Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

Archive for the 'photography & art' Category

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Life on the island is fantastic. I absolutely love it here. I feel at home, I feel at peace, and I find it very easy both to work and to relax, the latter of which is, was and always having been the bigger challenge for me. We’ve just had three days of nonstop rain, which hasn’t bothered me, but since the sun is out, I had Blue move my big blue easy chair out back so I could get some sun and some writing here in.

I didn’t mean to let a month lapse since I last wrote. I know this site of late (read: the last couple years) is something I’ve kind of neglected, or at least which has gotten far less of my time than it has in years past.  I want to just kind of sit with this today and thin — and write — about why.

When I started writing over here in 1999, Scarleteen was still in its infancy, the dot bomb hadn’t happened yet, and I was doing just as much work around sexuality and art for adults as I was doing sexuality work for young people. When it all comes down to it, I started this site, and writing here, not to long after I’d made some really major changes in my life, particularly leaving classroom teaching in order to make my work both online and around my arts and I’d moved to Minnesota after Chicago had been my hometown for most of my life.  I’d just come out of a few pretty damn dark years: of illness, of heartbreak, of almost winding up homeless again. I was 29 years old, in a relationship with my best friend at the time, and doing work that most people weren’t yet recognizing as work, or of anything of value, at all.  I was still doing some modeling for other artists, not just for myself (nor had I yet moved behind the camera, which is about 80 million times more interesting to me). I had a lot to sort out and suss out, very few supports in it and frequently fluctuated between states of intense inspiration and intellectual clarity and feeling totally, utterly lost, not knowing what the fuck I was doing in every area of my life. On top of that, very few women — or people, period — were talking about and working about the things I was. This site made a lot of sense then, and it makes less sense now, when so much of all of that has changed.

It’s so cliche, but I’m one of those creative people who tends to be most creative when I am hurting, angry, in a new emotion or in some kind of crisis or conflict.  I’d feel more stupid about that if there didn’t seem to be so many other artists and creative folks who are the exact same way.  All the same, it feels silly; lazy, even. I mean, if you can only artistically express a limited range of emotions, how creative are you, really?

So, here’s one thing: on the whole, lately — as in, over the past year and change — I’ve just been happy. Not the screamy, high-energy kind of happy, but the quiet kind, the kind that soothes and calms and contemplates and doesn’t have a lot to say a lot of the time. The kind that doesn’t keep its mouth shut because it feels silenced or scared, but because it’s just contemplating a gentle hum and finds it has little to report back.

The kind — no sense in being dishonest — I really don’t know much about at all. I’m a newbie. I can think of very few times in my life I experienced this, and the couple times that come to mind, I was so certain I was mistaking happiness for settling or complacency or detachment that I overthought it so much I didn’t really fully experience it at all, and also ran from it in due course.

But right now…okay, here’s my right now: I can pay most of my bills. I live in a rental — but a house — that is both beautiful and not in any way broken. I am in the middle of the woods, every day. More friends visit now that I moved out here than I saw when I was in Seattle-proper, and when they visit, we’re very rarely in the position where one or more of us is crying or venting because our lives suck in some major way. My sister even just moved to this state, a sister I have never really had a relationship with, but who it looks like I finally can, especially with both of us being so far away from home. I’m partnered with someone I have dearly loved on and off for 20 freaking years, who is both a peace and a passion in my heart and my mind.  All the drama around that when it restarted has since subsided. I feel able to be myself pretty much 24 hours a day, every day, no matter who I’m around.

Work is often a lot to manage (I’ll get to more on that in a minute), but it’s going well.  I’ve been doing what I have been doing for around 13 years now, solidly, and I know what I’m doing, I have way more support for it than I used to, it’s recognized as an actual job, and as something of value.  While funding, as ever, is always an issue, it’s not as much of an issue as it’s been in years past, and even when the shit hits the fan, I can usually figure something out.  I’ve been able to do some work through my work — like working for the abortion clinics and the teen shelter — I really wanted to do.  I may soon be writing a second book, which will carry a ton of stresses, but is something I very much want to do.

I could feel better physically, sure: my health is still not anything close to a non-issue.  Some things could be a good deal more stable.  Work could be less stressful.  But I’m 40, an age I never thought I’d even reach as a teenager, a concern that was more than valid then. I’m sitting on an overstuffed chair in the woods on an island, with a nice glass of wine, birds flying around me singing away, the sun is shining, the air is clean and warm and I’m comfortable.  And happy.  And mellow. In a couple hours, I’ll go make a delicious dinner with my sweetheart, which we’ll savor leisurely, then wind down with some lovely way of connecting and chilling, and then I’ll sleep like a baby in the perfect black dark.  It kinda rocks, to say the least.

Not only am I just learning how to be like this, I have yet to learn how to do my own creative work when I feel like this. I’m determined TO learn, mind you, but I’m not there yet.  And I forget, just plain forget, about my own writing or making art a lot of the time because I’m all caught up in my reverie.  When I realize that’s happened, I’ll start to give myself shit about it, and then I just stop.  Because I don’t have to do any of these things if I’m not feeling it.  But what I do have to do is learn to just let my heart be happy and my mind be quiet, one of the lone areas in life in which I am a late bloomer, and something I am actually learning to do at long last.


Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Several years ago, I worked on a sculptural piece about intimate partner violence. I wound up showing it in a gallery show, but installed it feeling like it wasn’t finished, and unsure of what would finish it.

It stayed the same for years, without any changes or additions being made. Both at the gallery show and in my house, people had strong, personal reactions to it, particularly DV/IPV survivors. In fact, my ex-partner and I made an agreement it wouldn’t be in a central part of the house because it was too hard for him to spend too much time with. Eventually, I felt like it would never be finished, or maybe it was finished, and I just wasn’t feeling it. If it was finished, it was such a large piece that it felt like it should be somewhere besides where I lived, especially if it was going to get relegated to a back room. The trouble is, anyone or any place where the topic matter would make sense, and where it would be the right thing….well, it would probably be the wrong thing. Donating something so triggering to a shelter, for instance, just would not work. So, it sat around some more.

As it got near time for me to move, I realized it shouldn’t move with me. Given the new space, it would just wind up unseen again. I still couldn’t think of the right person or place to donate it to where it could be shown. It also just really, truly, did not feel finished.

A statement of the painfully obvious variety: I’m stalwart. I tend to often be last man standing in many areas of my life, including with work and creative work. Attachment has really been my central area of challenge with Buddhism and life as a whole. Maybe it’s because so often in my life I had things or people snatched from me so much I never got to let something go of my own action and accord, maybe I’m just acquisitive, maybe it’s something else entirely, but I have a very hard time letting go of things, especially people, objects, work and communities. I wanted to engage in an active practice of letting something this big — spacially, emotionally, topically — go. I decided that I needed to let this go.

I enrolled Blue in the plan — it’s oak, and weighs about 80 gazillion pounds. On moving day, we went to put it in a local park that had seemed like the right place in my mind. But it wasn’t: not only were there people there at the time (you really aren’t supposed to just be leaving large artwork lying around), no placement felt right.

But on the way home, Blue stopped in front of a house on the block that I must have stopped in front of every day. It was the last remaining house on the block as old as ours, and had rather mysteriously been boarded up a couple years back, only to stay that way (and after it spent a year with the inside covered in tin foil, for some reason). It was sad, intimidating, dangerous, lonely and precarious; it felt like loss rendered architecturally.

It was where it wanted to go.

In thinking for so long about what would make it feel finished, it just never occurred to me that more didn’t need to be added to it. That, instead, it needed to be added to something else, then let go to be actively demolished, degraded and abandoned.

It went to where I felt finished with it, and where it also seemed to feel itself finished.

I had another once-gallery piece, or part of one. The window frame which was part of a larger collection within and around it; a frame once representing how I wanted both clarity in my own perceptions, and clarity from others in their perception of me.

That original piece had been dissembled because it felt like something that needed to change and keep changing. While it waited for its next life, though, I changed, too.

I stopped caring so much about being seen clearly, and started caring a lot more about my own clarity of vision, both in how I see myself and in how I see everything around me.

Which is why it lives here now, in the garden, in the midst of the vast green I get to sit in and with every day that has been nurturing exactly the kinds of clarity I have needed.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

I’m cross-posting a piece here from both The Guardian (where it was edited down for size) and at Scarleteen, and then I’ve a bit more to say.

* * *

All of us who work at clinics that provide abortion, or as abortion or reproductive rights educators or advocates know we do so at substantial risk. Women who come to our clinics as clients also know that they, too, may be at risk.  The slaying of Dr. Tiller yesterday is tragic and upsetting, but it is not surprising or new. We didn’t become scared for the first time yesterday.  We’ve always been scared, and we have always had cause to be scared.

The independent clinic I work for part-time had a branch firebombed three times in 1983 until it shut down.  In 1988, via Operation Rescue, unending and intense harassment of children from demonstrators in another of our clinics forced us to close our on-site clinic childcare center for clients and staff.  And our clinic, despite being one of the 40 or so in the U.S. which provides procedures through the second trimester like Tiller’s did (though Tiller’s was one of but three to go past 25 weeks to 28 weeks, the legal limit), could very well be counted as one which has it easy. We haven’t had an incident of violence for some time, most days we have but a few protestors, and we do not wear Kevlar to work.  None of our providers have been murdered.  Yet.

But all of us who work in the field live either with the threat or actuality of domestic antiabortion terrorism daily: at work, at home or anywhere at all.  Let’s refuse sugarcoating or denials that merely call it violence or paint it as random or isolated: what happens around abortion is not the same violence as someone shot during a minimart robbery.

Terrorism is generally defined as an act intended to create fear, perpetrated for an ideological goal. The Patriot Act is not something I support, but antiabortion violence fits squarely in its definition of domestic terrorism. Vandalizing or bombing clinics; stalking, threatening or harassing staff, clients or providers and/or organizing or aiding others to do so; publicly publishing the home addresses of providers or staff, names, photos and school addresses of their children; outcries for a war:  all of this and more could be easily classed as terrorism by the definitions our government has used for other violence or threats.

The murder of Dr. George Tiller at his church yesterday morning  — based on the information we have so far – was domestic terrorism, and terrorism which has been known and prevalent for some time.

It’s been going on in the United States since we have had legal abortion, and typically increases during times when our federal government is not outright antiabortion.  As Christina Page points out, the number of harassing phone calls to clinics since Obama took office has massively increased. She also notes that the murder of Dr. Tiller is eerily similar to the murder of Dr. David Gunn in 1993: that, too, happened only a few months into a new administration which was not antiabortion. Dr. Tiller was also shot the first time in that same year.  Rachel Maddow gives a good overview of the history of clinic violence here.

Some antichoice groups will call Tiller’s assailant a vigilante. But for those who use incendiary speech, who provided him with the information and comraderie that fueled him, it’s going to be tough to uphold that stance with anyone of intelligence. We all have freedom of speech, to be sure, but as with any freedom, that comes with responsibility.

