The Garden of Good and Evil

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“Truth, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. You believe what you choose and I’ll believe what I know.”  ~ Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

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For the past few years I’ve had the privilege of photographing public gardens for Horticulture Magazine.  My last assignment took me to Alcatraz, the last place you would expect to find beautiful gardens and landscape.  Quick history, this maximum federal prison in the San Francisco Bay closed it’s doors in 1963, along with the gardens cultivated by the prison’s inmates. In 2003, the Garden Conservancy, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and National Park Service began a collaboration to restore the gardens.

I was able to capture the images needed for the magazine feature before high sun.  With time to spare on the island, we were given a backstage pass to the upper levels of the prison and to the Ai Weiwei exhibit, which was on its last day of viewing.

In the prison, we were ushered to the upper deck of Block C and given access to the lever which secures the entire cell block.  Standing in the darkness, the sound of 50 cells slamming shut, with the final latch of the deadbolt, is a sound you want to quickly erase from your tape.  I took a moment to stand inside a cell and decided to capture a few images looking out and across the aisle.  Clearly, this place was designed to house the worse of the worst.

The bonus of the visit was the Ai Weiwei @Large exhibit.  We happened to be on the island on the last day of the Exhibit and our host generously walked us through. “Ai Weiwei is a Chinese Contemporary artist and activist.  A political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights.  After many arrests and incarcerations in China,  Ai Weiwei was, in July of 2015, given a passport and is now allowed to travel abroad. If you are interested and would like to learn more about Ai Weiwei and his art, this is a wonderful article. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/sep/24/ai-weiwei-alcatraz-lego-extraordinary

If you have a bird phobia, you’ll want to make note that Alcatraz is a nesting colony for Western Gulls.  There were a few Hitchcock moments.

 

Without further ado, here are my favorite images from Pier 33 to Alcatraz and back.  Enjoy! ✌🏾

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Now it gets real.

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Inspiration (or, lack thereof)

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“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The last few months have seen a flurry of photo sessions of many flavors leaving little time to work on my blog or my art photography.  2014 was very good to me professionally, so, this is not a complaint.  I intended to take the month of January to get back to my blog and art, however, ended up taking on two projects that, once again, put everything back on the shelf.

I have been seeking inspiration and feeling the need for a new perspective.  A new path, if you will, for the next steps on my journey.  I thought my trip back to my hometown in the Ohio river valley would do the trick.  With railroad tracks on my mind, my goal was set – a cold, grey day on the old, rusty rails in my small town.  I envisioned capturing haunting images of the overgrowth and the deteriorating trestle over the little river.  The best laid plans.  The overgrown tracks were gone, apparently replaced long ago with a bike trail and the trestle most likely collapsed into the river long before the bike trail came to town.  I got one thing right, it was cold and grey.  My camera stayed snuggly in it’s bag, I didn’t venture out once, and somehow I caught flu.  I came home sick and uninspired.

Fast forward to yesterday.  With the hope of a new vision or direction still looking bleak, an artist friend and I went to visit some galleries in San Francisco in preparation of an Open Studio this spring that will feature her paintings and my photography.  First stop, an old coffee shop on the pier.  As I sat with my coffee looking out the window of the empty cafe, I felt the first hint of an inspirational wave approaching.  Before me, the perfect vision out of the dirty old window.  As if the Bay Bridge was painted on canvas.  Snap.  As we waited for the curator to welcome us to the gallery, I turned to take in the Bay between two old warehouses.  Below me, above the water of the Bay were the rusty, overgrown tracks of some railroad of long ago.  Built on a trestle, these tracks came out of nowhere below and reached into the Bay, disappearing into the grey morning fog.  This remarkable and eerily beautiful sight, presenting as if it was staged exclusively for me.  Perhaps it is true.  I am a child of the universe and the universe is unfolding as it should.  I didn’t need to travel 2,000 miles to find my inspiration, 20 miles was enough.  The universe conspired to make it happen.  Snap.

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I Went To A Garden Party

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“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~  John Muir

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My daughter’s school offers an elective course in sustainable gardening in their curriculum.  Their teacher, Hovey Clark, is passionate about gardening, the food it generates and the healthy lifestyle it affords.  The Class of 2020 began working in the garden during their first year at Priory and now, as seventh graders, have become pros at cultivating, growing and sustaining this massive garden.  The garden is known as The Franklin Garden, situated at the back of the school’s property in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains in Portola Valley.

As you can imagine, this, for me is photographer bliss and allows me to keep my blog post 100% on point (photographing the stuff that put me on the map, so to speak, with the 2020 kids.  The kids of Priory participated in preparing The Franklin Garden for this amazing evening of food, wine and music with great friends, inspirational monks, talented gardeners and chefs and, of course, awesome musicians (one of whom is also a Priory teacher).  I’m not sure, but, when the band started playing The Doors, it just added an additional layer of cool to the event.

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Go West (paradise is there)

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“If you’re going to San Francisco ~ be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” ~ John Phillips

I believe it was 1970, the year I turned 7, and I had just purchased my very first album.  It was Crosby Still Nash & Young’s DejaVu.  Wouldn’t that be cool if it were true!  In reality, my first album was the The Partridge Family Album; however, DejaVu came shortly thereafter.  After spending many of my days trying to master the Tracy Partridge tambourine (while standing on the coffee table) I believe it was the 20th replay of “I Think I Love You” that sent my older brother over the edge.  He tossed the record and put on DejaVu.   I listened to Teach Your Children over and over because they said “hell” in the lyrics and it was the first time I could say that word without receiving a bar of soap in my mouth.

During the 70’s I was completely enchanted with the hippie culture.  I dreamed of moving to San Francisco to join the flower children and wear flowers in my hair.  I had left David Cassidy behind and fallen in love with Neil Young.  By the time I was 13 I had decided I would forego college, move West, find Neil and marry him.  By high school, I still was determined to go West and leave my boring, conservative upbringing far behind.  Still enthralled with the hippie culture, me and my high school friends tried as hard as we could to hang on to the coolness of the 60’s and 70’s.  We hung out on a hill we called Sugar Mountain, smoked pot (okay, I didn’t smoke; but, I wore pot leaf earrings and settled for the contact high) and listened to Neil.  All, of course, while wearing our Harvest t-shirts we silkscreened in shop.

Ah, the best laid plans.  Perhaps the 80’s got the best of me.  Big hair, bad clothes and a college degree made sure I didn’t move to California.  Not only did I NOT move West, I moved East and worked for big law firms.  The good news is that by the 90’s I had given up the big hair and my wardrobe improved dramatically.  I wore Ally McBeal skirts, made a bunch of money and landed a cool husband (probably thanks to the Ally McBeal skirts).  He wasn’t the rock star I had planned on, however, he proved early on that he could party like one (while still maintaining gainful employment) and assured a life far from boring and conservative.

They say you are born with a vision, a “birth vision” if you will.  So, as it turns out, I am living happily ever after in California.  Sugar Mountain is nearby.  Sometimes I wear flowers in my hair, especially when I am photographing flowers.  My daughter, Ally (named after……KIDDING!!) loves to wear hippie clothes and peace signs; and, sometimes I wave to Neil when he drives by.  I still don’t smoke pot, but, every once in awhile I stumble across an isolated plant or two in the mountains thanks to the old hippies who still lurk about.

It’s good to be home!