reverential respect

Right now it is wicked cold. And, the forecast for the week ahead looks worse. Bone chilling temps, -17, real temp, not wind chill. What it was like before furnaces to warm a house is unimaginable. The people who populated these lands, Native Americans, pioneers who settled, must have been very hardy folk. Survival is such work.

In the early ’70’s, I lived in an Indian village in the Andes for a while. The nights were cold, at over 12,000 feet, way above the tree line, so cold that we boiled water to make Jell-O, put it on the wide window sill, and, within an hour, it turned cold and firm. It might get to 10 degrees at night. The room of the house where I stayed had mud floors; the walls were adobe, about two feet thick. I cooked with a primus and there was no running water. About six blocks up the hill, there was clear water, an Incan underground spring with water as pure as pure can be, and very icy. I would fill and carry buckets of water back to the room but, being klutzy, I usually only made it back with two half buckets full.

That was just for a few months. Civilization was only two hours away by truck, which came to the village with supplies at least three times a week. There were dirt roads that were fine. I spent most of the day buying and preparing food, washing, doing chores. I was not a photographer yet, though I used a camera occasionally. The man I lived with at the time was a painter and, as the days passed, the walls soon filled with canvases the colors of the earth and sky, burnt ochres, dark and light siennas, cobalts, ultramarine blue.

The knowledge that I could leave, get to a hospital if I needed, made everything easier. We were there because we wanted to be there. We made choices. One could turn back.

The house in which I sit in now, in front of this computer, where an energy grid I rely on keeps us safe and comfortable, was on Indian Territory two hundred years ago and conditions, for humans and animals alike in winter, so extreme.



Good Enough for Hawking

Perhaps you will think me unhinged, if you don’t already, but I assure you, there is no hyperbole in this post.

This is a story I thought only I knew, until rather recently when my BFF from grade school told me that I had whispered it to her at the time. Thank goodness.

It was dark, a very warm night in the summer of 1960 or 1961. I was about eleven or twelve. I stood under the street lamp on the corner of my suburban block. I was waiting for my best friend’s parents to pick me up in their car to go somewhere special, perhaps to a drive-in movie. She lived only two blocks away and, as a matter of course, we visited each other almost daily. As I stood watching the insects flutter and buzz about in the stream of light, I saw a large flat thing hovering above me with many colored lights. It was triangularly shaped and about the size of the bottom of a whole house. It was low because I could see the sharply molded details in it and the multi-colored lights on the bottom were clear and bright. They blinked on and off a bit, just a little bit. I thought it might be about three house heights above me. It was not far off, not at all. I was mesmerized. After quite a while, in the blink of an eye, it was gone.

I stared, expecting it to reappear but there was nothing. When my friend’s parents arrived soon afterwards, I got into their car. I never told anyone, or so I thought, until I mentioned it to my same friend about five years ago. She remembered that night vividly. She said I had climbed into the back seat next to her and had been very quiet, subdued. She asked me what was wrong and I whispered to her what I had seen. I told her not to tell anyone. I was sure no one would believe me.

I did not remember that I had told her at all. It wasn’t until many years later that it dawned on me that there were no sounds from the thing at all, either while I looked at it or when it disappeared. Stillness.

So there you have it. I saw one.

Last night, I watched Part One of Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking. He spoke about the likelihood of aliens, and the distinct possibility that they could be in our midst already. Call me cuckoo but at least the world’s most noted cosmologist wouldn’t snigger.


The Art of Repose

Sometimes I worry that when I retire I will never get dressed again. I will just stay in pajamas, really a nightgown, all day long, wandering from room to room, showering occasionally, playing with the dogs.

I hate it when I am obliged to do anything. A commitment to go somewhere, to a play, to a gallery opening, to a party, usually sets up an attack of Dread.

Dread is not reserved for Sunday afternoon; it can extend itself to anything that involves corporeal effort. The mere thought of exercise is abhorrent. I detest doing physical activities. When my husband and I watch the Winter Olympics, I am amazed that people like to do those things and that they can do them. I groan when I have to get up from the couch.

