Category Archives: Photography, Reflections

The Fence 8th Edition, New England Regional Showcase in Boston, 2020

Siren Song

I am pleased to say that work from my ongoing project, Siren Song (photos taken at the Salton Sea in California), has been chosen for the The Fence: New England Regional Showcase, in Boston in 2020. Here is a link to the site where you can see the work of all eight whose work shall be displayed :

Unabashedly (almost), I ask you to vote for my work for the People’s Choice Award and thank you in advance. I have to admit, though, that I do not really know how this process works. Is it a matter of who asks the most people to vote or do people simply stumble across this page and then vote? I have no idea. No matter, I’m so very excited that my work will be exposed in such a public venue, next year. It’s quite an honour and I thank jurors Meg Birnbaum, Erin Carey, Karen Davis, Iaritza Menjivar, Elin Spring, and Paula Tognarelli. Thank you SO very much!


LensCulture’s 2018 Emerging Talent Awards

Cachoeira_ Brasil_-2

Santos Antônio de Pádua. Misiones Jesuitas Sao Francisco Rio de Igreja. Bahia, Brasil. 2015.

I’m very delighted and honoured to have been included in this year’s LensCulture Emerging Talents Award. Thank you to the Jurors for picking me as one of the top 50. The work is part of my on going project “This Miracle.”

True story: From time to time I go through my spam email in case something was thrown into it by mistake. The letter from Jim Casper informing me that I was selected was in that pile from a few days prior. Even though I doubted it was spam, I had to find out. So I wrote to him in a separate email (I had to be safe, after all). Amazingly, it was not spam. As you already know…

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Light Bulb. Salvador, Bahia, Brasil. 2017.

Chapada Diamantina

Living Room. Arandai, Chapada Diamantina, Bahia, Brasil. 2017.

Quilombo near Cachoeira, Bahia, Brasil-2

Curtain in quilombo home. Outside Cachoeira, Bahia, Brasil. 2015.


11th Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers

Bed. Arandai, Chapada Diamentina, Bahia, Brasil. 2017.

I’m very honoured to have won Runner Up in the 11th Julia Cameron Award for the Abstract & Still Life category. Thank you to the Jurors. The work is part of my on going project “This Miracle” which is a personal exploration into the human landscape in Bahia, Brasil.

Family Photograph. Beira Rio, Chapada Diamentina, Bahia, Brazil. 2017.

Living Room. Santiago de Iguape, Bahia, Brasil. 2017.

Floor. Arandai, Chapada Diamentina, Bahia, Brasil. 2017

Is Bigger Better? Perhaps.

Yours Truly in front of Siren Song (exhibition view at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA). 2018. Photo Credit: Natalie Schaefer

I am of the belief that a photograph isn’t truly a photograph until it is a print. Perhaps I am “stuck in the past.” Nonetheless, to me, making a print is the final step in the photography workflow without which the image cannot becomes the object it is meant to be. When trying to produce the best rendering of the picture – a true surrogate of the world I photographed – I find that looking at the print, rather than viewing it on a screen, best shows me what needs tweaking. I can then re-process and re-print.

If you’ve read my blog you know that I have been taking photos at the Salton Sea, in California, for nearly three years now. After the first two trips, I began making 4″x6″ prints so that I could easily pin them on my wall and move them around – to live with them, if you will. Over time, I experimented with various printing paper to get the right “feel of place” that worked with the image, colour palette, and light. Paper choice was critical and I ended up producing 5″x7″ proofs on bright, matte paper. Through this process I also realised that intimacy was key to viewing the work and decided that I would make most of my prints no larger than this.

The point of a small picture is the sense of privacy it affords the viewer. Only one person at a time can move in close to see it. The picture becomes a metaphor for an interior space. Small photos feel more personal; they remind us of old family albums, where we can touch and hold the pictures so that our senses are filled with memory.

However, for numerous reasons, I recently experimented with printing this body of work larger. Though it should have come as no surprise I was struck by how much more detail I could see with the bigger print. This inevitably led me to experiment with larger and still larger prints, until the photos felt as though I could almost walk into them. Despite their intimacy, small prints simply could not create that feeling.

Scale clearly affects  how the image is viewed, the degree of depth that can be seen, and the emotional impact it elicits. The physicality of larger prints seems to place the images into the physical world and allow them breathing room – encouraging the viewer to both move further back and closer in. Yet, much as too-small pictures may actually become lost, too-large prints run the risk of being dominant.

Thus, a next step for me is to print bigger again and play with various sizes of sequenced photos – to see how the body and mind react to and perceive their placement together.

It has been a gradual learning process for me. Finding the appropriate scale for the pictures , along with the tools I use as a photographer (from camera to computer to printing paper), helps create the photograph as an artifact and contributes to the tangible experience of viewing the final print.

