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Seeking Surya: Part One

I like to play with a variety of roles: sometimes a comic, sometimes a poet, sometimes an artist, sometimes a philosopher--but always, a story-teller.  This year, I travelled to Mysore, India by way of San Francisco and New Delhi to embark on a multi-layer project of personal growth, faith-driven dharma, exploration and reflection. This is my way of documenting it. It is intentionally vague in many areas, because of the nature of part of my purpose for visiting Mysore, and in time, those that follow my work will understand why.  The blog will be littered with excerpts from the journal I kept while traveling. It is my hope with this work to uplift and inspire, and to provide a glimpse into the intoxicating world of India. 

Begin. Turbulent storms whipping around the confines of my skull lately. Samskaras: old scratchy blues tunes in the grooves of a vinyl record, re-emerging to torment and cast doubt. This journey that looms ahead broadcasts its importance shamelessly, huge and undeniable and yet silent, waiting, not giving away the twist just yet. I have put so much towards this spark, this flicker of hope to do dharma honorable and fated. Virtuous and beautiful at the same time. That bright morning of hope and enthusiasm, in the childhood of an idea fades into the harsh noon day sun of decision making, planning, set-backs and bold action. Even though we wither a bit under the coming afternoon heat of INDIA, I am holding precious this spark of belief that what lurks around times bend is a marvelous and beautiful mystery. I wish to put the poetry this adventure is setting wild in me to paper, so that I may have some peace, and some piece of this process in writing, so that perhaps if this precious idea never comes to be, here is the proof it once was.
— March 3, 2016

The first leg of this journey involved simply getting to where we needed to be, as cheaply as possible. "We" is Joey, Dallos and I. Joey is my partner and best friend, and Dallos is his brother and a fellow photographer and videographer. We ended up with a one day stop-over in San Francisco, California.  We took the chance to spend it under the nourishing canopy of the redwood giants in Muir Woods, I had never seen the trees. We wandered the classic avenues and practiced in Golden Gate Park. Finally, I made one last pilgrimage to a site that I hadn't visited in over twenty years, the building where my mother and many others were gunned down in a random workplace shooting in the early nineties. My journey inward in my seated practice this year had shown me much healing and understanding regarding that event, and returning to bid the huge ghost farewell seemed appropriate. The photos below tell a mixture of narratives, the aimless upward gazing, outward gazing and inward gazing, with a little moody street photography thrown in the mix.   

