My partner Chris and I spent the last week of June driving up the California coastline from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I ended up snapping over 1,000 photos. As you might imagine, collating and editing this number of photos is a time-consuming process. These stood out to me this evening, and I'll share them below. They're shots of the indoor pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. The day was overcast, but the soft light made for wonderfully clear reflections. Click on any photo to see it full-size.
I'll post more California photos as I edit them. Hope you enjoy.
Photography is a lot of work. Maintaining my camera, caring for the lenses, keeping track of UV filters, hot-shoes, and other photography ephemera takes time, money, and elbow grease. The act of photographing itself -- while for me, is a sacred experience -- can be mentally and physically draining. Composing shots, worrying about lighting and depth of field, clicking the shutter at just the right moment -- all this takes time and energy. Then there's photo editing. I try to keep it to a minimum and let my craftsmanship speak for itself, but I still sometimes spend hours slaving before a screen, fiddling with Lightroom until it does what I want.
Marketing photography is another way of eating up time and money. Submitting to juried exhibitions, contacting galleries, trying to get someone, anyone, to look at my physical or online portfolio... There's an emotional toll, too. Any artist has to get used to receiving many more rejections than accepted photos. You eventually develop a thick skin and learn to persist.
But the worst part? The part that I loathe?
Framing the damned prints.
I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! But unfortunately, being the daughter of an artist, I'm all too familiar with the art of cutting matte boards, measuring wire, and centering anchors perfectly. And I'm good at it. Also? I'm a cheapskate.
Here we see me framing "Rise" for an upcoming exhibition of nature photography at the Westbury Memorial Public Library. I was surprised and grateful that my work was accepted, as I've never considered nature photography to be my strong suit. I love nature, but I prefer photographing people.
Anyway, I dislike the process of framing so much that I put it off until the night before I'm supposed to deliver the framed artwork. Because that's what responsible adults do, right? Right?
Wait, you say. Why not go to a professional frame shop to get it done? I refer you to the "cheapskate" comment above.
I took these photos with my iPhone in low light, which isn't conducive to the crisp contrasts you may be used to in my photography, but you get the idea. Here's the finished framed photo (reflections in the bottom of the glass, sorry):
And here we see the finished, framed print in my big, soft Elfa tote bag, ready for delivery in the morning:
So the worst part is over. Time to relax and kick back...
Until the next frame job comes along.
In the meantime, "Rise" will be up from June through (I think) September, so stop by the Westbury Memorial Library to see it, along with five other nature photographs. Westbury Arts is publishing a program with the artists' statements, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's an opening party at some point. I'll keep you posted.
Thanks for reading my rant. My next post should be pretty exciting.
"Art is an Awakening," the group exhibition with my photos in it, will have artist volunteers on hand to answer questions about the art this Saturday from 2:00 - 4:30 PM.
If you'd like a guided tour of a great show, or if you'd like to meet some of the artists, please feel free to stop by and visit with us. We'd love to chat with you.
Westbury Memorial Public Library, 445 Jefferson Street, Westbury, NY 11590. Fully accessible by public transportation and ADA compliant.
This morning, I had the privilege and pleasure of photographing the Third Annual Bike-to-Work Parade at Hofstra University, sponsored by Car-less Long Island. The bike parade route was 6.5 miles, and the walking route was 1.9 miles. I drove from stop to stop, but still managed to get a lot of walking in. It was a pleasant day, with mild temperatures and a dense fog that lifted as the morning progressed. Here are a few of today's photos. Hope you enjoy, and that every once in a while, you take the opportunity to walk, bike, or take public transportation to whatever your destination. It's good for the planet, and it makes the world a safer place for fellow pedestrians and bicyclists
Click on any of the images in the gallery below to see a full version of the photo.
Hi, folks. I'm very excited to have three of my photographs accepted into "Arts are an Awakening," a juried art show sponsored by Westbury Arts. I will be showing three black and white prints from my Chiaroscuro series. If you happen to be free the evening of Monday, April 16, please stop by and say hello. Details below.
Monday, April 16 at 6 PM - 9 PM
Westbury Memorial Public Library
445 Jefferson Street, Westbury, NY 11590
Artists' reception for "Art is an Awakening," a juried exhibition featuring works by local artists. The event is sponsored by Westbury Arts (www.westburyarts.org). Refreshments will be served and First, Second, and Third Place winners will be announced during the reception.
"Arts are an Awakening" will continue through May 12. Admission is free to the public. Questions? Contact Alex Nunez of Westbury Arts at email@example.com.
