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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Never too old for this sort of thing.

Ahhh, the enchanting and naughty Linda Darnell.


It's a good thing I live in San Francisco because I like to dress up and do the costume thang and living here gives people like me so many opportunities to do so, Halloween or not.

So I'll be emulating my favorite noir vixen, strolling/trolling Market Street with my camera-toting peeps on our first CALIBER related event.

The ad on my facebook page this morning (I have to admit, I still don't like facebook) is this: "Recommendations for San Francisco women in their 40s - including weekend getaways, beauty, wine - picked by people in the know."

My initial mental response to that ad was Oh yeah? Fuck you. (It is also my lingering, secondary response.) Probably not what this company's web ad pros had in mind.

I'm not that decrepit yet. I know what to do in San Francisco... even if I'm in my 40s!

Hope you all trick and treat well today!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CALIBER's Halloween Photowalk

Photo by Troy Holden of CALIBER.


Join us if you can, for our Halloween Photo Walk!

Get the details here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'll have what she's having.

Actually, I'll have more of what I'm having.



I'm not going to call tangobaby the forgotten blog or the neglected blog. Now that CALIBER has launched, and boy howdy has that site taken off like a rocket, and i live here:SF is going gangbusters, especially since that article in the Chronicle, I come back here and I don't see tumbleweeds.

It's a mite quiet, but it also feels like things are settling into their proper places. Like my blog life is getting more organized.

For the cream of the crop imagewise, I'm going to be posting and writing lots more over at CALIBER. So for those of you who aren't regularly checking in there, please do. Subscribe, tweet it, tell your friends. It's HOT. I'm going to be saving my most splendid photos for that site because, let's face it: size matters. I'll be writing over there too, just like I do here, but some images and stories will be exclusive to CALIBER. (Today was an especially exciting day on CALIBER because we got written up on Thrillist and our site's stats literally blew up. And then we also got picked up by the New York Times' Bay Area blog list... yes that NYT.)

And then i live here:SF, my amazing baby. I cannot tell you how many wonderful faces and stories are waiting in the wings. Seriously. I could be doing this for 8 hours a day lately.

Sooooo, tangobaby might seem a little less action packed, but it's just that the action is getting spread around a bit more, in all the right places.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


"Can a man who's warm understand one who's freezing?" ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Yesterday I took a detour. In order to avoid waiting 22 minutes for the 44 bus, I took a walk that brought me back to age 25.

Instead of waiting near Green Apple Books for the bus to take me home, I decided to start walking, not home, but just walking so I wouldn't be standing in the bus shelter for nothing. I headed down Geary, towards the ocean. For some reason, I'm never on Geary, but it was a sunny day, fine for strolling and it seemed a lot better than waiting for the bus anyway, especially since I had no particular place to go but home.

The farther I headed down Geary, the closer I got to Russia. Ever since I can remember as an adult, random Russians (and probably Ukranians, too) have come up to me to ask me something, maybe the time, directions. But in Russian, not English. It used to make me laugh and was always a little surprising. How did they know? I grew up in San Jose. Sometimes I would ask, after explaining I didn't understand the question, and if they spoke English, they said they could tell I was one of them from my nose, my lips. My facial features gave me away.

I was so surprised. It felt odd, and oddly comforting, to be recognized by an ethnic group that obviously I am tied to by ancestry but not much else.

Today I did not get the questions, but some knowing, but very faint, smiles. I returned the tight-lipped smiles. As I walked, I walked further back into my past, into my twenties. I thought of my ex-husband and his family. They had left the Soviet Union, their home in Moscow, back in the mid-Seventies, during the diaspora that sent many Russians (mostly Jews) to the US or to Israel. My husband's father was Jewish by birth but had never been raised in a religious family. But his paperwork branded him Semite and that was enough to make his life difficult. My husband's mother was a Russian Orthodox. But that didn't stop the antisemitism from ruining their lives and his mother was an outcast from her own family for marrying a Jew, and his father was eventually fired from his job as an engineer for being born into the wrong race. In Soviet Russia, Jewishness was a race, not a religion. They had no way to survive or make a home for their two small boys, so they emigrated to the US. To San Francisco.

Little bits and pieces of that past life started to come back to me. I didn't meet my husband until we were in college, although I remembered him from high school. Very shy, with a very heavy accent, he got better grades in Honors American History than the rest of his American-born classmates (including me) and never talked to anyone, at least that I could tell. He had learned to speak English by watching television and had learned to read it by devouring comic books, his only boyish vice. All I wanted to do was save him. And then when I met his family, I wanted to save them too. I wanted to make them happy to be in America. Even though they could not go home, they never seemed anything but dispossessed.

