We read, we write, we think, and we form something of a self. We live. We experience other people and events. And our soul is informed. We slowly become individuals, over time. The writer is like a snowball who picks up debris as he/she rolls. We all do. We are all snowballs. But a writer leaves some of that behind.
I have known Craig over the course of many lives. When we met in this one there was a recognition, an unspoken knowing. We are both writers. We take all the webs we spin up in our heads and attempt to arrange them in some form that speaks to other people. This is a difficult undertaking. And a frustrating one. How do I get you to see what I see?
Storytelling is the art of shared imagination. One person has a dream and he/she tries to get another person to see and understand it. The sharing of dreams. Can I put you in my dream? I don’t know. But I try. Photography can be similar. I see something in the world, a face say, and I attempt to show it to you as I see it. For a momen...
We carry around our stories. They drive us, they define us. Our stories are who we are. Beneath this skin, this frail facade, we are a collection of experiences and ideas.
Sometimes they are heavy and we strain beneath them. But that only makes our legs and shoulders stronger. Over time our stories make us impervious to the weather of our lives. If we choose that. If we insist on growing. If we have faith in ourselves. Because our stories can also buckle us. They can break us. How we tell the story matters, not just to others but to ourselves.
The glass is always half full. Things can always be worse. If you are alive and breathing you are in the game, you can help people. And if you can help people then your life has meaning. Our meaning does not derive from what we can do for ourselves.
I must always ask myself ‘what story am I telling?’ and ‘who am I helping today?’ That is my anti-depressant. That is my raison d’etre. My story is only complete if it includes yours. And it does. Not...
Metaphors drive understanding. Through metaphor we don’t just see our connectedness, we feel it. For Marshall here, the metaphor is the river. Running rapids in a kayak. I don’t have to be a kayaker to understand that. I just have to have a basic understanding of rivers.
What we do in the office and what we do outside of it are not two different things. Despite what Marshall says, the line between those two places is not as hard as it might seem. I get what he’s saying. Each has its place. But there is much in common between the mentality required of each. Survival is not the dire binary of life and death but there is a certain danger, a certain seriousness, the office shares with the river.
But that’s not the point. We can tell much about this man by how he looks at the world and spends his time. This profile is more than just a picture. It’s a glimpse into how he thinks. And that’s the whole point of these ODEs (which is what I call these story portraits). I’m interested in how a perso...
There are so many facets of us that no one image can capture our nuance. And that’s what we’ve lost lately, that nuance. Everything is so facile, so black and white. But people aren’t like that. We are each a rich and complex fabric woven of experiences and dreams.
When I first envisioned this concept that I call ODE, I imagined that each person was a mosaic, a stained-glass window. I would take many photographs and choose a representative few, combined with written content I gleaned from interviews with them and their family and friends. The end result would be a tapestry of images and words that created a fair portrait of who they are.
That’s what I did with Marshall Guttenberg. Although I have done dozens of single-image ODEs since then, his 9-panel ODE is the closest I have come to what I envisioned. This is panel number 9, in which we pulled a quote from The Alchemist, one of his favorite books.
I’d like to do more like this. The idea was to post them all over social media and the we...
I can think of no better birthday tribute than this ODE to Carla, who found me through my book. Happy birthday Carla.
She read Serpent Box and reached out to me. Apparently something I wrote a long time ago resonated with her.
We spoke on the phone and exchanged emails. She's a kindred spirit for sure. Her work is vital and fascinating. I'm still discovering her.
To have developed a friendship through a novel I wrote many years ago is a great gift, and still a surprise to me. Yet not. Serpent Box has called in all kinds of people. It continues to change my life.
But this is about Carla, with whom I share a humble respect for indigenous peoples and culture. She's also a writer, and a teacher, and a guide. I recommend investigating her websites. Who knows what doors it might open, what ideas it might shake loose?
When we write, and publish what we write, we are inviting other minds, other souls, to intermingle with our own. We think we're telling stories to strangers when what we're really do...
For our first photo session we met at Limantour Beach in Pt. Reyes. It was a bit overcast but that’s the most magical time on West Marin beaches so what we captured was really pure magic. That day was all about movement.
For our 2nd session we met at Ring Mountain which was where this photo was taken. That day was all about stillness.
Eugenia is probably the most comfortable person in her own body I’ve ever met. During our time together I felt I was with someone I had known for years. Her energy is so grounded and open. I had to do an ODE for her because what she does is so interesting and unique. And I like how she talks about our bodies as carriers of stories. As a storyteller that resonates with me.