Morning sunrise on the bay, casting gleams of chilly California light through half closed lids as I practiced Pranayama (breathing exercises). Praying to ever be brought back to the source, my love, my divine. Not my, not I. Not me. No body, no eyes, no eyelids, no boarding passes, no bags and plans and practices, all shadows and light in the glorious play. Walking under the dappled light of redwood forest floor, vertigo vision spilling joy and awe and a quiet place in my chest. Thank you John Muir for saving these powerful beings. The rest of the day was spent in haight-centric orbit, circling in an eerily quiet modern vehicle, places I’ve seen only in pictures and movies. Practicing as if I was totally alone yet in the midst of the hordes of sun worshippers littering the golden gate lawn, inhalation and exhalation only vaguely punctuated by weathered hands on drums. And finally the punctuation mark of a 23 year struggle to comprehend the events that tore my family apart. I have finally found a measure of peace, one that I thought I had for many years but did not, as so often happens. My hands shook as we neared California 101. I could feel my heart center trembling. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I had not visited this place since the days following the shooting, I can see hazy visions of my awkward 8 year old self, placing flowers among the pile of mementos people had left at the building. Trying to quell the rising tide of intense grief, I forced myself into presence. I had thought there was a memorial. I did not expect to have the awkward conversation through an intercom with the sweetest security guard, who had to apologetically tell me that he knew of no official memorial, other than the flower pots on the front steps. Finally coming to let me in, and ashamedly looking at the floor as he spoke nervously. I stopped listening eventually, only occasionally hearing “PR” ….“discouraged asking about it when I first came” … “sad what happened all those years ago.” As the guard tried his best to be helpful— obviously sensing my distress and the intensity of our history, I was transported in time. I could imagine the echo of my mothers high heels bouncing off the high vaulted marble walls of this awe inspiring building, each step bringing her closer to a moment that would tear asunder our plans for the future, our imaginings of what is fair and what life guarantees, or doesn’t guarantee. I could sense the intense agony of the man who did it, I could see him walking with his briefcases filled with ammunition and weapons, the pain in his mind blinding him to any other but this horrible destiny. By the end of the day, he would be a murderer, dead in a grey stairwell by his own hand, and my mother would be splayed out on a stretcher for the world to see on the steps of the building, as they cut through her clothes to save her life and she held her children in her mind for strength. She had watched a colleague and his client, Jack and Jodi, (rest ever in peace) taken in the blink of an eye, knowing each had one-year-old babies waiting for them at home, children who would now always be waiting. She held on for us. Finally an uncomfortable silence indicated to me that the guard had run out of things to say to this sad, strange woman searching for evidence of something that had been somewhat buried, it seemed. I choked back tears and asked if he would take me up to the 34th floor. He shook his head sadly and escorted me out with too many mumbled apologies... “I wasn’t even supposed to let you in the lobby.” I sat on the steps alone and allowed myself to truly feel, for the first time in over 20 years, the enormous depth of my grief. And as each wave of emotion rose up in me, finally, I met it and spoke to it, thanking God over and over for each teaching and releasing it. I blessed the ones who lost their lives, their limbs, and their mental health that day. I blessed the man whose name people are loathe to speak, “John Ferry,” I bless you, I forgive you, I love you. *Note* His name was Gian Ferri. Somehow I know I knew this, but as a child I must have simplified the name as I heard it spoken and in my way internalized it to be the name of the man who did it, I never even thought to verify it until my sweet Mother pointed out misunderstanding—a testament to the faulty memory we all possess.***I thanked him for playing the enormous role he had in ripping away the veil of my ignorance, the one that tells us we are separate, the one that hides our losses from us until they are upon us, unprepared to cope. It has taken me years to come to understanding. I mistakenly believed for many years that somehow this was a redemption story, that was the story I told myself because it made me feel better in the short-term. But as I sat there I confirmed the messages I had received in meditation this year, that the story is not of redemption, the story is of letting go, and letting go and letting go. Since there was no place for me to place a gift, I put my mala in a planter under the sign of the building that broke us, and changed us, and at least for me, healed us.
— March 28, 2016

Deja Vu in the OR

Last week, only 10 days before I was scheduled to depart for INDIA, my client and friend messaged me and said, "HEY I know its last minute but I'm whining to Chris and I really want photos, we are having him Monday morning, can you come?"  


But when a little soul indirectly invites me to be present at his birth, how can I decline? Here are my favorites from the beautifully familiar scenes of the birth of Miles. 

Birth Photography is the Ultimate Feminist Art form. (And it is changing the world)

In light of the amazing results from the 2015 Birth Photography Contest, there are two main points I want to make today regarding the claim that this post title makes. (Check out the winners here:

1. Birth Photography is the ultimate feminist art form because it is bringing to light the way in which we birth, the way in which we are treated when we birth, the way we feel about birth, and it is sending women on a search to empower themselves with information and options. It has BRILLIANTLY used the gut-wrenching images that come from the birthing space to cause people to take pause, to look around at what other childbearing woman are saying, and what they are angry about and more importantly, what they are DOING about it. What began as an alternative birthing community is growing into a worldwide women-centered childbirth movement and it is a beautiful thing to behold.