Even when I was a kid, I remember my mother urging me to go out and enjoy the fresh air, when all I wanted was to nestle in bed with my latest Nancy Drew mystery.

During gym class for four whole years of high school, I hid behind the bleachers. A couple of times, Ms Knuth, a very bulky Swedish woman, would find me and force me to climb a rope or balance on a beam. She was an evil madwoman.

Now when people ask me what I do for exercise, I tell them I wear Dr. Scholl’s and chew gum. I just want to play. I relish the time to take photographs or work on them. I like to watch movies and read books. I like to pet the dogs.

What is wrong with that? There are so many groups defending human rights, can’t Relaxing be a civil right? Can Inactive People not be regarded with such open disdain? I have always been willing to sacrifice for my non-sporting lifestyle. I eat less. I occasionally cut out carbs.

One day, I dream, just lounging around will be appreciated.MarilynReading

the Now

I am slowly emerging from a dark space. To make art and to live Now are the only escapes really.  A friend wrote that “life has a delicate beauty that can inspire and destroy.” Indeed.

I have never learned to live Now very well. It is the past that occupies so much of my mental space. Not the painful past, mind you, just visual memories that come and go. Our minds are so curious.

That is what draws me to the photograph: the fleeting moment caught in time, a fugitive memory made permanent. And, then, if that were not miracle enough, we can view the illusion of three dimensions on a flat surface. One can return to a piece of paper that defies and transcends time and space. Such magic.

I really love snapshots. There is a freshness and honesty that lightens my spirit. I will leave you with a few I found that make me feel good. They are so Now.




no words


This was his post on FB, the night before he died. Pat was a former student from the 90’s who had made a wonderful life for himself. His death took everyone by surprise. Around Thanksgiving, he noticed a gash on the back of his head and some blood on a pillow. Doctors whom he visited told him he was in perfect health. They still do not know the cause of his death.

This post honors you, Pat. I will call your Mom and give her some meagre words to help her get through these days.


Eeech. Dread Sunday is almost here, the day before Dread Monday.  Back to the salt mines.

What I need to try to address tomorrow, before returning to the Land of Cogs, is the enormous amount of short glass jars that live eternally in my refrigerator. They have multiplied to the extent that there is no longer any room for food in there. I have been smashing loaves of bread on top of the milk gallons.

I cannot bear to throw any of them away. There are gourmet mustards, gourmet jams and jellies, rich concentrates of curry, garlic, tomato, roasted red pepper, wasabi, horseradish, lemon and other densely flavored basils, huacatay, and ají. There are fine salad dressings for every discerning palate, tartar sauces, seafood sauces, BBQ sauce, hoisin, Asian plum sauces, cherry and cranberry seasoning goop and god knows what else.

I have room for a dozen eggs, mashed bread, two milks, and some sugar-free jello. WTF.

We have to buy fresh food constantly, cook it and eat it right away because there is no room to store it. I don’t have room for leftovers unless I smash those in with the odd fresh item in the bottom drawers. At Thanksgiving, and thank the gods it was cold enough, we put the turkey in the middle of the covered hot tub outside, so the dogs wouldn’t get to it, until we could stuff and shove it in the oven.

I remember the culture shock of visiting friends in NYC in the 60’s and every day they bought fresh stuff, but they had nothing in the refrigerator. Their view was also the brick wall of the building opposite them. And this was Riverside Drive. Karl Malden lived in that building, I know because I rode with him in the elevator. I could never look at him in a film again without knowing he had that same brick view.

I am a condiment hoarder. I am like those people on TV whose children visit and cry when they have to walk on top of the boxes and random paraphernalia. Only my abundance resides in a cold dark place. At least nobody can walk in there.

Gag me with a Spoon

What are the criteria we accept for discerning photography now?