Current Operation Rescue president Troy Newman says they denounce vigilantism, but the raging enticements provided en masse through their organization has always told a different tale.  The organization’s founder, Randall Terry, says his movement “should not tone down its rhetoric despite the killing of abortion doctor George Tiller,” and that Tiller was “a mass murderer and horrifically, he reaped what he sowed.”

When someone like Bill O’Reilly provocatively says again and again and again, that an abortion provider is a butcher who the law refuses to punish (nevermind that abortion is legal), when he calls abortion “execution” or talks about providers as those who “kill babies for money,” (as if all surgeries did not cost money); calls abortion clinics “death mills,” or reports (falsely) that Tiller will terminate pregnancies up to the due-date, he is NOT denouncing vigilantism, just like someone constantly and intentionally pouring gasoline on rising flames is not denouncing fire.

This kind of rhetoric and harassment and the fear it creates is something we’re faced with every day. And it has serious impact, even when no one is murdered.

It purposefully scares, intimidates and upsets the women who come to our clinics.  It intentionally clouds their decision-making. If one reproductive choice may or does involve things like being harassed, stalked or assaulted, you’re obviously going to take that into consideration in your a choice, even though fear or harassment should have no place in choices as important, personal and complex as those of reproduction.  Even for those unswayed by these actions, abortion in a context of shame and blame can make a choice one’d otherwise felt was best one of guilt and remorse.

The threat of harassment and violence can even keep women from coming to clinics when they were not seeking out abortion services at all. Here in the states, clinics like mine are where many women – particularly low-income, immigrant and teen women — also get their well-woman care, contraception or pregnancy tests, as many women are without health insurance or a private OB/GYN.

The threats, intimidation, vandalism and assault and the fear of them makes staffing clinics difficult, and make a job which is already emotionally demanding far tougher. Anyone getting any kind of surgery ideally needs a centered, relaxed and stable staff and a safe environment during their surgery: that’s no minor feat in this culture.  Clinic staff work long hours, often at low pay and with few or limited benefits. Even without clinic violence or the threat of it, it’s not an easy job: abortion isn’t just any surgery, and as with anything to do with the end of a pregnancy, whether it tends in termination or a live birth, our clients emotional needs can be great.

With all of this violence and intimidation so constant and pervasive, and with the actuality of the job itself often being less-than-ideal, why do so many of us stick around?

We stay is because we know that women need us to.  Many of us have been those women ourselves at one time or another.  We know from women: we understand our own needs.  And we’re scared sometimes, but not scared enough to leave women without choice and care.

A sign at Tiller’s clinic read, “Abortion is not a cerebral or a reproductive issue. Abortion is an issue of the heart. Until one understands the heart of a woman, nothing else about abortion makes any sense at all.” Dr. Tiller knew us, too. No one going back to work a day after having both arms shot, knowing it could happen again, is going to take that risk for cash or because they want to win.  Only someone who cares deeply for and about women, and has a very real grasp of the realities of women’s lives, is going to do that.

Obviously, the threat of something is not the same as that threat made real.  Some of the shared upset the reproductive health and abortion communities have right now is because we do feel even more unsafe than usual.  For those who knew Dr. Tiller personally, their personal loss is profound. But even for those of us who never met him or were not close to him, even for those fear has not increased, the loss is enormous.

It’s obviously important for the women receiving abortion and other reproductive healthcare to have as fantastic a doctor as possible, but it’s also very important for those of us working in the field to have our Dr. Tillers.

Like any field of practice, abortion has those who are adequate (and some less-than-adequate), some who are very good, and a few who are simply exceptional. Dr. Tiller wasn’t just any doctor; just any abortion provider or advocate:  he was an exceptional and inspirational doctor, provider and advocate. He was someone who set and held high standards of care, a quality of healthcare we all want to receive, especially when we are in crisis. He chose to work with some of the toughest cases; to include providing for a group of women with some of the greatest emotional needs, women who also had few other places to turn, despite that choice creating additional risks for him and resulting in greater harassment. His commitment to helping women never wavered in over thirty years of his practice. Just like anyone in any field, we have our heroes, and we all looked up to George Tiller.  Just like anyone in any field, having our heroes assassinated is devastating, particularly when they are assassinated for being so exceptional.

Ginny Cassidy-Brinn, an ANRP and the author of Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth, works at my clinic, and is someone I look up to the way I have Dr. Tiller.  I want to leave you with words she shared with me yesterday. I think they’re the way Dr. Tiller would want us to best use our sadness or fear and the way he so bravely used his own.  I think they are what those of us in the field, as well as those who want to understand or support us or the women we serve, need to hear.

Like anyone who knew him even slightly, I know that he was very brave. He faced so much hatred on a daily basis: he knew the risks he was taking.  But he simply thought that women’s being allowed to decide whether to carry a pregnancy or not was an essential, basic human right.  So, he continued despite the attacks and threats. He was diligent in protecting himself, — I don’t think he had any desire to be a martyr — but he continued.  He was very careful as a physician: using the safest, best techniques.  He did a lot to foster communication amongst abortion providers to make abortion safer.

I keep thinking about the old Joe Hill quote, “Don’t mourn, organize.”  I intend to mourn, but I also intend to carry on his legacy–to try to be as brave, loving, politically savvy and competent in my work as he was.  And to try, to the best of my ability, to inspire others as well.

* * *

This has hit me much harder than I expected: it’s been tough for me to shake it off.  It’s not like I expected it to feel like a trifle, but considering how aware I am of this kind of violence, how much I know to expect it, I’m surprised at my response and how it lingers.

On the afternoon that Dr. Tiller was assassinated — again, I’m irritated with it not being made clear by our leadership that this kind of murder is a political assassination just like the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X or John and Robert Kennedy –  in an effort to find some way to work through my feelings without more hours of the crying that was hurting my face, I headed out back to do some weeding.  My garden had become seriously overgrown.

I was ripping those plants out like nobody’s business, feeling more and more anger with my sadness, and was struck by a (perhaps obvious) metaphor. I snapped a few shots trying to capture what was going on with me.

I think some of why my sadness and anger is lingering is that I feel we’re left so adrift, those of us who work in any aspect of reproductive justice, especially in or around abortion.  Yes, we have a new administration now which is more supportive of our rights when it comes to some policies. However, knowing that violence has begun again, in part because of that fact, I need a strong response to it: I need acknowledgment of the terrorism it is and always has been, clear statements that it is unacceptable, I need everyone and their uncle to shut the hell up about this “common ground” bullshit: my body isn’t common ground.  (Okay, so mine kind of is, but you know what I mean.) Women and our lives are not common ground, despite thousands of years of being treated like we are. Those of us who work in this field, who work around it, who work for reproductive justice have never sought to stamper on anyone’s rights or ideas: asking us for common ground is silly at best, and a grave insult at worst.

These are the loose thoughts I came back inside with, hands cathartically bloodied from weeding with such intensity:

An inexperienced gardener will often ask how it is, exactly, we know which the weeds are, and which are not.

The most simple answer is,
of course,
that I know what I want in my garden, and I know what I don’t. I get to make that determination because it’s all growing (or not) in my soil.

My neighbor or some bird passing by might drop a seed in it; that does not alter whose ground it is, and who’s right it is to choose what grows there: it is my own, and sovereign. It is my own say, and only mine, what gets nurtured and kept, and what is pulled, or let go to seed. However lovely everything growing might be, whatever it’s right is to grow, it may be that this plant will keep that one from growing. It may be that I either cannot afford or simply do not care to grow anything at all this year or that one — even every year there is — leaving the soil fertile, but barren.  I may even want to burn out all the seed entirely.  Again, my soil: my right to do with it what I will.

And sometimes it may be that this plant or that may well have grown into something more marvelous than I thought it would, and I will never see that result. And it may be that I accidentally pull a plant I did not intend to: but that is my regret, if I have one, to carry; my sorrow to hold, if I have sorrow.  All of that is the nature of my life and my life in this particular body: no matter what we do, no matter what we choose, there is a certain and unique weight that lives between our hips and in our hearts.

And we can’t always tend to our gardens on our own.  If we’re lucky, some other gentle gardener who understands, and cares to help, with no claim of ownership over the ground that is ours, will lend a hand. In the midst of storm, his hands, too, may become injured or bloodied; her heart, too, may sometimes be heavy.  This is not light business: whatever we do, even if we neglect the soil completely, blood, sweat, a tear, an ache, a strain and all the thick mud of our lives is unavoidable.

The best of help — genuine help — will not second-guess, will not presume ownership or a share of our crops, but will simply ask us what we need and then tend to it generously, offering counsel of his own only if we ask for it first. She will not ask if we’re absolutely certain we want these plants to go or that to stay; he will not enter into philosophical arguments with us about their own ideas about the way to garden.  They will not seek to speak for the weeds, nor for us: they are listeners with gentle nods, able hands who trust our hearts and their own and respect the soil.

Friday, April 24th, 2009

it said it saw itself as a very tall tree, and so I saw it that way, too.

After the weekend before last, I feel very, very clear on the fact that life on the island would fit my wants and needs very nicely.  I’ve known for a long time that I wanted, at some point in my life, to live more quietly, more rural,  I just thought it was going to be a bit more down the road than this.  But I think the only reason I thought that was that I didn’t see it as feasible any earlier.  It is, in fact, feasible sooner, as feasible as living exactly where I am is.  In some ways, it may be even more so.

The whole weekend, I kept doing that thing one does in a heavenly place, where you say to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could live here?”  Usually, when I’m somewhere where I say that to myself, it’s a pipe dream.  In this case, every time I thought that, I’d then remember that I CAN live there.  The rents and expenses are really no better or worse than they are in the city, everything I have here on the mainland I could have on that island, and getting to the city from Bainbridge (there are other islands, but this would be the most convenient for me) is exceptionally easy and highly pleasant.  I know locals here kvetch about the ferries a lot, but having grown up with subways and inner-city buses, I tend to find them a far more pleasant means of transportation than what I usually ride on.  I wouldn’t have to take the ferry much anyway, as I really only need to be in the city for outreach/clinic work two times a week at a maximum.  And two of our clinic staff live on the island, so carpooling is also an option.

I just felt better there, separate from the fact that I was also there visiting with Blue, who I hadn’t seen in five weeks.  I breathed more deeply, my skin looked immediately better.  I could walk out on the porch in the morning stark naked without anyone’s notice or care and take a soak; have my first sip of coffee with the moist breeze on my skin.  The quiet both soothed and inspired, and the company of trees, ferns, birds and water felt more like me these days than the company of tall buildings, construction detritus, bar mania and a ton of people everywhere I turn.  The rhythm of the day there fit my own so well, sending me to sleep early and rousing me to wake before the sun came up.  Doing the dishes by hand felt better than loading them into a machine: doing simple things and doing them more simply is so grounding for me.  Taking a long hike on the dirt felt better than a walk on the pavement.  The people were warmer, everything was smaller; more intimate, yet more private all at once.  My head felt more clear, my heart more at rest, to the point that I could put most thoughts of work away save flashes of inspiration.

I felt much more like island people than mainland people.  I felt much more at home. I felt much more like myself, much more like I fit, than I have felt in Seattle.

