Category Archives: black & white photography

Thoughts For a New Year


I’m loving some Frederick Buechner today.

“Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.”
― Frederick Buechner

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Remembering John Connally Too


As the Kennedys and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife got into a limousine fifty years ago today, Connally’s wife said to the President, “…you can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you.” A happy, noisy crowd greeted the car at the airport.

Kennedy’s assassination holds a unique space in “public memory” for those of us coming of age in 1963. Not always as well remembered was Governor Connally, sitting in the front seat of the same car severely wounded.

In March of 1977 John Connally visited Wheaton College to speak with students. At the time it seemed to me that it was a pretty small group of students that showed up considering his stature as a witness to such a significant historical event. Maybe history is not important to a lot of 20 year olds.

I took a few photos of Connally speaking in what was then the dining hall at Wheaton. I guess it was just good to see someone who had been so close to Kennedy on that day.

John Connally who was injured during the Kennedy assassination speaks to Wheaton (IL) College students in 1977

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Organic Coffee and Organic Babies

coffee from Finca Los Nietos in its unique "tipica" cloth bag


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Our older daughter was born in our home on the small Maine island where we lived decades ago. Over the years we lost contact with Christina, the young midwife who attended Sarah’s birth.

Today is Sarah’s 30th birthday. My wife’s and my thoughts and memories go back to Sarah’s middle-of-the-night birth in which we shared coffee with Christina and her assistant as we waited and Cindy labored.

Google and Facebook made it easy for us to find Christina again. We were thrilled to discover that Christina and her husband still live in Maine but spend most of their time working on the organic coffee farm they bought several years ago in Guatemala. Finca Los Nietos (The Grandchildrens’ Farm) is not only a place where coffee is grown but also a vacation destination where you can watch the process and “relax in our spectacular gardens, watch birds, sip coffee and visit our plant shop.” The Wall Street Journal says, “this tiny coffee plantation caters to those looking for a more intimate experience than a big coffee factory tour.” I want to go just to see their worm farm.

A few days ago we got a bag of Christina’s coffee in the mail wrapped in its unique “tipica” cloth bag. Sarah, now in Los Angeles, got a bag too. How nice that we can again all share coffee after thirty years.

Christina (left) and Cindy checking Sarah just after her birth thirty years ago today

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My P.S. on Our Flashes of Hope Shoot

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I recently wrote about our shoot for Flashes of Hope. The purpose of these sessions is to create portraits of some of the 12,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year. For families of terminally-ill children it is particularly important to preserve through photography the bravery, grace and dignity of their child. This is done using volunteer professional photographers as well as sponsors such as WHCC, the professional lab that donates photographic prints to the families.

Though most Flashes of Hope photo sessions take place in a hospital, we photographed at a picnic hosted by Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. A forest preserve provided a much more relaxed atmosphere for these kids than a hospital setting. It was an afternoon of ice cream instead of IV tubes.

The same day that I photographed 15 children and their families, I read the following in the New York Times: “RIGHT now cancer care is being rationed in the United States.” There is a severe shortage of cancer drugs. In fact, in “Shortchanging Cancer Patients” Ezekiel J. Emanuel reports, “If you are a pediatric oncologist, you know how to cure 70 to 80 percent of patients. But without these drugs you are out of business.” Apparently, the shortages seem to be the results of corporate decisions to cease production because of low profit margins.

This is just ONE thing that these kids and their families face on a daily basis. It’s not hard to see bravery on their faces in the photos.

If Flashes of Hope “changes the way children with cancer see themselves through the gift of photography” as they say on their web site, I think quite possibly they’ve changed the way photographers see themselves as well. If drug manufacturers could see some of these kids there might also be some changes in how they see their mission.

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Flashes of Hope Shoot

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Cindy & I have looked forward to this since shooting this event last year. Flashes of Hope is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating powerful, uplifting portraits of children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. In the photo here, sisters enjoy a moment at the Peds in the Weeds picnic sponsored by Advocate Lutheran General Children’s Hospital near Chicago.

Politics, medicine and finances were set aside for an afternoon of fun, food and remembrance. What a joy it was to photograph these kids and their families!

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Season’s Greetings to All

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Autumn

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

-Emily Dickinson

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The Mojo Man

When I was young I lived in a small town in the deep south. Occasionally my father would walk me down the long, winding path to a back-woods shack that served as the area’s juke joint. As I watched my father dance and drink his troubles away with his friends, it must have presented a funny picture to anyone that cared to look – a four-year-old white boy sitting in the corner watching his dad and a room full of black men & women dancing to a blues band. This may not exactly be Norman Rockwell’s picture of the early 1950’s, but it was my picture.

The reality of this is that I remember very little of it. Although my mother filled in the details many years later, my memories of those occasions were of the music itself.

Even to a four-year old the blues was as seductive as it was sad. In spite of its sad name this predictable and stylized American music form remains for me a source of optimism. I think this is its seduction. Its only purpose is to make people feel good by creating courage from helplessness.

In 1976 – more than twenty years after my juke joint experiences – I revisited the blues as I photographed Muddy Waters at one of his last concerts. He, Pinetop Perkins – currently the oldest performing bluesman at 96 – and their band at the time held a concert in a small park in Water’s hometown of Westmont, Illinois.

Although “The Mojo Man” needed the help of fans and friends to get off the stage after the concert, his voice was strong and clear as he sang most of the songs that made him an inspiration to not only several generations of rock & roll performers, but to a young photographer.

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Muddy Waters


Muddy Waters with his band


Muddy Waters and his band


Pinetop Perkins


Westmont, IL crowd enjoying Muddy Waters and his band


The Mojo Man, Muddy Waters


Muddy Waters' hand and guitar


Muddy Waters


Crowd enjoying Muddy Waters in Westmont, IL


Getting help from friends and fans after Muddy Waters concert


Muddy Waters talks with friends and fans after concert


Holiday Inn


Pinetop Perkins


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Merry Christmas

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You and Me

Noah will be 13 months old tomorrow. The photo below was taken when he was three days old – literally a lifetime ago. I’ve pretty much filled up a hard drive with photos of him I’ve taken over those months.

I like this one because it shows not only the vulnerability of the son but of the father as well. Nose-to-nose is a posture that says “you and me.” Whether it’s football teams facing each other, a couple about to kiss, or a father cradling his son’s head, no one else matters at this moment.

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You and Me

You and Me

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