When I went to Houston in May for my grandfather’s funeral, I brought not just my digital camera, but also my Mamiya C220. I shot an entire roll of just family time in the backyard, but this one’s my favorite.
Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
When I first made plans to fly to Houston for my grandfather’s funeral, I had no intentions of bringing a camera. When my brother made plans to fly himself, my sister-in-law and my niece to Houston, I packed up my cameras, both digital and film.
As I previously wrote, exploring our childhood home through the eyes of my niece, then almost 20 months, was a lot of fun. Without further ado, I present pictures of the world’s most important toddler:
Earlier this month, I returned to Houston for my grandfather‘s funeral, but I was hardly the most far-flung traveler: My brother, sister-in-law and almost-20-month-old niece flew in from Italy.
Not since Christmas 2010 had my two brothers and I been together under the same roof, so while we had gathered to pay respects to our grandfather, we had fun being siblings again and exploring our childhood home through the eyes of Layla, who is now a very confident toddler.
Making pictures of a constantly/unpredictably moving target is a lot different from making pictures of a babe who is either being held or lying relatively sill, but it’s also a lot more fun. Unfortunately, editing down pictures of a toddler who is rambunctiously touring her new domain is pretty difficult. How can you say no to this face?
…Or to this face?
Layla isn’t quite ready to put nouns and verbs together to form sentences, but she is very capable of understanding directions and making pout faces. The pictures in this blog post wouldn’t have made the final cut for what I’ll ultimately share, but I take my responsibility as family photographer* very seriously and believe that not sharing these pictures would be akin to committing a serious transgression.
Obviously, there will be more Layla pictures to come.
* Apparently I was always the family photographer: While looking through photo albums for pictures to submit for my grandfather’s obituary page, my uncle Doug discovered this picture:
Uncle Doug was very proud of this discovery. I am very excited about this early evidence that I’m better behind the camera than in front of it.
My grandfather — my father’s father — died earlier this month. Tomorrow, I’m flying to Houston to spend time with family and attend his funeral.
My grandfather led an enormously productive life (as you can read in his obituary), but my brothers and I mostly got to know him better after he retired in 1997 and settled with my grandmother in a house 10 miles from our own home. A significant language barrier lay between my generation and him, but I knew him as a stern yet benevolent patriarchal figure who was largely content to spend his retirement in peace and to observe us quietly as we grew from rambunctious, bickering kids to generally functioning adults.
Every Sunday night for years, we’d drive over for family dinner. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year, my father’s two brothers would fly down and join us for a food-filled celebration. These were rituals that we could count on. At first, as an oblivious, sometimes bratty kid, I resisted particularly the weekly dinners, for which my grandmother often cooked up seven different Chinese dishes from scratch. But over the years, I learned to appreciate these times and, especially once I went to college, my grandmother’s cooking. I therefore made a point of visiting my grandparents every time I was in town during college and afterwards.
My grandfather won’t be present at Jeff’s and my wedding — one reason we booked a Texas venue was so my grandparents could attend — but it’s okay. He served his country for 54 years in three (I think) different countries, and earned his long, quiet retirement. He lived to see one of my generation get married and to meet one of his two great-granddaughters, and he liked Jeff and knew of our engagement.
In Chinese culture, it is important to honor your elders, and in addition to attending his funeral and spending time with family, writing this blog is the best way I can honor and remember my grandfather.
Rest in peace, Grandpa.
- You can read more about my grandfather’s life and see pictures here.
If you took Yoda (non-combative, original trilogy version), Obi-Wan (mostly Alec Guinness’s version) and Gandalf the Grey (pre-White) and mashed them together, you’d get Grant Kalivoda.
Grant wasn’t an awards-amassing ivory tower type, nor was he a lofty-minded artist, nor was he a Jedi (I think). But he was a whiz at camera, darkroom and printing technology who dreamed of organizing Segway tours of his beloved Santa Fe and who had a hearty appetite for New Mexican food and good conversation. He was the “New Mexico hippie [who] put a medium-format film SLR camera into my hands and told me to have fun” who is mentioned in my biography on this blog.
Grant passed away earlier this week.
I’ve mentioned Grant before on this blog, but only once, apparently. Which is absurd now that I think about the extraordinary impact Grant had on my life. So, I now belatedly attempt to correct this oversight.
Rewind to 2006. I had applied for several different summer jobs at Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico and, on a whim, included a CD of pretty craptastic photos I’d taken on my first digital camera, a Canon point-and-shoot. For whatever reason, Philmont offered me a job as a photographer. I accepted, even though I knew nothing about photography and was terrified of learning how to use real cameras and the darkroom.
