Where do I start? I have now been in Brooklyn for a week and will be going back home to Detroit tomorrow morning. But I do not feel like the same person who arrived last Wednesday. This has been such a transformative experience that it will take weeks if not months for me to assimilate what I have learned here, both personally and professionally. I may not be able to articulate the changes, but I do know there has been a seismic shift in my inner and outer lives.
There’s no question that having been invited and sponsored by the amazing folks at UPI @united_photo to exhibit my IG pics from my three weeks in the hospital and at an inpatient physical rehab center in Detroit, and then to be here in person to interact with the people who were viewing them at @photoville was a privilege for which I will always be grateful. Maybe you can see it in my face in this portrait that was taken by one of my new friends, Ude @ude_aku, but what I see is a woman who is less concerned with making it big in photography or her “career“ and more content just being there to share the story. For me now, the story is everything. And through the story all those people who deserve our respect, support and appreciation can be seen, heard and valued. After this weekend at @photoville I no longer identify myself as a photographer. I am simply a visual storyteller who tries to get out of the way and let the story take center stage. May it always be so...
Two peas in a pod at the Whitney Museum.
One more quick picture from today. I took this at the Hudson River Park where I was taking time to unwind and begin to assimilate everything that has happened in the past five days. I sense this is a turning point that will reveal itself in time.
This is Donald who runs the beautiful freight elevator at the Whitney Museum, another individual who works behind the scenes to make life easier for the rest of us. it’s late now and I’m going to take a shower and go to bed. One of these days I will actually share my photos and stories from this amazing adventure in New York.
Of course I have a ton of wonderful photos from this last day of @photovillenyc 2018, but instead of sharing those, I’m going to show you where I got a snack at 11 PM tonight! I was a bit peckish as I scooted back to my hotel and tried to stop at a couple of places, but it was Sunday night after 10 PM and they were all closed or closing right then...except this one place on the corner of Adams Street right down from my hotel, the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge. When I scooted in the door the manager said to the people behind the counter, “This is the last customer of the night!“ I checked out the menu above the counter and saw there was not a lot for vegetarians. But they did have french fries and apple juice. I can’t tell you the last time I ordered french fries, but as I ate this unhealthy-but-yummy snack tonight, I felt like I was back in high school going to Tops Drive-in where we’d always order French fries and a cherry coke. The perfect ending to a perfect day.
Well, dear friends and followers, I am discovering that I am not the super woman I imagined! There is no way I can live this amazingly full weekend here @photovillenyc and share all the pictures and stories with you on Instagram. We’re just going to have to wait until my life settles down and then I promise I will inundate you with so many photos and stories you’ll get sick of it! For now I want to share these two photos of people who are so important to me. First you see me with a little girl named Violet who was hugging the unicorn stuffed animal I had just given her. I have Violet’s grandmother to thank for taking and sending me this photo. Mary Roumanos and her husband George are visiting from Australia and making it possible for Violet’s mom and dad to do the work they need to do here at Photoville and @united_photo.
Pictured on the right in the second picture you will see Violet’s mom and dad, Laura Roumanos and Sam Barzilay, who are two of the three co-founders/co-directors of this remarkable festival that is in its 7th year here in Brooklyn. This is no small accomplishment: last year there were over 90,000 visitors to the festival and I would guess we are having numbers like that again this year. I am so grateful to them and their colleague Dave Shelley @daveroxsox for finding my photo project on Instagram and inviting me to exhibit it here at Photoville. Only did they invite me but they are sponsoring my exhibit meaning they basically took care of all of the printing, installing, funding, etc. This is proving to be one of the highlights of my life. I offer my deepest gratitude not only to Laura, Sam and Dave, but to the hundreds and probably thousands of individuals who have helped make this festival come together in such a community-spirited way. It’s making a significant impact on the world and its people.
This is the final picture of the night taken of my dearly loved brother @ruddyroye and me in front of my “Grandma Techno Checks In” container exhibit at @photovillenyc. Thank you, dear Olivia @nyclivy, for taking it. I was planning to share at least a dozen more pictures and stories from today but, truth be told, I am absolutely wiped out and must take a quick shower and go to bed. This was an absolutely magnificent day and I’ll do my best to tell you a bit about it in the morning.
I could not resist taking this video in my “Grandma Techno Checks In” shipping container exhibit shortly before @photovillenyc closed for the night at 10 PM on Friday. My dear friend Olivia @nyclivy had brought three of her physical and occupational therapy co-workers to see my exhibit and this gentleman from Amsterdam had just asked, “What is occupational therapy?” The OT Tina @tinatane started her answer by saying, “Occupational therapists help the patient with tasks of daily living and motor skills like...”