The Russian people —not to stereotype, but nationalities do have their own distinctive character and I came to know the Russian one quite well— and not to be confused with the Ukranian Jewish background of my grandma Annette (and her tales of escaping the Cossack raids and her crossing to America in steerage), but the more modern, pre-Berlin Wall falling Muscovites that survived Stalin and his successors. That dark humor, developed from standing in endless lines to buy black bread, watermelons, cooking oil. The wry understanding that came from bribing officials with black market books and ballpoint pens. The plain white walls and the fake wood paneling. The meager furniture and dull, flat carpets covered in red and blue Persian rugs. The memories of the lazy summers at the dacha. The boiled chicken. The red beets. The pickles. The tea with jam.

They wanted for nothing. They didn't want anything. They only left the house when it was necessary: to go to the store, to run errands. The rest of life was spent at home, reading books in Russian, listening to the radio. I was their connection to the world: the entertainment, the storyteller, the birthday rememberer. God it was hard. It was more than I could handle in the end.

When I left, I didn't look back. Sometimes I regret that ending, but I don't know if I could have done it any other way without crumbling. I think that is why I hadn't been down Geary in a long time. I can go to Chinatown, the Mission, anywhere else in the city without having to deal with my memories. But when these random people smile at me, I feel a twinge, and I miss a little bit of that world.

I stood for a while in front of the Russian Orthodox Church and watched two men talking outside the front doors. One of the men was doing repairs. The golden onion domes sparkled so brightly under the blue sky. In the past, those domes had seemed so huge to me, like St. Basil's in Red Square. But this day, those domes finally felt small, or at least in perspective.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


From left to right: Brad Evans, Stuart Dixon, me, Troy Holden, after the Apocalypse.
(Actually, it's what was the old tuna cannery, otherwise known as the TIE building down in Bayview. Photo by Troy Holden.)


I wanted to introduce you to a new collaborative group I'm a part of. I'm really excited about it, and really excited to share some new photography friends with you.

Brad, Stuart, Troy and I have been part of a photographic mutual admiration society for quite some time, so us forming this group, now known as CALIBER, just came pretty naturally. We've been meeting for Irish coffees after the work day, talking photography and projects and now we have something we're really proud of to share.

Stuart and Troy (to those who knew him previously as Plug1 from whatimseeing.com) are credited for creating a fantastic template in which to showcase what we feel are our best images. We have some ideas and goals for where we'd like to take this group going forward, but for right now, we're happy to share some of our favorite images with you.

Please take a visit to CALIBER and tell us what you think. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

reading someone else's love letters

One of my greatest thrills about i live here:SF is when people send in their stories. Some of them, heck—most of them, are truly touched by a bit of magic.

Read Medea's story and see if you agree with me.

Sarah Silverman strikes again.

This is almost as awesome as The Great Schlep video.
Thanks to Kristen for posting it first.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Always a view.

E. on the steps near one of her past residences.
Near Union, in North Beach


I've been wanting to share this story with you for a few days now, but other things kept interrupting me and I wasn't able to get into my writing mind long enough to tell this story. Today, it's rainy, the first rain of the season which, in the Bay Area, is enough to drive every other story off the front page because... well, because it's raining.

But because it's raining, I've had to cancel other plans and now it's that quiet, wet afternoon with the windows speckled with water and the cars swooshing by, that I can write about E.


E. was the first person to contact me after the article in the Chronicle came out. She briefly explained that she'd lived in San Francisco for over 40 years and had a project she wanted to talk to me about. We played a little phone and email tag over the next day.

When we finally got to talk on the phone, I heard an intelligent conversationalist on the other end of the line. Her voice was strong and a little commanding. She sounded a chipper 60 years old, not the age of 81 that she'd given me. She told me that she wanted to go around the city, and take photos of all of the places she's lived and worked for over 40 years here. We compared notes on buildings and places throughout San Francisco that we loved. We compared favorite San Francisco movie scenes. "I've lived in almost every neighborhood in the city," she explained. "And I've always had a view. The only room in my place now that doesn't have a view is the bathroom." She laughed.

I told her how excited I was to meet her and help her with her quest. She said that normally she would have taken the pictures herself, but given her health lately that would be hard to do. She wanted to make a book of photos of these homes and offices as gifts for family and friends, who have helped her so much in recent times.

