Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chang-Diaz for Change

A few months ago I did campaign portraits at the NESOP studios for Sonia Chang-Diaz, who is running for State Senate in my district and will decidedly be getting my vote.

A week ago her campaign called to ask me if I would do the photography for a mail piece featuring testimonials from various people who will be voting for Sonia, from neighborhoods all over the district. I completed the project Sunday and Monday, and I'm pretty excited about the results. Here we go - get your walkin' shoes on, we're hitting the best of Boston.

(P.S. At the risk of photo-overload, I'm making myself choose only one portrait of each person I shot... but for the others, please (please, please!) see the Flickr album.)


Beacon Hill...



Jamaica Plain...

The South End...

And of course, Ms. Chang-Diaz herself, hard at work in her home.

Had a great time with this project and loved the challenge. I hope there's more great stuff like this on the horizon.

(Just in case ya missed it, here's the rest of 'em.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Act Your Follicular Age!

What's really getting me about my birthday this year is these photos of myself I came across the other day, from a couple of years ago.

Or so I thought. They were taken at Lake Erie, near Oberlin, on the day of my 20th birthday - four years ago. Four years is a long time. It's half a college career plus two whole years in the "real" world. It's seven addresses. It's about ten jobs. It's a handful of relationships. A good dose of heartbreak. Enough collective alcohol to wash down a small town. Recurring stages of wrenching confusion about life and a few lovely streaks of clarity.

Tonight I'm having dinner with nine friends, four of whom have been in my life since those pictures were taken. Georgia and Rachel have both been steady constants since a freshman year acting class at Oberlin. One friend, Samantha, has held the friend title since we unpacked our underwear together at Camp Ballibay 11 years ago. My sister Amanda takes the proverbial cake, though, as she came into my life when I was going on the Big-Girl age of three.


I've been trying to blast away the sensation of aging by hurling balls of various weights and sizes at vulnerable stationary objects.

(I'm either bowling, or ballroom dancing solo with a very tall partner.)

(Can't you just hear the contact? I'm going for number One there.)

Yes, I cut my hair - it was a birthday present to myself. In fact, those last two shots were taken only hours apart. I love it, but I'm going to miss rocking the long hair thing. There's something sexy and feminine about just having long hair.

(Shut up, it's my party and I can post pictures of myself if I want to.)

But I like the new 'do, I think. I feel older, which I guess is appropriate. One of those superficial changes that feels much larger.

When it really comes down to it, though... in spite of all the growing and developing and yadda yadda over the years... I still feel pretty much just like this.

Which is just the way I like it.

Monday, August 21, 2006


I'm kicking myself because I didn't go to last weekend's Fisherman's Feast in the North End, especially the "Flight of the Angel" ceremony last night.

Last year it was insanely fabulous, and if you've never seen a 9-year-old girl dressed in a decades-old angel costume shoved out a third-story window on a zipline by an elderly man who's one canoli away from a heart-attack, well, you should. The street was so full of people that the blaring, tooting, trilling marching bands could scarcely make their way through, and once they started throwing confetti from the buildings, after the quaking little girl had done her speech in carefully emphasized Italian to the statue of the Virgin and been hauled backwards up into the window from whence she came, we were ankle-deep and tangled in shredded office carbon paper which didn't fully wash out of the neighborhood for over a week.

Evening rolled around yesterday, and it was hot and muggy out, and I was lying around the air-conditioning at my house-sitting gig, and I was tired, and I just couldn't (or didn't) haul my ass onto the T, which I hate with a growing passion. The same thing happened on the Sunday when Italy won the world cup, only in that case I had no idea what an incredible photo op it would turn out to be. Last night, however, I knew perfectly well what amazing pictures I could come away with.

So it goes. How much should I let myself get away with these things? Don't the best, most successful artists jump on every opportunity that comes along? Will I ever make it if the best I can offer for an excuse is that I was too lazy? I constantly oscillate between being forgiving of myself, and believing that the biggest favor I can do is push myself to the max. So when yesterday rolls by and the little angel floats over the heads of hundreds of hundreds of photogenic, expressive faces, and my camera shutter sits unblinkly silent in its bag... it's all I can do to pretend it never happened at all. Doo-de-doo... if I don't see them, they don't exist.

