Buenos Dias

DSC_269966. About a year and some months into my Peace Corps service, my good friend Maria, a neighbor, a part of our women’s group, and a participant in our greenhouse project, taught me a whole lot one day. I was walking down the dusty road, my body doing the work of moving from point A to point B, but all of my effort applied to my brain, juggling a to-do list, feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. That I was taking up too much space and too many resources and not giving back to this small community. That I was fallible. She and I made eye contact as we neared each other, holding the gaze with soft smiles until we were close enough to greet. I opened with: “Dona Maria, mira….I have the wood and piping and cement all ready to pick up, the remainder of the plastic and nails and rebar, they’ll be ready at the end of this week. In our next meeting, we’ll schedule the greenhouse construction…..”. She interrupted me. I don’t think she actually put her hands on my shoulders and shook me, but she did as much with her words. “Buenos dias, Dona Estacey”. Good morning, Stacey.

Her words shook me out of my head. Into my body I returned. Feet planted, the breeze gently blowing. The dry, warm air. A beautiful, young mother standing in front of me. Good morning.

This was a seminal moment in my life. One that I remember often but often have to remember to reintegrate, because I forget.

In that moment, I wanted to be valuable. I wanted to be integral. I was going to give her reasons to view me as a contributor. What she taught me through this interaction is that I was all of those things. Just by the very nature of being alive, being a friend, being in her community, I was seen, valuable, integral, contributing. That was enough, and by starting there, so much more authenticity could flow.

On the Beach with the Stars


DSC_021765. I don’t often bring my camera around when I’m with friends. When shooting, my brain moves and shifts, focused on the images to be created, as opposed to interacting with those around me in a wholehearted way. But when camping along the beach, accompanied by the the metronome of Pacific Ocean waves, the setting moon, and the streak of the milky way, well, then I might make an exception.

Charlie Brown’s Teacher

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64. I once heard this brilliant This American Life episode, in which the subject of the story was something like 80% deaf, yet didn’t wear hearing aids. She worked at a clothing store, helping customers and folding clothes. They simulated what sound was to her, and it sounded just like the teacher in Charlie Brown. Muffled. Tonal but indecipherable. She was asked: “How can you possibly answer questions that you cannot hear?” Her answer? “Well, it turns out that humans are amazingly predictable.”

I think about this when I shoot. As a visual storyteller, my goal is to find what is truly unique about the day, the subject, that particular moment in time. The smallest details can tell the whole story. I challenge my mind to wander and expand. To really look. During the most everyday moments, there is a story to be told. And if my images look like Charlie Brown’s teacher sounds….well, then it’s time to get to work.

 

A Cold and Cloudy Day

STORY_2019_WatchingTheWorldGoBy63. It’s dreary, cold and cloudy out. A temporary pause in the springing of summer here in Seattle. So today I’m going to work on my computer, and glance out of the window occasionally. Peek beyond the monitor to see what doggies walk by, the tree branches blowing in the breeze, birds landing on the wires. And wait until those blue skies come out again.

Art and the Adult

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62. I was visiting my best friend and her kiddos a few weeks ago. In the seven year old’s eyes you can see a sparkle, no, more than that. A quiet fire. A spiritual/creative freedom, uninfluenced by the needs of survival, the pressures of time. A talent and imagination that made me yearn to be unencumbered once again. One of her many ongoing projects is in creating these little cards. Scraps of paper (she finds beauty in that they are scraps, so do I) filled, sometimes to the edges, sometimes sparingly, with color and movement and figures so small and intricate that they demand you pay closer attention. I had only been in town for an hour when she showed me these, and instantly knew that, like small things and childhood growth, they would get scattered to the winds before long. So I had her choose her favorites – an afternoon project of sorting and evaluating unto itself – and then help me lay them out on a sheet of paper. She was highly concerned of my motivations. Was I going to tape them down? Glue them down? Keep them? I assured her no. I was going to make art of her art. So we laid them out in rows, made patterns, and I photographed the whole thing from above. She didn’t understand the intention, but played along. I printed the photographed piece, mounted it, and mailed it to her a few days ago. A 12×18 collaborative project with her aunty. I was proud. Her mom wrote me an email this morning, entitled: “Off-label uses of Aunty Stacey’s present”.  After love and greetings, she wrote: “The art photo you sent is so lovely. To my adultish horror, I found that they [her son and daughter] had drawn on it with markers within 5 minutes of taking it out of the box, but then, I guess it’s their art, so maybe it’s all good, and I’m the one with the creativity problem.” I had to laugh out loud. They say that youth is wasted on the young. Maybe creativity is too.

How Light Moves

2461. This image of Karen on her wedding day has always been one of my favorites, not just for her gorgeous expression, but specifically for the way the light wraps so delicately through her veil. That ribbon of light as it flows over her shoulder sort of knocks me out.  How many times have you heard “Here’s a picture of this gorgeous scene I saw on vacation…oh, but it was so much more impressive in person.” That is not a fault of the camera, the technology or the lens. It’s because of light. Controlling light, forcing it to become indirect, to wrap, flow, squeeze through spaces, is what creates dimension within your images. It is what tells the story that our eyes and our hearts can see.

Plans Best Laid

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60. My parents were traveling to China, Singapore and Vietnam a few years ago. Well traveled and flexible, they are also uber-organized. My mom researches fully, and has back up plans for her back up plans. But this trip was different. It was long, it involved planes, trains and automobiles (and rickshaws and boats too), three countries that they had no experience in, languages either. As they were leaving, my mom looked at me and said “I have all of these plans, and nothing should go wrong. But what if it does?” I responded, “Well, then you’ll just make another plan.” That simple statement freed her to believe that even if it doesn’t work out the way you had intentioned, it will work out. One way or another. And often the unanticipated outcome is the most interesting one. I often think of this approach as a greater lesson for life. When we get mired in wanting it to work out the way we thought it would, we become attached to the outcome. Trapped by a perspective of what “should” be. We suffer disappointment by focusing on what didn’t happen, rather than appreciation and openness for the path we did not plan on traveling. I’m not there yet, but am trying every day to live in this space of acceptance. The connection with this idea and this photo? Little newborn JW cried for every last second of this shoot. Which was in 95 degree weather and compressed into 45 minutes before the park closed. But you know what? You can’t hear crying in a still photograph. We just made a different plan.