"I don't want you to feel sorry for me," she said. "But I'm recovering from a brain tumor. You know, like what Ted Kennedy died of."

We made a date to meet a few days later, and start her trip down Memory Lane together.


E.'s apartment is lovely, with a picture perfect view of the Marina, Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge. It looks exactly like a postcard view that was blown up to window size and then pasted to the wall, that's how pretty it is.

Her apartment is filled with books, art and photographs. Antiques and more books. I spied several books that I wanted to borrow, and even more that I had read. She took me around, showing me photos of her children and her grandchildren, herself as a young woman, her parents in their beautiful wedding attire and framed in gilded wooden frames that hung in her bedroom, near her bed.

Instantly I had this fantasy that E., with her lovely manicure and silver jewelry and stylish fall ensemble, was the worldly, educated grandmother that I never had. She spun tales of North Beach, and working in the cocktail bars in North Beach where she knew Miles Davis and Mort Sahl. Her brother had met Alfred Hitchcock while he was in town, filming Vertigo. Imogen Cunningham and Ruth Asawa had been neighbors. Cunningham had taken her portrait years ago, but she hadn't liked it, and had ripped it up. (I shuddered at the thought.) She pulled out books for me, books she knew I'd like, that were written about San Francisco's history. She seemed to know each of the authors. I was smitten.

We started our walking tour in Russian Hill and then North Beach, where she'd lived in several apartments and homes. We climbed hills and I took her arm to steady her. Amazed that she was able to climb these hills, albeit slowly, that winded us both. We stopped to admire the views. I took photos of the places she'd lived and she told me when she lived there, if she was married at the time, how old her children were. She told me what buildings had been torn down, what used to be where and her memory for the way the city used to be was amazing to me. At one point we encountered an 87 year old neighbor that she hadn't seen since the early 1970s. We were invited inside for a glass of water as the Blue Angels tore up the sky, practicing for Fleet Week.

The photo above is the last place we took pictures that day. A studio apartment that was only $95 a month, and the light from Alcatraz's lighthouse routinely made her bedroom glow at night. She described the sound of the foghorns and how they made her feel cozy at night. For anyone, myself included, who's lucky enough to hear the foghorns off the coast regularly, you know what it means to hear them at 3am. You don't mind it at all.

Anyway, I hope there will be more to tell about E. and that we'll be out in other places of the city soon, her health permitting. I hope she'll be a part of i live here:SF, but either way, just taking E.'s tour of San Francisco is a pleasure I won't soon forget.

Time for the drawing!

You know me... I can never pick just one person. I just can't do it.

So my random lottery picking device picked three. And now I feel better!

And the names are...

David Dunn


thank you all for playing along... I will be reading over your suggestions again and making changes over time. But all notes and advice were much appreciated.

Dina, Katie and David, please email me your mailing addresses and there will be a tangobaby package in the mail to you soon. (Before Christmas! LOL.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Talkin' 'bout my generation.

Just another Psychedelic Saturday.

This past Saturday I went to the Festival of Rock Posters Fair over at Golden Gate Park's Hall of Flowers (you may remember past visits to the ikebana festival and the Anarchist Book Fair). This poster festival features rock poster artists and dealers from around the country, and is the one show not to be missed by poster collectors and all fans of rock art.

I went to see my new boyfriend.

Meet Dennis.

I met Dennis when I started working with Cyril Jordan and Paul Kopf and taking photos for their band, Magic Christian.

Dennis Loren has been creating the amazing posters for the band, and he's known Cyril since his Flamin' Groovies days. He's now working on a tour book for the band, when they're in Europe at the end of the year, and so yours truly is supplying the photos for the book. (Needless to say, I'm super excited about that. My first time in print!) After handing Dennis a disc of images, he gave me a personal tour of the show, and introduced me to all of the artists there.

It didn't take me too long to figure out that not only is Dennis beloved by everyone in the rock poster world, but he's highly respected and his work is sought after by new and old bands alike.

We had fun looking through his past work, Dennis telling me about how he made the poster, how it was printed, etc. (we've been geeking out on print shop talk now for a while). That Jimi Hendrix poster is a reprint, but Ray Manzarek of the Doors is holding out for an original, if it's still available. (Yes, this is a name-dropping sort of place. But the cool thing is that these artists actually know the musicians, who love their work and inspire more.)

Then he took me around the room to meet his friends.

