Ghosts of September

With the senescence of autumn, the landscape takes on a loneliness; a barrenness, despite the skeletal remains of plants and trees dotting the hillsides; a sense of melancholy.  The lush, noisy days of summer are gone.  A quiet settles over the land.  On frosty mornings, the solitude is almost palpable.  

My latest series of sepia-toned portraits in the landscape reflect that sorrow, that isolation, and the loss of something both rare and fine.

November's Child

The Distance From Me to You

The Leaning Tree

If Only

In the Changing Light 

I Remember

The formal gowns in these photos relate a sense of being all dressed up with nowhere to go or of the party being over, a sense of something that was but no longer exists.  The black shawl speaks of protection against the elements.  The gowns contrast in texture and context with the rustic backdrop, whether it be the fluffy heads of dead goldenrods and asters in the meadow or the log siding of my house.

Seasons change, time marches onward, people come and go from our lives.  Birthdays come (mine is next week); we grow older.  These photographs honor those inevitable changes and our ability to not only withstand them, but to persevere with grace and one's sense of self intact.

Happy November.  Happy dio de los muertos.

Until next time...


Holding on-- Part III in the Series

In the past week, I have taken photographs of additional models for this series.  The variety of objects that people bring to the photo shoots are surprising, as unique as each individual who poses for me.  The things we hold onto say as much about the person who has kept them as they do about the person they originally belonged to.  They are steeped in memory and nostalgia, connections not only to the people we have lost, but also to the people we were at the time before we lost them, connections to that time of innocence.  


Mary Ann:  My Grandmother's Figurine

Cyndi:  My Father's Book and HIs College Ring

Kevin:  My Grandfather's Watch (which was passed down to my brother and then, after his death, to my mother, and then to me after her death)

Pam and Paul:  Our Son's Dogtags

Carol:  Joe's Book

November:  My Dad's Watch and the Bracelet Containing His Ashes

Pam:  My Sister-in-Law's Bracelet

Mary Ann:  Mr. Carrot, My Dog, Clovis', Favorite Toy

jj:  My Grandmother's Figurine

Faye:  My Father's School Bell (which I also used when I was an elementary school teacher)

Kim:  My Mother's Strawberry Pin

Anne:  My Son, Ryan's, Sweatshirt

As one friend said recently, the objects only have meaning if we ascribe it to them.  In and of themselves, they are simply material objects.  Yet they come to embody the very memories and connections we seek to preserve.  

Until next time...


Capturing Moments

Sometimes the goal of photography is to capture the essence of a subject or way light falls upon something.  

The other day I took some photographs of my friend and her little boy.  This was the first time I had worked with a child model.  His energy was boundless and full of joy.  With children, who move so quickly, whose expressions change in the blink of an eye, the goal here is simply to capture the moment, to stop time for a fraction of a second.  

Not only did the camera capture these fleeting moments in, it also seized upon the love and tenderness between this mother and child.  All children should feel this safe and this loved.  It was an honor to be able to document this family as they prepare to welcome a new life into their fold.

Until next time...


Holding on-- Part II

In the past week, I have taken additional photographs of other people holding onto objects that speak of their losses.  And in mining my own box of treasures, I found a few items that belonged to members of my family who have long since departed.  Some of the new photographs are associated with the literal death of beloved person; in one case, the photograph involves the figurative death of an abusive spouse/marriage.  Loss does not always equate with physical death.  Anything that profoundly changes us, causes grief and heartache, that divides our lives into "before" and "after" is a loss.  Loss is something we never "get over," but rather something we learn to live with.  

Dan:  My Mother's Pearls

In this photograph, my husband is holding some incredibly gorgeous pearls that belonged to my mother-in-law, Audrey, whom I never had the pleasure of meeting.

Anne:  Great-Grandma Blanche's Rosary

This photograph shows me holding a rosary that ,was given to me by my great-grandmother Blanche, when I was seven years old.  She died not long after that.

Paige:  Mama's Necklace

The photograph above shows the hands of a little girl (about age 7), whose mother died when she was just shy of 6 months of age.

