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Well this was a fun one. The march started at the Justin Herman Plaza, right by the Occupy SF encampment, and it was destined towards the Financial district. Wherever the crowd went, people working in their offices, shops and restaurants would come out and take pictures of the growing crowd. I read some estimates putting the crowd at around 400 in the beginning, and it looked to me like it grew up to over 1000.


I thought this would be just another Occupy protest, but an inner circle of organizers kept a surprise to themselves: they planned to arrive at Bank of America on California Street and take over. Protesters entered the bank in droves with their drums, signs, backpacks, dogs and all the other assorted protest gear. They even pitched up a tent inside there. Other than a girl writing the words “greed” and “shame” with chalk on metal file cabinets, and dozens of political fliers strewn through the place, there was really no vandalism or destruction done by the protesters inside the bank. And they did completely annihilate all the complimentary lollypops in the bank lobby.


They came in yelling “shame!” and wagging their finger energetically at the bank tellers. When I entered the bank, there was only one employee still at his post, looking extremely uncomfortable. Others sort of huddled behind the main counter while the protesters climbed on furniture, crowded the place, effectively turning it into a party spot.

I don’t know why this one man would stay long after the other employees were hanging out by a secured room behind the counters. Perhaps it is part of his responsibility, I’m not sure. As the last employee there, he suffered the blunt of the yelling, finger wagging and getting his picture taken by all kinds of photojournalists. He seemed like he was just trying to shut it all out, unsuccessfully. It occurred to me to ask for his name and occupation, to see if he would respond, since other than yelling at him, I didn’t notice anyone actually trying to talk to him. He had removed his nametag and was now holding it in his hand.  I asked him what was his name and his job at the bank. He didn’t want to speak a single word, but he pointed me towards a stack of his business cards, so I took one. He is Luciano Trentoni, Assistant Vice President and Financial Solutions Advisor.

P rotesters took advantage of the ample availability of pens and post-it notes, and decided to leave messages on the bank tellers desks and computers.

The one security guard remained at his post, but he was not enough to keep the crowd under control. After a while, rumors started within the crowd inside the bank that people might start getting arrested soon. I asked the security guard if “something bad” was about to happen. “All I can tell you is we want you guys out of here, and police are on their way.”  OK then.

I went back into the crowd to get a few more shots and people were passing around the phone number for a lawyers guild. Just as I was about to write it down on my hand, about a dozen cops came into the bank, and I dropped my pen. I wasn’t sure if they were going to straight up start arresting people left and right, so I went towards the exit holding my hands out (not up, I’m not that much of a geek!) and got out of the way.

People quieted down and sat on the floor, but nobody moved. Press took their posts behind the protesters, but I didn’t want to wedge myself between the crowd of protesters and the glass wall, so I took a vantage point near the exit. But when cops entered they just stood in a row and didn’t do much else for almost an hour.

Cops separated the press from the protesters. One kid stood out from the press crowd. He was the youngest, skinniest, most rosie cheeked kid, a rookie. The cops went for him first, asked for his press pass and  he didn’t have one, so they told him if he didn’t leave they would have to arrest him. I realized I didn’t have my pass with me so I got out before I got arrested (hey, peeps at the office were waiting for photos to arrive on deadline, can’t do that from jail!). I realized after that guy left, I was now the youngest looking,  physically smallest of the press crowd, so I knew if they were going to pick on someone else next, it would be me. So I decided to go get out before that happened.

Outside the bank, the crowd stayed strong while some others continued marching down Market Street. Outside Bank of America, police presence was strong, in riot gear, two vans and one bus awaiting to be filled with arrested bank occupiers.


Finally, after a while, they started arresting folks inside the bank, one by one, in a relatively peaceful way.

I had to shoot a few of these through the thick and streaky glass wall, as I had already gone outside for fear of being arrested for lack of press pass.  But then I moved around to the other side of the bank when they finally began taking the arrestees out of the bank and into the bus. About 90 people were arrested from inside the bank.



 

Some estimate around 10,000 people showed up to support the Occupy Oakland movement and marched from 14th and Broadway to the Port of Oakland, which was effectively shut down. The 99%, all ages and races, is in full force. And Oakland is just behind Occupy Wall Street as one of the largest Occupy movements in the country.

For a long time I thought the environment would be the cause of our generation. But I guess we’ll get to that when we can stop worrying about having to choose between paying the rent or paying for groceries.

 

 

The year of rest.

If any soul out there keeps any track of this blog, they have probably noticed I have not added an entry in almost a year now. I’m sure no one has lost any sleep over this, yet I still somehow feel that I can’t just go back to adding posts without first explaining the reason for this gap.

