Spent the day in Bowling Green today with my family. I love photographing them. This was belated Birthday party for my brother; early Birthday for me; belated Valentines Day for my mother.
I ordered my mother an iPad Mini for my mother as soon as they were announced. Her hearing is so far gone that I can no longer call her on the telephone. So that means, in order for me to check on her, I must drive an hour, to Bowling Green, Kentucky. My brother and I schemed on an iPhone, but in our exhaustive testing with her, the keyboard was too small for her hands. The Mini seemed just right.
When the Cable Guy first came to install her internet and router, she turned him away. I guess she forgot all the instructions I’d given her about the Installer. (Stage One early dementia). So that blew a few more weeks. A second Installer came, a week before Christmas, and we had backup plans so that she would not turn him away this time. So now, we have a wireless router/modem, and this iPad Mini that’s mounted on the table beside her BarcaLounger. We have the volume turned up to HIGH, and it beeps ten times when a Text Message comes in. I wish there was an “Elderly Mode” for that iPad, but someone else will have to invent that.
Below is a video that I shot last night, with my phone, at my brother’s house in the country. We all sat around and tried to teach her how to use the Text Message function on the iPad Mini. The text messages continue to flow in today, Christmas Day. They are hilarious.
I’m a bit shocked by the power of this technology connection. It gives me comfort to continue to get fragmented texts from her, but at least I know she’s OK.
There’s a fun part in the video too, where my brother pulls her up out of the chair and gets her to dance (before she’s trampled by my brother Robert’s boxer). She said she hadn’t been dancing in thirty years. Was a really nice Christmas…
Tricia sent me this link today to a New York Times story, shot by Tierney Gearon. Amazing concept and images. Just shows that the gear, or the camera, doesn’t mean squat — the idea always wins. The idea always trumps everything else. I remembered that I’d seen the film on Tierney Gearon, and her children and mother. You only can find it on Sundance Channel or the DVD. Worth finding, however you can. Click the graphic below to watch the trailer. Here’s a video link too, related to the NYTimes story, but the video falls very flat to me. Way too long; no patience, and questionable production values too.
I never sleep any more, it’s now about 4am. I’m lying in bed and watching an art documentary on Art21, and i hear my phone beep. It’s an email from a photographer friend who lives in Paris. We send each other b/w images back and forth. Anyway, tonight, the link is to this set of images of dogs and cats. Most people would roll their eyes and laugh; we’ve all seen the images on Facebook. But something just hit me tonight — this quality of intimacy, and love, and tenderness is what I want in my photographs. People can laugh all they want. In the end, it always comes back to love and caring.
I just had to write this down, and go public with it. I’m afraid that I’ll go back to sleep and forget this realization.
I have this good friend, and she has a wonderful puppy. A rescue. I watch them together, wrestling and laughing and hugging, and it just takes my breath away.
I also have an idea for a new body of work — of mothers and children. Again, intimacy and kindness and connection. The motivation and history behind that is a whole other conversation entirely. Lisa Donovan and Maggie will be first in line.
I’m going to do the pictures. I’ll survive the laughter.
Thank you K.R. and K.B.R.
And Diana and Waller and PoppySeed.
And Tricia and Alison too, related to a completely different topic — trying to make sense of the chaos of the storm aftermath in the northeast, and make a contribution.
“Art is a wound turned into light”. — George Braque
“I wonder if this is how people always get close: they heal each other’s wounds; they repair the broken skin.”
― Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium
“What people think of me is none of my business. My job is to live my life by my own values”. — Some smart man in Recovery.
Gratitude today. Planets are aligning.
Have you ever sat down and done a Timeline of your whole life? I realized that there are periods in my life that I have very little memory of. So tonight I made this form, and wrote some stuff down. I’d love to keep this in my jeans pocket and add to it from time to time. Early childhood especially hard to remember. I’m not sure how I feel about this process; good or bad. It does stir up the pot though; more than I thought. Here’s the link to a blank form, if you want to take a look at your own life. The city ought to give everyone this form about every five years; just so you don’t wake up at age 50, like me, and only then begin to take inventory.
Halloween at The Stewarts home last night. Lots of love in that house. A million really cute kids, (and a whippet that wanted to come out of her cage to play). Campfire in the back yard, good food, good friends, and a surprise Waffle Party the next morning. Family.
Fall is in the air – at this time of the season, my living room is transformed from a Wet Plate Photo Studio, back into a living room and reading room and nesting room. Back to the fireplace; it just calls your name. Hot coffee, good books all around me, a warm fire, morning sunlight thru the front window, incense burning, warm quilts, Pandora on the stereo, and vintage lenses to take apart and reassemble. And tonight kicks off a major event in my life. Extreme gratitude today.
I’m not sure how to really write about this, but in the past few weeks, two “friends” have died. The odd thing, in my mind, I think of them as a friend, but in actuality, I never met either one of them face to face. Both were photographers, and we shared this interest in historic photo processes. It’s just so odd to have shared emails and even phone calls, but never having met, and then one day you simply get the news that they died.