I continue to be grateful to everyone who has made my exhibit possible, some of whom I met the first time yesterday. One is an activist artist named Kate McNeely @milkmcspilly who had been an artist-in-residence at the Rauschenberg Resdency shortly before me in the winter of 2017. We had already connected by Instagram and it was wonderful to meet in person. It was Kate working with my curator Crystal Grow who installed the show so sensitively. Today Kate brought her photographer father Bob to meet me which was wonderful!
There were so many special meetings and connections today, with friends new and old. I so loved seeing my dear IG buddy Keenon @kpegs, his mother Susan @spmaxson35 whom I met at @photoville last year and absolutely adore, his niece Jordan @jaypegs23, his IG buddy Carlos @los.uno, Alayna, Dana and Leslie. They had driven in on this Friday night from New Jersey, got caught in terrible traffic, but were still in good spirits when they arrived.
It was a special treat to spend some time with my dear friend Maggie Steber @maggiesteber who is also exhibiting here at Photoville.
And I want to celebrate two of the workers without whose help @photoville would not be as perfect as it is. First, William who helps keep the place spotless, and secondly, Richie, one of the many security guards who keep us safe.
Next I’d like to introduce you to two wonderful women I met tonight: Suhyla @itsuhyla and Tasneem @tasneem.b. Tasmeem is of Palestinian and Italian heritage and Suhyla is Egyptian.
I was especially touched by the warmth of the greeting I received from Nancy Anderson @nancinha4 of Seattle. Apparently she has been following me on Instagram for years but has never posted a like or a comment so I didn’t know her name. Nancy is originally from NYC and comes to back home to visit occasionally. But this time she knew I would be at Photoville so she made the special effort to be in town and come over to Brooklyn to meet me.
And finally I would like to introduce you to Noah Benus @nonibenus who identified himself as a disabled artist and is very interested in showing his life from the inside as I do.
There are 90 container exhibits plus Photo Cube exhibits, The Fence and more freestanding exhibits here at @photovillenyc 2018 in the Brooklyn Bridge Park beside the East River in Dumbo. We are free and open to the public today (Friday, Sept 21) from 4-10 PM, Saturday 12 noon-10 PM, and Sunday 12 noon-9 PM. I plan to be at my #32 container exhibit all those hours with very few time-outs. Come join us if you can, and be sure to come and say “Hi” to me!
If you have seen any of the articles in print and online about this amazing festival, you will have read about and seen photos by Griselda San Martin @gray_sanmartin in her exhibit called “The Wall.” Since 2015 Griselda has been photographing families who meet at an already existing fence between San Diego, CA and Tijuana, Mexico. She always takes her photos from the Mexican perspective in Tijuana, and frequently asks the families about their story and why they and their loved ones are separated.
I knew I had to see this exhibit but it turned out to be on the second story of the container exhibits. The Photoville organizers had already apologized to me for their inability to make that area wheelchair accessible, but with the help of one of the team members, we made it happen! Todd carried me in his arms up the steep flight of stairs and put me in a chair in the middle of Griselda’s exhibit container. This marvelous Spanish photographer then went through her exhibit photo-by-photo telling me the story behind each one. Griselda and I had already made a deep connection through Instagram, but now we are friends for life, as I think you can see in these photos that Todd and I took at Griselda’s exhibit. How I admire how she uses photography to open our minds and hearts to real-life situations we didn’t even know existed! Please Google “Griselda San Martin: The Wall” to see and read more.
The most profound moment of the entire Education Day at @photoville on Thursday was when one of the volunteers - Carmen - encouraged Justin, a middle school student, to show me what he had written immediately after he had listened to me discuss my work and photography in general: “It’s not how the picture turns out. It’s about how willing you are to take it!” Tonight I received an IG Direct Message from Justin @the_real_just_drip in which he said he had thought about that deeply and taken it into consideration “cuz it meant alot.” If ever I had wondered if I had made the right decision to postpone my NYC trip a week, this young man just let me know that I was meant to be at Education Day if not for anyone else but him. I am so grateful to Justin for his honesty and openness. I will never forget him.
I have just come to what has become my favorite late-night spot in Brooklyn, sitting beside the East River between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. I was at @photovillenyc from 9 AM until 10 PM tonight. Yes, I’m tired but it was a wonderful day. The middle school and high school students who participated in Education Day were very special. I’m sharing some photos of the students who came to my exhibition container.
I also had a wonderful visit with my dear friends Lindsay @lindsaymorrisphoto and Caren @exphotographer who drove in together from Long Island, a 2 hour drive each way. It was challenging to find time to spend with them because I was committed to spending time with the students, but we finally worked it out and had a lovely visit, even managing to share two delicious NY style pizzas for dinner. It was a treat when my dear friend Olivia @nyclivy joined us. Olivia was the one who had hosted my exhibition container 4 1/2 days last week. Olivia is also the acrobat who can do handstands just about anyplace, as she showed us today!