While I was there, I started to do some planning.  Ultimately, if I could sell another book in the next six months, I could handle the financial aspects of this move with incredible ease.   It’d be doable without that, but that would make it nearly a cash cakewalk. I will need to find myself some kind of reliable junker to drive, which means a) getting a new license (I let my old one expire ten years ago, having no need of it), and b) purchasing said vehicle.  I may also need to consider finding a roomie, but I may not: it really depends on what I can find to rent for myself or not.  In a lot of ways, I’ve felt so alone in my own home over the past couple of years, as well as in this city, that literally being alone, not just feeling alone, seems very important and like the right thing for me.

I do think that as much as I have always loved the solitude of being in more isolated spaces, and as much as I need to be alone in the near future, it will probably take some adjusting on my end to be out there alone.  But I realized there is a very easy and fantastic solution to that matter, which is simply calling and emailing some of the people in the world I love and miss the most and inviting them to come stay somewhere beautiful with me for a week or two during the first few months after I move.

Briana is going to come up here to visit in June or July, and wants to come see the island with me, too. (Mya is coming around then, too, maybe I’ll drag her over for a day, as well.)  I’d love more than anything for she and The Baby Liam (who isn’t a baby anymore, but I plan to call him that well into his adulthood, in alignment with my job as his obnoxious auntie) to be close to me, even to live with me, but given custody arrangements with his father, that may or may not be an option.   But it’s likely also possible for the two of them to be on one of those visits when I love, regardless.  I can also ask Becca, Elise, Christa, Mark, Mya, Heath, Fish, my mother, my father…any number of people who I’d love visits with anyway.  I think it’s a workable plan.

I don’t know when it will happen, but I’m thinking fall or winter.  Like I said before, one of the toughest parts of this is that my moving out of the city at all also equals my moving out from my living arrangement with Mark, and even thinking about that is so very hard and makes me feel tremendously sad. It’s probably right for us, regardless, to start moving towards not living together,  but that doesn’t make it easy, and it’s something very heavy in the lightness of my feelings about being somewhere else where I think I will be happy as far as my location goes.

And as I’m talking about somewhere else, I’m packing to go somewhere else yet again. After a week from hell where I have had to be on way, way too much, I’m heading back to Chicago for a week to visit family, get some grant work started, to spend a few days with Fish (who moved from here to there a few months ago, go figure) and to see Blue.  AND, perhaps coolest of all, to have a 5th grade slumber party reunion with two of my other closest friends as a child who I haven’t seen in decades.  I don’t know if there’s much cooler than that.

What I do know is that I’m wiped and need a soft, warm bed.  And that the idea of having it somewhere as lovely as the islands is a marvelous — and attainable! — daydream.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Just another quickie from me before I forget.

Heath (Mark’s best friend who has become my good friend as well over the years) and I went to see Blindness on Sunday.

…and it blew my brain right out of my head.  It was one of the more compelling pieces of art I’ve seen in a good, long while, to the degree that it was incredibly humbling.  I love pieces of work that make me feel like I just don’t even rate as an artist.  I also — and I know there is a good deal of disagreement on this — think it’s one of the more feminist films I’ve seen in a long time.

And as a visual artist?  Bloody hell, was it a feast for the eyes, and I’m so glad I saw it on a huge screen in a dark theater.  There’s a gorgeous still in nearly every freaking frame.  If I didn’t know firsthand from being around sets on mark that I cannot stand the dynamic of film sets and the process of filmmaking, it’d make me want to be a filmmaker.

A few caveats: first and foremost, there is a rape scene in the movie which could be incredibly triggering.  Oddly, it wasn’t triggering for me — for a few minutes there, I was on the edge of my seat figuring I should be ready to step out if I needed to — and I’m not sure why, save that I tend to be triggered less by scenes of rape which were not meant to be triggering.  But it is very potently real in many ways, particularly if your triggers are about words and sounds.  But at the same time, I appreciated that scene a lot, because I didn’t perceive any diminishment in it or around it: it was in no way made sexy, and in no way felt contrived.  It was ugly, ugly business.

And that’s part of what really got me with this film: it had this range of humanity from the most ugly to the most beautiful that I found really rare.

I should also mention that I do, and have always, have a love for apocalypse films.  Demented as it is, they comfort me.  I like seeing the reset button on existence hit. I also tend to go a little dark in my tastes and like going there.  Has anyone else seen it?  I’d love to gab about it.

That’s it from me: I just knew I’d space.  I am FINALLY done with that freaking mailing, and also finally finished a big, personal piece for RH Reality Check that wore me the heck out.   The last big thing on my desk before I can get back to my usual level of mania is the voting guide, so I am hoping I can get that done by the time the weekend is over.  I should know by now that sustaining my usual degree of overwork and overextension has me at my limit as it is, and be able to see when I’m trying to push past it, but alas.  Someday I’ll learn my lesson.

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Not much to see here, but if you’re in Minneapolis, I’ll be back there for a photography project for Elise at Fourth Street between the 17th and 23rd of June.

Because I will have to have at least one of my cameras fixed for the event (and because Yelehneb was awesome enough to give me a coupon for a repair as a birthday present), even though I’m still behind on editing, if anyone local there wants a photo session, I can probably fit one or two in so long as they’re during one of those weekdays and clients have a space for us to work in, rather than something I need to arrange.  As well, while at 4th St. I can do author photos for anyone attending who needs something new, and I’m happy to be flexible with rates.

Suffice it to say, I’ll also email friends this week to set some time up.  I don’t know for the life of me how Minneapolis wound up feeling like home when I only lived there six years, but it did, and I still miss everyone there ferociously.  I am also very much looking forward to some swarthy, muggy Midwest summer.

Whoever said summer actually happens is Seattle was a big ‘ol liar.  Summer is when you SWEAT like nobody’s business, not when it’s okay to go without a sweater.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

blaue engel

I’ve decided that for the next month or so — however long I need — that when I journal here, I’m going to photojournal rather than communicate with words and text. Even that’s tough, posting a photo or a piece of artwork and not saying anything about it. I tell you, you’d think that my odd little mind is convinced that if I shut my yap, the world will stop turning.

One of the challenges I’ve always had when it comes to being creative in more than one medium is striking a balance. It’s fine that I have phases where one medium is the primary one, and the others more secondary. That’s not the issue, or at least not the issue when those phases are days, weeks, maybe even a couple months. But sometimes, any one way of communicating, of creating basically monopolizes all others. That one way will rudely shove every other medium into the closet and lock the door, only letting them out when they whine and say pretty, pretty please, and sometimes, refuses to open it at all, no matter the plaintive wailing, which gets softer and softer as time goes by until one can barely hear them at all.

I feel utterly steamrolled by my own words lately, both in writing and in talking. Not only is that not leaving room for anything else, they’ve been so fever pitch that managing them in the way any writer needs to has become far more difficult than it should be.

I’m missing visual imagery these days. While images certainly have things to say, they’re communicated in a silence which I find meditative. It helps me listen to the world with my eyes and my more intuitive senses. (That sounded both completely convoluted and cheeseball, but so be it.) I’m more observant of everything around me when I do photography or other visual artwork, and that’s an important meditation for someone who is a far better talker than she is a listener. (Being hyper and a bit ADD also is a factor in this.) Words tend to energize me and work me up, whereas the visual — and music, too — calms, stills, quiets and centers.

I may even just write for myself a bit in the interim. It’s been a long while since I’ve done that, sparing my to-do lists, which while they have a flavor all their own, and are occasionally amusing, aren’t exactly the deepest form of personal expression.

Of course, I can’t get away with not writing anything, nor without conversing, simply because for two out of three jobs, I need to do those things. But I think that even limiting it in one avenue will be the good news.

So, you get a piece from a full set I put up today, of Melissa (Happy birthday, gal!), which is apt, really, and not just because her setting and posture speak — as it were — to some of how I’m feeling at the moment. Even though we spent this day last October talkingtalkingtalking, there’s still that quiet, that calm, that observation and meditative focus I get when I take pictures sewn throughout.

And now you get me being quiet. Starting now. Here I am, quiet, quiet, quiety-quiet. La la la, wordless bliss. Okay, no really: right now. No, wait, I — now. Quiet. Hmm. This kind of reminds me of The Monster At The End of This Book. Fine, seriously. No more words.

(Oh, hush.)

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

(Just bumping this up as a reminder: print sale is still going on!)

print sale!

I’m getting ready to roll out a print club subscription service, so I’ve been prepping a good deal of my work for printing. In advance of doing that, I’m having a sale on a handful of pieces of mine which have been people’s Flickr and general favorites for a little while. I’ve also created one special print version of a piece that I will only offer up to the general public for the next month.

My print prices will also be going up in January, so I’m doing a last-ditch deal with these, both to do my appreciators a favor and to try and do myself one in terms of trying to raise funds to sustain my own arse and Scarleteen’s tucas as well.

Print prices for these five, for December only, are as follows:
• $35 for one print
• $60 for two prints ($30 ea.)
• $80 for three prints ($27 ea.)
• $125 for all five ($25 ea.)
Shipping for any amount is five bucks, unless you’re out of the US, and then additional charges will apply. All prints are unframed and unmatted. Too, if you’d like to buy more than one and any are gifts, I can send prints you’ve bought as a group to different places. Prints are signed, and it’s up to you if you’d like me to sign on the margin or on the back.

I print on Ilford Galerie Pearl paper with a laser printer, the combination of which creates very rich colors with some lovely light and great staying power. I ship prints via FedEx Ground these days, because UPS irritates the holy hell out of me and I’ve had them wreck things way too often in the past.

If you want to see any of these a little larger, take a look (listed clockwise from the top right corner): • Split 8.5×11″ sheet, actual print size 8×10.5″

Floral Cradle (special edition) 8.5×11″ sheet, actual print size 7.25×9.25″

Speculate 8.5×11″ sheet, actual print size 8×10.5″

Eliza Doolittle’s Blues* 8.5×11″ sheet, actual print size 8×10″

at home in her hands* 8.5×11″ sheet, actual print size 8×10″

Want in? Here’s the scoop:
You just need to email me with the titles and quantities of prints you’d like, and where you’d like them shipped at heatherATheathercorinnaDOTcom.
2) I will invoice you via Paypal, where you may pay me via your Paypal balance or by credit card. Once your payment clears, I’ll prep your print and ship it out to you within a week’s time, so you should have your prints within a week and a half in most cases.

* Both of these are print versions of collage or multimedia pieces.

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

The two panels I was part of at the NARAL youth leadership summit yesterday were pretty freaking awesome. It was SO fantastic to see rooms brimming over with women in high school and college full of enthusiasm, feverishly taking notes, having no trouble at all asking questions or inserting themselves into conversations.

For the Art as Activism panel, I sat with these two freaking brilliant women, and suffice it to say — though this is easier to explain to people who know me in person and are familiar with the fact that I’m very spaztastic in my energy — Christa and I immediately leaped on the notion that we have GOT to do some kind of work together, starting, like, yesterday. But cocktails first: always cocktails first.