Good news: some of my photos from the abandoned Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital will be shown at Art Basil LA. This exhibition may sound like a novelty, but it's drawn attention from major outlets, such as The Los Angeles Times, and features a good sales record. It's curated by John Kilduff, the man behind Let's Paint TV and accomplished painter and performance artist in his own right. It's thrilling to be involved in a Kilduff project, and (let's be honest) even more exhilarating if I sell a print or two.
Sadly, I won't be able to attend the opening, but if you're in Los Angeles, you can! Please support small artists by attending this quirky, amazing show.
Chris and I took a hardhat tour of the long-abandoned Immigrant Hospital on Ellis Island. It was a moving experience.
I chose to concentrate on empty spaces and images that evoked a sense of loneliness. I shot it all digitally and in color, but going through the RAW files, I noticed a fine graininess to the images (probably the result of dust everywhere). Black and white just felt right. I have color images, too. Still deciding what to do with them.
Anyway, enjoy this look at a neglected bit of American history. (Click any image to enlarge.)
A lot has happened since my last post. My mother became ill and passed away, which has been difficult for me to process. Creative work helps a lot. Here are the current portraits in my new "Chiaroscuro" series. Ideally, I'll end up with about 30 portraits and stories for this project.
If you'd like to model for me, shoot me an email. Let's work together.
I often encourage models, especially younger models, to bring a parent or friend along to their first shoot with me. It helps them feel safe, which is crucial.
This week's model brought a friend along. I was happy to meet her, and offered to take a few shots of the friend, as well.
Sofia hadn't planned on being photographed. She wore no makeup, hadn't done anything with her hair, wasn't wearing anything special. But my model encouraged her to take a few, and Sophia shrugged and said, "Sure, why not?"
She said she had low self esteem and low self confidence. I don't know Sofia well enough to gauge whether this is true. On my modeling stool, she projected an air of guarded vulnerability that I found fascinating. Sofia was a study in contrasts: unexperienced, but needing little or no direction; shy, yet willing to take a chance; soft exterior, but a sharp mind.
You'll see the primary model in next week's post. She's somewhat experienced and brimming with vitality, and I loved every minute of our shoot together. We plan to shoot more. It's going to be absolutely amazing. But today, let's focus on the young woman who bared her face and soul without warning or expectation.
This is Sofia.
Click any image to enlarge.
Note: This post originally had the model's name spelled incorrectly. Her name is "Sofia." The headline, text, and tags have been changed to reflect this correction.
My model this week had to postpone her session. Fortunately, Tim needed a publicity photo anyway, and he graciously allowed me to take a few photos for my growing chiaroscuro collection. We didn't have time for a full session, but we did get some good shots. Click any photo to see it in larger size.
Recently, I've been experimenting with lighting; specifically, highlighting the angles and planes of the faces and the chiaroscuro effect. Last week's work with Jace is an excellent example of the type of look I'm trying to create.
This week, I had the pleasure of working with Jordan, a college student just beginning to try a modeling career. Jordan was very different from Jace, whose older, more world-weary looks drew on a rich and varied experience; Jordan is still learning. It took us a while to find a common ground. Once we found it, we were able to get some really good shots.
Modeling is harder than it looks. You don't have to be classically good-looking. What you really need are the ability to relax and the ability to allow your face to reflect what's on your mind. Generally, I find young adults the most difficult to shoot. They're still finding their feet, learning who they really are, and trying to figure out how much of their inner selves they feel safe expressing. So I didn't have very high hopes when I started out with Jordan -- but he surprised me.
Take a look and see what you think. Click any photo to see it in a larger size.
What can I say? Jace has a smoldering, brooding look that delivers on its promise: our session was punctuated by his insightful discourse on politics, healthcare, science, and chemistry. I need to schedule another session with Jace, as the conversation was so fascinating that I neglected to get all the photos I wanted. It's a rare treat to have such an intellectual experience during a photo shoot.
Click any photo to see it at full size.
I've received many kind and supportive comments from people regarding last week's post about my daughter Emily's evacuation from the Long Island Railroad (and the very sad death that preceded it). My family and I are very grateful for the compassion we've seen in the days following the event. Emily is doing well, and life is more or less back to normal in our household.
My post generated over 6,000 views in just two days. It is humbling to think that our story could reach so many people.
The man who was struck and killed by our train was an LIRR foreman named Michael Gregory Ollek, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and . There is currently a GoFundMe campaign set up by one of Mr. Ollek's coworkers to raise funds for the Ollek family. You can view the campaign and donate here. The funds will be used to reimburse the cost of the funeral.