Tami:  Wedding Ring

This photograph represents the losses associated with an abusive marriage.

Steve:  Ryan's Guitar

This photograph depicts a father, my former husband, holding onto the guitar that had belonged to our son, who died at age 18.

Dan:  The Mourner's Kaddish from My Father's Funeral

In this photograph, my husband is holding onto the prayer booklet from his father, Sam's, funeral.

Robin:  A Tape of My Sister Singing

The woman in this photograph is holding onto a tape of her sister's voice, something most precious to her.  The memory of a loved one's voice fades much too quickly.  

Steve:  Gramps' Pliers

This photograph shows a man holding onto pliers that belonged to his dear grandfather, whom he was especially close to.  Those old pilers are still being used to this day.

Anne:  Gold Star Pin for Uncle Carroll

This gold star pin was given to my great-grandmother, Esther, by the US government after her son, my great uncle, Carroll, was killed in World War II on D-Day.  My grandmother passed it on to me last year.  It is a treasured bit of family history.

Each object portrayed in each photograph is steeped in memory, imbued with emotion.  Healthy grieving involves connecting with those memories and allowing oneself to feel the emotions associated with them.  

These photographs also demonstrate one of the ways we live with loss:  Holding on while letting go.

Until next time...








Holding On-- New Series

I am working on a new series, personal narratives of loss, which I am entitling "Holding On."  This series focuses on the things we hang onto after losing someone who has been important in our lives.  Loss touches everyone, and the longer we live, the more we are touched. 

The photographs in this series are simple, only hands cradling an object that once belonged to someone beloved.  I am interested in the relationships we create with these objects, in the sacred significance we place on them.  They remain a connection to the people we have loved, and holding on to objects owned or used by those we have lost is a way of holding on to the people themselves.  We look at these inanimate items, and we see the people we love and miss, we remember their influence on our lives. 

These first photos in the series are of my hands holding objects that belonged to my dad, Tony, my son, Ryan, and my great-grandmother, Esther.  There are other people whom I have lost, like my grandpa Al, but in doing this project, I realize I have nothing tangible that once belonged to them.

Tony's Watch

Ryan's Sunglasses

Grandma Esther's earrings

Ryan's Driver's License

This post is a call for others interested in being a part of this series and sharing their stories of loss through art. I am interested in hands of all sizes, skin tones, shapes, and ages-- the more diversity, the better. If you live close to where I do (southern Illinois) and would like to participate in this project, please contact me via email.  Click on the "Contact Me" link on this website or send me a message via facebook.  

It is my intention to create a powerful and beautiful body of art, exploring a theme universal to our human existence.  I would really appreciate adding your story to mine.

Until next time...


Portrait of My Grandmother

Last week, in the unfortunate event of multiple deaths in my family, I had the good fortune to spend a couple of days with just my mom and grandmother.  The three of us hung out, went to my grandmother's favorite restaurants, watched some of "The Roosevelts" on PBS.  If not for the sadness of our unexpected losses, it would have been a great week.

My grandmother Daun is eighty-six years old and still feisty.  Her body may be a bit frail, but her mind is as strong and sound as it ever was.  She gave rise to four generations of intelligent, strong-willed, competent women.  We are blessed to be her daughters, her grand-daughters, her great-grand-daughters.

With a little bit of grumbling from her and some gentle coaxing from me, she agreed to allow me to take her portrait.  It is with honor that I share this with you today.

Grandma Daun

My grandma taught me to appreciate classical music, bird-watching, and gardening.  She and I played endless games of gin rummy, which I then played with my children (my daughter beats me every time).  She was still pretty young when I was born, and my brother and I were the only grandchildren for several years.  I was fortunate to get to know her as a young woman and to have had so much time with her while I was growing up.  

And at eighty-six, she's still a beauty! 

Sometimes, in the event of a tragedy, there is a tiny seed of light shining into the heart of the darkness.  My time with my mother and grandmother (and my daughter and her beau, who came into town for a day and a half) was that light last week.

Until next time...