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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back into the real world.

Waiting on the threshold between Church and State.


Yesterday I watched this elderly woman hesistate in the doorway of the St. Peter and Paul Church in North Beach. She stood there for quite a while, and at first I thought perhaps she was waiting for someone to pick her up in a car, or perhaps it was so dark and cool inside the church and so bright and warm outside that it was too much of a contrast for her.

She has one of those canes that has the little rubber four-footed stand at the bottom. Of course I thought of Little Helen as that whole story is ongoing and sad but mostly I saw myself in this woman and how she seemed like she couldn't move from the spot she was in.

I've been in constant motion for the past two days, enjoyably so, with Relyn and Robin. Yesterday we did our North Beach trek via the incredibly steep yet lush and beautiful Filbert Steps, the 30 Stockton through Chinatown with a dash of sugar provided from XOX Truffles (the Earl Grey truffle is still my favorite) and a canolli at Stella's (I can't eat a cannoli without thinking about that scene in The Godfather: "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.") and then to SF MoMA to see the Richard Avedon exhibit and the Robert Frank. Both couldn't be more different kinds of artists and seeing these two influential and important ways of seeing juxtaposed was quite striking.

Even though I've been in motion, walking the city and enjoying the company of these two fine ladies, there's a part of me that seems even more stagnant and refusing to budge. I still don't have a job. My grandma is still dying and my mom is still stressed to the max. K and the kids are still homeless and low on money. I can't seem to change these things. There's a cloud of poverty around me and my thoughts and I hate it. It's distracting.

Yesterday, Robin asked me what my goals were and I really couldn't think of anything less mundane that to not feel poor so I said that I don't think I had any goals. But actually, now I do. Earlier in the day, Robin let me play with her camera while we rested in the shade near Coit Tower. I don't even remember what kind of camera it is but I would describe it as a Real Camera. With Real Lenses. I had this huge feeling of AHA! And WOW! So this is what everyone keeps talking about. Realistically, I would need about $3-4K to get started.

I took these photos with my little PowerShot which now does feel small and puny. I still can see that these are good images but not great ones. Every picture I take makes me wonder now how it would be if I had a better camera. A Real Camera.

I feel like one of those misunderstood princesses who is waiting for the magic to start happening. The magic waiting in the wings that will change everything and for some reason that magic seems like it would be a new camera.

But I don't have time to wait around for a fairy godmother or a dashing prince so I'd better get some goals developed asap and get this camera myself. Somehow, I will. And now I have a goal and perhaps I'm teetering on the threshold of a bright new day. And I do think I have Robin and Relyn to thank for that.


An Open Heart July 15, 2009 at 10:04 AM  

If you don't have a "REAL" camera, what are you shooting your SF photos with? Because if you're using a powershot and getting those amazing photos, you are already a photography GODDESS! And, since I'm relatively new to your blog....I did not know that you are unemployed...I assumed you were a photographer! Take your SF pictures, create a portfolio and go to the nearest newspaper or magazine and show them your stuff!

You're already amazing, 'real' camera or not.....

Bill Stankus July 15, 2009 at 10:16 AM  

Cameras are cool but it always come back to the person using the camera - you are the main thing.

A word of caution - don't buy a used digital camera unless you know exactly how it was used. One of the things about digital cameras is that electronic shutters tend to wear out faster than the old style mechanical film cameras.

I was told this by a camera repair specialist.

Marilyn Miller July 15, 2009 at 10:18 AM  

The comments from S at an Open Heart are perfect. Your pictures are beautiful. I have been so impressed with your pictures of the people you meet in SF. I have a real camera and don't think I can take anything better than what I see here. I think I need some mentoring from Robin.

Gabby July 15, 2009 at 10:20 AM  

You have a real eye and a real heart and all the love that no money can buy.

B July 15, 2009 at 12:20 PM  

You have a really good eye and take very good photos! That's more important that a "real camera"!

smith kaich jones July 15, 2009 at 12:42 PM  

As we say here in Texas, I been in this bidness a long time and there's an old saying within the industry: If I only had a Hasselblad, I could take better pictures. Always spoken by people who end up owning a Hasselblad & their photos are still out of focus. Or underexposed. Or something. That said, in truth, there is no substitute for the right equipment, good equipment - do I not buy expensive paint brushes, the best paint? Yes, indeedy, I do. Do either make my paintings better? No sirree bob. (I'm feeling quite Texany today.) But you reach a point where you know the difference, where you can see the possiblities, where the photos you've missed because you didn't have a specific lens become evident. Maybe only to yourself, but you're the one who matters, you're the one who knows. So I support you in this goal - I can only imagine what more wonderful stuff is out there for you to show us.

