Thursday, August 14, 2014

Oh there you are Peter

Before I made this post, I checked to see when the last time I actually blogged.  Nearly half a year ago.  The time was different then as it is now.  Much has happened.  I lost someone dear to me.  The need to make my life so public became quickly silenced and so this blog has sat abandoned by the wayside.  It's hard for me to express my loss in written and spoken words and so I make new photographs instead.

Brittle skin.  Exposed roots.  A broken heart.

It hasn't been long since my father died so the feelings are fresh.  They hit me often.   I believe that some might call me a "functioning mourner".  I'm able to do what I need to do to get through my day while quietly masking my feelings until I explode.  When my father passed, it was already late into the night.  The very next day, I woke up at 4am, took a 2 hour train ride to work and taught two 4 hour classes.  That night we took a red eye back home to prepare for the funeral.

It wasn't until we landed, walking past the gates to the exit, that I thought of the last time my father picked me up from the airport.  The memory overwhelmed me so much that I finally broke down, crying hysterically in front of the TSA.

Since then I've been able to outwardly appear fine but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I lose myself in grief from time to time.  I am now slowly learning to deal with that.   

Many things remind me of my father.  Music and movies are hard triggers for me.  He loved going to the movies.  He loved 70s rock.  I was in London, eating Thai food at a very nice restaurant with absolutely nothing to do with my dad when all of a sudden I hear Jim Croce.  Instant tears.  I went to go see a blockbuster movie over the summer.  I saw a father and son sitting in a movie theater and just started balling.  For a while, it all was overwhelming.  It made my days hard and eventually my nights.  I started having vivid dreams of mundane events with my father in them.  And thus it was a constant cycle of seeing and being tormented by the memory of him. 

With the recent passing of beloved Robin Williams, I revisited an old movie of his, Hook.  The movie tells the story of Peter Pan all grown up played by Williams.  There's a scene in the middle where Peter must convince the Lost Boys that he is still the exact same Peter Pan that they all loved and followed many years ago.  A small boy goes up to Peter and carefully examines his face.  He reaches out and touch's Peter's face.  The boy turns Peter's head this way and that.  The moment is beautiful and exemplifies child-like innocence and curiosity.  After careful consideration, the boy's face lights up and he says in a simple statement, "Oh there you are Peter".

I love that scene and this movie.  There's a lot of themes and emphasis on childhood imagination, families, love, and acceptance.  The movie also holds such a sentimental place in my heart since my own father, named Peter, was an Army pilot that loved to fly. My childhood is filled with him exclaiming to be THE Peter Pan and later after the movie Hook came out, being able to crow louder than any Lost Boy, pirate and Captain alike.

It is such a happy and loved memory that my remembrances began to outweigh my sorrow.  I didn't cry and it wasn't a trigger.  It was a realization.  I realized that I can remember my father through all the associations that I encounter and choose to hold on to the good memories they elicit rather than push them away before finally bursting into hot, sad tears.  It's small and silly perhaps.  But it's truthful and real for me.

I'm not perfect.  I don't expect my sadness to go away.  And though he isn't here, I will try and keep his memory alive by carrying his traditions, his likes, and his hopes for me.  This is a small step for me and something I've finally been able to accept.  No longer will I turn away and ignore my feelings.  I know now.  The next time I happen to think of my father I will approach it like the boy said with such simple acceptance, "oh there you are Peter".

You can find that adorably gut-wrenching scene here.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Point Reyes

This weekend Thom and I rented a car for a day and got the hell out of the city.  We drove up north, to go visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse.  I'm embarrassed to say that in the three years that we've lived in San Francisco, both Thom and I have not made the trip to the most western point of the peninsula.  Some day trips seem obligatory and placed on that proverbial bucket-list.  Muir Woods, Napa & Sonoma, Tomales Bay, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay and Monterrey are just a few in that list.  Point Reyes has been there for a while and I'm glad that we finally got a chance to go see the area.  It's funny because we've been up in that area twice before on the other side of Tomales Bay.  There, I've raved about the amazing oysters and bay views but I can't believe how much more we've missed out on the other side of that bay. 

Our car ride was interesting in the fact that the landscape continually changed.  Right after crossing that iconic Golden Gate Bridge, we were set to view some of the most changing and dynamic landscapes that Northern California offers.  All roads are deemed cautionary squiggles on yellow sign posts throughout the trip and we viewed everything from giant red woods, marshy swamps, vast green pastures and deep, dense foggy hillsides.