The other panel I did was called “Be the Media You Wish to See.” I realized halfway through that clearly, I’d interprteted that as “How to Overthrow the Media.” I’m not sure that was what they’d had in mind. Now, I don’t think that was an unreasonable interpretation on my part, but when one of the questions that came up was how choice was represented in corporate OR mainstream media (I was all, “Whaddya mean OR?”), it became clear I might be on a slightly different wavelength.

So, per usual lately, when I heard my words starting to come out of my mouth — rather than, you know, having the distinct sense I was purposefully and intentionally forming them — I realized I was likely sounding a little outer limits. I started talking to the girls and young women (and a couple young men) about how they need to be dangerous — how it is seriously awesome to be dangerous — how the price paid in a country like we live in for taking big risks with activism and our words is so relatively small, even when the worst happens. How — in response to being asked if I thought we were going to see a change in how repro rights and women’s bodies and abortion was rep’d in the media — they’re poised to have things change but have got to just take the risks right NOW; that those big changes will only happen when they DO something. (I also brought up that there is this perpetual rift between older feminists and younger feminists where the elder feel like the younger aren’t doing enough, and how it’s pretty impossible to tell if that’s apt, or just projection, but either way, everyone has STILL got to freaking start acting up and making some noise.)

That was the point at which I made clear I knew I was getting a bit intense, but they were really receptive, so I went on. I talked about how we don’t hear young people’s voices enough, and when they really speak up, they get heard, often because the idea that they’re apathetic, self-absorbed, stupid, whatever is so prevalent. I mean, that’s an awful stereotype, but it’s one they can seriously use against the whole system to empower themselves. Crappy as stereotypes are, when your character and actions fly in the face of them, it can make it a lot easier to be seen and heard. I was all, “Fuck the mainstream media and trying to be part of it, make your own,” I went on and on telling them they were powerful. I probably said that a few too many times, really, but then, what’s too many times to hear you are powerful?

For sure, I got a bit kooky, but you know, it’s not very often that you get to do events with a room full of young people, especially young women, at an event because they WANT leadership roles. (Plus, given the panel before was three of us artists clearly pulling energy from each other’s kooky, the kook-factor was inevitable.)

It’s even less often that when you talk, it doesn’t have to be academic and dense, but rather, you can just wave your bloody-red pompoms made from a million tampon strings and cheer the hell out of a bunch of young women. Too, I keep feeling like I see this really weird sell for feminism or activism that tries to say that it’s great because it’s sexy, it’s cool, whatever. And it’s not. It’s not sexy or cool, and it won’t make you fit in. But since when was anyone ever drawn to activism to fit in, anyway? From where I’m sitting, the fringe benefits of being an activist have always been about rebelling, about opting OUT, dropping out, tuning out; about being a renegade, which sure seems a lot more interesting to both me now and to 17-year-old-me than being sexy or cool, eh? At this point, you can buy sexy or cool at Wal-Mart, for crying out loud. Their value is incredibly limited, often manufactured in sweatshops, and really quite cheap.

Despite my weirdness, it seemed very appreciated, and I had a DAMN good time doing it. I felt very, very energized leaving. Because of Scarleteen, so often the majority of young people that I encounter in a day are in some kind of crisis or confusion, empowered only after doing some work with them, so when I get opportunites to see a group of them with some real clarity, feeling that empowerment from the minute they walk through the door, my job being to amp what is already there — and in abundance — up? It was a real gift.

I had to go look it up, because after Ben dropped me off at home — we ate everything in sight at Wayward after he’d picked me up after my event — I kept having these snippets of words that were echoing my thoughts in my head, and I couldn’t remember whose they were, and I knew they were far too concise to be mine. So, I was not at all suprised to be reminded that they were bell hooks’ words, from “Teaching to Transgress,”

My hope emerges from those places of struggle where I witness individuals positively transforming their lives and the world around them. Educating is always a vocation rooted in hopefulness.

Yes, yes, and a million kinds of yes.

This has been a week of some really cool women, actually. This week, Renee Walker and I also connected, and had a cool, quick gab session on the phone on Friday about ways we could join forces. As it turns out, her sister is a NARAL Washington board member, so I got to briefly touch base with her yesterday, as well.

* * *
I’ve continued to think on all the flaws — not like this is anything new — of the until-marriage stuff, and look at the commentary. One of the conclusions I’m coming to which I wasn’t quite at before was that even when you set aside the very primary issues — that we simply know that marriage, in and of itself, doesn’t create any kind of unilateral protections when it comes to general or sexual health, or emotional or sexual well-being, that not everyone can get married, even when you set aside that WHO one is married to, and what a given marriage is like is not a minor part of the whole equation — we’re still left with one very big problem.

That big problem is that in anything where there is more than one person involved, we cannot (I’d say should not, but when we’re talking about conservatives, that is very much a point where we are in no sort of agreement) control the other person or their behaviour.

We can’t say marriage is lifelong monogamy, or that we could make it so because we can only choose that for ourselves: we can’t choose it or control it in a partner. We can’t choose or control if that other person to BE married to sticks around lifelong or even shows up — a commentor brought that up again, and I’d mentioned it as well, but buried in a sea of text, alas. We can’t control or somehow pre-determine the previous history of anyone we marry or partner with, or somehow guarnatee anyone’s honesty who isn’t us.

Now, from a vantage-point of very traditional marriage, I understand personally overlooking this flaw, or not seeing it that way, when faith — as in, having faith in all things, and privileging faith over reason — is a very big deal. Trouble is that when we’re talking about sexual health, faith doesn’t cut the mustard, and it never has. I’d also posit that if, for either or both parties, or an overarching culture, control — not self-discipline, not self-determination, not harmony or comparrion — is a key factor in the idea that marriage can somehow guarantee sexual health or sexual happiness and satisfaction, then we’ve got yet another conundrum, because that’s something else we know has historically (and still) hindered, not helped, and often done outright harm, rather than given protections, people’s sexual health and sexual well-being.

Sexual health initiatives, to work, always have to solely or primarily be about, and start with, our OWN actions and choices, about what we can do, ourselves, with or without cooperation from anyone else, to protect our sexual health and honor our sexuality. It’s simply not doable to improve or protect our sexual health with things we cannot control, or by putting our health, happiness and safety in someone else’s hands. This is, of course — and I say this without judgment — going to be something that is very difficult to rectify if the meat or whole of the way you live your life is about trying to put your fate or your life into the hands of an entity you cannot even have a conversation with, and if greater moral value is put on being passive than on being active.

The email overload on this score has finally seemed to subside. Really, I don’t get whirlwinds of conservatism like this very often, it’s only once every year or so, sometimes less often than that. And again, when I do get them, they’re not from the actual youth and young adults I serve: if they were, if my own clients were telling me that what I was doing or saying was not working for them, obviously, I’d be sitting down and having some big thinks on how I can better serve them. But I don’t: we even regularly have a small base of youth waiting for marriage and they do just fine at Scarleteen, laregly because they are making that choice for THEMSELVES, not seeking to enforce it on everyone else, or on a population they aren’t even a part of.

When I get these kids of emails, they are only rarely from people who are even parents of teens. Most frequently, they’re from people who aren’t parents at all, and more often than not, from people who don’t even interact with teens and young adults in any way. If they’re parents, they tend to be parents of very young children. But mostly, from what I can gather, what most have in common is that they’re just not people comfortable with sexuality, their own or anyone else’s. You do a job like mine long enough, you don’t have to be psychic when you read or listen to someone talking about sex and sexuality to be able to suss out, pretty decently, an overall tone when it comes to what their sex lives are like. And overwhelmingly, I read a flat-line when it comes to sex with most of these folks. I mean, it’s easy to argue that there isn’t much or any value in sex simply being enjoyable or a good time when you have never had a good time.

It reminds me a bit of parts of growing up poor and among poor families. I know my mother got a good deal of this in her family: my father’s didn’t live long enough in his adult life to find out about them. And I’ve seen it in other poor families around, too, this weird idea that you want your kids to do better than you did, but either only so MUCH better, or only better if when it gets better for them, it gets better for you, too. I get the impression that the same goes with plenty of families, especially conservative families, when it comes to sex and relationships — that there is this personal agenda that isn’t just about faith or about real sexual health or real happiness, but about having a really hard time figuring out how you’d deal with it if your kids were so much happier than you were when it came to sex. Maybe that’s because they feel like their kids would start to really know how unhappy their elders were, and people don’t want that shown up? I don’t know: just thinking out loud, really.

I really appreciated Courtney Martin’s “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters,” and in one part of it, she talked about how her generation grew up with mothers who were encouraged to be Superwomen. She spoke to the conflict she felt with that — how while she heard her mother saying you can do anything, while Mom was trying to do EVERYTHING; heard her mother saying that being able to do everything she could possibly do every single day was the best thing ever, when she looked at her mother, what she saw was not a woman elated, but a woman completely exhausted. And I know, even just from listening to kids and teens talk about parents who are pushing the wait-until-marriage stuff, that they’re often seeing some of what I’m talking about here. They hear adults and parents saying everything about sex and love is so much better when done this one particular way, and even for the minority of them saying that who even did it that way, what they often see — which is not sexually satisfied, energized people — stands in great conflict with what they’re being told.

But it’s to the point where I’m wondering if I can’t just come up with a sort of pre-emptive note in our contact form that just read something like, Before emailing, please first go have an orgasm or two. Then take a bath, or maybe a walk or a swim. Cook something decadent, and eat more than you think you should. Have a glass of wine, or some amazing juice of some kind. Get the dirt on your hands, and leave what’s left under your fingernails there for the rest of the day. Dance like a dope or sing something much too loudly and slightly off-key. Give someone a big bear hug. Play hooky. Look in the mirror, naked, and say, with great conviction, “I love you.” If you really still need to send me that email, then be my guest.

All of which, come to think of it, sounds far more like what I should be doing on a Sunday morning than writing in my office.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

So, up to ten miles round-trip now: I spent an hour yesterday afternoon sitting under a highway bridge at my mid-point near UW.

This is goodness. My hamstrings and quads currently disagree, but what the hell do they know?

It’s really good for me to do my daily sitting out of doors, rather than indoors, and attaching it to movement in some way. It always has been, really. In fact, at the first meditiation community I ever went to in Chicago, I had someone next to me complain once that my bouncing on my feet was bothering them. I resisted the urge to tell them that I knew I wasn’t moving the floor, that they weren’t supposed to have their eyes open anyway, so there, and that meditation is supposed to be all about working to tune out outside static and get in harmony with your surroundings, so they should consider me their special helper then, shouldn’t they? SNAP!

I resisted that urge because any of those comments and most certainly the snap would have been even less appropriate than the initial complaint, but also because I didn’t want to be the snappity-snip in the middle of a giant group meditation, which has absolutely zip to do with my spiritual growth and absolutely everything to do with preferring someone else be caught holding the asshole bag, by the by.

I’ve generally done better with walking meditation than seated. I’m not looking forward to the couple of months here where biking isn’t going to be an option often, but hey: it’s at least a shorter period of time to be away from it than it was in the midwest.