The work I see in many galleries, both bricks and mortar and the more recognized online ones, leans heavily toward generic images: landscape, documentary, and portrait. Ninety nine percent of the work is digital color. It is easy on the eyes, bland, and bankrupt. Cloud and sunsets, numb portraits, well-lit domestic scenarios of upper middle class spaces, vacant landscapes. Mute and Large. They are like travel pix, plain mug shots, stock photos. They challenge nothing, stimulate nothing more than the eye at best.

What is the purpose of these images?

I am going to grab four random free stock photos and show you some examples of what I am talking about.





These are nice pictures. They are available for download for .99 cents. They look like what win Emerging Artist Competitions. Gag me with a spoon. Now.

After nearly 200 years of a rich and fascinating history, Photography is challenged at its core.

 What has been the direct capture of light onto a surface is now referred to as “analog,” that signifying, a light ray recorded or used in its original form.

In digital technology, the analog ray is sampled at some interval, and then turned into numbers that are stored in the digital device. 

Many see these two distinct forms of making images as mutually exclusive. One should, some think, replace one with the other, the old with the new.  “Move on,” they say, “look to the future. Dump analog, make images more easily without the mess, fuss, and icky cleanup.”

 I am not one of those individuals.

Photography, and the teaching of it, needs to be inclusive. My argument would be the same for any medium. Because of invention of the Wacom tablet, the pencil did not go into hiding. Because of the eBook, the book did not disappear. Because of calculators, one still must know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.

Reliance on computer data, storage, and dissemination of fact, is sketchy. How can one trust what is sampled? Over time, computer usage will create stiff knees and large behinds. My students, new to photo, engaged with the computer screen for hours on end, have no clue. Photographers who once had to make physical images can leave them on their smart cards and post to Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr or whatever, with no challenge to the image as art, with no object ever produced.

In educational institutions, there is the need to justify the continued teaching of direct photography, the original magic of the capture of light and made into image. Forget history, forget science, forget understanding the beginnings of our medium.

Has there ever been a time when you knew something would go sour? I remember thinking NAFTA was a disaster for our country but most fellow liberals thought I was totally misguided.  The rush to dump direct photography is misguided and will be no less than calamitous.

planning new stuff

Enough of grumpface me. The worst of the holiday season has passed and I feel better already. This morning I was thinking about a new photo project, one I would like to start in Perú, when I go in June.  I would like to shoot it digitally, just because I want to do it in color. I never have liked the look of prints from color film or transparencies but digital color is great.

What I would like is to shoot from unusual angles with my Gorillapod and then fire remotely. I have a nice Nikon plus a couple of prime lenses and I want to use them.

Short story, I just called B&H and Pete, a guy anyone should work with, helped me get the right stuff for radio controlled remote firing and it cost less than $50.00. One Happy Camper.

I love to think about new projects, how I can do them, and then experiment for a while before I go and make stuff for keeps.

Hi Ho Hi Ho

If Work has such merit, why do Sundays produce for so many such inexplicable dread? Sunday is ruined by the mere fact that it precedes Monday. Sunday afternoon gets bad and it’s all abysmal aversion from there on out. Do I hate my job? No. Do I hate waking up on Mondays and going to my job? Yes. That is a marked disconnect.

Retired people, or the eternally unemployed, don’t even know what day of the week it is. They wake up and have to think about it for a while, maybe even check the calendar, the computer, or their watch. Not the working class. For us, Monday, heralded by the cacophony of an alarm, is an unwelcome portal, an odious entryway from which one would, if one could, recoil. It is not so bad when one gets to Work; it might even become a pleasant day. It is the anticipation of it that is entirely repugnant.

Tuesday is better, Hump Day brings some relief and, as Thursday has become the new Friday, the rest is bearable. I have never understood why Monday is so detestable, except for the possible bitter awareness that one is a Cog in the Persistent Wheel of Very Questionable Production.

Hi Ho Hi Ho. Loathsome.