He does scare the hell out of me. I have no business being there, in his world, as I, dressed in new Diesel jeans with a healthy check on my own vices, am tipping on the edge of my security, and he, not in the same stage as I in his life, could live as free from structure as I could only imagine.
As I put my camera in my bag, I heard Mark murmur under his breath let’s get the hell out of here.
“Don’t you want to photograph me?”
The sound of his strained voice jolts me.
He asks a second time. I get my camera back out, this time searching his face and locking my eyes into his.
As I look at these images now at home, he haunts me. We all start out as little precious beings, seeking love and attention and a safe place to rest our heads and our hearts. I study his worn yet lovely face. Cleaned up and sitting at a desk in some corporate setting or spinning records in a downtown hip venue, he would be a strikingly handsome man. Instead, one decision leads to another, and here he is.
I wonder about his mother. Does she care where he is? Does she know he sleeps on the streets and hustles for heroin and gets beaten regularly? I conjure a vision of a mother sitting in a living room somewhere, gazing out from a window, sickened to her core that her little boy went from middle school beer tasting to high school vodka to pot to acid to cocaine to riding this wild horse.
He knew I wanted to photograph him. And he was quite happy with his reflection as he looked at it, as well as he could understand it in that state.
As I write this, I am sitting in my cozy little house sipping a glass of Pinot Gris and wearing a warm cinched corduroy jacket with turquoise leather inlay cowboy boots. I think about him often.
I wonder if Al Pacino returned his hello.
There are several events related to photography taking place during Portland Photo Month in April. Check the Portland Photo Month website for the latest listings.
A few highlights:
Photo Picnic! Bring your nibbles, your favorite sip and a special blankie. We will be showing Mary Ellen Mark’s newly released book, Prom, and screening the Prom documentary film, co-produced with her husband and filmmaker, Martin Bell.
Thursday, April 26 8-10pm Location is at my studio.
GET IN THE VAN! I will be teaching street photography workshops in various locations and with different co-instructors I admire. First up: the uber-talented Leah Nash! Check the classes link on my website to view current workshop listings.
(Photo by Mary Ellen Mark, from her new series “Prom”)
A few of my images were included in the 591 Photography Blog in celebration of International Women’s Day!
Mercy Corps hired me to do some work in Gidole and Konso areas when I was in Ethiopia last month. They produced a slideshow of images that was featured in their newsletter and on their website on International Women’s Day. I hope our combined efforts bring forth increased awareness regarding how important it is to support a girl’s education in rural areas within Ethiopia.
Oh, the joy of landing on a subject matter that makes my heart pound faster…
I had literally fifteen minutes on the first day and twenty minutes on the second day to capture these images before police, frustrated shopkeepers, or a pressing crowd stopped us in our tracks. My assistant Dani had to negotiate extensively for us not to have to go to jail. Apparently I need a license to shoot on the streets with a backdrop in Ethiopia. (Working on that!)
But now…I can’t wait to return and see these beautiful faces again. Such difficult work, such difficult lives they lead, the market workers of Ethiopia.
Holy moly! The Barbara May Foundation is using my images from Ethiopia throughout their shiny new website. And the best part is that they are using Black + White images! Such a cool website.