Siren Song (exhibition view at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA). The smaller photos are 5″x7″ and the largest are 17″x 22.”  2018.

Look at Me: Fragments of a Body

Self Portrait (Neck).

Since I bought a smart phone, three years ago, I have taken photos of my self (many of which are posted on Instagram). This “self-portraiture” has been a necessity of sorts – a way of seeing myself in the world as I pass through or (more precisely) live in it as a physical being. It is a way of viewing my ordinary body without a mirror. Skin, hair, creases, and folds are so utterly commonplace and things that we all share, as human beings. Despite this sameness I feel out of place and flawed. In some photographs I am dressed. However, it is nakedness that is of greatest interest to me since it is literally skin that separates my inner landscape from the outer world.

Each photograph is of a fragment of myself. It is a distorted and incomplete view – a detail. Since I hold the mobile phone in my hand there is no other way to see myself except through these closeups.

Self Portrait (Belly).

The photographs of me are not always flattering but, the only body I truly understand and need to embrace is the one I occupy. Yet, I often want to reject it since it is now a heavier and baggier form than it was in its youth. Wrinkles are now laid bare. I am not quite old but old age is a taboo in North American society. I am past the age of fifty and women, in particular, are led to believe that their shapes are imperfect and regard them with disdain (and all too often I believe this is true for myself). In fact, reshaping one’s body with plastic surgery (in an attempt to recapture youth) is widely accepted.

Some pictures are meant to give a sense of mood. Many are simply the camera (and an app, perhaps) drawing my figure. The person (me) is not the subject; it is the body (mine). I am not dealing with older age, per se.

Self Portrait (Armpit).

There is something freeing about turning the camera toward me. I feel alive and empowered. My body is all mine no matter the imperfections. I intend to continue these photographs. This act of imaging my self as an evolving being is a path to self acceptance.

Self Portrait (Knees).

Self Portrait (Mouth).

Self Portrait (Thighs).

Self Portrait (At Rest With Headache).

Saudade: Traces of the Past

Igatu Chapada Diamantina

Photograph, Igatu, Chapada Diamantina, Brasil

“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.” (

“Old paint on a canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman’s dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter ‘repented,’ changed his mind. Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and then seeing again… The paint has aged and I wanted to see what was there for me once, what is there for me now.” – Introduction to Lillian Hellman’s Pentimento

Effigy, Brasil

Efigy, Chapada Diamantina, Brasil

I just finished the second of two back-to-back photography workshops with Ernesto Bazan (this one in Chapada Diamantina, Bahia, Brasil). We visited families in Arandai and Velho Mocambo(?), explored a few out of the way places (i.e., at the end of long, dry, pocked, iron-filled dirt roads), and had the opportunity to watch a celebration of Umbanda. It was quite overwhelming as children from the homes we visited, ran around posing and trying to grab each photographer’s attention. Multiple generations live together, and both calm and pandemonium abound. Likewise, the festivities we witnessed had equal shares of order and chaos. It was easy to get lost in the throes and, as a photographer, to lose intention.

Focusing (no pun intended) is difficult. It is a trait that I must nurture, when a great deal of activity surrounds me. I have to remember to do what I am naturally inclined toward, rather than be swallowed up by the waves of movement around me (or, alternatively, do what I think is expected of me when I take pictures with other photographers). When I heed my own voice I tend to turn in a different direction from others. I do not do this to be contrary or non-conformist but rather to find my own space. I get lost in the details, layers, cracks, and crevices, rather than be swept away by the whole; I go at my own rhythm. Looking until something – almost always intangible – captures me. I then try to transform that particular something into an image.

BEd, Andarai, Brasil

Bed, Arandai, Chapada Diamantina, Brasil

After initial inner struggles (and many poor shots thanks to these fights with myself) what calls to me are typically the quieter and less certain spaces of my surroundings – the things that can be overlooked because they may be too quotidian or too spare. But, I respond to these with my heart – they feel like psychological layers. It is a dance between “me” and “object” – and I explore the space where we intersect. How it manifests itself to me and then how I translate that feeling into image is unclear to me (at least for the moment.) I simply allow myself to be carried with it and go with the grain. Like saudade or pentimento, the photograph becomes an utterance detached from context, thereby giving it a unique integrity and opening it to abstract or new meaning.

This trip to Brasil was an eye-opener for me on a few levels. I felt that I was walking on a tightrope in both the country and my work. In regard to the Brasil, I became very conscious that behind the myth of a magical/spiritual Bahia lies a very difficult, and sometimes unbelievably harsh, world of poor, landless, and/or homeless people who suffer yet are determined to surmount obstacles. They struggle daily to survive – and do not always succeed.