I realize, too, that my best meditating in this new ritual happens twice. It happens once when I take my sitting break at a mid-point — especially with things for my eyes to take in and associate, I’m such a visual learner — and the happy lasts the rest of the ride home, but even more so, it happens the first few minutes I get on my bike. I’m not thinking about the challenge of the hills, I’m not thinking about if it rains, I’m not thinking about where I’m going to go, and I’m not worried yet about being hit by a car: I’m just flying down the street feeling the breath in my lungs, the strong force of my body, and the wind on my face. I feel freed. I’m not thinking about anything but those moments for long enough that I can’t determine when they start or they end.

I think doing this is also me making a certain peace with Seattle that’s been slow to grow. I don’t dislike it here, not at all, but it very much doesn’t feel like Home. I’m not sure it ever will, not completely, and that’s okay — the landscape is just so different than the one that registers as home in my head (which is odd, because I feel very at home in Mexico, even without that registry). It’s beautiful all the same, and it’s certainly home for now. Given how slow everything often seems to be to warm here, perhaps that’s as it should be; that I should be as slow to warm to it and it seems to be to me.

(I’m keeping a photo journal of sorts of some of these sessions here for me to have a handful of visual koans for myself — my bike is being my self-portrait stand-in, it seems.)

* * *
So, for the first time I know of as of yet, I missed out on a big opportunity because I’m not someone’s mother. A production company for a big TV studio contacted me about needing a teen expert and wanting me, but that the gig required said expert being a Mom.

I walked out of my office after this brief conversation and into the kitchen, where Mark was hanging out. I very calmly, but with great resignation, voiced that I’d apparently passed the age where I was going to get penalized for BEING someone’s mother, and entered into the one where I was going to get penalized for NOT being someone’s mother.

I had to wonder if at any point there is an age for women where it’s neither considered too early nor too late for to be mothers when it comes to our careers and our market value.

I’m thinking not.

* * *

I talked to my father on the phone yesterday, who I didn’t know had climbed on a group bus to from Chicago to go protest for the Jena 6 two days ago: he’d just gotten home when I called. Not only am I supremely impressed he was able to battle his worsening agoraphobia to do that, it also makes me really happy.

I know, I know, activism is always supposed to be primarily about whatever cause or group or person you’re being active for, and I agree. But in my father’s case, especially since he feels so useless so much of the time, him being able to essentially do something that was like the civil rights movement work he once did, something he feels so strongly about, and something that made him feel so useful, is a really big deal. Him giving up the $50 that’s very little to others, but a big lot of money for him, to go is important. And it was a great experience for him, being able to go and step up, and also just being able to talk to other people on the bus there and back to whom it all matters. He sounded so happy, so energized.

We have had strange conversations about racism, my father and I. Not so strange, all things considered, but they’re sometimes not what one’d expect from a guy who once took fire hoses in the face to combat racism, and who ditched what easily could have been his best romantic relationship to do that work. He’s very anti-affirmative action, for instance, primarily because he feels like it’s asking my generation to “pay” for something that other generations did. I disagree with him on this point, I always have. For starters, I don’t feel like we’re paying for anything, that there is any sort of price I pay for affirmative action at all: while I don’t have a lot of privilege, I am visibly white, and even with things like affirmative action, privileges are and have been extended to me that are not and have not been to those of color. I don’t see anyone of color taking anything away from me with it, and I also feel like any band-aid we can have while the still wide-oepn wound of racism remains fresh and bloody is important. Really, I could care less about it from my vantage-point: it doesn’t hurt me in any way at all, and even if it did, I’m aware enough of the privilege I do have that when my privilege increases someone else’s burden, I want to do what I can to bring that in better balance. I’ve learned this from a lot of people and places in my life, but it’s odd to be pointing this out to a man who may well have been the first person to teach me to do that. Let’s even say that somehow, policies like affirmative action actually made it so that we whiteys were on the bottom of the olde race hierarchy for a time (yeah, I’m laughing, too): we’ll freaking well live. Everyone else has for a damn long time, after all.

Besides, it’s not like people of my generation are not still doing exactly the things that make affirmative action needed. Oh, if only.

My Pop is often of the mind that the playing field is somehow already level.

Mind, the neighborhood he lives in, the one we used to live in together, is over 80% of color. It’s also exceptionally dangerous, being one of the biggest gang neighborhoods in Chicago, and also THE place for metric arseloads of dealing and prostitution (yes, you’d think he’d realize that that alone should be a big, neon sign that the playing field when it comes to race is hardly level, but alas). White people TIPTOE through that neighborhood unless they’re cops, and no one with half a brain is going to be spouting racist bullshit on a regular basis over there, but only because of a fear of being directly hurt for doing so. He VERY infrequently leaves that neighborhood.

By virtue of barely being off-street, my father also looks that part. In other words, many of the same kinds of biases racist people have against people of color come into play with homeless people, so. I was trying to explain to him on the phone that when I find myself in spaces and situations where no one knows who I am, what my background or beliefs are; when all they can see is what sex I am and what color, I hear this crap a’plenty. When Briana and I were at the State fair in MN during my last visit, we got a serious doozy, as an example.

We saw a bathroom where the line wasn’t too bad, and while neither of us had to go, I figured it was best to go in advance so that when I was about to wet my pants, I wasn’t going to have to stand in one of those lines. So, in line we went. In a few minutes, two or three pre-teen black girls stepped out of the line for a minute, and walked past us, pretty clearly to go see what was taking so long and how bad the wait really was. When they turned around, they appeared to be doing that little bob one does when one has to pee like a racehorse. I asked if they had to go pretty bad, and got given the “ohmygodohmygodI’mgoingtopeeonthefloor” look we all get when we’ve hit that point, and so just said they could just take my place in line, since I really didn’t have to go, anyway, and certainly not that bad.

Behind Bri was a perfect blond woman with her perfect blond children in her perfectly shiny stroller and her perfectly shiny clothes, and the moment I did that, I heard her say, quite audibly, “What is this, affirmative action?”

I made a point not to turn around, because I just did not know what would have come out of my mouth if I did. Bri did turn, and shot her a look, because she then said (not at all apologetically), “I’m sorry, I’m a redneck.” Because that justifies everything, you know. Without the look, she likely wouldn’t have said anything at all, and part of saying what she did was based on her presumption that everyone around her was also racist, because most of the people around her were also white. So comfortable is someone like that in that, that they WILL say something like that, loudly, nearly anywhere because they’ve no reason at all to fear that they’ll be unsupported in their sentiments or be harmed in any way for them.

So, I’m telling my Dad this as an example, and explaining that of COURSE she would not have said anything like that if the girls I let go ahead of me were white. Or her kids. She likely wouldn’t have said anything at all, really. I told my Dad about the time Mark and I were at that B&B in Whiterock, right after Katrina, and how the older Canadian woman who owned it with her husband literally asked me, in absolute seriousness, why “those” people ever “chose” to live in that area way back when in the first place. And how I sat there, floored, trying to drop clues about the history of slavery and the legacy of poverty and the boon of being with one’s family in the hopes that with one, two, maybe even three, she’d realize what freaking stupid things she was saying sooner rather than later. I dropped a lot of clues, and some not so hinty-direct statements. She never got it. We excused ourselves from breakfast early and got the hell out of there.

Oh, I have stories, we all have these stories. But I don’t want to sit recounting them: they’re just too maddening, even to me.

My father just kept saying to me, the other day, that he just could not, would not, believe things were still like this in 2007. He finally at least said that he just didn’t want to. I tried to explain that my impression with this generation in particular (high school and college-age right now), was that I’m seeing a lot of hardcore resentment amoung plenty of youth when it comes to racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism, the works. Plenty seems to feel like and express that asking them to take stock of their privilege and consider it when dealing with others is something they are entitled NOT to do (yes, I know, it’s such an obvious symptom of the thing that it’s not even ironic: it’s plain old literal), that they should not HAVE to do (because it’s such a strain on them to act and speak with compassion), and that I’m a big old asshole for even suggesting they do. So much of the ugly history of racism isn’t something many even know or care to know, and for those who do, it often seems very far away, when it’s really only-yesterday stuff, and in many ways, still-today stuff. I could go on about this for a solid year, really, it’s one of the toughest parts for me of working with young people right now, but the point is, his awareness of this isn’t so great.

My Dad is also all about everything really boiling down to class issues: I got my first socialism from him, to be sure. In some respect, I agree with him, but in others, I really don’t. (And we’ve had similar discussions about sexism.) Mostly, I don’t think we can untangle all of these things so easily, especially given the ways they intersect, and for whom they intersect most. But perhaps more to the point, I don’t find that most people are sophisticated enough, or maybe more accurately have the desire or the interest in deconstructing and examining all of this enough — because when you do, of course, you have to take more personal responsibility for certain things — to be able to even make those distinctions. Plus, it can be about class all it wants, but we still have to acknowledge that not only are more women and more people of color lower-class, but that the impact of classism is greater when you’re dealing with compounded minority.

I also have to remember, though, that my father was and has been exceptionally depressed that all the activist work he did was for naught in many ways, and that that’s a big driver in these discussions and feelings. The civil rights movement absolutely did some good, but it didn’t erase racism: the friends he had who lost lives or health in doing that didn’t lose them for nothing, but they also didn’t lose them for what they’d hoped for. The anti-war movement with Vietnam was important as hell, and made some difference, but here the hell we basically are again, all that history forgotten or dismissed. He didn’t change the world, and he really, really wanted to: he sacrificed a lot trying. It’s very hard for my father to have to deal with the fact that, for instance, racism is still alive and well and not just living in Lousiana and Alabama but also in Maine, New York and Seattle. It’s hard because of what it means about the world, but it’s also hard because of how it makes him feel about himself.

* * *
I’m finally putting up a few new photo sets today, and making more headway in my backlog. The sets going up later today include a set of photos of a transgender friend currently IDing as genderqueer: I’ve been dying to do some transition photos of someone for a long time.

It was her idea to do a series in which she was in her clothing of choice, nude, and then in old boy-clothes. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I’m pleased as hell with the results. But I’m very glad she suggested it, because it’s not something I’d have felt at all comfortable in suggesting to her myself, much in the same way that I wouldn’t for a minute feel comfortable suggesting that a cisgendered woman pose in stiletto-heels and corsetry and makeup, even if I had some brilliant creative intent, if dressing that way would make that woman feel terribly uncomfortable and put in a drag she didn’t like (and as far as I’m concerned, it’s drag no matter who’s got it on — some folks just happen to like being in drag). As it was, seeing how Amy looked, mood-wise, in the boy clothes, I was RACING to take those shots: it was earnestly painful for me to watch her face kind of fall.

Per the final results, I hate to talk over artwork, but I think the images are incredibly telling. I did almost wish that I had had an assigned-sex woman who doesn’t dig girl-drag to do a sort of mirror of them — one in her regular clothes, another nude, and another in say, hardcore Victorian garb or, say, head-to-toe fetish latex blah-de-bah. But another day (and again, she’d probably have to volunteer to do it herself: I’d just feel so ooky asking someone to stand around like that who didn’t want to).

Next up, finishing Becca’s pregnancy shots as well as my first shots of baby Odin, who is — of course he is — cute as the freaking dickens.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Yesterday was another fun day, as there have been many in my life, of adventures in the United States as an uninsured person in need of medical care.