Enter Grant. Grant, a photo and printing specialist out of Santa Fe, had for years been training Philmont photographers how to use the gigantic Pentax 6×7 cameras, how to develop C-41 film with the Jobo processor, how to use the enlargers and the Kreonite print processor for individual prints and how to use the Noritsu print processors for prints en masse. As the only photographer on staff who’d never manually exposed or developed her own film before, I was at a distinct disadvantage, but Grant treated me just as if I were any of the other photographers. All I needed was a bit more mentorship, which he provided.
Under Grant’s instruction, I didn’t botch up my first-ever roll of film (which I still have), nor any roll of film I shot that summer. I fell in love with film, hard. Being in complete control over every step of the process never ceased to awe me, and I was hooked. I happily lugged the heavy Pentax gear up and down mountains, relished the thudding sound of the heavy shutter and voluntarily spent many late nights developing film and printing.
This said, I was still an awful photographer. I’m not sure that the ranch was able to use most of the pictures I produced for marketing purchases that first summer. But I sure did have fun.
In fact, I had so much fun that when I went to Mizzou that fall, I slammed the brakes on my aspirations of becoming a reporter, and instead worked my tail off to become a photojournalist.
And now here I am.
I came back to Philmont for two more summers: In 2007, I was one of the only returning photographers from 2006 to help transition the department from film to digital, and in 2008, I headed the ranch’s weekly staff newsletter. Grant provided training during both those summers, albeit at a diminished frequency compared to 2006. Still, I loved seeing my old friend whenever he made the drive from Santa Fe, and was greatly reassured that he was only a phone call away.
When Jeff and I made Santa Fe our destination for our 2010 spring break road trip, I made sure we saw Grant. It only made sense to introduce two of the most important people in my life to each other, and of course it was great to see Grant again. We met up for green chile burgers at the now-defunct Bobcat Bite and ended the night at Grant’s house, where we ate ice cream and played dominoes.
After that trip, my contact with Grant was limited to a few emails here and there. I’d occasionally catch a recurring mountain fever, but finances and time kept me from making another trip to my beloved Sangre de Cristo mountains. Then, last spring, a friend contacted me with news that Grant had Parkinson’s and arthritis and wasn’t doing too well.
That changed everything.
Three months after I emailed Grant to check up on him and one month after he replied, I was on a plane to New Mexico. I stayed three days in the Land of Enchantment; the only times I wasn’t with Grant and his girlfriend Charlotte were when I took a quick driving tour of Santa Fe and made a half-day trip up to Philmont. But we spent two days eating lots of good food, taking driving tours, sharing old memories and puttering around their home on the outskirts of Santa Fe. Usually when I make trips, I produce lists of things to do and eat, and every day is planned out to the max. But this trip, I had no agenda except to be with Grant and Charlotte. I don’t think Grant ever believed me on that — several times, he tried to guess why I really came from Pennsylvania to New Mexico — but my earlier revelation that Grant might not be immortal made me realize I wanted to share more time with him.
Earlier this month, I got mountain fever again and started babbling to Jeff about booking another trip to Santa Fe. This trip, I’d want to make a few hikes, but seeing Grant and Charlotte was definitely at the top of my list, too. Unfortunately, a few hours after I got off a 12-hour overnight shift today, I received word that Grant wasn’t immortal after all.
Lessons I learned from Grant Kalivoda, many of which he may not have known he taught me:
- Slow down. (Still learning this one.)
- Knowing more than others doesn’t necessarily make you better, and often it just makes you lazy.
- Never stop tinkering. Never stop learning. Never stop wondering. And have fun in the meantime.
- You’ll enjoy things a lot more if you slow down and appreciate them. Unless it’s ice cream we’re talking about.
- It ain’t broke until fixing it just makes it worse.
- Anything can be repurposed.
- Taking the time to enjoy a meal (slowly) with friends, sans phones and other distractions, is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
The thing is, I’m just one of countless people who learned from Grant and became a better person for it. I have no clue how many summers he helped train Philmont’s photo department, and he also had a sizable presence in the Santa Fe community. The man’s influence was and is far-reaching. He helped me realize where I wanted to take my career, and I’m positive I’m not the only one who so benefited from his instruction, patience and kindness.
The Philmont and Santa Fe communities owe much to Grant Kalivoda, whether or not they realize it. For myself, I’m learning that there’s never enough time in the world to spend with those who matter most to you, but I’m no less grateful for the time that we did share.
Rest in peace, Grant. You are dearly missed.
