Talking about ‘Body Talk’

I had a ‘sneak preview’ on Sunday of the upcoming performance of  “Body Talk” by Maria McLeod to be at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Bellingham this Friday and Saturday evenings,  September 28-29.    The cast had a dress-tech rehearsal during which I shot production photos for Maria  (full disclosure here).  But as I was moving around, to photograph the cast, I could see and hear the show which is a collection of dramatic readings based on true stories that Maria has written about what it means to be a woman.

Pam Kuntz at the reader’s stand, along with (from right) Sarah Wallace, Marie Eaton and Sheila Goodwin all seated, rehearses a scene from Maria McLeod’s “Body Talk.”

The readings–all short monologues–are terrific.  Maria is a published poet,  a freelance journalist, documentarian and assistant professor of  journalism at  Western Washington University.  The collected stories are all taken from in-depth interviews that Maria conducted over several years and include a mammogram technician, a nun, a new mother, an esthetician, a transgendered woman and a Buddhist feminist.   In their stories, they share and explore the definition of “womanhood”.   Their tales are explicit (not recommended for young children) but not uncomfortably so.

Marie Eaton performs as one of two women in ‘Body Talk.’

Maria has done a wonderful job of structuring the overall piece into a cohesive yet varied look at her subject matter.  The fact that each piece comes from actual memories and events  gives it even greater impact.  Her language, or that of her interviewees, is powerful in a way that causes you to stop and think about not only the lives of these women but your own as well.  Director Karee Wardrop has done a good job of  serving the text by keeping blocking and stage business to a minimum so as not to distract from the words themselves.  Likewise for the incidental music as performed by two jazz musicians.

The individual performances themselves are strong and bring to life the women behind each of the stories.  Actress Sheila Larkin Goodwin, in particular,  gives a moving interpretation of the marathon-running nun’s surprising story.

Actress Sheila Goodwin rehearsing in ‘Body Talk.’

But I would expect that from Sheila (also a personal friend) who has appeared in numerous television and theatre productions. However, all the women I saw in the cast–Marie Eaton, Pam Kuntz and Sarah Wallace (Kari Sevens was absent)–also gave weight to their women’s words.  I felt that each had, in some way, connected to their assigned woman and carried that across in their reading.

Cast member Sarah Wallace gives a moving reading of the new mom in ‘Body Talk.’

If you haven’t yet purchased a ticket for these performances,  I’d suggest you hurry.  They can be purchased on-line at http://www.BrownPaperTickets,  Village Books in Fairhaven or at the door for $15.   Both performances start at 7:30 p.m. with American Sign Language interpreters present on Friday evening.  A portion of the proceeds from the shows will be donated to Womencare Shelter.

The only regret I’d have about the show at this point is that there are only two performances scheduled.  It’s so wonderful to see something as fresh and new and different  as “Body Talk” staged locally and done well.

Autumn Arrives in the Northwest

The summers are short in the Pacific Northwest. The days are long, but the summers short.  Perhaps that’s why so many of us who reside here refuse to leave from about mid-July (meteorologists pin the actual start of warm summer weather to July 14), through the end of August.  No where else that I’ve ever lived is it as beautiful in August as it is here.

So autumn arrives with not only a tinge of chill in the mornings, but a bit of sadness as the daylight hours fade earlier and the warm, sunny afternoons and evenings become fewer.  For me, however, once I overcome the initial feeling that summer is fleeing, autumn reminds me that it is my favorite season of the year.

From my balcony, I can see the Japanese maple in my neighbor’s yard as it starts to show it’s autumn color.

I can usually tell that autumn is on its way when I see the leaves of the tall Japanese maple in my neighbor’s backyard start to change from its summer green to its autumn dress of rich burnt oranges and golds.  It signals to me that autumn will soon appear shortly after the first of September. Gradually, the colors seep from the tips of the leaves on the very top down through the entire tree as a though a bucket of thick paint had slowly been poured over it.

Autumn’s arrival also brings with it the arrival of the nearly 15,000 new and returning students to another of my neighbors–Western Washington University.  Suddenly, the campus which has been nearly abandoned since the end of summer session in August springs back to life as those moving in to live in the dorms load boxes and bags from their parent’s cars into their temporary academic residences.  It brings bittersweet memories back to me of the time when my husband and I, just a few years ago, were playing the same scene with our own sons.  They arrive filled with such hopes, anticipation and excitement as they carry in their belongings to settle in and start a new chapter of their young lives.

The trees on the WWU campus begin to turn color just as the students return for the fall quarter.

To greet them, the many trees on campus hint at the display of color coming in the next month as if to say: “Welcome, there’s more in store.”  And then, gradually, the arboretum behind the campus becomes a backdrop of autumn foliage. It flows down the hill, the top of which the university sits, into the tree-lined streets and yards below eventually canvassing the entire city.  Then, summer is only a distant memory and autumn the vivid present.