The New York Post did a story on the event. Here are the photos that accompanied their story:
I've been in touch with Officer Bryan Marksteiner, the police officer who was so kind and helpful to Emily. I'm glad I was able to thank him properly for his work. Though I realize it was simply part of his job, Officer Marksteiner went far beyond the scope of his duty to ensure that Emily got out safely. We will forever be grateful to him.
My next post will be on photography, I promise. I just wanted to write this quickly so that the many people who've written to ask how we're doing know what's going on.
Amy, Chris, and Emily
As I've often mentioned, I love photographing children. Capturing their wonder and candor is both a challenge and a privilege. Gabriella is on the cusp of adulthood -- old enough to portray complex emotions, yet young enough to be candid. She is an incredible young woman. I think that quality shines through here.
I don't normally post about my daughter Emily's behaviors here. As you may know, she has moderate-to-severe autism and epilepsy and is mostly nonverbal. She has a lot going on, but she handles it well most of the time. Today, we had a very, very rough day.
Chris and Emily and I were in the last passenger car on the 9:55 AM Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train from Hicksville to Penn Station, where we planned to meet Emily's dad, Tim. Tim was going to take Emily out for a fun day together in the city while Chris and I attended the Big Apple BBQ with a friend who lives in Manhattan. It was a good day. The sun was shining. And we were all ignoring the nice weather outside and staring at our electronic devices instead. Emily was jamming to Adam Ant on her iPod. Chris was busy on his iPad. I was checking out Facebook on my iPhone. (We're an Apple family.)
Then our train stopped. The lights stayed on, but the air conditioning turned off. The LIRR has been in the news a lot recently due to bad commuter service delays and cancelations. We sighed, figuring it was the usual; a signal failure or a train stopped on the tracks ahead of us. We'd just passed the Queens Village station.
After a few minutes, the conductor spoke over the intercom. He said that we would not be moving for a while. I barely listened. It was just the LIRR being the LIRR. These things happen. Chris messaged our friend, telling him we would be late. People started making phone calls, complaining. A few minutes later, the conductor spoke again, giving the reason for our delay. My stomach turned when I heard this:
"A pedestrian was struck. We will be sitting here for a while. We don't know yet when the train will be running again. Thank you for your patience."
Pedestrians don't generally survive close encounters with a speeding commuter train. A short time later, the conductor spoke again, calling it a fatality, and requesting that any LIRR personnel or police officers on board move up to the first car. A man sitting a few rows ahead of us got up and walked toward the front of the train.
I was sad. Most pedestrian fatalities on the LIRR are suicides. Two years ago, one of my former coworkers ended his life by stepping in front of a train. I thought of him, his family, his friends.
We waited. The sun beat down on the windows. Trains generate a lot of heat, which is normally tempered in the summer by air conditioning. We were hot and uncomfortable. Many people started bitching about the heat and the inconvenience. I dabbed perspiration from my forehead and judged them silently. At least you aren't dead, I thought. Death is a bit more inconvenient than being late for brunch. To my left, Chris raised an eyebrow and continued doing whatever he was doing on his iPad. To my right, Emily bopped her head quietly in time to the song on her iPod. I was proud of her. She was late getting to see her dad, but she was taking it in stride, not making inappropriate vocalizations or having a meltdown. I squeezed her knee. What a champ.
The conductor made announcements every ten minutes or so. He apologized for our inconvenience and still couldn't provide an answer as to when we might be moving again. After forty minutes or so of the heat, emergency workers came through the train with boxes of emergency water. We took some. Emily was disappointed; the water came in packaging that resembled a juice box. The water was room temperature and definitely not fruit-flavored.
At last, after about an hour, a group of police officers and firefighters appeared and directed us to line up and walk back to the last car. Rather than move to the nearest station to detrain, we were to be evacuated from the open rear door of the last car via a set of temporary stairs that resembled a ladder. This was when I realized we had a problem.
How our ordeal began
Like me, Emily has low blood pressure. She gets dizzy easily and sometimes develops vertigo. This, combined with her epilepsy and her knowledge that she could have a seizure and collapse at any moment, has resulted in an understandable sense of insecurity; she always needs hand-holding on stairs. Open stairs and escalators terrify her, and she will walk far out of her way to avoid them. For this reason, we only board LIRR trains at stations that have an elevator.
This is where it gets difficult to write about our experience. I alerted the nearest person in authority, a firefighter, that Emily has disabilities and cannot navigate the ladder. He asked if we could try it; maybe with assistance, Emily could manage it. I said we'd try. Ahead of us, an elderly woman was assisted down the ladder, with emergency personnel supporting her arms and legs. I could see what they planned to do, and I was pretty sure Emily wouldn't do it. Still, we had to give her the chance; she could surprise us. When it was our turn, Chris went down the ladder ahead of us so Emily could see how it was done. Emily began screaming and struggling, flailing arms and legs and knocking into my face. That would be manageable if she were a small child, but Emily is 21 years old, and just about my height. It was scary. The firefighters conceded we would have to wait and see what alternatives they could come up with.