I don’t have any trauma to work through but if I did I’d work with Eugenia. Not that that’s all she does. But she is indeed a safe place to rest and feel seen and heard. What I’m hoping is that this ODE might help her to help others.
Sometimes we tell stories with words and sometimes we tell...
Last week I was asked to shoot at Outside Lands, a San Francisco music festival, for Hint Water. They had a pavillion where you could take photos and have your photos taken, and there was a line outside to get in.
My job (one of them) was to capture festival goers drinking Hint - not easy, as most folks were drinking adult beverages. But I manaaged to find a few people not imbibing.
This was a great gig for me because it allowed me to do what I do best, which is interact with people and tell a story with photographs. My feet hurt at the end of the night, and I felt old, but the people at Hint were great and the crowd was joyous. So all in all not bad for a day's work.
It’s strange and miraculous how people come into our lives. We are each like celestial objects hurtling through space until our trajectories cross. Sometimes we collide, violently. Sometimes the dust of our comet tails intermix. And we move on, on our courses, but we are forever changed.
When I met Paul I was at a low point in my life but that was ten years ago and since then things have gotten better. During this time I encountered many angels, many helpers, whose kindness and friendship contributed greatly to my well-being. Paul was (is) one of those angels. He is a helper, a benevolent force of good, and when I would see him I would feel his energy and my state of mind would improve. He’s the kind of person I want in my orbit.
Paul is a healer. But he’s not arrogant about it. There’s no ego there. It’s true that he’s a dog whisperer, but he’s a heart whisperer too. Dogs. humans, it doesn’t matter, where there is a need for love and understanding, he fills it.
Sometimes people ask me to do an ODE for them, and sometimes I ask them to allow me to tell their story. Such was the case with Edward who, after 28 years as a San Francisco firefighter, had stories to tell.
I couldn't possibly squeeze all his wisdom and experience into one ODE so I chose what I thought were the salient points from his interview and created an 'overview', a short summary of who he is. That's all an ODE is supposed to be.
Since he won't toot his own horn allow me to do it for him. Edward is a kind, giving, caring person who embodies love and respect for life. This is the face you want to see looking back at you through the smoke.
Just look into his eyes and you'll feel him. He's the real deal. I chose that photo because it moves me the most.
What I learned from doing his ODE (because I always learn something) is that fear is the thing that holds us back, and that you can choose how you deal with your fear. It's a timely lesson for me and I have to believe that Edward came t...
It begins with an image. And the location we choose is almost always an intuitive guess. In my mind it has to have some thematic relevance but also offer an opportunity for interesting curves, texture, shadows, light. The photograph I ultimately select says something about the person, but it also acts as a palette that will contain a story.
Taft here had just graduated high school and was going off to college back east. And we wanted this to be a tribute to her spirit and to her life. Just below the surface we see more. And only through one’s willingness to explore, to want to know, can we truly absorb a story. Here she stands, exuberant, above the city that helped make her who she is. She’s wearing the cool pants she made. And she’s ready to take on the world.
This ODE is dense. There’s a lot to explore here. Some words are large and thus easy to read upon first glance, others are small, requiring further exploration. This is intentional. I have always imagined ODEs as interactive maps...
The impetus for ODE was really that moment when I was at Nickelodeon, standing in the kitchen getting coffee when a co-worker I hardly knew walked in. We started talking and I quickly realized that we had a lot in common, that I had been there working with him for more than five years and didn’t know who he was. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if we could discover each other sooner?
I thought long and hard about it. Imagine if ODEs hung on the walls of conference room, or if there was a coffee table book you could read when you joined the team? What a gift this would be to your people, to honor them with a photograph and a profile. What if we shared each other’s stories? Wouldn’t this do more for unity and retention than snacks and outings?
More than anything else I imagined that ODEs would bolster team chemistry. I wanted to know not just where people once worked, but what they believed in, what they’d overcome. I can learn more about you from a quote, a lyric from a song, a line from...
This man came into my life through a friend who has since passed on and he is but one of her many gifts to me. I have long wished to do an ODE for him. He’s fascinating, and genuine, and one of the rare ones - a talented human being who walks his talk. Everett Harper is the CEO of Truss (https://truss.works/) the company that saved Healthcare.gov and that builds the foundational infrastructure of so many prominent web brands. But he’s also a father, a chef, a writer, a champion soccer player. When you’re with him you feel like the most important person in the room. He listens, He holds space. And that’s what we need in our leaders. That and a healthy dose of humility. That James Baldwin quote says it all.