Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ohh Mermama

Ooooh am I back on track. Writing, writing, writing. Can you hear the tappety-tap, clackety-clack?? What a little Ocean Beach Street Fair can do for inspiration:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Nose Knows

I did it.

I swear. It's there! A teensy tinsy ocean-colored gemstone,
my left side.

I will post more OB Street Fair pictures soon. I am exhausted and jet lagged and ready for beddy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Remains

So, talk about serendipity....I was clicking through the On Demand library last night looking for something to watch while P was at a baseball game, and on Cinemax I found "What Remains," the documentary about Sally Mann. It was incredible. And it hit close to home for more reasons than I had expected. For one thing, there is this incredible scene in the film when she finds out that the NY gallery where she is scheduled to show her latest exhibit (a collection which took her four years to create) cancels. It is heart-wrenching. It made me really, really think about how very precarious an artists' ego is. And how even established artists...truly accomplished and celebrated artists...face self-doubt and the anxiety that they are no longer creating anything of value. Needless to was relevant. Besides, it really confirmed what I suspected about her both as a photographer and as a mother. What an incredibly humble and committed artist, mother, and wife. It's a great film...check it out on Cinemax this Friday (at 2:45 a.m. or some ungodly hour).

Off to teach my Intro to the Novel class tonight. I wrote almost 4000 words this week. A breakthrough for me. I hope.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Chili Cookoff!!!

Check out the party they're having for my birthday in Ocean Beach!!

I am so excited to go to San Diego. Who would have thought that what used to be home would one day be a vacation spot?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Writing Without Writing

I have all sorts of free time now, and I cannot...for the life of me...seem to get to work. I find myself googling photographers, studying pictures, making treks to bookstores for photography magazines, and suffering what may very well be carpal tunnel in my right index finger from snapping so many pictures. I have submitted CD's to two different fine arts magazines...what the hell am I thinking??? And all the while, despite this sort of manic high that taking pictures is giving me, I feel the same sort of guilt I always felt as a kid when I had to pick which stuffed animals to sleep with and which ones were relegated to the floor for the night. It's the Catholic in me...I can feel guilty about just about anything. And the fact that I am getting so much more out of images than words lately makes me feel like an infidel.

Anyway, next week is my 29th birthday. Again. I'll be in San Diego at the Ocean Beach Street Fair -- my favorite holiday (the street fair, not my birthday). My forever-friend Heather and I are going to get our noses pierced at Dr. Jeffe's and then drink a lot of beer and take pictures of the freaks. It seems like a silly thing to do...the piercing not the drinking and picture taking...but why the hell not? The girls are thrilled by the prospect of Mommy having a pierced nose. I've psyched myself up for it by watching people getting it done on youtube. There's something for everyone there, isn't there?
Anyway. Just checking in. Procrastinating. Writing without writing. Maybe that's what the little catch phrase for the blog should be.
Here's a picture Kicky took of me taking pictures of her.

And pictures of Kicky taking pictures of Esmee. I've really started something here, I fear:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Change of Plans

I haven't been steamed up in awhile. It actually takes a whole heckuva lot to get me really, really going. But you know what? Sometimes that's where the good writing lives. I must (reluctantly) admit that I have, as of late, completely lost interest in the book in I wrote in November. The thought of revising it has actually makes me grimace. So...I started sketching some things out last night, and the story just came...materialized out of the great frustrated ether of my mind. For a change, I think I'm going to be hush hush on this one, but it's more personal than some of the stuff I've spent the last few years writing. Maybe I'm just getting more fickle.'s firefly season here again. But this year I've got a good camera:

Friday, June 01, 2007

Black and White?

So I just finished a book that has, in many ways, stirred up something inside of me. Lots of things actually. The timing is serendipitous, I think, and perhaps if I had read this book even a year ago I might not have reacted so strongly to it.

Anyway, Dani Shapiro...whose wonderful novel, Family History, I reviewed for the San Diego Union Tribune a few years back has a new novel out called Black and White. It is based, according to the author, on her imaginings of what an adult child (and former subject) of a famous photographer might be like in the aftermath of her mother's fame. The connections to Sally Mann are no secret...and the author makes no bones about this in her interview on NPR. But while the book truly was compelling, well-written, evocative etc... I just kept feeling like there was something wrong with what Shapiro was doing. I mean, Sally Mann is very much alive, as are her children. And while this is fiction, and (according to Shapiro) she used the photos as a jumping off place for this book, the art itself is almost identical to the actual, controversial, Mann photos: a Popsicle-stained chest, a pee-stained bed, a black eye, a child hanging (though from a rope rather than a hay hook). I don't mean to suggest that the novelist has any particular allegiance to what is now a part of our becomes, to a certain extent, part of our cultural inheritance, a part of our collective visual vocabulary. However, it is not necessarily the assimilation of Mann's now iconic images by Shapiro that bothers me. It is, rather, the premise of the novel itself...that photography, and the photography of one's own children, is, by nature, exploitative. Of course, she does not come out and say this explicitly, but the story is told via Clara (the grown daughter of the fictional Ruth Dunne) who, in her early thirties, is reunited withe her estranged mother after fourteen years. She is so angry, so paralyzed, so stunted by her mother's "work," that she can barely function. The now dying Ruth is depicted as a manic, egotistical, and impossible artist who is completely unable to see beyond her own nose (or camera viewfinder). Fine, fine, and fine. But what really irks me, is that we side with Clara. We have to. She is the heroine of the novel, and the victim or her mother's art. The end of the novel...I won't give it away...means to offer some hope, some resolution for Clara, but, to me, it lacks credibility, because we never really see Ruth as a mother. Not really. We see her through Clara's very own viewfinder...distorted, warped, and larger than life. Now, fine, fine, fine...but what about Sally Mann? I mean, the real woman. The photographer. The mother. What does this mean when an author takes an artist's work, a living artist's work, and then fabricates a life, full of motives and agendas, for that artist? Never mind that in addition to the familiar images Shapiro borrows, there is one fictional photo (published in Vogue) which makes Ruth's character just plain wicked. And there is no such photo in Mann's portfolio...not that I know of anyway. If I were Sally Mann, I would be furious. Indeed, I am so curious to see if there is any fall out from this. Besides, and I hate to knock what is, for all intents and purposes, a very well-crafted and riveting's been done before. Exposure by Kathryn Harrison is a terrific novel based on the shattered life of a child muse. And, more recently, The Effects of Light by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, examines what it means when childhood and art reside together. Beverly-Whittemore, who herself has modeled for Mona Kuhn, gave a much more compelling argument for the inherent complexities, the gray areas, if you will of the photographer's ethical responsibilities: to her subjects, to the truth of experience, to art.

I started reading this book after I spent the afternoon photographing my own children gleefully running naked through a sprinkler in the backyard. And it plucked a raw nerve. I truly believe that artists, particularly photographers, look to capture moments. To preserve them. I know that I do the same as a writer. Art, for me, is the beauty in my life. And I have spent my entire adult life trying to replicate that beauty with words, and now with pictures. I would hope that Shapiro, as both a mother and a novelist, might understand this too, but I fear that the revelations Clara has come too late and without nearly enough to evoke them. And lastly, I worry what people might infer about Sally Mann, who strikes me as a terrific mother, based on this novel and its sometimes uncomfortably close comparisons to the real artist's work (if not life).

Then again maybe this is all intentional...the author distorting the truth, "staging" the picture, to her own ends? Is writing a novel of this sort any different from the photographer who exploits or manipulates reality in the name of art?

Rant/review over.