Chris wasn't allowed to reenter the train to join us. Emily and I were seated in the last car, sweltering, as hundreds of people moved past us and navigated the ladder without an issue. Emily was perfectly content to sit and sip from her water box. I texted Emily's father that we were going to be a very long time.
A special NYPD officer approached me and introduced himself to Emily and me as "Bryan." Bryan made conversation with us, making friends with Emily. The plan was to put Emily into a stair chair, a lightweight transportation device used in emergency situations by EMTs and firefighters to evacuate wheelchair users and other disabled people. Bryan explained to her that she would sit in the chair, put on a seatbelt, and be lifted off the train onto the ground. She could still listen to her iPod and hold his hand the whole way. Did that sound good? Emily said yes.
The stair chair was already in use (Emily was not the only passenger who required this assistance), so Bryan waited with us, chatting with Emily about ice cream and other things she likes. "When you get off the train, Emily, I think you deserve two scoops of ice cream. What do you think, Mom?" I agreed. If Emily could get herself off the train, she could have all the ice cream she wanted.
I asked Bryan about the person who'd been struck. He looked sad. "We don't know for certain why he was on the tracks, but it was a worker. Just a guy trying to make his living, feed his family." That was all he knew. I closed my eyes and hoped the end had been swift and painless. I hoped that true.
Chris texted to say other people were being transported in the stair chair. It might be a while. He was right about that. When it finally arrived, Bryan explained the stair chair again and helped Emily into it. She was okay until she looked behind her and saw the open door. Emily freaked out. Bryan was still trying to fasten the seatbelts, but my 105-pound daughter leaped up, bringing the chair with her, screaming in terror. I jumped up and helped Bryan take off the remaining seatbelt so she could be free of the chair. Emily planted herself in another seat and refused to move. She was crying.
The minutes ticked by. Bryan stuck with us. He gave Emily his sunglasses to wear. "These are magic sunglasses, Emily. When you wear them, nothing can hurt you." Emily put them on, and we made a big deal about how brave she looked in them. Emily was unconvinced. I didn't expect her to be; we've never used "magic" things to convince her of anything, and she's pretty smart -- she knew something was up, but she gave us a chance. In all fairness, Bryan was doing his best and I think his strategy would have been effective on just about any other person with Emily's disability. Bryan got a sheet, which he called a magic blanket. With the blanket wrapped around her, she'd be even more safe. She remained unconvinced, but Bryan and I managed to talk her into getting into the chair again, wearing the magic sunglasses. When Bryan tried to wrap the magic sheet around her, she had another freakout moment, worse than previous. She flailed violently -- not with intent to hurt, just for self-preservation -- and knocked my hat off my head. Emily was terrified, shaking, and justifiably angry with me and Bryan for tricking her.
I held her until she calmed down. I took over the explanations. I was straightforward about the situation: "We have to get off the train, and the chair is the only way to do it. You have no choice here, and you must trust me. You know it's safe because I'm the one telling you it's safe. You know I would never lie to you. Can you get into the chair, please?" No. I sat in the chair and tightened the seatbelts, smiling at her as I did so. "You see? It's easy. And then they will lift you up and carry you off the train where it's safe." I undid the seat belts. "Now, can you get into the chair, please?" Trembling, Emily stood and walked to the chair. She hesitated before sitting. She was crying, tears spilling down her cheeks as we held eye contact. I tightened the straps around her. Bryan made knots in the straps so she couldn't escape from them again. She wept softly. My brave girl. Suddenly, three firefighters were lifting her up and moving her backward to a side door I hadn't realized was open, and Emily was screaming, flailing. One of her shoes flew off. She clawed at Bryan's arms, desperate to make contact with the ground. I wanted to jump out the door and onto the tracks, but the firefighters stopped me and directed me to take the ladder stairs down from the rear door and come around to the side.