I totally loved this poster. The artist said his daughter won't hang it in the house because of the kids. There's some non G-rated action going on there, apparently.

This guy, Victor Moscoso, is one of the granddaddies of the psychedelic rock poster art and did tons of posters for the Fillmore. He was a character, to say the least.

There's also a new crop of artists who are expanding and carrying on the rock art lifestyle. This guy, Paul Imagine, was hilarious and his work looks like Dr. Seuss's world gone very very awry. But I liked it.

He's showing me his drawing callus.

The other reason I mention this is that there's a super cool documentary about these boys and their world called American Artifact, the Rise of American Rock Poster Art, where you can see clips and interviews and stories with these artists. There's going to be two screenings and Q&As at the Roxie Theatre at the end of the month, so if you find this interesting, you should go.

I'll be there to see Dennis participate in the Q&A. (Gotta support the boyfriend, right?)

Below is a trailer for the film.


After the expo, The Boy and I were invited to a pizza party with the artists. I couldn't believe the stories I was hearing, but since they weren't G-rated either, I won't repeat them.

Let's just say now I know how to grow my own pot, and why I should very strongly dislike the manager for Jefferson Airplane.

Yes, the sticker on his head says "I Am a Huge Poster Nerd."

Now I really miss the Sixties.

it's a matter of how you see things.

And right now it seems like I'm seeing a lot. Hard to keep up, frankly.

This photo was taken yesterday at the old tuna cannery in Bayview, also known as the TIE building by those in the graffiti world.

It's part of a something bigger that I'll share on Thursday, but I couldn't not share the photo, at least. I really like how looking through the broken glass makes you focus on the world outside this building.

More on the shoot, and what's behind it, and all kinds of stuff soon. And for those of you inclined, I'm still open for comments on my new site if you want to get into the drawing that happens tonight.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Beautiful art abounds this weekend in the Mission.



There are people who can walk into a room and immediately magnetize it. They walk into a room and you know it. It's not a conscious thing they do, there's just something about them that captivates you.

I remember the first time I saw Soad. I just thought she effused some sort of magical qualities and I couldn't help wondering who she was.

I met her at Ney and Jennifer's tango studio for an artist's reception of Soad's tango-inspired paintings. At the end of the show, I introduced myself to her, and asked her if someday I might take her portrait for my new i live here:SF project. I tried to explain myself to her in a way that wouldn't make me sound like a crazy stalker, considering she had no idea who I was.

I'm glad to say that our photo shoot together, which is still one of my favorites, has also led to a wonderful and supportive friendship.


Soad is participating in the Open Studios weekend in the Mission. She's opened her gallery, her home and her heart to those who want to come and appreciate her art and meet other kindred spirits.

If you can, stop by and say hello. I'm sure you'll adore her just like I do, and discover a wonderful artistic talent, besides.


From her invitation:

StudioSoad SF Open Studios this weekend!

It has been said that art is a tryst,
for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet. ~Kojiro Tomita
I can't wait for us to meet... this weekend!

Saturday & Sunday, October 10th & 11th from 11am to 6pm
or by appointment
3560 24th Street, #5 (@ Guerrero, 3rd floor, no elevator), San Francisco - 4 blocks up from the 24th/Mission BART station

See you soon...
un abrazo,

sign up to be on my email list: http://eepurl.com/dG8i

General Open Studios Info: http://artspan.org/

What it was supposed to say.

First off, I wanted to thank all of you who've already given me some great feedback on my updated website! There are some things I can change about the template and some things that I can't and may have to wait, but I'm super grateful to those of you who took the time and really gave me some helpful advice. Thank you!

I'll be having that drawing on Monday night so anyone that still wants to participate can. See the details here.


I have so much to tell you about the consequences that the article in the San Francisco Chronicle has had on me and the project so far. Certainly, there will be a lot more to share in the future and I have one very special story that I'm working on now to share with you.

Before I do that, I wanted to share Kristin's complete article with you. Kristin's the writer who wrote the piece for the Chronicle, and I have to tell you that the version that made it to the newspaper and what she wrote are a bit different.

I think what Kristin wrote (and I've reposted here with her permission) is really what I was trying to say. Not that I'm not grateful for the exposure in the Chronicle, because I am and I think I'll have some amazing stories to share with you because of it, but the essence of what I was trying to say was a bit altered.

Read Kristin's original story and see what you think. And in the meantime, I'll be cranking on some other posts for you.