2. More obviously, it is the ultimate feminist art form because its product is an unashamedly feminine subject, birth. This is an exclusively (please correct me if I am wrong) female community of professional artists who are capturing and broadcasting the moment where a woman is exercising the greatest feminine power of creation, she is at her strongest, she is holy, and damn is she BEAUTIFUL. It is forcing us to look on all women and mothers differently, with acceptance and awe of this ancient feminine right of passage. Causing us to take hold of what is powerful and wonderful in us. And I'm not just talking about giving birth, I'm talking about the entire economic and spiritual community of WOMEN taking care of WOMEN. Midwives, doulas, birth photographers, car seat inspectors, newborn and maternity photographers, cooks, maids, cloth diaper companies, writers, speakers, activists, lactation consultants, this vibrant field is shattering the limitations that childbearing women have faced in the past, allowing them to support one another, raise their families, and MAKE MONEY.   Money is what can get you out of an abusive situation. Money is what can get you exposure, equipment and the time and energy to create. Women have figured out that they don't have to give up feminine spheres to be powerhouses, they have figured out they don't have to raise their kids the way they were raised.

They have figured out that what their forebears did was lay the path, by asserting again and again that women were just as valuable as men, just as capable, just as intelligent. What birth photographers have done and are doing, along with what the entire women-centered childbirth movement is doing, is standing up and saying "Women are valuable, thus, our experiences are valuable, thus, we should have a say in how we move through these experiences!"  they are standing up and saying "We HONOR and TREASURE the sacrifice that birthing and raising children is. We value the experience of mothers. Look how beautiful and powerful our women are."  

and people are listening. 

This photo is shared with the gracious permission of the amazing woman who is catching her own baby. Do NOT save, copy, share, crop or otherwise steal this beautiful moment from this site. 

Land of Enchantment: Sore Ass. Soaring Heart

The past few days have been a roller coaster ride. On Saturday Zion and I loaded the car and drove west to meet up with my sister, an amazing photographer and the woman responsible for me even owning a camera. While there, with photos on the brain and inspired by coffee fueled chats about my ridiculous auto focus settings, I wrote a post that unintentionally has spread all over the world. I drove the breathtakingly beautiful cellular wasteland of the high desert, ignorant of the impact it was making, only to open my facebook account at a gas station to hundreds of people pouring their hearts out, encouraging one another and sharing stories of determination, discouragement, hope and passion.  I am humbled and really just still in shock that anyone would want to read a silly thing like that. I have nothing but love for all the people who shared their stories with me. 
I hope you enjoy this collection of shots from the very ordinary family vacation of simple person who loves to take photos, and has much to learn. To me, this is the beauty of real life. This is what I really love to capture.  Please email me and keep sharing your beautiful stories. 

Retrospectives: Thailand July 2015

I'm finally getting around to spending some time with the photos from Thailand last summer. It was a life changing journey, I hope you enjoy some of the images! 

The stairs to to the yoga shala practice space. Koh Lanta, Thailand 2015

I traveled to an incredible island in Thailand in July 2015 to take some photos, practice yoga, eat Thai food and expand my mind.  Prior to this point my travel experiences have been fairly tame, and this time I traveled alone on a 28 hour journey through Beijing, Bangkok and 2 hour van ride packed with european tourists on a ferry to reach Koh Lanta. Being there during the low season was like being in an alternate dimension, filled with some of the most epic and un-capturable sunsets I've ever experienced, the crackling voice calling prayers out over the landscape from the speaker mounted at the top of the local mosque. Sandy bedsheets, hot and humid practices, kayaking in the Andaman sea, snorkeling off of Phi Phi Island.  Much of the most incredible parts of this journey were not captured, because I was too busy enjoying them.  I stayed at a friend's yoga shala for free, it was mostly outdoor living, everything tarped against the monsoon. I felt so alive, living that way, walking across the garden to brush my teeth, showering in the outdoor shower. At one point I looked up to see a neighborhood stray cat perched on the beam above me, a little kitty creeper. 

Words are just no use here. In love, in Thailand. I'll be back.