I sincerely wish a Washingtonian had warned me before I moved that it was worse here than in some other cities. I thought the Chicago public healthcare system was bad enough, nd that aspects of the one in Minneapolis stunk, but this one — if you can even call it a system — is a real doozy. The one sliding scale clinic people kept suggesting to me was one where there has recently been some staff-patient sexual abuse, specifically targeting women who were already abuse survivors. Yeah, umm, no.

The sliding scale clinic closest to me isn’t taking new patients until May, which isn’t of much help when you’re pretty certain you have an ear infection. The state offers a healthcare probram for low-incomes, but the income it looks at is gross income, which screws those of us who are self-employed, and leaves me out in the cold from what I can gather. And while in other states, the barrier to me getting health insurance was entirely financial, here in WA, the majority of insurers won’t even consider self-employeds, no matter how much cash you wave at them. Great.

The local clinic which was full, and the two general local doctors offices I called referred me to a low-income clinic here (I use the term loosely), where the fee to just get in is $300, and the patient reviews are a nightmare. Apparently, $300 buys you a medically-schooled “I don’t know” an awful lot. The real kicker there, though, was that growing up in healthcare systems, working within one area of healthcare, I have a good idea of what things cost. So, knowing that with what I was asking for, at your regular doc’s office, I’d be talking an $80 - $150 bill (basic ear, nose and throat checkup, maybe a throat culture, possibly a new patient fee), I went ahead and called the regular docs.

But despite making clear I would be paying cash, they would not see me, because I was uninsured. This is a new one. And the irony isn’t lost on me: they’d not see me, ostensibly because, what — my bills would bounce? But they would refer me to a clinic where the cost would easily have been twice as much. Nice.

(And Mark’s work only covers domestic partners if you’re same-sex. I’m glad they provide that coverage, sure, but I deeply resent the fact that the gate is closed there, for a multitude of reasons. I’m so freaking sick of the multitude of ways this culture tries to force us into marriage, I could puke.)

You know, when I was in England during college, I made the poor docs at the NHS so sick of me, because I would find a reason to go in there weekly, simply because the novelty of just being able to go get healthcare, at any time, when you needed it, would not wear off. Mind, at the time I did have good reason to go in — I used a cane for a year in college due to a bad back injury, and I had migraines and I had…okay, any little sniffle or whatever that could barely justify seeing the doctor. Point is, it was heaven.

Thankfully, Becca had suggested looking into a Minute Clinic, and Caroline ran by after work to get me there, since it was waaaaaaay far away from Ballard. Nice system, that: pretty inexpensive, nurses get to do their work without doctors lording over them, and I got what I needed. Turns out I was close to right: the sick hanging on from last week wasn’t an ear or sinus infection anymore — the nurse thought was that my body had done a decent job fighting most of it off — but that being that ill and running the high fever had totaled my throat and ears, and left my ears jam-packed with fluid, which is why my head has felt like a bowling ball for days on end. So, I now have an antibiotic for my ears and some additional helps for my throat and nose, thank christ.

All of this basically sapped up my entire day, however, which was extra annoying since I kept trying to have conversations on the phone with people I could barely hear because my ears have been such a wreck. Had I had almost any other problem, I would have just gone to the naturopathy clinic, which WILL see the uninsured AND even provide a discount, but in my experience, when you need some form of antibiotic, you’re in the one arena naturopathy and chinese medicine isn’t so hot for. (Though I have to say that I don’t get why many naturpoaths won’t do antibiotics: I get using them very sparingly, for sure, but they’re no less natural than anything else. They’re mold-based, for crying out loud, and while yes, chemically processed, so are most of the naturopathic and homeopathic medicines dispensed.)

On the upside, driving over with Caroline and her 6-year-old daughter who I adore provided some needed comedy. While waiting for them to fill the ’scrip, we went across the parking lot to a small park so Scout could play. Turns out she had to piss, so Caroline suggested she squat in a hidden area: asked if she needed help, and Scout declined. Well, she came back waddling saying she guessed she could have used help after all, since she basically just missed. Gals, you know how it goes when you’re squatting to pee with pants on: as we explained to Scout, sometimes, there is just no telling which direction those wily vulvas will send urine flying.

I could tell that she was more embarassed than she would have been had I not been there, so when she started in on a rant of how unfair it was that she couldn’t aim like boys could, we both dove in, ranting right there with her to make her feel better. When I pointed out that boys could pee their names in the snow, even, and hit peanuts in the toilet bowl, the real ire began. Grrrrr. We was some seriously pissed off, loud and uppity, unable-to-pee-with-wild-abandon girlies. Which sort of explains the strange look on the passersby.

In any event, back to work with me, now that my head is on the mend. I did manage to finish processing Ben’s photos yesterday, and get the whole set up in the patrons area, so that’s one set down, three to go in the backlog, and I love them. It’s rare when I’ll have a man in my studio, period, but when it’s a good fit, I appreciate the opportunity. I hate all this silliness that male bodies aren’t as curved, interesting or beautiful as women’s bodies (and suspect a lot of that is actually based in either homophobia, men just wanting not to be as exposed as women and to make sure women stay the naked ones, both, or something else I can’t think of right now): it’s so rare I can have anyone in front of my camera and not find a million things of interest. It’s also been nice over the last few weeks to have so many subjects around: there remains a certain kind of intimacy and bonding that happens when I photograph people, especially nudes, that I don’t know if I’ll ever tire of, and I’m thankful as hell that over the years, I’ve learned how to cultivate it so that anyone involved in the process always leaves it feeling like they’ve expanded in some way, rather than been reduced.

I also managed to finally finish a piece on the evils of menstrual suppression this weekend which had been driving me batty for weeks. I don’t think it was just trying to mesh creative non-fiction writing with medical and feminist information. Rather, somehow all the endless editing of the book seemed to reorder how words worked in my brain, resulting in what may have been the first real case of writer’s block I’ve ever had in my life. Thankfully, the editor of the anthology let me turn it in late, but it had gotten to the point where I was forcing myself to finish even if it would no longer be accepted, because it was just The Piece That Wouldn’t Go Away. I’d try and work on something else, and there it was, right under everything, nagging and poking me in the side with a whiny “I’m waaaaaaaaiting.” Well, I showed it, and now other work can resume, sans guilt.

On to more book promo planning, taxes, housecleaning and site upgrading. I’ve promised myself a nice, long bath and a brief stint in the garden so long as I keep up with the rest of the jobs today, so I don’t want to slack off and miss those joys, especially since it’s good and sunny.

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

“So, out of six pictures for the article, Katy Grannan took five that stereotype women in familiar ways: three whores and two madonnas. We are aware that she’s replicating her own conditioning. Doing anything else, portraying women as fully human, is swimming upstream. Every photographer (or other creator of images for the media) will do this until she consciously examines her work and intentionally creates authentic images of women. Laurie remembers doing exactly this before beginning photography for Women En Large.

As some of the commenters to Majikthise point out, it isn’t only photographers who do this–women modeling for pictures are also very likely to fall into stereotypical “female” poses.”

(Bolding mine)

I LOVE this post.

Mind, I love Laurie and Debbie, period, and Laurie is easily the most inspiring living female photographer I can think of when it comes to presenting women and women’s bodies in a feminist framework; in a truly real, compassionate, empassioned dynamic. I feel confident saying that without work like Laurie’s, my work would probably look very different.

You really do learn a lot about the reality of how incessantly watched, how constantly judged women feel in their bodies and with their bodies when you work in portrait and nude portrait photography from behind the camera if you’re really paying attention. Over time, you do come to recognize certain common poses, certain commom expressions in the face and body of a feeling of vulnerability, of worried-imperfection, of a struggle to find a home within one’s own skin, or even a sad acceptance that it will never feel like home. Over time, when you look at the work of others as well as your own work, it becomes more and more clear when you’ve nailed something real, and when you’ve erred and gone ahead and shot the same, tired stuff. There is, of course, something to be said about the fact that when the subjects do the same thing and you capture it, you are still shooting a very pervasive reality, but at the same time, there are ways of doing that, difficult as they can be to find, that show that up for what it is, and ways of doing it which make it appear that that is ALL there is, and that that reality is somehow ideal.

No need to say much more than this, just go read and absorb. They say some really important things about photography and female subjects, and about how images of women, and how people choose to present them, can really — intentionally or not — undermine women’s issues, and blow otherwise fantastic opportunities to improve things for women.

(On that note, I had a male friend into the studio yesterday and got some great work done. As folks here know, it’s a rarity for me to work with the male nude, and I won’t be shy in saying that when it is a situation where I have a great subject who I know doesn’t compromise my safety and who treats me with respect, it’s almost a vacation of a gig compared to shooting women. I don’t have to be as cautious, as vigilantly-mindful, as self-critical while I’m working. And as Laurie and Debbie brought up, in my experience, a male subject is almost always a lot less likely to be “pose-y,” and thinking a whole lot less about if the viewers of a photograph find them attractive or sexy or beautiful. I don’t have to, while working, try and counter, with my subject, a ton of learned behaviours per how to present, what looks “best,” and the lot.

Between the COPA win and the afternoon shoot — with another Aries/Taurus cusp-person like myself, to boot — yesterday was a really good day.)

Also on a related topic, it’s looking like a group client I was flying out to Minneapolis to photograph in the end of May have changed their plans per their own issues. Since I’ve already started to schedule book promotional things there, and other things around it, I’m inclined to still try and take that trip.

Since I moved, I’ve had a handful of folks from Mpls write in asking to hire me for photo work, but alas, I am no longer there. So, if anyone out and about there still wants work done — paying clients — and the end of May/beginning of June will work for you, drop me an email? Thanks!

Friday, March 9th, 2007

Need a new camera? Just a quickie: it’s looking like I’ll be heading to eBay with the last camera I bought, the Olympus Evolt-330. I missed the return window at Adorama, alas. It’s just not the right thing for me: way too much camera for this gal, and it looks like I may have managed to find a demo box of my old (sadly discontinued) camera I can buy, which means even if the one I have can’t be fixed, I’ll have what I love to use again, in perfect working order. If I get really lucky and my current one can be fixed, I’ll have two, so I can hang on to these for as long as possible, since I just can’t find anything else I like as much.

Before I do that, I figured I should check in with readers, since y’all are so good to me, and I know some of you shoot.

Here’s the kit I have, with the two lenses, for your info. Here’s the dpreview page on it. It’s literally only a month old, has no wear, and everything it came in the box with is here.

I’m okay with taking a loss on this if a reader wants to buy it from me, so I’ll toss an offer out to any of you for $750 plus what it costs me to ship it. I can also toss in a wireless remote for it: it didn’t come with one, but I have extras from when I used a different Olympus, and they work with the Evolt. Email me in the next week if this is of interest.

(One word? Given, I have very small hands and a disability in the one I hold the camera with, but if you’re another tiny-handed person, this likely will not work for you. One the other hand if, like me, you’re someone with a profound astigmatism who is all bummed out that you can’t have an SLR because a viewfinder doesn’t work for you, the live-view screen takes care of that.)