When we finally got to the lighthouse, the fog was so thick you couldn't see more than 20 feet in front of us.  All vehicles had to park at Drakes beach across the way and we took a shuttle bus to the lighthouse itself.  The ride was nice enough, minus the unsettling worst-case scenario thoughts that came to mind as the mega bus took sharp turns around narrow and steep ledges.

When we finally arrived, we descended the quarter-mile walk towards the end point and caught glimpses of the ocean through the fog.  At one point, the fog seemed to burn off a bit and we were able to see clearly below.  A friendly docent was nearby and spotted a migrating whale just off of the coast.  Thom and I kept a keen lookout for whales but alas, between the fog and our untrained eyes, we just couldn't spot any.  I really wanted to see one and I think, in my hopes, I zealously exclaimed to see a whale just below.  It turned out it was just a whale-shaped current. :(

We stopped back at Drakes Beach for a picnic lunch.  There, the weather was warmer and the fog had burned off from the south.  We were able to take in the coastal views and just relax.

I'm not sure if the Point Reyes Park has gone through recent renovations and changes, but the facilities we encountered were all newish and clean.  The rangers and docents were all very friendly and knowledgeable and there seemed to be plenty of parking.  Despite having to pay the mandatory $5 shuttle ticket to and from the lighthouse, I felt that the money was being put to good use.  There are plenty of trails to roam around and take in great views from.  Not only are there whale migrations that you can see come through this time of year but also sea lions.  (We missed that stop on our way back but having seen, heard, and smelled them at Pier 39, I didn't think we were missing all too much.)  All in all, I was really impressed with the park.

It's hard to drive through Point Reyes and not see all the cows.  The park has a series of ranches given names from the letters of the alphabet.  We were told that the entire park was once owned by a law firm that leased out the land to various dairy farmers from all over the world.  Irish, Italian, and English farmers would raise cows next to each other and create some of the world's best butters, cheeses, and dairy products.  So of course, we made a stop at Point Reyes Station on our way back.  We walked along the main street and up to Cowgirl Creamery.  After tasting some cheeses and marveling over others, we walked away with some sharp cheddar and triple cream.

All in all, today made for a great trip and a nice drive outside of familiar settings.  Point Reyes offers so much and more.  I know that we'll be making repeat trips back up there if not for seeing happy free-roaming cows and windy coastal views but for the delicious oysters and newly discovered cheeses.  :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More class portraits

More class portraits to share here.  The first set was from a few weeks ago and they were taken just after my students all had midterms.  You can visually see the shared relief in those portraits.  We were outside discussing various lighting situations [as you do] when I asked each of them to let me take their portrait by their car.  I think that Mary Ellen Mark came to mind when I took these images...

The second set of images comes from my new love of True Detective.  That opening sequence!  Amazing!!  I've seen double exposures floating around the internet for a while and it was fun to make these, I admit.  They were easy enough to put together and all the images I had taken already from previous trips and shoots.  This week we will be discussing the ever expanding definition of what a portrait can and cannot display.  Strong relationships of people to place seem to overtake this subject.  Can the environment tell more of a person?  Can a person tell more of the environment?  When put together, do either hide or reveal a person?

This week, I'm excited to see what my students came up with after our environmental field trip last Wednesday.  I really want to display their work in the halls since it seems to excite them a bit more about my 8am class.  We shall see!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Wet Plate Workshop

This past weekend I had the excited opportunity to take a wet plate class at Rayko.  The whole workshop was intense, too short, and all too addicting.  I can really understand why tintypes have gotten so much buzz as of lately.  When you see one in person, they are more than what is viewed online or in print.  There's more dimension and textures found in tintypes that I encourage any interested to check them out.

Carlos was a wonderful instructor and I have nothing but the highest regards for him and his teaching practices.  We started Saturday off by observing the entire process from coating a plate, capture in camera, and development.  Sunday we watched how to mix the collodion and later, varnish the plates.

I focused on self-portraits again.  I have been very curious about seeing my ideas in wet plate and working with this new medium.  If only I had a working darkroom!  I worked with the available student 4x5 view cameras and also played with the Holga as well.  Both cameras are dedicated to wet plate and the 4x5 film holders are slightly modified to hold wet plates.

My dreams of owning a working wet plate studio and darkroom will have to wait further along but for now space can be rented at Rayko.