So there.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Few Words of Advice



...you have a few spare minutes between arriving downtown from your first job for your second, an occasional gig phone-calling for polls on local politacal campaigns...

...and IF you're really hungry and know you won't get a chance to eat until the shift is over at 9... and IF, even though you're meeting Georgia for a drink and food afterwards, you know you'll be hungry before then...

...and IF you know better but once, just-this-once long to give into your craving for fast food, because really you've been pretty healthy lately and is one burger and some fries really all that bad? Especially if you only eat about 3/4 of it?...

...and IF you'd rather not find yourself awake at 4:15am with a piercing pain in your stomach and an overwhelming sense of nausia, which is scarier in itself than being sick because you hate the anticipation of vomiting more than almost anything in the world, you have always put it off until the last second and you just can't hold back anymore...

...and IF it's not your idea of fun to sit up for hours moaning and holding your belly on the bathroom floor (ew), trying to read to distract yourself but only feeling sicker at the sight of text, until it finally passes and you curl up fetally in bed and sleep until 9:30 in the morning, and drag yourself into work looking pallid and dead...

...then I'd advise you not to go with Burger King. It's just a bad idea.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


An old boyfriend once expatiated, "Why is it that girls are always working on their little nests, and they have to have everything in order in their homes before they can do anything else? Dudes just put their shit wherever they want and get on with it, but girls spend so much more time moving things around until they're happy." It was this same person who, I'd calculate, spent as much time making his surroundings look as haphazardly, hip-ly, carelessly artsy and askew as I ever did bringing some semblance of order to my own.

But he was right. I move things around a lot. It's a way of circling the perfect patch of shade before lying down in it.

I'm a very sensitive person. The word "affected" has been used to describe me more than once. I get sick easily, I'm practically allergic to myself, and while I could always fall asleep if my homework was left unfinished, I could never drift off if the hall light was coming under my door or if I could hear someone typing on a computer in another part of the house, even faintly. Whether it's actual disturbances that keep me up, or the fixation on the fact that it might be a disturbance, that's up for debate.

It's in my Virgo nature to be concerned how other people leave their things, maintain appropriate volume, arrange their homes, clean their messes, are considerate to others; less so to perfect my own behavior at such tasks. I do try to be a considerate person, and not a hypocrite; however, such behavior has been a headache for roommates, I know, as Kim is almost too polite to attest. Others have been more outspoken.

My nest is never to my satisfaction, and the construction is never over. There have been less-happy points in my life where I've worried that perhaps too much of my energy, attention, artistry, is going toward how my bedroom is arranged, or how the things in my life are ordered. I fear the inner housewife; the archetypical woman whose aspirations end with having good taste in window dressings, rugs, and wall color.

But sometimes I just find it so deliciously satisfying to have my things just right.

There's peace in it; it's the most personal of personal maintenance, the stuff that doesn't really move you forward in life but that you have to stop and do just the same - like clipping your toenails, buying new clothes, cutting your hair. "Working on my apartment" sounds like a chore, and I use the words often; but I take as much pleasure in it as some do "cooking dinner" - you gotta eat, but some (not I) dive right on in and make it an art, or at least an adventure.

Also, I believe when you live in a place long enough, things about you seep into the walls, and stay behind long after you pack up and clear out. I remember being a student in Florence and loving my bedroom there with the wooden shutters, the thin red blankets, the parquet floors, but in the impending finality of the semester I decided not to get attached like I usually do, not to invest in its improvement or do anything more than unpack my clothes into the dresser. But over six months, I slept there every night, cried there when something was wrong or I was lonely, paced the floor, talked on the phone, and, you know, all the other things people do in their rooms. When I left I wished I could take all that somehow, in an album, in a song, something.

Other houses have been too painful to ever want to see again; I remember one house like that.