Homeless, Salvador, Brasil

Woman, Salvador, Brasil

With this as a background, it seems almost trite to talk about my photography. But I am discovering that the  pictures I take are responses to the spaces and places where I work in. During these weeks in Brasil I figured out that I must feel comfortable in my own skin and do what is right for me. It is something I always know but do not always allow myself to remember and act upon. In Brasil I felt strong links to saudade, something that escaped me entirely when I visited the country in 2015. After a while it was difficult not to see it everywhere. Yet, despite the melancholia there is strength and hope that seems to prevail even under some of the more dire circumstances.

My work is not straight documentation but, rather, a subjective (and limited) description of experience. In framing the material subject of a photograph I express an embodied tactile knowledge – it is a gesture toward turning familiar places and objects into visceral experiences. But my photographs barely scratch the surface (or layers) of this state of being, of saudade.

Woman, Igatu, Chapada Diamantina, Brasil

Woman, Igatu, Chapada Diamantina, Brasil

Landscape, Arandai, Chapada Diamantina, Brasil

Landscape, Arandai, Chapada Diamantina, Brasil

Poster, Salvador, Brasil

Poster, Salvador, Brasil

A Need to Know

Near Cachoiera. Bahia, Brasil.

Near Cachoiera. Bahia, Brasil.

Over the years there have been several elements that have consistently played important roles in how my life and my art have unfolded. I grew up immersed in art; my parents took me to museums and encouraged me to be creative – to use my hands by drawing, building, and photographing. Unwittingly, they also taught me to enjoy solitude. Beyond this though, throughout my university pursuit in the visual arts and to this day, I have always craved movement and change (I moved sixteen times in twenty-two years). I have also always felt strongly compelled to learn about and understand other people and cultures – so much so that as a teenager I considered anthropology as a career.

Once I settled into nesting by making my home with Steve, while continuing to dabble in art, the urge to address all of these interests led to my leaving my all-consuming day job as an archivist and setting out to travel on my own for several months. If I hadn’t done so I would not have realized that travel and photography are my true passions.

I have come to understand that both these pursuits have everything to do with the need to know. When I travel, I am completely open to discovery. I want not just to set foot in other lands but to become a part of them, however briefly. I want to see and experience that which is different about other cultures and, dispelling all assumptions, learn about what we all have in common.

Cachoeira, Bahia, Brasil.

Cachoeira, Bahia, Brasil.

In her New Yorker article this past July, Loneliness Belongs to the Photographer, Hanya Yanagihara wrote:

…the person with the camera is not hiding but receding. She is willfully removing herself from the slipstream of life; she is making herself into a constant witness, someone who lives to see the lives of others… the photographer moves through the world, our world, hoping for anonymity, hoping she is able to humble herself enough to see and record what the rest of us—in our noisy perambulations, in our requests to be heard—are too present to our own selves to ever see. To practice this art requires first a commitment to self-erasure…

…The annals of photography contain many extraordinary portraits, but the ones we linger on longest achieve something exceptional: they suggest that in the microsecond it takes for the shutter to blink, some communion has been found, that an unseen life has become a seen one, that attention has been paid, that an act of witness has been accomplished. They remind us how much we want to be seen, and also how infrequently we practice the skill of seeing others. But if there is a cure for the invisibility of loneliness, it is this. It is why, depending on who you are, that click of the camera’s shutter is a sound that evokes either anxiety or relief. Click: I see you. Click: I see you. Click: I see you. You are not alone.

The camera is the instrument through which I observe, discover, and learn as I travel. Although I am behind it, it connects me to others at the same time. It starts the conversation – be it through simple eye contact with the person I am photographing or, sometimes, a profound sense that the person I am photographing understands she has my complete attention and respect. It is when I travel and photograph that I can truly see.

Near Cachoeria, Bahia, Brasil.

Near Cachoeria, Bahia, Brasil.

I am attentive to my environment; I am constantly framing moments in my mind’s eye as it sweeps the landscape around me. I try to capture the feel of things with my photographs – of people, of spaces, and of objects. Although I have begun to work on photographic projects in the last year, my pictures are first and foremost about the subject in each individual image and about the impression it made on me. I work toward getting at what lies beneath the surface. Through photography I collect experiences, remember, learn, and share what I have felt and seen. To quote Yanagihara again, “The lens may distance the photographer from the rest of humanity, but with that distance comes an enhanced ability to see what is overlooked.” I would also venture to say that wandering with my camera brings this photographer closer to intimate exchanges and humanity. It is my propensity for travelling alone that, perhaps ironically, enables this.

Quilombo near Cachoeira. Bahia, Brasil.

Quilombo near Cachoeira. Bahia, Brasil.

Quilombo near Cachoeira. Bahia, Brasil.

Quilombo near Cachoeira. Bahia, Brasil.