I took my kids downtown to check out the state of our nation’s capital before all hell broke loose as the votes were being tallied. In the morning, it was rather calm and even eerily quiet. Tip to tourists: visit the National Mall on Election Day if you want pictures with nobody else in them, maybe during a pandemic, too. Down at Black Lives Matter Plaza, people were showing up to look at the signs and art decorating the many layers of fences surrounding Lafayette Park to the Ellipse (and the White House in the middle), chant their slogans, take pictures, blast music (Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” was a good mood-setter), and have a jovial time before reality set in – whichever way the election would go. I wanted my kids to have a record of their being present for this, since it will be many years before they can fully comprehend—and appreciate—this very unusual and historic election.
B was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer about four years ago. She was a friend-of-a-friend, someone I met maybe once or twice, at the mutual friend’s wedding and possibly at some other party. In the spring, I learned that her prognosis wasn’t very good, and she was organizing a get-together with her close friends to assemble photo albums and videos to leave to her children, who are 8 and 6. Since she lived maybe 30 minutes away in Virginia, I offered to do a photo shoot for her with her kids, as a gift, which she gladly accepted.
We met up at Glen Echo Park, and her kids ran around with my kids, riding the carousel and playing on the playground. I took pictures of B and her kids hugging, tickling each other, being silly, laughing, all the things that young kids are good at doing with their mother, who, at that age, is the most important person in their lives. She also sat with each kid independently and they chatted while I hung back with my camera. I’m not even sure what they talked about, but it wasn’t my conversation to eavesdrop in.
Despite that these are the most important photos I have ever taken, and out of respect for her family, I will probably never publish them anywhere. They were only meant for B and her kids. I did choose this one to post, mostly because it’s from far away, but also because even from far away one could appreciate the closeness that mother and daughter had. The photos turned out really well, and B was very emotional about them. Our timing was good, because soon after, the sweltering DC summer temperatures set in, the carousel at Glen Echo was closed for renovations, and she spent her summer trying to stay cool while in and out of hospital visits. She passed away a few weeks after the school year started.
The kids might not remember that they went to Glen Echo that day, much less that I was there or who I was. At the very least, I hope these photos give them some comfort and memories of a time when their mother was still there.
The Avanti Orchestra is the orchestra of the Friday Morning Music Club, “a community of music lovers and musicians,” which “has promoted classical music in the Washington area for over 125 years.” It’s a volunteer group of experienced classical musicians who gather, play music, and perform for the greater Washington audience. The orchestra is led by Pablo Saelzer, a conductor who hails from Chile and teaches at Montgomery College. I was recently invited to photograph the orchestra as they performed at the Kennedy Center, featuring Washington International Competition winner, violist Deng Yifei of China. As a classically trained pianist and flutist, I was excited to be back on stage with other musicians, even though this time I was playing the part of the principal photographer.
Conductor Pablo Saelzer with Washington International Competition winner and violist Deng Yifei of China.
Autumn is my favorite season… warm sunshine, apples, pumpkins, and of course, magnificent foliage colors. Even though our camping trip to Shenandoah was snowed out over Halloween weekend, we gathered the obligatory pumpkins for carving (covered in snow) and headed to Philadelphia the following weekend where I caught some sunny foliage and farmers’ market around Rittenhouse Square.
Hangzhou, April 2011. He always traveled with this hat.
My dad was the one who gave me my first camera to play with when I was eight, and it was his photography skills which gave a foundation for me to build my own. He had lenses of every kind, boxes of slides, and a reluctance for me to really take on the habit because of its expense and what my parents considered a genuine waste of film and paper.
As a United Nations official, he often traveled with a camera and a Polaroid, so he could hand out the pictures he took of people, especially children, he met in rural villages around the world. One day in early 2000, he went to buy groceries at the Pathmark and returned three hours later with a digital camera instead. It had about 1.5 megapixels but solved his paper-and-film clutter problem. For years afterwards (and several cameras as well), he made Photoshop his friend and constantly exclaimed over the growing sizes of memory cards and flash drives.
A few years ago we both made the leap to a digital SLR (I bought his as a Christmas gift), and together we took pictures and shared them over the Internet. Recently he started transferring old slides he took from the 1970’s to digital format. I’d never seen these pictures before, curious images of me and my sister as little children and never realizing how young my parents once were. What’s fascinating is that he was around my age when he took them, knowing the sentimental value of harboring these moments and memories. He knew that one day, which is now, these pictures would be the sharpest visuals we’d really have left of our parents. Below are some of my (more recent) favorite pictures and memories I’ve taken of him.
Kite flying in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Making a funny face, one he trained each of his daughters and then grandchildren to make
Kisses from granddaughter
Shooting hoops in Bethesda, Md.
For my wedding, he folded more than 200 paper roses, cranes and stars; snipped several versions of the Chinese character Xi for “double happiness”, and created a bride and groom beneath a red pagoda.
Relaxing in a hammock in Puerto Rico
Reading to his grandchildren
Cuddling with his grandson
Walking along the ocean at dusk by himself in Anguilla
This is my childhood friend, Janice.
She’s a clothing designer by trade and spent many years in corporate fashion dictating what mainstream Americans should wear. She went from New York to San Francisco, dressing America. And then she got fed up by all the politics, bureaucracy, and having her creativity limited by budgets (i.e. 9 pleats instead of 18, black buttons instead of silver, etc), quit, and traveled the world.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I got to spend some time with one of my favorite and inspirational friends whose craziness not only finds her in South America and Thailand, but donning a feather boa and gloves (because it was cold outside) and then buying a $5 bridesmaid dress on a street corner garage sale during a block party in the Mission. She didn’t feel like taking it off after trying it on over her clothes, so on she paraded home, with a few onlookers and people taking pictures of her. Myself included. Here are some of them.