Why are the physical places where I live so influential for me?

It's like they have a personality outside of me; another person to know and love and hate and leave.

One of the last songs I wrote was called In a Rented Room. It goes like this.

In a rented room
where nobody’s home
there are shadows thrown
when no one’s standing there

don’t feel too at home
you won’t be here long
This is just a room
where you can lay your head

Do not learn the way
all the streetlights play
and the moon across your bed
keeps you up for hours

Someone else’s clothes
will be here next year
after you have gone away
to who knows where

Everybody knows
in a rented room
how your hair may grow
and lines may find your eyes

how the mirror holds
temporary lives
how the trees that line the street
settle in your mind

If you cry at night
keep it soft and low
all the echoes in the dark
never fade away

When the time has come
take your pictures down
and pretend that you
can leave an empty room

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Real Quick

I always feel like a bit of a hick when I say that -- "real quick". I do know better.

Anyway, I'm experimenting with online photo albums, and I put the North End photos from last week on one of them. umbrellablues.com. Let me know what you think.

I emailed the picture of the girl with her "DRUG"-tatooed boyfriend with their picture attached, and the guy in it wrote back, "I'm glad you're not some psycho. It's just kind of uncommon for people to talk to each other these days. Sorry if we were weird."

I said, "Well, I'm not from around here, which may explain it - I'm from the South!"

To which he replied, "Quincy?"

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Life Is Alright in Amer-i-ca!

Everyone's heard enough about the heat. And considering the front-page, above-the-fold newsworthiness of it, I decided to give it a go myself photographically, and headed to the Marie E. Mirabella Pool in the North End after work.

There's always excellent people-watching at this pool. It's situated right on the tip of Boston, overlooking the harbor and the tall ships and smaller boats that sail in and out of it. It's also very Boston. There are lawn chairs scrawled on in giant marker, warning, "This chair belongs to the the XXX family, DO NOT TOUCH!" Tons of scrappy local teenage boys flex their muscles and hurl their bodies into the pool, and the girls spread themselves out like starfish for the sun and regard the boys with sidelong mock-disdain. Families are loud and the lifeguards are too busy toting squealing little girls around on their buoys to notice whether anyone is drowning. I've loved it ever since I lived in the neighborhood.

I was trying to be discreet, both to keep the camera mugging to a minimum and also so as not to get my ass kicked. Usually sweetly apologizing and claiming that I'm just a student will get me off the hook, and often earn me permission to keep taking pictures. At some point, though, I noticed a large older guy yelling obscenities at a group of teenagers by the water. I didn't get photos of the actual confrontation, but it turns out the kids were from Charlestown, and had been "making comments" to the North Enders. There was a lot of chest thrusting and walking away and then turning around all puffed up when the other side made an under-the-breath comment. There was a lot of calling the 16-year-old ringleader "you little f***.". After a while things cooled down, but the police showed up anyway and talked to the Charlestown kids (who I later found out weren't from Charlestown at all), and I guess asked them to not piss of angry Italian-Americans.

It was a lot of excitement for one afternoon. I chatted with some people whose pictures I took, and even made a potential business contact for my photography. Being out on your own is good; I recommend it. Interesting things happen when you're absorbed in the world around you. You're more approachable, more serious, more credible.

This guy I've seen many times in the neighborhood. Last summer he was causing trouble at the pool, not getting out when the lifeguard closed the pool for the night, and just being a little punk. Something's changed since then, though. When he came into the pool, a huge gaggle of kids started screaming and running towards him, and followed him around like little ducklings. He hardly blinked an eye.

Here's the police showing up to take care of the street ruffage from Charlestown.

And here they are, the whole crew outside the 7-Eleven. They turned out to be pretty cool kids, although you could see everyone looking at them like they were a threat.

And, back to the pool...

I really needed a tripod for these night shots, but these were the least blurry of the bunch. Boston is really beautiful. I want to do a whole downtown series soon, both early in the morning and late at night.

Thanks for lookin'.