Gradually, the entire city, as seen here from the WWU campus, becomes a palette of autumnal color.

Making a Case for the iPhone

The new Apple iPhone is out today.   For some people, that meant sleeping in line overnight outside an Apple store in order to be among the first to buy the newest version of this popular phone.  But if you’re not among those who need or, even want, the updated iPhone, you can still give your phone a new look with a product that a local Bellingham woman and graphics designer has introduced.

Brandon agreed to model for his Mom’s new company. He and I first met when I photographed him as a senior. He’s seen here using one of the vintage camera cases, one of my personal favorites.

Jennifer Harrington has come up with some clever and very cool snap-on covers to individualize and “fashion-ize” your otherwise generic-looking iPhone.  Her company, On Your Case, offers a variety of designs, from the simple, to vintage, to retro and to even holiday-themes.   My personal favorites are the ones with the Eiffel Tower, the vintage cameras and the bright red “Keep Calm and Call Your Mom”,  a take-off of the British slogan used during World War II,  “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Jennifer called me on her cell phone recently to set up a photo session to show off her product.  I had taken senior portraits for her son, Brandon, a Bellingham High grad, a few years ago.  He had agreed to be one of her models for the session, along with his girlfriend, Stephanie, and Jennifer’s assistant, Andrea.”  Jennifer had a ‘look’ in mind that she wanted to get.   She came up with the basic concept and together we put together a session to create her images.

Stephanie and Brandon go nose to nose with their iPhone cases. His is another camera from the Vintage collection; hers is one of the Pattern designs.

She wanted to use the images from the shoot to illustrate how much fun and how personalized her cases could make your phone by including them on her company’s Facebook page and on the website now under construction.  She’s also got the individual cases posted on her “Etsy” store page  at http://etsy.me/OgQmqd. There you can look through seven pages of different cases in order to find the one just right for you.  And the great thing about these little cases is that they are so reasonably priced that you can buy three or four in order to customize your iPhone for every occasion.  How cool is that!

She’s also got a more limited selection that will fit the Samsung smart phones and is soon going to introduce covers for the iPad.  Finally, someone is getting stylish with these devices!

Andrea’s totally cool with the Teal Chevron case from the On Your Case pattern collection.

I’m not an iPhone user myself so I’m hoping that Jennifer will eventually come up with cases that will fit other types of popular smart phones because I really love what’s she’s done!  Almost makes me want to wait in line to buy the new iPhone.  Almost.

Chuffed to Be Here!

On more than one occasion, a friend has become a client or a client a friend.  Take, for instance, my friend Nancy Moore.

I don’t remember exactly when Nancy Moore and I first met.  Most likely it was through a school function as her daughter and my sons attended the same middle and high schools.  We had many mutual friends but rarely socialized.  I don’t know why.

When her daughter became a senior in high school,  Nancy asked me to photograph Kristen’s senior portrait.   I was thrilled because Kristen then had a strong interest in writing and I felt we connected during her initial photo consultation.

Kristen was a senior at Sehome High School when I made this portrait of her and MacKenzie.

We chose a location for her portrait session and I encouraged her to bring along her writing notebook, as well as the family dog,  MacKenzie.

Not long after,  Nancy and I got to know one another better because we both took classes at the same Pilates studio.  She is very athletic and fit and while I manage to keep in shape,  she was far more active, often riding her bike to class and squeezing in a round of golf either before or after her class.

Just as we became friends, she went off to England with her husband, Craig, who had been relocated there by his company, and MacKenzie.  But when she departed, she invited me, among others, to come visit.  I don’t know whether or not she was serious but I took her up on her offer a year ago in June.   She was be the first stop on a trip that took me and my husband to Provence for the first time.

I was excited because though I have traveled a good deal in Europe and Scandinavia, I never spent any time in England.  Besides, Nancy lived in Wimbledon, just minutes away from the famous tennis club where the tournament takes place annually.   We timed the visit accordingly and arrived just after the tournament play had started.  Although I was tired from the flight over,  I summoned the energy to go with her to the courts to watch what we could.

It was a dream come true for me, a long-time tennis player and fan.  Although we only got to see a few games, due to a rain-out, she seemed equally as thrilled.

Nancy was an incredible “tour guide” during my visit to London. Together we went to Hampton Court, one of Henry VIII’s many palaces.

She acted as our personal ‘tour guide’ for several of the days that we were there and on the days that she didn’t go along, she gave us detailed directions as to where we might go and want we might like to see. In the few short months that she had lived there, she had become an amazing resource on local sights and history.