I think most years have a theme.  2006 was my year of change, 2007 the year of hedonism, 2008 the year of finding my way in San Francisco, and so forth.

This last year was for me the year of rest. However, it did not start conveniently in January as did my former themed years. It started around May, just as I finished my last semester of college.

I passed all my classes and my parents were finally able to see me get handed a piece of paper while a room full of people clapped and took pictures.

My health must have gone on vacation,  because only days after graduation, I fell ill to flu-like symptoms: fevers, night sweats, extreme fatigue, pain traveling randomly through my extremities, and that strange taste in my mouth, like you’re holding a penny under your tongue. Between May and September of 2010, I must have gone through this flu-type thing at least 5 or 6 times. And I call it a flu-type thing because no one around me ever seems to catch what I have, unlike real normal flu, which is contagious.

Then I began to notice problems in my stomach.  As soon as my stomach emptied, every 3 or 4 hours, I did not experience a normal feeling of hunger. It was more like the feeling of some acid burning a hole through my insides. I would become instantly ill, nauseous, bending over this pain, until I ate something.

At around this time, just as I realized that this wasn’t normal, I began falling in love with a man who, luckily enough, studied natural health. He helped me get over my procrastination and skepticism and pushed me to go to the community clinic. There, I was finally told I had gastritis.

The doctor told me my problems were most likely caused by the stress marathon of non-stop working and studying, being always in a hurry and chronically broke for 7 years in a row. This, added to my natural propensity to stress out regardless of my circumstances, as well as some less that ideal eating habits, apparently caused havoc on my stomach lining.

It seems that, as one hospital worker told me, I was “living from the neck up,” for 7 years. I wasn’t listening at all to the signals my body was sending me. I was so preoccupied getting so much done, that my mind literally ignored these problems. As soon as I stepped off the stage after receiving my diploma, my mind finally had time and energy to listen to the rest of my body. And body wasn’t happy about having been neglected for so long.

I thought that now that I was done with school, I would have more time and energy to do my own projects and make money. But on the contrary, my body and energies had been depleted, my stomach a wreck.

I was already not doing much after graduation, and the doctor told me to do even less, to “lounge around the house more.”

And so I’ve been doing the minimal. Taking on just enough assignments to get by, cooking many home meals, and avoiding stress as much as possible.

The gastritis wakes me up every single day.  Sometimes as early as 3 or 4 a.m. At which point I will go back to sleep and stay asleep for as long as one hour or as little as 15 minutes before I’m woken up again with some kind of discomfort or pain in my stomach or esophagus. I continue this game of waking up and trying to get back to sleep until around 10 in the morning. On good nights, my stomach will only wake me up 3 times or so. Usually it’s at least 7 times, and up to 15. Sometimes I’m not able to go back to sleep at all. Every morning I get to a point, usually happens between 9  and 11 a.m., where I am still exhausted, but I have woken up so many times throughout the night and morning, that I become unable to go back to sleep.   That’s when I make that dreadful executive decision to get up once again, unprepared, unrested, and disoriented.

I makes me feel hopeless to be laying in bed exhausted, when all I am physically able to do is to sleep, my eyes hurting from dryness, yet my stomach won’t let me. I had always been such a good sleeper. Now, I am physically unable to sleep in. I crave this kind of deep rest so intensely. It sounds mundane, I suppose, to complain like this over lost sleep. But after a year of not being able to go through one night of uninterrupted sleep, I can tell you I miss it as if it was one of my best friends. I sometimes am so desperate I try to negotiate with my stomach: “Please, please, please let me go back to sleep, please, just a little more.”  The exhaustion can turn your thoughts almost hallucinogenic. I am sure that, if asked at the right moment, I would turn down a billion dollars just to be able to go back to sleep. It is also during these desperate early hours of mind fuzz when random negative thoughts come to mind, most of which dissipate once I have gotten some rest and the day light comes in.

I must make a pause here to clarify that I write all of this only because I want to share with friends and colleagues what I’ve been up to. Yes, I am in some pain and exhausted every day.  Yet there are people out there dealing with so much worse pain than I am, who have less resources, and less possibilities for a cure. I just wanted to take a moment to recognize that.

I keep snacks in my purse and by my bedside, because when I have to eat, I have to eat, or the pain comes in very quick. I sometimes sleep sitting up so that acids from my tummy don’t go up my esophagus. Other than this, and a long list of forbidden foods, things are mostly normal. I have a boyfriend and a cat, I still take photos, I travel to friends weddings or to holidays with my family. I do a little freelance work here and there.

