Sunday, November 27, 2022

Just Like Life


Sleeping Buddha, Hilo, Hawaii. by Steven Boone

Recently I was publicly accused of disrespect by someone I do not know. It happened when I posted a photo online in a Facebook camera group I am a member of.  The photo was one of the street photos I love to make. I have thousands from all over the world spanning decades.  When I first read the comment, I did not understand it. “This is no respect.” I assumed the person that posted could not speak good English. I thought he referred to the person I photographed who was unkempt. Then, later I realized he was referring to me. Several other comments were negative. Others positive.

Hurt, Oaxaca, Mexico, by Steven Boone
(This is the photo that caused the controversy.)

Here is the story:  Several days a week Amy and I go from our home in a village outside Oaxaca, Mexico into the city to shop for necessities. We were walking in Oaxaca Centro. I always take my camera to be ready if I want to take a picture. I know how to look and see amidst the crowded, sometimes broken streets full of traffic. Among the shamble of shops and pedestrians a swirling kaleidoscope of variations occur and usually I take a picture or two worth saving. This day, as we walked carefully over a crumbling sidewalk, I saw ahead an impoverished young man with severe problems. Without shoes, dressed in rags with one foot bandaged, the other exposed leg had many sores. Slumped against a wall, on the steps of a financial institution, he was sleeping. I paused and took the picture. Scenes such as this are part of the fabric of life. We all need to be aware of how others live and suffer. And, yes, it is difficult to see.

After taking the photo, I took change from my pocket and rested it on a ledge by his arm. Then Amy gently put banknotes in his hand. We walked away. I looked back as we crossed the intersection. He was smiling and staring after us.

Canada,  -Vivien Maier, (American, February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009)

In the annals of photography there are great examples of fleeting candid moments where the subject is unaware of being photographed. It is when maximum honesty exists.

It is legal to take photos in public places that include people. No permission required. Candid photography to me is almost always better than posed. But it is more tricky to get a good result. There is no set upit is all spontaneous. 

Trolley, -Robert Frank, (Swiss, November 9, 1924 – September 9, 2019)

It begins and ends in a fraction of a second, and happens millions of times a day on earth. That is photography. No use to try and kill it with rules. It does not belong in a box and will always escape confines. Just like life.

Ireland, Josef Koudelka (Czech-French, b. 1938)
Sophia Loren and Jane Mansfield, by Joe Shire, (American 1917-2006)

The Terror of War, Nick Ut, (Vietnamese-American, born 1951)

After the Opera, Weegee, (American, June 12, 1899 – December 26, 1968)

Famous street photographer Quotes:

“I have no inhibitions and neither does my camera…,” “To me a photograph is a page from life, and that being the case, it must be real.”  -Weegee

“Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is, but I also think it is possible to walk, like Alice, through a looking glass and find another kind of world with the camera.”  -Tony ray jones

“Most of my photos are grounded in people, I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face.” -Steve McCurry

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Keeper of the Key

"Keeper of the Key, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 70 cm

Amy´s newest painting from our studio in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Mexico, outside Oaxaca.
In her own words:

The seated figure holds a key that invites one to explore the inner self. Like Turtle, her Mother, she is still and yet clearly present. Her garment of blossoming beauty represents the bounty of La Madre Tierra and a tribute to growing things.
She is grounded as the result of life’s long journey. Like Mother Turtle, she waits and watches in silence. She, like ourselves, always will remain , the Ancient Child, born from life giving waters, the splendor of moonlight and the magical realms of spirit, of which…we ALL possess the key to journey within.
Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent reminds us that though we may be surrounded by forces we cannot comprehend…fear will not be our response. 

Many years ago, I wrote the text for a children’s book I called, “The Turtle’s Daughters”. I created it as a pageant piece for a grand elementary school event in St. Paul , Mn. The event was sponsored by Art Start/ Art Scraps of St. Paul, an amazing non profit that brings art experiences to underprivileged communities. Several artists were hired to  work within the schools to help the children create images and objects which would be part of our procession. On an overcast Saturday afternoon, over 1000 children and families participated along the banks of the mighty Mississippi river. We honored Turtle Island (Our Earth) and her lovely water daughters, the great rivers of our planet. I read my story, accompanied by a Native American elder who softly played his flute, which mesmerized the atmosphere allowing the story to come alive.

Children of many cultures from several city schools came together to march with their creations in a marvelous parade. Some performed my tale as a dance, complete with a moving gossamer blue river made from yards of fabric. Many groups carried handmade animal banners, large painted cardboard deer and buffalo. Children carried puppets: flocks of papier-maché  birds, turtles , frogs, and many more creatures. 

Our purpose? A call to grownups to wake up, see, and acknowledge that “progress and profit” should NOT be our main goal, as human “Beings.” Together, we must work as one to protect the fragile beauty of Turtle Island, and of those of fur, feather, and fin, who have no voice…  whose survival also depends on the well being of our sacred planet.  

The students answered my call that day. They became “Child Warriors of the Healing Earth”. Although, I never submitted my story for publication, I have never forgotten the power and beauty of that somewhat rainy day moment in time.

Nothing could have stopped us.

The memory lives with me still. Every now and then, I add another voice through my imagery to make that story live on.

Bendito Sea

For more artwork: Amy Córdova Boone


Sunday, November 06, 2022

Dia de Muertos

It is a beloved time of year in Mexico, bringing families together, and whole communities. Dia de Muertos, in English means “day of the dead.” It might sound macabre but it is not. It is when death and life meet in celebration. A time when departed souls are honored and called to return for a visit “home” to loved ones left behind. A time for happiness.

Like most of Mexico, we made an ofrenda for our home. It is an altar to honor and commemorate our relatives and friends that have passed away⏤hoping that by honoring them in this way, they will come back to us and visit. We decorate with fine cloth, offering fancy breads, flowers, artwork, photos and objects signifying the passions of those remembered.

Oaxaca, in the south central mountains of Mexico is an epicenter for Dia de Muertos during the special days between October 31  -  November 2 when it is celebrated. Hotels are all booked solid well in advance as tourists from all over the world descend upon the city. This year, Amy and I hosted a group of tourists from the USA at our home in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, a village on the outskirts of town. They came to meet us⏤two famous artists living the authentic Mexican life. Our friendly neighbors made a traditional lunch. 

The next afternoon of November 1, we arrived in Centro and quickly found a couple just setting up to paint faces. We looked at their samples. Amy chose a style, as did I, and we both sat amidst the crowds and had our faces painted.

Each day Amy and I went to town to wander among the crowds and relish the atmosphere. I am a photographer as well as painter, so took plenty of photos. Everywhere we turned the fantastic sights of people with face paint and sometimes elaborate costumes dazzled us. Street performers and musicians entertained. A sense of excitement and happiness abounded. Especially starting around 4 PM and going into the night.

Yesterday, November 5, Amy and I were driving by our local cemetery in the late afternoon. We stopped to take a look. Nobody was there but a caretaker. The place was awash in flowers that covered all the gravesites. The experience took my breath away. I felt privileged to come in behind all the worshipers who had brought gifts of love for their departed loved ones, then sat and communed with them. 
It is what Dia de Muertos is all about.