Now, I’m happy to say, she’s started her own blog:  “Chuffed to Be Here” to share with everyone else as well as her friends and followers,  her adventures both in England and elsewhere.  The great thing about her blog is that it’s not the usual “travel” blog or website.  She has an eye for the unusual in what might otherwise be regarded as the ordinary.  And that’s one of the things that makes her blog so fun to visit.  You can visit it too at : http://bit.ly/RAGdWh.

During my visit to England, we planned a family portrait for the time that Nancy and Craig would be back in Bellingham for a visit. Everyone, but the dog, MacKenzie, was there. Knowing that we were going to do the portrait, I photographed MacKenzie separately while still in England and later digitally added her to complete the family.

9/11 Pacific Coast Time

I saw the film, “Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close,” last night.  I had missed it in theatre but was glad to find it on cable.  Most appropriate that I should have seen it the evening before 9/11 as it’s about a young boy who lost his father on that day and also about how the tragedy brought New Yorkers together.  It’s a moving and uplifting movie based on a book of the same name.

To mark this day, which for many of my generation could be considered “our  Pearl Harbor”, I thought I’d reprint the essay I wrote on the day after as everyone was still trying to sort out what had happened.  It’s longer than my usual blog posts so I hope you’ll excuse me as it wasn’t written for this format.  But also hope that it will cause you to stop and remember, if even for just a moment.

The Day After

I awoke this morning to the sound of an aircraft flying overhead. I thought it was a commercial jet from Vancouver B.C. “The airports must have been reopened,” I said to Mike. It was just after 6 a.m. The last thing I saw on television last night was that Sea-Tac expected flights to resume at 9 a.m. this morning. But it was not a commercial airliner, it was a military jet patrolling the Puget Sound. I telephoned my friend, Pat, to ask if she’d like to take the kayaks out this morning. The water looked calm and peaceful and I thought that it would be a good way to start this particular morning. She said she wasn’t sure because she hadn’t been feeling too well since yesterday. Her brother-in-law works in the Army side of the Pentagon too. He was also lucky and escaped injury. But I insisted, telling her that I thought it might help to clear her head.  So she agreed.

“The water looked calm and peaceful…”

I ran the boys to school and then headed down to the boatyard where we keep our kayaks. We hauled them out and pushed off into the strangely still
water. Our kayaks moved quietly and smoothly through the rippleless water.  We talked about all that had happened the day before and all that we had heard on the latest news reports.  Pat had heard more than I as she had been up since 4:30 a.m., unable to sleep.  I had already been to three places in town that regularly stocked the New York Times.  All three had sold out.  I telephoned the news stand downtown that carries the Times; they too were out and told me that everyone in town was out of the paper. “I thought the paper would do an overrun,” I said.

“They did,” the young woman on the phone replied.

“Well you can get it on the Internet,” Pat reminded me as we paddled past the shipyard’s pier.

“I know,” I said. “I did that yesterday but I somehow wanted to have something in my hands.”

In fact, I had logged onto the NY Times website late yesterday afternoon just as Bush was finishing his address. I read everything, consuming every little bit of information that the Times had available. Even as I read, the paper was updating its website to include Bush’s remarks and the latest updates. How busy my buddies in the working media throughout the country must be, I thought. One of them is a “special projects” editor for the New York Times in D,C, Yesterday’s events would certainly qualify. I haven’t even bothered to e-mail him. Or anyone else that I know in that business, for that matter. In some ways, I feel disconnected. I suppose almost anyone who has ever worked in the news media has similar feelings. At least they are getting answers, or attempting to get answers. The rest of us just have to wait.

Last night at dinner, my son commented on how poor the news coverage was at first. I explained to him that in situations like that, no one knows exactly what is going on. At first, you get reports that there is a fire somewhere, an explosion in the World Trade Tower, maybe a bomb. But I can just imagine the disbelief when the word comes across that an airliner has just crashed into the Towers. Then there’s word that not just one, but two have crashed into the Towers. What chaos and confusion there must have been. I doubt that not even the eyewitnesses on the street or those taping what was happening in their videocamera could believe it. It just didn’t seem real.
“You know that air crews have a code that they are supposed to punch in if  the plane is being hijacked,” Pat told me this morning. “Not one of the four planes sent that code,” she said. We both shook our heads. How could that happen? How could any of this have happened? Answers. There simply are no answers.

Paddling Past Post Point
“Our kayaks moved quietly and smoothly through the rippleless water…”

Our silence was broken by the sound of rotary propellers overhead. We looked up. A Coast Guard helicopter passed above. We watched it go by knowing that it probably wasn’t searching for lost fishermen or boaters today.

“My sister said that she thinks she heard the plane go into the Pentagon,” Pat said. “Then she called up her husband and told him to ‘Get the hell out of there,’ just as he got the word to evacuate.”

We traded more stories that we had read or heard about others who had survived.  In a way , we too were survivors. We had arisen, dressed, eaten breakfast, gotten our kids off to school and were now doing what I suspect many other Americans are doing today, talking between themselves about yesterday’s events.  We were trying to make sense of a senseless acts of terrorism. Or was it so senseless?