Thanks to warehouses and shipping and other forces beyond my control, I won’t get to send Christmas presents to my brother, sister-in-law and niece in time for Christmas. So, Matt, Emily and Layla, here are some analog photos from Italy (and a bonus frame) as an early Christmas present to make up for the belatedness of your package!
Aaand now for a bonus frame — the last frame on the roll, which I took during one of three snowfalls we had in a week back in York:
And thus concludes my blog posts of photos I made while in Italy.
- Previously: Ciao bambina (Napoli)
- Also previously: Ciao bambina (Roma e Firenze)
- Also previously: Il Duomo di Firenze
Sunday, it snowed a few inches and then melted down a bit. Today, it snowed another six inches on top of what we already had, so after I shoveled out three cars and then some, and after Jeff helped a neighbor shovel her driveway, we took snow pictures. I might have made us wait 20 minutes for the sun to come back out so we could get this shot of me:
The snow picture pertains to my Italian vacation and Il Duomo di Firenze (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower, which is topped with Brunelleschi’s Dome) because there, I too waited a while for good light.
Like, an hour.
Here’s what happened. Best sister-in-law ever, aka Emily, and I left Matt and my mom in Galleria degli Uffizi so we could climb il Campanile di Giotto in time for sunset pictures of il Duomo di Firenze. The sky was pouring rain on us the whole way from Uffizi to il Campanile, and it was still coming down when, 414 steps later, we reached the top of the bell tower. But we’d come so far, so we stepped out into the rain anyway, at which point another man in the room thrust his open umbrella at us, which we obviously accepted.
This is what il Duomo and the rest of Florence looked like under heavy rain:
Emily, who has never known me to be without a camera, graciously accepted that we would be waiting at the top of the bell tower, just to wait and see if the sky would ever break up and if the light would ever improve. So we kept baby Layla occupied and checked outside every now and again. When the rain stopped, we stepped back out. The sky was definitely clearing up in the west, but I still waited. Finally, just over an hour after I’d taken the photo above, the sunset cast an amazing orange glow over the city, and quality of light was almost Rembrandt-esque.
So, here’s my best Duomo shot:
Moral of the story: Real photographers wait for good light. (Unless, of course, you have two or three other assignments to complete and can’t afford to linger.) And, the quality of light can truly make or break a photo. Just take another look at that rainy-sky Duomo photo.
Thank you, best sister-in-law ever, for understanding this and being patient.
- Previously: Ciao bambina (Napoli)
- Also previously: Ciao bambina (Roma e Firenze)
- Coming eventually: Analog: Bambina
When my mom and I visited my brother and his family in Naples, Italy, Matt and Emily made sure we saw the sights. For one thing, I’m pretty allergic to cats, and Emily wanted to minimize my exposure to their cat by getting us out of the apartment as frequently as possible. For another, we were in Italy — and who knows when or if we’ll be back?
So the photos below — a mix of landscapes, food and cute baby — are largely in chronological order of our travels around southern Italy and then our four-day excursion to Rome and Florence. Enjoy!
Our first outing took us along the Amalfi Coast, where the views and seafood are ample.
Matt and Emily generally feed Layla “real people” food. She’s not allowed extremely salty things like prosciutto, but she can handle Indian food and a variety of other cuisines, and Emily always cuts up small samples of the meal for Layla to eat. So, nobody was surprised when Layla grabbed one of the lightly fried sardines that Matt left on his platter…
…but everyone — including Layla herself — was surprised when she ate the tail end of the fish:
…and we discovered that Layla, who previously hated gelato for its frigidity, is okay with it as long as she’s holding the spoon:
It’s easier to say Matt and Emily live in Naples, but they’re a bit removed from the city itself. Anyway, Emily took my mom and me into downtown Naples to check out some old churches (including Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo di Napoli and Museo Cappella Sansevero) and, of course, eat true Neapolitan pizza.
We learned that verace pizza napoletana (“true Neapolitan pizza”) is taken pretty seriously. There’s even a sort of governing body that inspects and approves pizzerias that produce verace pizza napoletana. Matt was a big fan of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele — until he found out that that’s where Julia Roberts ate pizza in the movie Eat Pray Love. (Awful movie.) Since then, his loyalty lies with Pizzeria di Matteo (whose website includes an entire section about Bill Clinton’s visit there), where Emily took us:
It was pretty tasty.
Matt and Emily spent their fourth wedding anniversary in Rome… with their baby and the in-laws.
And then the restaurant where we ate dinner (I had carbonara) had a pretty teeny bathroom, so Emily had to change Layla’s diaper in a dark alley between parked Vespas. Typical.