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

I’m hoping to be able to make time tomorrow morning to be able to do some self-portrait work, so long as the old camera will be a dear and cooperate. (Can’t use the new camera for that, and besides, we seem really to not care for one another — it’s hopefully going back soon.) If I don’t get to it tomorrow, it won’t happen until after my Dad is gone.

I know it’s been a while. Primarily, that has to do with time and how much I’ve had to cram into a day, but it also has to do with interest. As longtime readers know, I tend to cycle between my arts, with one often crying out for attention over another: I have seasons of creativity that demand different media at different times.

Too, though, subjects here are few and far between, and I haven’t been all that interested in myself as subject lately, and without the real interest, there’s no real work.

But as winter is at its end, I want to capture my body in the state it’s in right now, because I know it is soon to pass. Due to both the winter months and to less activity during the winter than I’m used to, I put on a bit more winter weight than usual, to the degree that I even managed a teeny belly, which delights me. I can grow a lot of lush things on my body, but my midsection has always been the one area where weight just doesn’t tend to go: maybe I’m changing with age, who knows. But through my life, I have coveted other people’s bellies. Much to the chagrin of lovers of mine who don’t like bellies — or bellies on them — my hands always want to wander up and down a convex curve of someone who has a belly of substance. If allowed, I’d just run it back and forth like that for hours. Not sure what that’s all about, but there you go: I’m a belly admirer.

I’m also as pale as I get, which is to say pretty darn pale. While the Mediterranean genes keep me slightly olive beneath it all, during the winter months, my freckles become less and less distinguishable. So, between the paleness and the extra-cushy stuff, there’s something about my body during the season of dark and cold that I cherish in its difference. It reminds me of the passage in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek where Annie Dillard talks about the vulnerability of vertabrates: there is something both more transparaent and injurable and yet more insulated about bodies during the winter.

This is sensible, of course. We stay indoors far more often, and when we go out, we drape ourselves in layers that our own skin doesn’t provide. We are inwardly quieted and more slow. We are more sedentary, more solitary, we need to create more warmth in our own skin, and so, like any other mammal during cold times, we pad ourselves. When we’re not smart enough to do it ourselves, our own biology and the patterns of nature do some of the job for us.

It’s vexing to me how much to-do is made of winter weight and color and what is apparently a very dire need to change it as soon as is humanly possible. Of course, as the days lengthen, as light increases, as we become more active again — effectively, as we come out of hibernation — and we feel better, more energized, more vital. Again, even when we don’t pursue it intentionally, it’s the rhythm of nature and its effect on us: how intense the differences are between the seasons of the earth and our bodies and minds are clearly effected by our behaviours, but the changes would exist no matter what.

* * *

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately on some ideas I first started exploring in college, and which were going to be my primary focus of study until that crafty William Blake seduced me into a slightly different direction. Essentially, I’m coming to some conclusions regarding sexuality and body image in that the more divorced people become from nature and the most simple aspects of daily life — and I’m thinking this is particularly true for women — the more divorced we become from truly being in our bodies, and being in harmony with our bodies and our sexuality.

Working with teen and young adults, especially a generation in the western world who is the most divorced from nature in our history, these ideas have been coming to the forefront for me again. Trying to explain that a winter body exists because winter exists, and that it is only sensible and sound to honor and appreciate it for what it is, just as we do any season itself is likely to fall on deaf ears, even among many members of my own generation.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to talk about the body as something which — bearing in mind of the greatest influence of our genetics — takes the form and shape of what it is used for. If we engage in sports, what sports we choose to engage in will determine where our muscle most develops. The simplest explanation would be to talk about how easy it can be to recognize one kind of manual laborer from another just by the shape of their bodies, but to middle-class kids where many of them have never even walked to school one, where a majority of them don’t even know a single manual laborer, and may never do any themselves, this is obviously a lost cause, too.

Same goes for trying to work with some of them having real disconnects with their body and their sexuality in terms of exploring what is sensual, as in, of the senses. They rarely cook, and when they do, it’s rarely with fresh foods (much less food they’ve grown) or fire; even then it’s more about product than process — rushed, rather than savored. Many of them don’t even know what the whole of their bodies smell or look like without every product on them known to man, what it feels like to wind up totally covered in mud and dry in the sun, or to bathe in river or lake water for a week. The bleached-out world so much of middle America is woefully lacks a lot of opportunities for exploring the senses and what is natural. I can tell a teenager that the scents of their bodies are normal and just as they’re meant to be, but when the whole of their world is deoderized, sanitized, homogenized, and the only natural scent they might ever smell is their genitals, it’s going to stand out and seem foreign, rather than naturally blend in and feel natural. More than once the suggestion to some having a particularly tough time connecting with their own bodies to look into massage, dance or other bodywork, even to just start taking walks out of doors more often pretty clearly gets me dismissed as a crunchy old hippie. (Go figure: with the ones that DO get out and hike, like to camp or dance, cook because they’re vegetarian and family food won’t work, the body image and sexuality problems don’t seem so pervasive or intense.) There’s a section of the book where I work to get them to redfine “sexy” more holistically, with more emphasis on all their senses, and who knows if it’ll catch.

So much of this shift away from nature is thought to be a luxury; a privilege, and one given as a gift by the generation before to them. So many of them are expressly reared to drive, not walk; to nuke something frozen rather than cook; to take a pill rather than try and heal other ways; to spend lesuire time seated rather than in motion (and to HAVE so much leisure time in the first place); to hide or remove what is natural rather than to cultivate harmony with their nature and nature-at-large. The more time that passes, the more I observe things through this lens, I’m seeing less of a gift and more of a curse, especially the more and more extended childhood — or rather, dependency — is in our culture, and it is a curse not just upon people, but obviously, one on the planet itself.

And with that, I’ve got to tear myself away. There are so many branching-off points from here, but I’m about to miss my own evening walk I had set aside time for and very much need today. Mark and I are meeting for dinner in an hourish, but I’d hoped to be able to catch a solitary, moist, dusk-time stroll through the neighborhood before then.

How cool is it when you must force yourself away from work to something far more pleasant in order to practice what you preach?

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Apparently, one can even be camera-shy in utero.

I was supposed to take photos of a pregnant friend this afternoon who was due in two weeks. We arranged the session at a party last week, where she’d said her mother really had wanted some; seemed like there was still time to do it, given her due date wasn’t until the 26th.

Alas, her mother just rang me up with the jovial message from said friend “You’re too late!” She just delivered a healthy baby girl this morning, mere hours before we were scheduled to shoot. A baby gal who I can only assume really, really wanted to get out of having her picture taken, even with the modesty her outfit of Mama-belly would have afforded her.

Of course, now all said baby girl has done is opened herself up to baby portraits, sans belly, and become yet one more baby for me to likely spoil senseless at any possible opportunity.

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

(Photo at right, from some lighting and aperture tests, because a few people have dropped a line wondering if I still exist in the physical world rather than just as a ghost in the machine. I do, really, just between camera-problems, book deadlines, and a world of other work, I’ve had to live in a different space in where the visual-that-is-me is pretty much the last thing I think about. I elect to justify living in the same pair of pants for days on end this way, too. And yes: I look really tired. I am really tired.)

1. Today is the last day I have to work on the copyedits. I was ahead of schedule on them by Thursday — thank gawd for the ability to speed-read, even through the ADD nightmare that all those red lines are — and between myself, my editor, and the also-brilliant copyeditor, the ms. is now down 40 more pages, to a very reasonable 462 pages, without any loss of content. But I still need to spend today going all the way through once more for readability per the younger readers and being sure to catch any additions or updates that need to be made. We’re still, culturally, SO in the infancy of sexuality and sexual health research (I mean, heck, in terms of women, it’s only really even been looked at for the last 30 years, and often those examinations are still so cursory and generally based in what serves the hegemony most, e.g., let’s find anything we can in women’s anatomy to justify that heterosexual intercourse alone will suffice as an entire sexual experience), that it’s very easy for things to change every few months, which makes writing on sexual health for print a serious bitch.

Friday was supposed to be a book-workday but ended up largely social, and yesterday I was 100% couch-bound with an inexplicable illness which felt and behaved like the world’s WORST hangover, but since I’d only had three mixed drinks at the party we were at the evening before (and I’ve sometimes not would up anything close to hungover from a full bottle of undiluted booze, no less), I’m not sure what the deal was. Though I have noticed that if I drink when I’m on the rag, sometimes it does pack a bigger whollop. Regardless, that leaves me with today to fit three days of work into.

2.And this puts a cramp in my style. Mark came home very late last night from two days of shooting, and between his prep for that shoot and all of my work last week, the last time we were able to have any sort of sex or have the time or ability to do more than grab a smooch and a hello in passing was about a whole week ago. And girl, I am NOT passing up sex and snuggle today when it can happen, because lord knows when we’ll get the opportunity again.

3. On the note, Mr. Price often has concerns about being a late-bloomer in all things, rather than precocious, which he’d prefer. He quite resents precociousness, really (which now and then causes some static between us, because I’ve often been precocious in many aspects of my life). However, I do believe he’s the first in his filmmaking circle to do what he did this weekend, which was to pay everyone — actors and production, as well as himself — for the work they did. Heck, as I was telling him, I’ve been doing the work online that I do for close to ten years now, and I STILL have yet to manage that feat, which is seriously laudable. A golf-clap for my sweetheart, if you would. Boy rocks it hard.

4. After three weeks of opening the order page at B&H Photo every day, putting a new camera which I direly need in, then looking at the price tag and squirming away, I finally pushed the button the other day and ordered the damn thing just barely before the end of my fiscal year. I needed the write-off anyway, so even though the cash for it was barely there, it likely would have been cash I’d have to have given to the feds to buy more weapons with if I didn’t spend it on a business expense for something I do direly need.

I know some people get really stoked about shiny, new equipment. I’m not one of them. My learning curve for new tools blows chunks, frankly, so it just means months of frustration, not excitement. To me, new camera equipment is like being given a new instrument you know how to play…save that it’s tuned in some entirely foreign key structure. So you feel like you SHOULD know how to play it, and yet you go to play a beyond-basic G Major chord and can’t seem to get even that right.

5.On a photo note, my camera stepped it up (as did the natural light here, enabling me to get out on location for a change, rather than being chained to the studio) and worked past its damages when I shot Ariel for some promo last week, resulting in some seriously stylish and hilarious shots, a few of which are up at Flickr and a lot of which are up in the patrons area.

And with that, it’s back to the edits, on to labeling the illustrations, and — if I get really lucky — back to bed at some point.

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Originally uploaded by Heather Corinna.

Yesterday, I had a headshot client here: a local actor who I knew before from film work she’d done with Mark. (She was in Sofia’s movie, actually.) My new lights aren’t here yet, so our friend Heath was a dear and brought me over a big light from the studio he works with, since there just isn’t enough natural light here this time of year to do much of anything, let alone provide the sort of clarity an actor’s headshot needs to have.

She had told me that she didn’t think she was especially photogenic. I had told her that generally, I’m not sure there is such a thing, that I think that’s really a matter of the photographer doing their job both technicaly and socially. Plus, she’s got an amazing, unique face and we like each other a lot: I just couldn’t imagine not being able to do great work with her.