But my gastritis has also pushed me to do good things for myself that otherwise I would have never done. I have changed my diet and eating habits. I began meditating to deal with my propensity to stress.  I’ve gained an awareness of my body that I’ve never had before. With help from my partner, I am exploring natural paths to health, because I have to do something while the community clinic system slowly digests me.

I only have a few regrets from my year of forced rest. I have neglected some friendships, missed birthday parties, BBQ’s and pub crawls, and for that I am sorry. My career has also slowed down, barely eeking out an income.

But slowly I’m getting used to this situation and trying my best to live around it.

I’ve recently started working as a Photography Editor for El Tecolote, a small bilingual community paper.  I am lucky the staff there knows and cares about me, letting me take a step back and take care of myself when I need to.

I am also going back to reporting for Mission Local. I am thankful that Lydia Chavez, my editor there, has also been understanding and flexible with me.

I am not sure how much longer this year of rest will last, or what will be the theme for next year. Perhaps it will be the year of Slow, when hopefully I will learn the greatest challenge of all, to be patient with myself and my body.

My new best friend: mushy bland food

I had been meaning to do something about my long but somewhat damaged hair for a while. Everyone kept telling me to leave it but that’s what everyone always says if you’re a girl with long shiny hair. But I was always too busy to follow through and too broke to worry about paying for a haircut at a nice salon.

Then a photo assignment came where I wanted to photograph the relationship between women and their hair.  I honestly did not put in the time required to do a proper photo essay on this topic, and I only got barely enough shots to pass the class, but at least it got me talking to a fabulous stylist, Jinelle Besneatte, who works at a fabulous salon, GlamaRama!

I mentioned the possibility of a trade, I offered to take some photos for her stylist book in exchange for a haircut. It is a very nice salon, with great stylists, so I knew I was getting something of good value that I could not  afford to pay with cash at the time. Or even now, for that matter. Sigh.

Anyways, Jinelle was down and we set a date.

She turned my hair from this

To this

I was very happy with the results, so I paid for my haircut with these:

Models: Rebecca Kleinman & Ariel Nicole

Hair & Makeup: Jinelle Besneatte

Fashion Stylist: Ahmad Francois

Photo & Light assistant: A. Dominic Efferson

Fish in Chipotle Sauce, from Restaurante El Delfín.

For many years of shooting I was focused on what naturally unfolded in front of me. I did mostly nature photography for the first six or seven years, and then got more into people and photojournalism during the last three.

For several years my interests remained somewhat narrow. I was especially uninterested in product or food photography. It seemed to lack that thrill of the chase you sometimes get when doing photojournalism, shooting something like a protest or public event where there’s a lot of energy and emotion going on and lots of things happening all at once, and you have no control over people, weather or lighting conditions aside from maybe the strobe. You can get into a very special kind of mind zone doing this, and I didn’t really envision myself getting this kind of feeling while working in a studio and fiddling with lights doing product or food photography.

It turned out I was right. There is no adrenaline, no chase.

But what I didn’t know, is that I would find a different kind of crafty fascination, and have since become just a little bit obsessed.

At a portraiture and lighting class during my last semester at SF State, we had one lesson on food photography. We analyzed every little lighting detail about many photos, every shadow and highlight.

This was turning out to be more complicated than lighting a portrait. A face is a face and everyone’s eyes and nose and mouth are always in the same place, and you have a variety of lighting setups to achieve a variety of effects with somewhat predictable results. But every plate of food is different, each serving is its own little universe, and each thing on the plate needs something different. You might want a particular kind of lighting for the entree while something different is required for the side dish, and still something else to light the drinks. And you’re working in such a small space that it is difficult to light two different items differently, while keeping the lighting of one item from spilling and messing up your lighting setup for another item.

Ever since this lesson I’ve been spending more time in the supermarket than I used to. I will stand there on any given isle, looking at the packaging for different brands of the same product, to compare differences on how each one is lit and composed. And then I’ll find myself thinking really nerdy thoughts, like “how did they fail to get the highlights of glistening moisture on that can of peaches!?”

But seriously, it’s all about the highlights of glistening moisture. Slurp.

Thank you to restaurante El Delfín, near the corner of 24th and Treat in San Francisco’s Mission District, for letting me come in during the slow hours and cooking up all these wonderful dishes for me to practice (and snack!) on.

So do you prefer the Ceviche tostada as an intense close-up as above, or do you prefer to see the bigger picture, as shown below? Which lighting do you like best?

This is another, more overall version of the Fish and Chipotle image from up top. Do you prefer the intense close up from the top, or do you prefer to see the bigger picture here?