Nine months ago, we all got to meet my baby niece Layla. A few months later, I was lamenting to a coworker about how fast the baby was growing, and how her living in Italy makes it hard for me to be a doting aunt. My coworker immediately chided me for not applying for my passport, booking flights and getting my butt over to Italy, because after all, Layla’s not exactly getting any younger.
So, two weeks ago, my mother and I flew to Naples, where my brother Matt and his family live, for a 10-day trip that would be my first-ever journey abroad. We explored Naples, had a four-day excursion to Rome and Florence, ate a lot and played with the baby. And I made a lot of pictures.
The pictures in this blog post (which is the first of at least three to come) show home life in Naples — or, Napoli. But first, the obligatory travel photo:
I never wanted to be that person who traveled abroad and returned home with all sorts of snooty attitudes about food, culture, etc., but let’s be real: You really cannot beat super-fresh mozzarella di bufala.
And now for some scenes at home:
So, I guess I like rubber duckies, because this happened in July:
…And this happened in October:
It was our first trip to Pittsburgh, and honestly, we went for the duck. We did do other Pittsburgh things, though. We toured the Strip District, dined in an old-person Italian restaurant in Bloomberg, saw Andrew Carnegie’s dinosaur skeletons, nixed a few sketchy hotels in sketchy areas and rode an incline:
But let’s be real: It was mostly about the duck.
Today, I carved my first-ever pumpkin. Granted, my parents bought us pumpkins when I was probably six or seven, and I remember we scooped out pumpkin guts in our patio, but I’m pretty sure my mom handled the knife work. Which means, I’ve never carved a pumpkin. Until today.
Normally, I wouldn’t blog these sorts of shenanigans, except…
- I’m really proud of my pumpkin,
- I used all three of my prime lenses in documenting my pumpkin and
- Jeff and I went to some ridiculous measures to light up my pumpkin for the final shot.
So, here we go!
Using a weird pick tool (not sure why we have it), I punched small holes along the outlines. Then, once I removed the pattern, I used the same pick to create the lines via the holes. The hardest part was not the teeth, but actually the letters.
But as we all know, the only thing that matters is how good your pumpkin looks when it’s lit up. So… voila!
So, uh, yeah.
I promise I’ll have some more, uh, professional photos up soon. And some film, once I pick it up tomorrow and get it scanned over the next few days.
Five years ago, Bill Eppridge visited my university. He and his wife Adrienne had some time to visit with students, so I hastily threw together a portfolio for them to review. I was terrified and convinced that they’d tear it apart — Bill being a venerable visual journalist and Adrienne being a venerable visual editor — but they were completely kind and supportive in their criticism and suggestions.
Looking back now, I’m guessing they recognized that I didn’t really know what I was doing, and that prodding me along would be more productive than tearing me apart. (Related: I’ll never forget the only written comment that former Columbia Daily Tribune photo editor Gerik provided after reviewing my exit portfolio in May 2010: “Could be a newspaper photographer someday.”) I’ve since made conscious efforts, every time I’m in a position to encourage or review work with a younger photographer, to be just as considerate and supportive as Bill and Adrienne were to me.
. . .
I’ve just learned that Bill has died. His legacy includes a number of iconic images made in times of peace and war, and I’m certain he inspired and helped young photojournalists who are far more successful than I. But for my part, I’ll never forget the gentle, compassionate critique he and his wife gave me five years ago in the Missouri photo lab. My next portfolio iteration was much more restrained and well-edited enough to land me an internship at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the following summer, and I’m convinced that Bill and Adrienne gave me just the right push to get my internship applications rolling.
(With a wink in Adrienne’s direction, Bill also told me that the best advice he could ever give a young photographer is to marry a good editor. I’d like to think Jeff and I have edited each other’s work fairly thoroughly in our almost-five years together.)
Just for fun, I’m opening myself up to potential embarrassment by posting what I believe is the portfolio that I showed Bill and Adrienne on that Oct. 2009 evening:
Rest in peace, Bill, and thank you again.
Last week, Jeff, his brother Mike and I found a T-rex skull at the National Zoo. Much to the joy of a nearby 17-year-old girl whose mother insisted she was too old to pose with the skull, I insisted that Jeff take this photo of Mike and me:
Today, while on assignment at a 30-attraction fun park in southern York County, I discovered that owner Hugh is a kindred spirit when I asked him to hop on top of an incomplete tire-saurus for a picture and he immediately struck a dinosaur pose without my prompting him:
KINDRED SPIRITS, I’M TELLING YOU.
(Read more about the Maize Quest Fun Park here.)
Jeff was burrowing around last week and found three rolls of undeveloped 35mm film in a cookie tin. (There were several unexposed rolls in there as well.) So I took them to get developed. One is a Fuji roll he shot during our 2010 spring break trip to the Santa Fe region of New Mexico; another Fuji roll is from his Dec. 2009 visit to Houston.