I hope I spelled Hasselblad correctly.

:) Debi

Christina July 15, 2009 at 2:12 PM  

I remember the first time I held "a real camera" I was such a goner. For me, it's learning the inside of the camera. Those functions and gears get me going.
: )

Char July 15, 2009 at 2:46 PM  

it is good to have goals - it's even good to want to upgrade equipment. but please, do not put down your photography - it is real and beautiful

Brad July 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM  


Great photography is so much not about gear. It's about your eye (and yours is excellent) and how you see and interpret what's around you. So don't sweat the gear thing. You've got the vision and that's what counts. Your photos are great!

I've been using a "consumer" level cam for all my SF street photography for years and blog/flickr what I see almost everyday - see no reason to buy something better for what I do.

So keep on trucking with what you got - it's real, and more importantly, your photos are as well.

Adam July 15, 2009 at 6:59 PM  

i could leave you well wishes and stroke your ego and say everything everyone else has said.

instead i am choosing to say hello, and that i was thinking about K and the kids earlier this week, but with the podcast, time, and other things, i haven't had a chance to e-mail.

keep fighting your good fight. Oh and did I mention that Cleveland might be a good place to get away?

Yoli July 15, 2009 at 9:25 PM  

Totally pea green with envy! ;) I just have to get myself to SF.

AphotoAday July 15, 2009 at 10:37 PM  

I am psychic -- well not really, but I do know that eventually everything of concern will be better... Wonderful, actually...

Your expedition up the Filbert Stairs and over to Northbeach reminds me of doing that exact same thing a month or so ago. I knew the stairs would kill me, but I really wanted to do it... Saw no parrots that day, but did say hello to several cats along the way... (an idea for a movie there? -- the cats of Telegraph Hill?)

Anyway, I was enjoying reading your "My New Glass Eye" post from a year or so ago... Let me tell you about "big" cameras -- once you get one you want even a bigger one... Canon recently came out with a 23mp improved version of my 5D which I'm going to have to eventually buy, whether I can afford it or not... I drool when I see someone with an "L" zoom longer than my dinky 70-200...

But you know, Julie, what is most important is your talent for photographing people -- that's something I don't have but desperately wish I did... Consider yourself lucky -- I admire your talent! All the best to you.

Just.Kate July 17, 2009 at 6:45 AM  

You haven't been equipped with a great camera??? I quake at the thought of you decked out as a professional. I thought your photographs were incredible *now*. Oooooooooo.... I'm all excited for this new goal of yours. :) I hope this helps get you out of your rut (though ruts are perfectly natural, etc.:D)

robinbird July 17, 2009 at 1:32 PM  

this post just made me ache with longing to sit, to walk, to talk and to share inspiration with you again. sweet girl i haven't even begun to ask you all the questions i want to hear you reflect upon! you are sooo ready. being comfortable is not your style my dear. we all need to be nudged from the nest at some point and this is your time to let go and jump. reach high and push hard off your toes! and you know.... follow through is as important when learning to fly while holding a camera as it is in learning to golf.

Dust off your library card and get yourself some of those technical books on photography. Did i tell you i made myself some flash cards in order to learn/memorize equivalent exposures? it matters! you are ready to use those beautiful eyes and that fine mind of yours to push yourself to the next level of skill. i am here to tell you it all matters; the technical, the artistry, the practice, the daring. none of them alone are enough for what you know in your heart you want.

p.s. i didn't even get to tell you about my day on wednesday with my own photographic muse. it was sooo awesome to walk and talk, and sit at the computer and discuss the technical, the art, the heart and the deep desire to create beauty with pictures with her. it was completely worth getting home at 2am and driving the 101 in the fog!

p.s.s. I adore the portrait of relyn in front of the column in the park. it is so completely recognizable as your style! she is beautiful!

p.s.p.s. onward! little helen, your mom, as well as K and the kids have the same desire for you to find your way as you do for them to find their way. we all stand on the threshold of painful change at times in our lives and it all seems less scary when it is a group effort :)

Anonymous July 28, 2009 at 4:24 PM  

Envy... envy... envy...
I wish I had a serious city to photograph. Boston was great, I took thousands of pictures, but they were like touristy photographs. I didn't really experience the city through photography.
Envy... envy... envy...