So much is written today about the scourge of addiction, and there are many photographs documenting the crimes, the deaths, and the ongoing hopelessness that surrounds our society's latest plague. Very little is written about, or photographs made of, the brave souls who are in recovery, not to mention the family members who continue to love and never give up on the loved ones who are battling the demons of drugs.
On the Midcoast of Maine, hard living is buffered by soft light--light that has inspired countless artists from Andrew Wyeth to Winslow Homer. It was in this soft light that I first met Michaela, a hard woman with the words "Disorder" and "Addiction" tattooed across her chest. She opened her home and life to me, sharing her story of strength, family, and reclamation of self. My ongoing project Michaela's World documents a place where the great love, hope and dreams of a family are working hard to overcome the fear and anxiety that is endemic to their (and our) world, leading so many of us to self-medicate.
Sharing this work with you is important to me since my family is in recovery and has dealt with the destabilizing influences of substance use disorder on love, relationships, and the ability to make ends meet.
We meet MIchaela, a highly functional, strong, deeply loving, and caring mother. We see that she is concerned about the state of her world, with anxiety written across her brow, and her life story writ large in 12 tatoos. We see her two beautiful children, Jordan (aka "Bubba") and Sophie (aka "Godzilla"), who share their concerns and anxieties with us, but also their great love for Mother Michaela and their hope that she will continue her recovery. As I sit close by on the floor of Unit #2 of Coughlin Park making exposures, I come to realize that my camera is exposing my own fears and anxieties about recovery, as well as the positive thoughts that love, togetherness, and hope of family will triumph over the despair of addiction.
I have created two handmade books of Michaela's World. Inspired by Arnold Newman's Sitters and Signatures, I have given one copy of the artist book to Michaela, and a next step will be to have her comment on these images. I plan to keep making exposures in the hope that it will help people realize that substance use disorder is a universal problem, and the solution is ultimately found within family.
Skip Klein September, 2017.
Ventanas De Miguel
In April, 2013, I travelled to Cuba for the first time in my life. While in Havana, I would rise at 6AM each morning to walk the streets and watch this colorful city come to life. My route typically involved walking down the Prado--the grand walking boulevard in Old Havana--to the Malecon--the glorious roadway bordering the sea. It was at the intersection of the Prado and the Malecon that I first met Miguel.
Miguel Ramos was a warm and colorful man whose mastery of English matched my mastery of Spanish: "Tu foto per favore?"..."Gracias senor"..."Guapo!!!" Yet, we almost immediately bonded with each other. Before too long, he motioned to me to follow him to his apartment at #13 Malecon. With some trepidation, which quickly melted with the warmth of his smile and the comedy of his large white shoes, I followed him. An hour of conversation, great warmth, and friendship ensued, even though we did not speak each other's language. We smoked cigars, we drank beer, and he wrote down his address on the back of my business card. His townhouse had not one, nor two, but three stories. And, I met his boyhood friend Roberto, who was asleep on the third floor. The view from his windows were among the best in Havana--El Morro Castle, the statue of Miranda, and the mouth of the harbour. The longstanding differences between our two governments could not keep us from bonding and actually engaging in what our governments call a "people to people cultural exchange."
When we parted company, I promised that I would return, and he promised to welcome me with open arms, a Cohiba, and a Buccanero. All this communication occurred through gesture, laughing, some photographs, and the language of pigeons. And, return I did, with photographs, seven months later in November, 2013. On the first dawn after my arrival in Havana, I pretty much ran down the Prado to #13 Malecon and started to look for Miguel. HIs apartment was padlocked shut and there was no one in sight. Finally, a neighbor told me, "Miguel esta muerto." I cried. And, I made some photographs. And, I asked for his friend Roberto. And, the next day, I met two new residents of #13 Malecon, who helped me conduct a Santeria memorial service for Miguel.
Gingers are the spice of life!!!
Roland Park Place
Roland Park Place is a retirement community with the most interesting people. Behind the closed door of every apartment exists a unique world filled with the treasures of each individual resident. Here we visit Mrs. B, who was an art teacher and curator.
Shichi-Go-San (七五三, lit. "Seven-Five-Three") is a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children. As it is not a national holiday, it is generally observed on the nearest weekend.
Shichi-Go-San is said to have originated in the Heian period amongst court nobles who would celebrate the passage of their children into middle childhood. The ages 3, 5 and 7 are consistent with East Asian numerology, which holds that odd numbers are lucky. The practice was set to the fifteenth of the month during the Kamakura period.
Over time, this tradition passed to the samurai class who added a number of rituals. Children—who up until the age of three were required by custom to have shaven heads—were allowed to grow out their hair. Boys of age five could wear hakama for the first time, while girls of age seven replaced the simple cords they used to tie their kimono with the traditional obi. By the Meiji period, the practice was adopted amongst commoners as well, and included the modern ritual of visiting a shrine to drive out evilspirits and wish for a long healthy life.