The Ilford XP2 Super roll is from our Feb. 2012 trip to New York City — a trip whose digital pictures I never blogged, and whose film frames I never saw ’til now.
Along the lines of an earlier post about how I had a bad habit of wasting film, I was pretty disenchanted with the frames on that black-and-white roll: Too many frames where I shot something just for the sake of depressing that shutter button and advancing the film. Like I wrote before, I’m working now to make pictures, with film, that mean something to me, which typically means they need to be of people I care about. That roll from New York City is a good reminder of what I as a photographer should never do again.
But here’re two frames that I do like from that roll. Obviously, I shot one and Jeff shot the other. Can you tell who shot which?
Earlier this month, I finally bought my dream camera, and I’m going to use it to cure myself.
. . .
For seven months now, I’ve been dealing with a struggle.
It’s not a daily gloom, nor is it definitive, long-term or easily explained. Additionally, “dealing with” is the best way I can characterize what I’ve been doing — largely because I can neither face it head-on nor avoid it, largely because I don’t know what it is.
It’s not a rut or cabin fever. I’m still passionate about what I do as a photojournalist, and I’m proud of some of the recent work I’ve done.
It’s probably related somehow to my experiences in Newtown, but I’m not sure how or why.
It’s not impacting my ability to function as a human or as a photojournalist, although I’m sure that my boyfriend would appreciate it if I helped out more with chores, as I once did.
I can’t diagnose it because I don’t know what it is, where it came from or why it’s affecting me, but I’ve recently decided that the best prescription is to care a little harder.
. . .
I think, in this age of Instagram, Facebook and quick-and-easy photo-taking/-sharing, we don’t care as much about the pictures we make. We snap a shot, share it, move on. By the end of the week, we’ve shared two or a dozen more photos, and we don’t even remember what we photographed two weeks ago.
On a related note: I love my job. We are trained to transmit photos almost as soon as we make them, in certain cases (mostly breaking news and sports). It’s fun and fast-paced, and I think it’s a neat step forward that we’re able to do. But because I work for a daily newspaper, I can have anywhere from one to four assignments in a day, which adds up to a lot after any given period of time. People ask me what I did this week, and I have to explain to them that I honestly can’t remember because every day has blurred into an indistinguishable continuum.
So, I have recently found myself pretty anxious to take a very large, deliberate step back from the immediacy that everyone else supplies and demands. (At least, for personal work.) Therefore, I’m returning to my roots, which means film. I first learned real photography at a summer job in New Mexico, where a hippie named Grant put a 6-pound, medium-format Pentax in my hands and taught me the entire process. To make frames on such a tank of a camera — and to develop the film, use enlargers and make prints, all in the same day — was incredibly empowering, and magical. I fell in love.
Last month, I went to Santa Fe to see Grant again and spend time with him. (I don’t think he ever believed that I made the trip just for him, but it’s true, Grant.) It was only a three-day trip, but it was peaceful, and in my heart, New Mexico is home. As I used my Mamiya (no Pentax yet) to make a picture of Grant and his Charlotte in their backyard, I knew I’d found a cure, or at least a relief, for my struggle.
I’m going to return to film, and make pictures that mean something to me. I can’t tell you how many rolls I’ve wasted on shots “just because,” and how many of those frames are just languishing in my binder because they ultimately are of no value to me. So I’m going to care harder about my personal photography, and it’s going to be film, and it’s going to be something that I will treasure 20, 30, 40 years down the road.
I’m starting now, with a few frames from a few rolls I got developed after my New Mexico trip. These were all taken with the Mamiya, but expect to see a lot of work coming from the Pentax from now on.
Every single one of these frames means something to me.
Is that something any given person can say about any given photo they’ve taken recently?
But it’s something I want to be able to say, honestly, about all of my personal work from now on.
Everybody, meet Layla. She’s the five-month-old daughter of my brother Matt and his wife Emily, and as the first member of my family’s newest generation, she’s a big deal.
Jeff and I flew down to Houston last weekend for Chinese New Year, and Matt and Emily brought the baby for everyone to meet.
In case you were wondering — yes, I have a lot of photos from the five days we spent in Houston. Like I’ve said, Layla is kind of a big deal. Plus, this is the first, last and only time I’ll have had with her as a baby. Because an ocean separates Matt’s family from me, the next time I see Layla, she’ll be crawling if not walking, probably talking and definitely showing more personality.
So yes, I made a lot of pictures, and this post reflects a few of my favorite moments from our trip.