People like Julie Michelle take setbacks in life as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, a chance to pursue that which drives their native spirits, long held in reserve as hobbies or potential “dream careers.” In Michelle’s case, a lost job she wasn’t passionate about created space for a pastime more satisfying, and most importantly, paved the way toward a new professional life in which she was clearly destined to thrive.

The 42-year-old San Jose native who worked her way up the peninsula over the years—first to Palo Alto, then eventually to land in the Sunset—has had a long-time love affair with the City by the Bay. So it’s no surprise really that Michelle decided to meld that fervency with her keen eye behind the camera to create I Live Here: SF, an ongoing photography project in which she employs everyday locals as her subjects. But in order to fully appreciate the concept and its creator, one must first understand Michelle’s background.

Though her degree is in printing from San Jose State University, Michelle has hopped around in her professional life, most recently having worked in an administrative position at an interior design firm—until the powers-that-be implemented money-saving tactics in the form of lay-offs in April. Michelle had already been working on I Live Here: SF for a month at that point and capitalized on her sudden influx of free time.

“At first, the two were unrelated: I had this hobby [I Live Here: SF] that I enjoyed and devoted some time to, then I was unemployed and figuring out what to do next,” she recalls. “Finally, I thought I needed to fill my time somehow. You can’t just sit at home all day and send out resumes—that gets depressing.”

Prior to that job, Michelle worked as a makeup artist for five years and now attributes her ability to analyze a face to this detail-oriented past profession. (And yes, she does offer her pro-bono aesthetician services to all I Live Here: SF subjects who want to be made up.)

“Being a makeup artist primed me to look at faces in a very objective way and summarize one very quickly. You learn to look at faces in a different fashion because you’re constantly touching them, summing up in a way—not good or bad, just objective—and I didn’t realize until I started doing these shoots just how much that’s helped my photography.”

One thing Michelle lacks is any semblance of formal photography training; she’s fully self-taught and only acquired her first camera in March 2008. In fact, she confiscated it from her boyfriend, who purchased their first “big-girl camera,” to take to AT&T Park on the weekends. And the rest is history. Every morning, afternoon and night when she wasn’t working, Michelle was taking pictures of her beloved San Francisco, often in her favorite neighborhood, Chinatown, when the sunlight just beginning to creep over the horizon in the early hours of morning.

“When I was starting out, it didn’t even occur to me to take pictures of people. I was so entranced by San Francisco that all I wanted to do was take pictures of everything around me. People didn’t count,” she recalls.

Her project didn’t begin to take shape until Michelle wandered into a shop, the Queen of Sheba, one particularly gloomy day earlier this year and struck up a conversation with the woman running the place. After awhile, Michelle gained the courage to ask if she could photograph her; the woman consented. Michelle posted the results on her personal blog, Tango Baby, and wrote an accompanying story. In the subsequent days, she was overwhelmed by all the reader feedback she received suggesting she do more of the same.

“That was when I thought this could be fun—meeting people in San Francisco and taking their pictures,” she recounts. “When I was trying to come up with a concept, I realized I love being here so much, and everyone you meet –whether a native or transplant—is here for a reason. They feel very attached to this city, and I thought it would be great to let them use their own voice and write their own story and I’d take their picture.”

So in March, she created I Live Here: SF and posted her progress on a separate site, http://iliveheresf.blogspot.com. The project is structured so that any resident of San Francisco can be a subject—“I figure if somebody comes across it and lives here and wants to be a part of it, all they have to do is ask,” Michelle says. Michelle requests that each person finds “their own San Francisco,” whether a neighborhood, a walk, a place that captures his or her version of the city, and she sets up a time for the shoot.

“It really is all about them [the subject],” Michelle says. “They write their story, they edit their photo set, they pick their location…that’s all a part of their story.”

Oddly enough, while Michelle confesses to be painfully shy—“I would never go up to anyone on the street and say, ‘hey, I want to take your pictures,’” she admits—it’s pretty clear this social aspect of getting to know the subjects has been one of the most rewarding parts of the project.

“It’s been a great experience on so many levels, but primarily because I meet all kinds of people. I don’t have criteria about who does this. It’s not like you have to have a certain job or age or race,” Michelle explains. “I’ve met this whole diverse array of people who are just as excited about the project as I am. It’s neat because you have this idea that you’re excited about, but it’s your idea, then you meet other people who are just excited if not more so, and it makes it really fun.”