JAPAN: A Decisive Moment
Dating from the time of Yoshida Shoin and the Chosu Five, the "Hagi Daimyo Gyoretsu" procession parades have been a huge autumn event in this quaint samurai castle town located at the southwest corner of Honshu. As I returned to the Tomoe Ryokan to rest after a long day observing the festivities, a group of boys approached me and lined up. I quickly got in position with my camera, as the boys' unique Gyoretsu unfolded in a mere instant.
JAPAN: RETURN TO HAGI
As a Staff Photographer for National Geographic, Sam Abell first visited Hagi in 1980, and the story "Hagi: Where Japan's Revolution Began" appeared in the Geographic in June, 1984. Sam Abell credits the visual poetry and aesthetics of daily life in Japan for the quiet poetry that many viewers feel and art critics see in his photographs. Three of Abell's most iconic photographs, which ended up on the cover of three of his books, were made in Japan. And, after an arduous story for the National Geographic on the Imperial Palace in which Sam was ultimately granted a face-to-face meeting with the Emperor, Sam Abell retired from the Geographic after a highly successful 33 years. So, Japan touched Sam Abell's life in many ways over many years.
Sam Abell did not return to Japan until November, 2016, when George Nobechi and Santa Fe Workshops invited him to lead a photography expedition which appropriately traced the footsteps of the renowned Haiku poet Basho who travelled to the northern region of the great island of Honshu in the late 1600s. It was during this Basho-inspired journey that Sam realized that he must return to Hagi and mount an exhibition to honor the fine people of Hagi (and especially the staff of the Tomoe Ryokan) who had such a great impact on him 36 years earlier.
Thus began a concerted effort to "Return to Hagi" to remember the gracious Japanese people who welcomed Sam in 1980, as well as to revisit the sites of this ancient and storied castle town which harboured samurai, great educators like Yoshida Shoin, and provided an important spark to the opening of Japan to the industrial revolution.
Aliquam hendrerit risus in metus luctus, id posuere turpis dapibus. Nunc magna elit, vehicula at odio et, sodales semper ante. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Integer tempor urna ut nisl eleifend mattis. Aliquam quis egestas eros. Ut ac leo id ipsum vulputate fermentum eget eu nibh. Fusce efficitur cursus iaculis. Aenean tristique egestas ex, at dignissim sapien pellentesque eget. Nullam placerat, urna et consequat tempor, velit leo porttitor urna, vitae vulputate arcu massa eu erat.
Vivamus sit amet sapien vel neque convallis convallis. Fusce malesuada quis orci eget volutpat. Vestibulum pellentesque egestas orci id maximus. Vivamus felis sem, sagittis ut sollicitudin vitae, porttitor vitae arcu. Maecenas ut nulla vel leo hendrerit congue quis at turpis. Aliquam quis elementum nisi, sed lobortis dui. Maecenas dictum sagittis nibh, id placerat velit maximus ut.
Supermodel Stephanie Moore is capable of assuming so many different looks: from the innocent girl next door, to Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, to character actress from a Quentin Taantino movie, to something to match your (or my) wildest fantasy.
Vivamus massa tortor, tincidunt porta hendrerit vel, feugiat sed massa. In nec convallis sem, ac mollis massa. Duis dolor magna, rhoncus at purus ut, efficitur tincidunt velit. Donec quis nulla diam. Nullam ipsum ante, molestie in enim et, maximus sollicitudin odio. Integer consectetur, nisi eu aliquam blandit, justo purus maximus est, in tincidunt nisl nulla sit amet mauris. Vestibulum feugiat sollicitudin leo et interdum. Proin porttitor laoreet consequat. Mauris nibh felis, tincidunt at dapibus ac, mollis at arcu.
Maecenas tellus lorem, rutrum nec erat eget, euismod tincidunt sapien. Integer non fringilla nisi. Ut sed urna lorem. In neque sem, feugiat molestie condimentum ut, interdum eu quam. Vestibulum vehicula mollis porta. Maecenas auctor aliquam auctor. Praesent tincidunt interdum libero, condimentum imperdiet ex auctor vel.
Morbi eu convallis tellus, vitae malesuada risus. Cras ut tincidunt justo. Fusce ultricies nec eros vel varius. Aliquam lacinia diam eros, sit amet tincidunt tortor tincidunt a. Aenean vitae aliquet lorem. Cras eu ex imperdiet, consequat nulla quis, scelerisque sapien. Interdum et malesuada fames ac ante ipsum primis in faucibus. Mauris porta vestibulum orci, eget laoreet nisl elementum id.
Typi non habent claritatem insitam; est usus legentis in iis qui facit eorum claritatem. Investigationes demonstraverunt lectores legere me lius quod ii legunt saepius. Claritas est etiam processus dynamicus, qui sequitur mutationem consuetudium lectorum.
Mirum est notare quam littera gothica, quam nunc putamus parum claram, anteposuerit litterarum formas humanitatis per seacula quarta decima et quinta decima. Eodem modo typi, qui nunc nobis videntur parum clari, fiant sollemnes in futurum.