I woke up early, prepped the studio, felt as competent as I usually do, despite having a cold. But throughout the shoot, while I kept finding some great compositions and angles, my camera was not cooperating with me. It kept refusing to focus. The lights were giving me trouble, being either way too strong or too flat. I moved them here, I moved them there: I used the tripod, I worked without it. I kept cursing inanimate objects in the presence of a client. All the same, while I didn’t think I was getting as many great shots in a sitting as I tend to, and I wanted to pull my hair out, I thought I was doing alright.

Later that night, I unloaded the card and was decidedly not happy. About 1/3 of the shots were blurry, or I didn’t get the focus in the place I wanted to: I kept getting sharp focus on hair or lips and soft focus on eyes, the latter of which is where you really need focus in headshots. Another 1/3 of the shots were so overlit, half her face was washed out and overexposed. There were some AMAZING shots I’d see in the thumbnail view, get all excited about, then enlarge them and discover that one of the two aforementioned issues fucked the shot entirely. There was an awful lot of “Gah!” “Arrrrgh!” and “Fuckity-fuck-fuck-FUCK!” resonating in my office last night.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some winners (like the shot above at right, which is my favorite). There are, even to the point that I suspect — and hope — she’ll feel she got some of the best photos ever taken of her. But. I am used to having clients, especially paying clients, tell me that they don’t even know how to pick just one or two for their needs because there are so, so many great ones. And I want that to be the result. I feel like if I shoot for an hour, I should have a client walking away with at least 50 shots or so that are technically perfect, very creative, and which all could suit their needs, but in which there will be one or two that are just right in terms of the specificity of what they wanted. I’m just not comfortable giving them less than that, because I feel like I have not done my job.

I penned an email I have never had to pen to a paying client, telling her that for no fault of her own, I clearly wasn’t on my game, letting her know I had some great shots, but not enough for me to feel I’d done the service for her she’d paid for, and offering for her to come reshoot at her convenience if she wanted at no extra charge. I can think of only three times before this, and never with a paying client, that I’ve had to tell someone I just thought what I did was pretty crap per my standards, and I haven’t had to do so at all in a couple of years, paid or unpaid.

Mark called on the way home from working on a reel for a commercial gig he has coming up, and in telling him all of this (and I speak far more candidly with him than I do with all of you), and listening to his reaction, in writing that email and listening to the way I was talking to myself about all this, I started to feel pretty seriously embarassed. The embarassment wasn’t at doing less than my best — okay, some of it was — it was at my total and complete lack of allowance for my own imperfect humanity; at hearing myself honestly say out loud — and sound like a total asshole in saying — that while I absolutely allowed for others to have off-days, and thought nothing lesser of them, I do not feel the same towards myself.

(Mark: Everyone has an off-day, babe. Me: Everyone but ME! I may NOT! Mark: Yeah, okay, Princess. I’ll be waiting at the foot of the tower when you’re ready to come down. Actually, he stopped at “Okay, Princess,” but if HE was on his game, he would have finished with that line, so we’ll let him have it, just to be nice.)

It’s not that I think I’m better than everyone else in some intrinsic way, but I do often think that I work harder and longer than most, that I refuse to stop working at anything less than genius or perfection unless there just isn’t another sliver of energy left, that other people seem to set their standards for themselves lower than I’m willing to set mine for myself.

It’s ridiculous, really. And when I speak these things out loud, they all sound way less sensible and far more pretentious, arrogant and silly than they do when they’re in the confines of my mind.

I think this is part of the problem with working out some of your issues and demons via art and/or work. The part of me that often still believes she’s just not good enough for anything, and that she has to work harder, longer, do better than anyone else just to earn her right to live in this world and at a marginal level of peace and comfort finds a easy soil in which to seed in work. But unlike putting self-loathing issues in say, alcoholism, when you put them in workaholism, people — including yourself — applaud you for your drive, for your perfectionism, for your excellence, even if what’s driving all of that isn’t exactly functional or healthy. They don’t tell you to go to a meeting or put down the bottle: there’s nearly nada in the protestant work ethic and our cultural absorption of that propaganda that tells us to put the brakes on and get a fucking grip.

I may well be the equivalent of those people (who I think are totally insane: those mountain climbing stories creep me right the hell out and keep me awake at night) that climb Everest. Pretty much everyone thinks they’re completely cracked, but at the same time, they’ll cheer them on when they try, when they abandon everything to try, and celebrate them when they get to the top of that mountain, even if they lost a leg or froze near to death in the process.

Will I still reshoot if she wants to? Oh, of course I will. Will I still sit here every day and juggle several Herculean tasks because even just one isn’t enough? Oh yeah.

I’m not one for New Year resolutions, but I think I’d best make an exception this time round and accept that while it’s fine to work hard and aim high, and it’s even fine to enjoy working and feel validated in doing good work, it’s really ridiculous to take it to such extremes that your Sherpa is quitting his gig and heading to work for corporate America because he can’t ethically live with himself anymore in helping crazy bastards like you.

P.S. A word to the wise during cold season: when you think that your thoughtful sweetheart — who, like you, has a cold right now — has left a chewable Vitamic C tablet on your desk for you before he left for work? Email him and ask if that’s what it is first.

Because when you unknowingly pop one of those Airborne fizzy-tablets, the sort meant to fill a whole glass of water, into your mouth and chomp into it, not only does it taste like such ass you will nearly vomit, you will also have grapefruit-flavored foam pouring out of your mouth like a rabid dog for several minutes, which is more than a little unsettling. Trying to make the fizz stop with a slug of your nearby coffee is also not the brightest of ideas nor a fine flavor combination.

Friday, December 1st, 2006

Excuse an interruption to the pornography discussions with a few administrative notes and requests:

1) For those who have wanted a feed of the journal, it lives here.

2) I put a note up about this at Flickr, but while I am here, I am DESPERATE for photo subjects in and around Seattle. Per usual, I primarily shoot women, and if nudes are the order of the day, I only am comfortable right now shooting women, female couples, or gay male couples. Also per usual, I’m very much interested in women on the margins in terms of who tends to often be least visible: women of color, or size, older women, disabled women, etc. Nudes or eroticism are never a requirement with me: it’s all about capturing my subject in what is most expressive and true for her, however she feels most at home in her skin. I prefer to shoot out of doors, or in a location the subject likes as opposed to in the studio (especially since my loighting setup blows right now), but shooting here (I’m in a very easily accessible area of Ballard) is also always an option. If you or someone you know thinks you might have interest, drop me an email.

3) For those of your with sites currently linking to journal.html can you update those links to journal/ for me? Thanks!

4) In finishing the resource list for the book, I’m coming up short in a few areas. For instance, my contraception references are really quite clinical. Does anyone have any books they’ve liked and used that are more down-to-earth per contraception resources? Also interested in suggestions per body image, self-esteem, male sexuality, safer sex, and sexual orientation from a braoder perspective than that just aimed at GLB’s. Cheers.

P.S. My big crush right now is the PATHWAY act. I’m really, really curious, if this passes, if it might finally involve a revisitation of the ERA. But I don’t want to get too optimistic: a bill finally recognizing the realities of feminist thought and observations when it comes to HIV is cool enough as it is.

Friday, November 24th, 2006

I’m not a fan of yesterday’s holiday. Now and then I have gone ahead and done something for it, but generally only because I’ll take any excuse to cook, and for nice people I care about who feel lonely without a Thanksfornothing gathering, and don’t have one on a given year, there’s no good reason not to spend time with them and eat well. Even if they turn up their noses as Tofurkey.

But when that’s not the case, and I can just have a day to myself without celebrating pillage, rape, germ warfare and genocide with the slaughter of yet another species (yeah, I’m a big party pooper, I know), I grab that opportunity. Which is what I did yesterday, especially since I landed a fever/virus-thing earlier this week post-deadline madness. In fact, I’m only blogging in this way right now because I know that those of you who do enjoy this holiday, including my sweetheart, who was off doing the feasting-thing, are now finished, so I won’t ruin your good time at this point.

…which I recognize is not without its good stuff. Never going to say that people taking a day to be thankful for the nice stuff in their lives and worlds is a bad thing: just more of the mind that doing it that mindfully every single day is important, and would encourage exactly that.

I did make Mr. Price some beautiful mushroom-white miso gravy to take with him, so don’t let it be said I can’t put my own issues aside sometimes and still make a positive contribution.

But thank jeebus for a whole day and night without anything required of me.

I finally got some time to empty my camera, including some drop-dead gorgeous shots I got to take of a subject in Minneapolis during my last brief visit. Post-move, I’d had a bunch of Minnesotans still emailing asking about portrait sessions, so I just tossed an email out to all of them saying that I had time for ONE, very brief photo session, and it was first-come first-serve: whoever emialed me back first, who could manage that very specific time slot, had a location, could transport me there and back, and who was comfortable having a session without the usual advance consultation session I did could have it.

Originally uploaded by Heather Corinna.

As I’ve talked about before, I really don’t like the dynamics of arranging portrait sessions sometimes, in that my sense is — due to the world we live in — that women feel like they have to show me pictures or somehow earn my time or favor, usually based on what they look like. To date, I can’t think of a single photo subject I have had who I did not find interesting, who I could not take compelling photos of pretty easily. I love people, and more to the point, I love women: there’s always something compelling and interesting going on for me to work with.

So, this sort of random lottery approach, with no idea of who my subject would be, appealed to me. And as it turned out, I lucked out. I got an awesome, sensitive subject (and one who didn’t think I was a giant dope for shouting out upon seeing her, “Oh ROCK! You’re of size!” because it’s just that exciting to me to get subjects who keep things as diverse as they truly are), and some really stunning shots.

I’m not a photographer for whom processing or product is the best part in terms of what I enjoy. My favorite part is always doing the work, taking the photos, and engaging in the sort of unique intimacy that always happens when I’m doing one-on-one work. I wonder sometimes if it’s the art that I really love, or what happens interpersonally between myself and a subject…which is, of course, a circular matter, since that’s part of what shows itself in the art. Equally, I wonder if that also isn’t some of why working with the nude and the sensual isn’t still such a draw: there’s simply a different sort of connection (and more so between women in my experience: more times than not, if we’re sitting as subject for most men, we stay on our guard, for obvious reasons) that happens when a subject is allowing you that much trust, when you inevitably talk sexual history, relationships, and among women — especially when they know or read that you’re a survivor — about our collective wounds. This is clearly also why portraiture is my big, big love in terms of subject matter: I am documenting not just the subject, but the dynamics of an unseen and somewhat mysterious interpersonal connection, usually, when I have my druthers, between women.

So, more times than not, I think my enjoyment in finishing the work, looking at the photos after-the-fact is not just a matter of having done good work. Putting my critical artist-eyeballs aside, I look at them the way that someone looks at photos of a relationship they have or once had, of family gatherings: as remembrance of these incredible, random and intimate connections I’m gifted with during the work itself.

(And yes: this means that a new set will — finally — go up in the next day or so. So sorry for the wait!)