I have a free morning and early afternoon tomorrow because Photoville doesn’t open until 4 PM, so I will share more photos and stories then. Now it’s time for me to go back to my hotel and get some sleep.
I have just spent the last two hours trying to put up pictures and the stories of everybody who made today so special. I just can’t do it and it’s now midnight and I’ve got to get to bed because tomorrow is a long day @photovillenyc! So I’m just going to put up the pictures and sometime later I will tell you the stories of these wonderful people. For now, here they are named in order of appearance: Marriott Brooklyn Bridge Hotel Desk Clerk Cheryl, Maintenance Engineers Rubio & Hector, pictures of their families, United Photo Industries @united_photo Co-Directors Laura Roumanos, Dave Shelley and Sam Barzilay, and Patricia & Angelika from Germany. You will also see a few photos of the view from beside the East River between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. It was such a beautiful evening here in Dumbo!
As this woman was paddling her kayak towards the setting sun, so I am preparing to paddle my “kayak“ into the rising sun of @photovillenyc. I don’t know exactly what to expect but I do know it’s going to be an amazing adventure! The only challenge I anticipate is trying to pace myself so I don’t get exhausted. And that is not going to be easy because I’m going to be surrounded by the remarkable energy of my peers. It feels like returning home for a family reunion, even though many of the people I have never met before. But we speak the same language, see the world in similar ways, and are passionate about the privilege we have to be visual storytellers. I am incredibly grateful to Dave Shelley @daveroxsox, Laura Roumanos @lauradancesnow and Sam Barzilay @sambarzilay of United Photo Industries @united_photo for discovering my story on Instagram, seeing it as a good fit for @photovillenyc, and taking care of everything that needed to be done to turn this series of iPhone pictures into the exhibit I will be seeing for the first time on Thursday. I have these three to thank for giving me the marvelous curator Krystal Grow @kgreyscale with whom to work. And where would I be without Olivia Bramlett @nyclivy who spent hours every day that Photoville was open last week hosting visitors to my container exhibit. They say it takes a village and I know that first hand. Sending huge thanks to everyone who has made “Grandma Techno Checks In” come alive in ways I could never have imagined when I was hospitalized and in a physical rehab center last winter. Can’t wait to see you all on Thursday!
This is my final day of packing before my flight to NYC tomorrow - Wednesday - at noon. It has been a challenge to choose what clothes to bring because the weather forecast keeps changing. As of now, it looks like Sunday will be the only day of rain I will encounter at @photovillenyc, but with the unpredictability of Florence and its possible effect on the Northeast, things can change. I’m trying to pack accordingly. I never carry more than my one black soft-sided suitcase, so I need to be selective in what I bring. That suitcase is great because I can slip the straps over the armrest of my scooter and carry it on my own. With that suitcase and my scooter backpack, I feel like a turtle carrying my world on my back!
As I was scooting the 3 1/2 miles home from lap swimming at the high school this morning, I looked out at the lake with the clouds hovering above the seemingly endless horizon and thought how lucky I am to be free. I thought about the people who are currently inpatients at physical rehab centers like I was last winter and knew from the inside how unfree they feel. Those two weeks I was in rehab, I wasn’t even allowed to go off the floor to the hospital lobby without a doctor’s permission and an approved person accompanying me. I felt like a prisoner.
This makes me wonder how it is going to feel for me to be inside that long skinny shipping container at @photovillenyc surrounded by 50 of my photos with the story of my 3-week hospitalization and rehab spelled out in intimate detail on captions. I guess I won’t know until I get there early Thursday morning. I suspect it will be quite emotional. For that reason, I had better get there early to deal with my own issues before the series of small groups of NYC middle school and high school students who are participating in Education Day come to see my exhibit and hear me speak about it. I consider it a real honor to have time with these young people. I just want to be ready to answer their questions in ways that will be helpful to them.
It was a warm sunny September Sunday here in metro Detroit and everybody was taking advantage of it!
It is always a delight to run into my old friend Robert Guzman @baboophotography out and about in Detroit. It’s especially important to both of us that we have time to sit down and have a real heart-to-heart talk like we did yesterday at the Eastern Market. Robert and his friend Scott (with the blonde hair) had taken a long bike ride and ended up in the market. I knew that Robert has been dealing with serious health issues for the past couple of years but it now appears that he is coming out on the other side of it. Just one more surgery! I must admit, after my struggles with my own health this year, I understand better than ever before what Robert means when he says he feels grateful for every thing that he can do these days. I understand because I feel exactly the same way. Nothing in life is guaranteed. That is where gratitude comes in.