For My Parents

To a mother who, by example, always taught me to be self-reliant and strong, to have courage but be aware, and to help those less fortunate. And that in most cases, at a concert, it is totally appropriate to use the men's room when the women's line wraps around the building, so long as you move quickly, keep your head down, and never touch anything. Happy birthday, Mom!

To a father who instilled a strong sense of independence, consistently encourages any dream I've ever had, and has always been honest with me. And who gave me my first (and second and third and fourth...) camera and would always get me to a one hour photo store as soon as I finished a roll of film when I was a kid. Happy birthday, Dad!

My wonderful and wonderfully strange parents.

Thank you both for being exactly who you are and only ever expecting the same from me.

Twelve Shots

(What has kept me away this month--Christmas prep/art/baking)

December has been a bit slow for me, photographically speaking. I'm in the midst of having my website redone, which requires a ton of [re]organization on my part as well as rescanning an entire month worth of negatives that I somehow accidentally deleted from both my computer and external hard-drive (THANK GOD for hard copies). I'm also working on a stop-motion video that will hopefully premiere shortly after the new year, all coinciding with the normal December activities of Christmas preparation and barricading myself in my apartment to avoid the Chicago cold. I hate leaving my blog idle though, which brings us to this post. Ansel Adams was once quoted (or so says the internet), as saying, "twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop."

Folks, the crop this year has been bountiful.

Over the next two weeks or so, I will be periodically posting the twelve shots I consider to be my most significant this year and why.

We'll start here:

This rather goofy self-portrait with my brother and three cousins is significant to me for two very different reasons. The first being that it was on the first roll of film that I developed in my home studio/darkroom. Everything prior to this had been developed at Chicago's Truman College or taken into a lab to be done by somebody else. I'm a rather reckless artist and gauge the temperature of the water and chemicals by touch, so I wasn't sure anything would show up at all or be usable if it did. You better believe that I was dancing and jumping for joy around my apartment when I pulled these negatives from the developing canister and saw that there were images on them.

Personally, this photo is significant because it was taken on Christmas Eve of last year (but not developed until 2011, which is why I'm including it). And this Christmas Eve was particularly significant because it was the first after the passing of my Aunt Sheryl earlier that year. Aunt Sheryl always hosted Christmas Eve at her home and had it down to an art. She even hosted while undergoing chemo treatments and facing unfathomable fatigue. So it was a somber occasion, to not be in her home, to be missing her warmth, to not even see her face this holiday. That day, for one reason or another, I asked my cousins--her children and my brother to go play in the snow with me that afternoon. They all scoffed at me, but with a little convincing, we were soon knee-deep in the snow. And we felt like little kids again. I asked to take a self-portrait of us all running on top of the neighbor's hay bales, because it is one of my favorite childhood memories: my brother and I would carefully climb over the barbed wire fence dividing our yard from his field and run on top of the plastic-covered hay bales that would be come slippery with the snow. We could never make it to the end without falling off the side into a snow drift. So three of my cousins, my brother, and I climbed over the barbed wire fence and very ungracefully (and with much assistance from my Marine cousin, Jim), climbed up and ran across the hay bales. More cousins eventually showed up and the activities escalated to sledding, though we couldn't find any sleds in the garage, so the six of us piled onto an old door and went down the hill over and over (I realize this plays like a scenario from Stephan Bloom's now notorious opinion piece, but alas, it was a damn good time). It was the most fun we had in ages and my mother has told me frequently that watching us was the best part of her Christmas. That moment brought a little light into a day that was rather dark for us all, so even if it just looks like a silly snapshot to you, to me, it means more than almost any other photograph I've taken.


I'm not a huge Thanksgiving person. To be honest, I'm not a huge holiday person in general. I love my family though and I enjoy when we are all able to get together, because with the exception of major holidays and one annual family-sponsored golf tournament, it doesn't often happen. And that's just my family in Iowa. I don't get to see my Dad very often as he's way out west in California and I see my extended family--cousins and all, even less often than that.

This year, instead of spending the holiday close to home, I decided to fly out to California for a week.

And I'm so glad I did. I got to experience a whole new set of traditions that I had never been let in on before. The holiday started with my extended step-family and ended at my cousin's home.

Somehow at our first location, I ended up stuffed though I only ate a kale & pomegranate wild rice dish I made up and a slice (or two...and a half) of vegan pumpkin pie.

But my wonderful cousin, Mary, made vegan green bean casserole, fried brussel sprouts, and bought the mascot of vegan Thanksgiving mockery, a Tofurkey, for me to munch on.

If you have never seen a Tofurkey, be warned: they are not appetizing creatures. This was in fact, my first, though I couldn't tell you how many years it's been since I had actual turkey. My opinion of Tofurkey? It looks like a piece of sporting equipment and tastes like how I remember hot dogs tasting. Not that it's a bad thing, just not a convincing center piece when you've already eaten so much delicious food.

I didn't eat for two days after.