I ran to the back door and hesitated. The ladder stairs really did look frightening. Emergency workers put up their hands and I descended with their help, only to be stopped again. The workers had to lay rubber sheets down on the live third rails so I wouldn't be electrocuted hopping over them. It took only a few seconds, but they were the longest seconds of all. All I could think of was Emily. I couldn't see her from the rear side of the train, but I could hear her continuing to scream and thrash. Rubber sheets in place, I hurried over to where my daughter sat, still restrained in the chair, surrounded by officers and firefighters. Bryan was bleeding from deep scratches in his forearms. They released the straps, and Emily clung to me. She was afraid of getting up now. She was afraid of walking on railroad tracks, which she's been told her entire life not to walk on except at pedestrian crossings. Chris appeared, and together we got Emily started walking. An officer stopped Chris to ask for Emily's name and address; I don't know why. Bryan walked with Emily and me to the Queens Village LIRR station. I don't recall how long we walked, but it wasn't far.
When we reached the platform, Emily clutched at me and shrieked. It was only accessible from the tracks via another ladder.
Bryan and I looked at each other. The train platform wasn't that high. I'm five foot three, and my chin cleared it. Emily clung to my arm as I thought about it. I looked at Bryan. "Can we just lift her up? Once she has her butt up there, she'll be okay. She'll still be scared, but she'll be okay." That was what we did (not me -- Bryan and a firefighter lifted her from below, while Chris and other emergency personnel lifted from above). I ran around to the ladder and hurried up to where Emily was sobbing and shaking in someone's arms.
Together, we walked along the platform to the exit. Bryan warned me not to look to my right as we passed the scene of the accident. I made the mistake of doing so anyway, and had to fight back the urge to vomit. I'll never forget what I saw.
Thank goodness the Queens Village station has an elevator. We were able to take it down to the street level below. Bryan was still with us. Emily was still clinging to my side. Chris hovered protectively. Bryan explained the LIRR had provided buses to drive everyone to the next station, where we could continue our journey. Chris and I looked at each other. We looked at Emily's tear-stained face. We thanked Bryan and took a Lyft back to our car in Hicksville.
Emily wanted pizza, not ice cream. We took her for pizza. She wanted her dad. He took the train to Hicksville and they spent the afternoon at the mall. She was low-key, happy to see him. When I picked her up a few hours later, she was exhausted and ready to go home. She's safe in bed now, watching a movie on her laptop and sipping her favorite ginger ale. Her voice is still hoarse from all the screaming. I'm looking in on her a lot, probably too often -- I think I'm beginning to annoy her. But when I went in just now, she sat up and wrapped her arms around me. We hugged for a long time. I told her she'd had a rough day, that even though she was afraid, she'd been brave by allowing us to put her in the chair. She'd done the right thing. I told her that tomorrow would be a better day. It almost certainly will.
It's important to note that I feel very sorry for the worker who was killed. What our family went through today seems small, compared to what his family must be experiencing right now. I don't know his name, but I wish for the best for his family.
Finally, Chris and I are grateful for all the patient support Emily and we received. A thousand people had to be evacuated from that train, and we were certainly the most work for them. We're especially grateful to Officer Bryan Marksteiner for his assistance. Without him, Emily and I might still be on that train.
I got to spend the afternoon with the amazing Beth Spierer. You may have seen her in James Franco's "The Deuce," as well as in a boatload of independent movies and local commercials. We started out with some raw, simple head shots, but things got out of hand quickly, in the best way possible. Here are some of the results. Beth is a real pro, and a very good sport!
Click on any image to see a full-size version.
Last time I was in London was October 2014. It was a short trip, but I made good use of it. While Chris attended a conference, I took advantage of my free time to catch up with an old friend, eat lovely greasy fish at a chippy, do a couple of touristy things, and indulge in my favorite pastime in a foreign city: wander the streets in search of something different.
London did not disappoint. Signs were a special joy -- the British wit contrasts sharply with that of the U.S. I hope you'll find some pleasure here.
June 2012 was my first trip to California. Chris and I wandered San Francisco for several days, hitting many of the usual tourist sites: Lombard Street, Coit Tower, Chinatown, Japantown, Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Park, the Mission District, Delores Park... It was glorious, but overwhelming. After a few days, we both craved solitude -- or at least a reprieve from the constant crowds.
I'd wanted to visit Sutro Baths for years. The concrete ruins are all that remains of what was for decades a thriving center of entertainment and society. The Baths, which opened in 1896, comprised seven swimming pools (mostly saltwater pools) with the combined capacity for 10,000 people to swim at one time. Can you imagine? They also housed an amphitheater, art galleries, restaurants, an ice skating rink, arcades, shops, and in later years, even amusement park rides. The Baths burned down in the 1960s, and were never rebuilt.
We arrived on a dark, misty day. Winds chopped the water into whitecaps. Hardly anyone else was there -- a strange thing, considering it's a National Historic Site and listed among the National Parks -- leaving us to wander alone the ruins.
For me, it was the highlight of the trip. I can't wait to return, preferably on a similarly ethereal day.