After the editing process, Michelle allows the subject to choose which photos he likes and which ones he wants removed from his file entirely. “I don’t want anyone uncomfortable with any photo floating around of [him or her],” she says. She gives the subject the images on a CD, along with some prints as an added bonus, to do with what he or she wants, whether posting on a personal blog or Facebook page or using as a professional headshot—and all for free.

“I never wanted money to be an issue with this project,” she says. “There’s so much room to collaborate in this city that I didn’t feel like this plea would fall on deaf ears. I figured that somebody out there would be supportive of it—and they were overwhelmingly supportive. It’s just part of giving back—if people are going to be generous with me and their time, their faces, their story and their passion, it’s worth more than money. It’s the goal of a combined vision and enthusiasm. When people come to me and they’re excited, that’s all I need to keep moving. I have no ulterior motive.”

Michelle admits her other tasks and hobbies—her writing, house cleaning and, most importantly, tango dancing (which spawned the title of her original blog)—have taken a back seat to the project. Still, ever optimistic, what she misses from her dancing days, she’s managed to find in her art.

“You can have an intimacy with someone while taking their photo just like you were dancing with them. You can be with somebody and walk around and take their picture and still have that same kind of inner rewarding feeling as you would after a really great dance. It becomes collaborative. That’s really nice, as photography can often be a very solitary thing.”

In the six months since the project’s conception, Michelle has photographed more than 50 subjects, from eclectic personalities like SFGate’s politics and culture blogger, Beth Spotswood; biotech rep, yoga instructor and firespinner, Autumn Feldmeier; and professional ballerina Harriet McMeekin to Michelle’s own beloved tango teachers Ney Melo and Jennifer Bratt; divorce attorney Kate and her companion pup Roo; and resident guidebook writer and event organizer “Broke-Ass Stuart” (Schuffman). She claims to have no favorites, though it’s evident by the poignant gleam in her soulful gray-blue eyes when the subject arises that a shoot with one relatively homebound woman suffering from chronic fatigue and her senior rescue cat captured her heart.

“Because of her condition, Patti can’t get out much, and it was so sweet that she let me, a stranger, come into her home—and her heart—to take pictures. She wrote her story and the story of her cat, Ginny, who has cancer and who she adopted at 11—she wanted to give Ginny a good place to live before she passed away. Their two stories together were so beautiful because Patti isn’t Patti without Ginny, and Ginny isn’t Ginny without Patti. I came home and cried because that they let me do that was just so amazing.”

While I Live Here: SF has opened doors Michelle once thought unimaginable—she’s landed portrait, wedding and concert photography gigs as a result—she doesn’t envisioning ending the project anytime soon.

“Now that I’m so involved in it and love it so much I don’t see that I’ll ever have an arbitrary stop date. I’ll want to have a show at some point and there will probably be some natural segments to the project like a part one and two but I don’t see me ever saying, ‘OK, I’m done!’”

After I Live Here: SF’s one-year anniversary in March, Michelle hopes to show the socially organic product in a local gallery space. Currently, her urban landscape photographs can be viewed and purchased at Tedda’s Boutique on Polk Street; other upcoming exhibits are in the works. Her professional portfolio can be viewed on her website, http://femmefotographie.com. Those interested in participating in I Live Here: SF should contact Michelle via e-mail at iliveheresf at gmail.com.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I think I'm really glad I did this...

I just totally redesigned my entire photography website.

So... I think I'm glad I've been sitting here on my bum for hours. I think.

Would you do me a favor and check out the site? See what you think? I have to go to bed and I'm tired of looking at it any more tonight.

I changed the music. I restructured the whole thing so now it flows better and has more information. Or at least, that's my hope.

I guess since I'm always asking you to do me a favor or whatnot, that to bribe you for suggestions, comments (constructive criticism is welcome but snarky comments will be deleted--not that any of you would ever do that), and impressions, that I'll have a drawing amongst the commenters at the end of the day on Monday. How does that sound?

I have a lovely set of postcard prints of San Francisco images that I'll send to the lucky winner. So check out the site, send it to your pals, leave a comment and maybe I'll send you a goodie.Click on the logo to see the new site.




ps. The itty bitty rules: if you want to enter the contest, leave a comment here on the blog. Do NOT email me. My inbox is insane. BUT, do make sure I can reply to your comment by making your name a link or leaving your email in the comments so I can get your address. Thanks again!

Contest ends Monday night, Oct. 12.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rest for the weary.

Pillow for the weary.

I can't tell you how much I love this picture.


I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the pillow, the smiley face, the sunset creeping along the wall of the lonely alley, and wondered who it was that left that pillow for some tired soul to rest their head on. Did the smile help them sleep better?