Salmon and a prawn soaked in all kinds of saucy goodness. Mmmhhh....

Sadie Lune describes herself as a “multimedia artist, sex worker, and pleasure activist.” I’ve been documenting her in different formats and for different reasons for almost two years now. The first time I just hung out with her all day and took pictures of her for my photojournalism class in the Fall of 2008. In spring of 2009, while taking a video class, I had an assignment to interview someone about how the bad economy was affecting them. First I brought in an interview with a skateshop manager that sounded pretty much the same as all the other clerks and business owners everyone else had interviewed.  So when I did my reshoot I wanted it to be a little more original, and I figured one rarely gets to hear from sex workers themselves, and of course Sadie was down.

Then, when I was living in Berlin during the summer of 2009, I was out one evening eating ice cream and I just happened to bump into her. When I came back to  San Francisco that fall, I photographed and wrote about one of her performances.

This spring we had the chance to collaborate for the fourth time. Whereas before the situation has been more journo-centered, trying to fulfill an assignment, this time it was really a collaboration. I just wanted to photograph someone and practice some personality portraiture.

I gave Sadie free reign and basically told her I would photograph her in whatever situation/attire/concept she wanted. I’m just here to light you and push the button, everything else is up to you. And that’s how I ended up photographing Sadie pushing her pet snakes inside a stroller while wearing what she described as a “very slutty dress” and makeup on the corner of 21st and Valencia streets on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Since I said I would photograph anything, she decided to include me in a photography project, where she will pose for a series of portraits. Sadie gave me the news that she wants to become a mother, and this project is her way of exploring the intersection between motherhood and sex work.  Each concept is being shot by a different photographer. I got “Strolling.” And you should see “Potty Training.” Another is birthing, and Sadie is coming up with more.

Sadie is not only open about her occupation, she is proud of it. If you were to start talking to her at a bar and ask her what she does for a living, she would not hesitate to tell you. When she was a child, she knew this is what she wanted to be when she grew up. It makes her happy to help others explore new facets of themselves, and to bring them her special brand of joy.

She knows that for some folks out there, the idea that an out and proud sex worker would want to become a mother is outrageous. Some are just bothered that people like her exist. She knows that raising a child in her situation will come with particular challenges that few other mothers come upon.

I was surprised when she told me she wanted to become a mother. “You want to have a kid in the next few years?”  More like this year. “Life is short right? Follow your dreams.” And with that, her news didn’t seem so shocking anymore.  I have such respect for her because she has the courage to live the life she wants to live and she makes no apologies for it. I think she is going to be a great mom very soon.

I remember how she just barely found the stroller at literally the last minute. I almost had to cancel on her because she was running late and I had other commitments that evening. But in the end she pulled it off. We were kind of hurried and she had other things going on, like flying back to Germany the next day. We were about to hurry out the door when she then stopped and asked if we had time for her to take one final look at her checklist. We were running tight on time but I decided it’s better to make sure we have everything we need rather than get out there and find something missing. So I told her to go ahead. I thought the checklist would be regarding to poses or particular messages. But it was about props. And we did have everything already, but she just had to have a second look, just in case.

The checklist looked something like this:

- snakes

- stroller

- slutty makeup

- slutty dress and shoes

- big hair

Check. And off we went.


There is a writer who wants to write about the lovely dancer Ava Flemming and pitch it to a Bay Area Magazine that actually -get this- comes out in print. Keep your fingers crossed for me, if you wouldn’t mind. Ava is based in Phoenix, and she flew to San Francisco, where the writer lives, specifically for this shoot. No pressure.

It makes me so happy to shoot such a beautiful person, who is not only comfortable in front of the camera, but who knows how to look fantastic and graceful from every angle! Not only that, but she continued modeling for me way past the time I expected her to. We did some studio shots at SF State’s photo classroom/lab, then walked over to Lake Merced to shoot over there.  I was ready to call it a day, when she offered to go back into the studio and do a few more. She braved the cold and the mosquitoes (oh yes, they’re here).

Some of these are posed, however, some are dance moves, which Ava had to do over and over until everything about the image was just right. At one point she was twirling around so much she started stumbling a little ways. It was kind of funny, and she was so enthusiastic about everything, it was a nice fun shoot.

There are lots that I like but I just had to get to a few of them out of my system.

Special thanks to my friend and fellow photo/journalist at Mission Loc@l, Armand  Emamdjomeh, who was friends with the writer. This shoot was offered to him first, but he didn’t have time for it, so he passed it on to me. That’s what it’s all about, photo-community.

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