Somewhere in the world, someone is feeling very good about what happened yesterday. Feeling good about having shown the world that we, in America, are not as invincible as we often think that we are. It is difficult to understand exactly how this could be possible.  And yet, as anyone who’s ever been abroad can tell you, not everyone is as enamored about America as we might like to think.  We do, sadly, have enemies. Identifying exactly who they are is not always so easy.  And that’s what’s so frustrating about yesterday’s assault on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

It’s clear to me, that whomever it was in charge was making a statement in their own sick way.  They targeted two institutions–one symbolizing this country’s financial strength and the other the country’s military strength. The fourth downed plane, I believe, was not headed for Camp David but probably also for the Pentagon. And what does this mean for us? I’m not sure but I am certain that someone out there in this world that has grown so small with the Internet, is very angry with us and we’d better pay attention.

“It’s a little odd, isn’t it?”  I said to Pat, “to think that this morning no one can fly in or out of, or around the country.”

“Yeah,” she said.

We watched the ferry cruise out towards San Juan Island just as it always does at 9 a.m. every morning. Our little part of the world seemed so quiet compared to what was going on elsewhere.

I am amazed by the stories filtering out about those who fled and survived.  I fear that there were be many, many who did not. I am hoping that our friends and family of our friends are not among the casualties.  But I know that someone’s friends and familiy members will be.  One of the passengers on one of the planes was someone a friend of ours knew personally.  And, as the days go by, I expect that will more the case. I think I am still numbed by all that has happened in the past 24 hours. I think a lot of people are.

I just learned on the local radio station that the jets to which I awoke this morning had forced a Lear jet to land at Bellingham airport.  The Lear jet, headed from Alaska to Seattle, was, as it turns out, carrying transplant organs to a Seattle hospital where a recipient was waiting.  The jet was grounded but the organs were airlifted on by helicopter. One more person would survive.  So will we.

Fall into Fashion Week

It’s Fashion Week in New York and while most of us won’t be going, you can get a glimpse of what goes on and how it works in a piece that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday.  http://nyti.ms/Qv4EDS

My friend, Barb Lupo, who owns Gary’s Men’s and Women’s Wear in downtown Bellingham, usually attends to check out the new designs and order her inventory for the next season.  And although all the shows and parties sound pretty exciting, I know from her own experience that’s it also very exhausting.  (Gary’s stages its own fashion show in October. Details can be found here:  http://bit.ly/OBG3bR

Although many have asked if Tessa is a professional model, she’s not. But she was easy to work with, comfortable with taking direction and open to trying out different ideas during her senior portrait session last fall.

For everyone in the industry, it’s a hectic time, particularly for the runway and showroom models who hop from show to show with little time to spare.  Throw in a traffic jam or two along with all those in town for the big event and tensions run as high as the excitement as everyone tries to get to where they are supposed to be on schedule.While a career  in fashion modeling certainly has it share of  glamour, it’s a lot of hard work, long hours and requires considerable luck just to “break in.”  But you don’t have to be a professional model to look like one in photographs, if you have a skilled and talented photographer behind the camera.

Besides knowing the technical aspects that will make you look your best in the lens, there are also “trade” tricks that will bring out your best features.  When photographing my clients,  I’m constantly giving instructions and directions about how to position the feet, the hands and the head.   This is what professional models learn to do.

A simple change of clothing and placement on location produced an entirely different ‘look’ for her senior portrait.

Take Tessa, for instance, who came to me for her senior portrait  last year.  I can’t tell you how many people have asked me if she is a model.  She’s not.  Yet her images have that quality of a “fashion shoot” because we planned it together ahead of time.   During her one-hour session,  we managed to capture several different “looks” that conveyed her different moods.  And she took instruction well from me when I asked her move one way or another,  tip her head a certain way or cast her eyes in a particular direction.

A simple bend of the knee, for instance, makes a huge difference in the look for a woman.  The tilt of a shoulder can change the way a guy comes across visually.  These are little,  but important, things that professional photographers must know to produce top quality images,  whether for the fashion industry or for your home.

Yet another clothing change, the addition of the instrument, a slight change in location and dramatic lighting created a completely different feel to her senior portrait.

Like fashion photographers, my intention is to create a mood indicative my client’s unique personality. Unlike fashion photographers, the emphasis is not on the clothing but on the individual.  Whereas the job of fashion photographers is to convey a message about the clothing–romantic, exciting, trendy, classy–as a portrait photographer,  I want my portrait to say something about you.

Tessa has moved on, not to New York, but to Washington State University, where she’s studying microbiology.  But she and her parents will forever have  those images to remember when she had her own “fashion” session as a high school senior.