I'm sure that pillow is gone now.

I had the chance to meet Mark from Invisible People on Tuesday, thanks to Lisa of Help a Mother Out, and Colleen of St. Anthony Foundation.

I haven't had a chance to mention Mark's website lately, but if you really want to see how someone is using the internet to raise awareness and do good things, please check him out. (And of course, I'm always wanting more people to link to HAMO and St. Anthony's.)

Wishing you all a wonderful day, and I'll be back with more news soon.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No time to be sorry.

This wasn't the post I had planned to write. But it was one of those instances where I felt I really should get this recorded before I forgot what actually happened. I wanted to keep a little of the magic before I lost it in the normal course of forgetting things.

I was standing in line at the bank yesterday, holding a plain white envelope with a check in it. I hadn't looked at the check, but it was one I was expecting since I had apparently overpaid some taxes back in 2004.

I didn't open the envelope before I got to the bank, knowing that this money would really help me right now, and feeling like I didn't need to see the amount. I didn't want to spoil it. I felt so relieved to be able to deposit some money into my account.

As I was waiting in line, the man was sitting near the entry way, waiting for someone. He looked at my shoes, little faux patent leather flats with buckles, and said, "I wish I had someone who would run up to me with a nice pair of shoes like that."

I half-listened to him, as I opened the envelope to get the check ready for the teller. I think I smiled at him distractedly, not really listening. He repeated his comment, as I looked at the check, my heart sinking.

The check was for $8.33. Not even enough to buy dinner with the friends I was meeting. I was glad I was wearing my big black sunglasses. They hide a lot (tears, frustration) and I was hoping that the disappointment from receiving this dinky check was also hidden by the lenses. All my anticipated relief had instantly been dashed to pieces.

The man said to me, "I don't have anybody."

Then I heard him and snapped out of my stupor. "I'm sorry to hear that," I said to him.

Then he smiled, revealing a few missing teeth, and said, "Don't ever say you're sorry. Life's too short to be sorry. You're too pretty to be sorry."

And then the teller called me, as I had a lump in my throat, to cash that silly little check.


Outside the bank, I saw the man again, this time walking with a woman who he introduced as his sister. He said to me, laughingly, "So, you're following me, now?"

I said, Yes, because you give such good advice. I'm going to listen to what you said and live by it if I can.

Then he stuck out his hand to introduce himself. "I'm Jomo," he smiled again and shook my hand with a firm, warm grip.

"I'm Julie."

Then he pointed at the camera hanging around my neck, and made an imaginary movement with his hands, as if to fine tune a lens. "Stay focused," he said, laughing.

We parted ways at the corner, after I asked Jomo if I could take his photo to remember him by. He wished me well, and I was glad for the $8.33, and the advice that came unasked for but was worth so much more.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Now I know summer's over.

Watching the Canada geese fly overhead in the sunshine.

Smoke from barbeques fill the air.

Other kinds of smoke, too.

All shapes and sizes and breeds of creatures enjoying the music.

But I really came to hear these two gentlemen most of all.

Earl Scruggs

Ralph Stanley


What amazes me about these two men, well into their eighties and proudly onstage with their sons and grandsons accompanying them, is how much life and energy they project out into the audience. Hearing them play was such a gift, that's the best way to put it.

I hope if and when I live that long, that I'm still full of as much life and passion as these two. It's inspiring as heck.

Two of my favorite songs, and yes, they sounded that great in person, too.

Earl Scruggs "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"
Flipping awesome. You can't sit still and listen to this.

Ralph Stanley "Man of Constant Sorrow"
Gives you the chills and makes you smile at the same time.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wow, I really suck at pinball.

But it's more fun to take pictures of the pinball machines than to actually play them.

I'd watch Tommy right now but I'm too tired. And my wrists hurt.

From the Pacific Pinball Expo. Get there tomorrow, it's the last day!

A little Pinball Wizard before bed.

have fun this weekend.

I plan to. It's Bluegrass Weekend!

And if you haven't checked out Rachael and Lili Bean yet, they're hanging out over on that other blog.


Friday, October 2, 2009

What it costs.

Last time I checked, I'm not a household name, SF Chronicle or not. Some of the commenters on the online version of the paper (SFGate) seem upset that I'm giving away my services for free. And in doing so, am taking away their ability to make a living.