The first man that died lived in Clarksville, Tennessee, and he collected a large assortment of historic lenses, and he was always scheming, (like me), on how to fit old lenses onto new cameras. He’d come to town fairly often, “to go to Vanderbilt”, he said, but I never really thought that much about the degree of his illness. We kept planning on meeting up for lunch, to look at the old lenses, but our schedules never coincided. But we kept talking over email, and kept exploring our passion for old cameras. Then, one day recently, I see on Facebook where he simply died. Quickly. Unexpectedly. I can remember that disbelief in my chest, when I kept reading and re-reading the post about his death.
The second fellow, well, I never really had a chance to ever meet him, but we wrote back and forth a couple of times, and I’d follow his posts on a photo forum. He was probably well into his 80’s, but it was his profile photo, and the way he wrote, that captured my attention. He was one of the early “modern guys” doing wet plate collodion, in London, so I had massive respect for him. His name was Sean MacKenna.
I’d made up this story in my mind that he was the modern grandfather of wet plate. There he sat in his chair, proud and dignified, and I wondered all the scenes he’d witnessed through his years in England. Here is one Obituary article.
And then a couple of days ago, I see where he went in for emergency surgery, and he just died. Gone. So today, I’m mourning the loss of two people I only met over the computer screen. Maybe in Mr. MacKenna’s case, I’d created some grand story that was much too large. Or, maybe I’m just missing my own grandfather as well.
I’m now the Official Photographer for all dog parties. Anything to do with a dog, count me in. Today, I was working and got a call from my friend Diana Stewart — they were headed to the Dog Costume Party, (but the girls were more dressed up than the dog). Anyway, she frantically ran them over here, and I shot three setups in ten minutes. This other little girl was with them too — amazing face and presence.
I’m going to try to keep this story short, (because the internet only allows short attention spans). But the multiple dimensions of this story are rich with texture. But I’ll keep it brief, and continue the explanations into the photo captions.
Our mother is aging. She is now 82. Almost deaf. And now with early dementia, she also is smoking like a fiend. I have no idea how smoking and dementia are connected, but they seem to be. My brother Robert and I are rallying together to support my mother, as she wishes to continue to live at home. She’s always been “an outside person, with her flowers”, so the thought of assisted living is the last possible bad option. She needs almost daily help now. We can’t get her in the shower; she won’t cook a solid healthy meal; we’ve taken her car keys away; she’s basically turned into a Country Western song — drinking coffee, and smoking cigarettes, (and watching The Weather Channel).
A few weeks ago we finally arranged a suitable caregiver to come to her home four days per week. We tried a few individuals, but they all flaked out, so we ended up with a company that sends caregivers out. Of course we were nervous about who would actually show up. As it turns out, we were blessed with an angel.
Rose is her caregiver now three of the four days per week. She is incredible. She is a trained teacher for developmentally challenged children, with a Masters Degree, and my fear is that we’ll lose her when the school year begins. But for now, we have her and we aren’t letting go. The other day, Rose showed up with corn from the garden, and various vegetables and chicken, and she cooked my mother a birthday lunch. As we sat around the table eating, I began to compare notes with Rose — as it turns out, she is the little sister of Paul Cole, who was my friend at T.C. Cherry Elementary School, in the mid sixties. Paul was also friends with Vince Rowe, who I have not talked to in years. Vince and I were the fastest runners in our grade — we’d run from the left field foul pole to the right field pole, and always be neck and neck.
Rose told me a story of even remembering that her kindergarten class, at her church, was segregated. This must have been about 1966 or so. Amazing to think about — our generation being segregated. Rose and Paul lived on Smallhouse Road; there were nine in her family. Paul graduated and went to the Navy, and is retired, living in Hawaii. I saw him a few years ago at our reunion.
So anyway, today Rose and my mother and I cleaned out her kitchen cabinets, moved things to the garage, watered the plants, and fetched the mail. My brother is great too, always comes by to check on her often. He’s great with keeping the house running smoothly; he completely fixed her broken air conditioner last week, almost effortlessly.
I wish there was an Instruction Manual on how to properly support a parent, when these decisions need to be made. My brother and I just text back and forth, trying to figure it out, a day at a time, doing the best we can.
I was emailing a friend, back and forth, the other day, and she was telling me about her childhood in West Texas. I was struck by the simple paragraphs that were arriving in the emails; strong words; very visual. Rattlesnakes, policemen, barren landscape, and family. I borrowed a snapshot that she kept, of her father, and copied it, and combined it with two of the emails that arrived that day.
Shot on 8″x10″ Sinar, with collodion, on black metal.
Here’s the original, below. I love it in color as well. Love that color palette.
We spent the day with my mother yesterday. Honestly, she’s starting to slip a bit, and she’s going to need some light help around the house soon — maybe some cleaning and basic shopping for her. And soon, there will be that dreaded conversation about “the car keys”. She loves her little car; it’s her ticket to freedom, even though freedom is the WalMart, about a mile away. The top image below is my niece and my mother, out in the driveway, as we were leaving to go home. A really sweet moment with my mother.