I'm sorry, but I have to laugh. Brittney at Sparkwood & 21 makes the argument better than I can:

Take better pictures than everyone else, and you'll get paid before they do. But don't begrudge someone their hobby. Don't pretend that exchanging "modeling services" and writing the accompanying story isn't a fair trade.

Just because you have a big fancy camera doesn't mean you get to be a pro automatically anymore. Technology is making nice cameras more affordable, opening up the field to more and more. You don't get to be/stay a pro because you got their first.

Do good work. Try harder. Then you can and will make your money, and you won't have to worry about the amateurs.

I wonder about the people who leave those comments. I mean, can they really be serious? (Aside from the dig about my website, "Flash is sooo 90s", which I'm not sure exactly why that's bad but then I'm no computer genius.)

Up until that article in the paper came out, no one who commented there had a clue to who I was or what I was doing. I can't imagine that any of my subjects had been considering portrait sessions with other photographers and then cancelled them when they found out they could do something with me for free. Truth be told, the people who find out about me generally do so because someone else they know has done it, and they are enthusiastic about the idea of being part of a larger project.

They also want to share their story.

They are storytellers in their way. The photo shoot is almost a secondary thing for them.

It makes me wonder about abundance and lack and the perception of how big our own piece of the pie is. I've written about this before, because I find it so curious that people really don't see what a wide, wide world we live in. Even if I took portraits every day for the rest of my life, I wouldn't capture all the faces and stories in San Francisco. And what that has to do with taking away someone else's income baffles me.

There isn't one way to take photographs or reach out to people. People come to me because they like what I do or want to be part of something. Why should I be the only avenue for that? Just last night, someone wrote to me about wanting to start a project like mine in the city where he lives. I spent a good 20 minutes outlining how I got started, how I work and what a great idea I think it is. Really, because I do. What if there were i live here projects in all kinds of towns and cities? And people enjoyed meeting new people and sharing stories? Even in San Francisco, there's room for more.

I know quite a few SF photographers now who are on the same page. Many of us, like Plug1 and Brad and Thomas Hawk, do portraits and share stories like I do. I look forward to seeing their work and encourage them as they do me.

And all of us are "amateurs," in our way. Perhaps the pros need to realize that there's more to photography than stamping out the competition. There are faces for everyone to go around. More than one lifetime's worth, in fact.

What a rush!

Here's what happens on the day you get written up in the newspaper:

You scrounge for quarters! Where did all my quarters go?

You visit all three newspaper vending machines on the corner near your house and buy a paper from each one.

Just because you can.

You also buy papers from news sellers around town and have them pose for you.

You hang out in the local cafe/bakery/coffee shop and read your article and look around to see if anyone else is doing the same. (Delicious bialy from Arizmendi's... yummmmy!)

And you make other people take pictures of you with "your" newspaper.


Guys, you're all awesome. I know you'll believe me when I tell you that:

1. My inbox is so off-the-hook crazy that it's really exciting. But don't let that stop you from writing/volunteering!
2. I've already spoken with or corresponded with many interesting new people who are ready to be part of i live here:SF
3. I'm not stopping anytime soon!

Keep an eye out for more good things... I'm so thrilled about the possibilities and what I'll be sharing with you soon.

Just so you know, the "director's cut" of the article that Kristin wrote is on her blog, Camels and Chocolate. Kristin is a veteran journalist and world traveler, and not only might you find it interesting to read her article before it got to the Chronicle, but you'll want to bookmark her blog for future reading. Kristin made an appearance on i live here:SF as the Adventuress, and she's certainly brought a lot of adventure to my life.


ps.: This has nothing to do with anything, but besides all of my news, this is one of the best weekends in San Francisco and nearby. First of all, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival starts today, which is beyond awesome.

And if that wasn't enough, the Pacific Pinball Expo in Marin starts today. When I tell you that this is one of the craziest, best ways to spend $25 and an entire day, I am not kidding. I wrote about it here, and believe me, I'll be there again this weekend.

Maybe I'll see you?


UPDATE: Thanks again (!) to Brittney at Eye on Blogs, who's always got my back.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Here for a reason.

I know I told you last night that I was going to wait until I could make it down to the newstand to buy the San Francisco Chronicle.

But it's so damn easy to go online! So here's the story for all of you who can't get a newspaper today.

(Or, like me, are still in your pyjamas!)

Read about i live here:SF in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

Photo by Russell Yip, who was a super cool guy to hang out with.

Just for funsies, here's the photo I took of Claire with Russell behind her, taking photos of us for that article.