Why am I going to New York?

Leschi Marina

How do you avoid taking this shot? How can I possibly not shoot just one more image of Mt. Rainier? That’s the question I’ve asked myself repeatedly the last couple of days. This time I was actually driving home from shooting out on Foster Island when my car decided we had to go down to the lake and see what the T-dock looked like with the sunset reflecting off of the buildings of downtown Bellevue. That was nice… But then my eyes strayed a little further south to the marina with Rainier behind the sailboats. I should have gone back to my car to get my tripod before I ran down there. It was just so pretty with the sky turning pink and Rainier behind the masts on the white boats with blue sailcovers, and I was afraid the light would go before I got down there. With a tripod, I wouldn’t have been shooting at ISO 500 and with any more editing there’d be too much digital noise. Definitely a shot I will try again.

While I was on Foster Island, I ran into a friend who’s been reading my blog. She said that she didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned the reception in New York. I guess I better clarify for anyone who’s reading this that wasn’t when I first mentioned the exhibition. So here’s the whole story about why I’m going to New York and why its exciting and a little scary:

A few years ago I went to India as a volunteer with Bridges to Understanding to work with Tibetan refugee kids, helping with photography and mentoring them in telling their stories in a multi-media digital story-telling format. Following on the heels of that adventure, Columbia City Gallery, here in Seattle, asked if I was interested in putting together an exhibition of the children’s photographs, which I did. It was a fantastic experience. I chose all of the photographs, did the basic editing, worked with someone to get them printed, framed them and delivered them to the gallery. After that, I curated an exhibition of student photographs from South Africa, Guatemala and India for Seeds of Compassion and Bridges to Understanding at the Seattle Art Museum. It was called “What Does Compassion Look Like?”. At that time, I discovered that working with those photographs constantly, and in the context of “compassion” as a concept, led me to a deep understanding of the meaning of that word. It was like doing a three month long meditation on “compassion”.

I had the idea to do an annual project like this, but to center it around a different word, such as “hope” or “peace”, and have students from all over the world make photographs that would depict that concept. Well it didn’t happen. The organizations, as is often the case with non-profits, simply didn’t have what it took to pull it off. But I’ve continued to hold the idea of “hope” as one that I would like to see done photographically. So, I decided to do it myself.

I have always found growing food to be a powerful experience, and Seattle has an amazing number and variety of urban farming projects. I started going around to the various pea-patches in the city, talking to people and photographing them and their gardens. I wanted to do something called “Growing Hope”. No sooner had I decided to do this, but a wonderful opportunity fell into my lap. A friend told me about a project based out of New Hope Baptist Church, in the heart of Seattle’s African-American neighborhood, that might be interesting for me to check out. The program is called Clean Greens farm and market. The church had just leased a piece of land outside the city and begun an organic farm and subscription farming project. It has big aspirations, and in the course of one growing season has brought together and empowered a community that takes pride in growing their own food.

They sell the produce at a farm stand on a city street near the church, in the Central Area, and donate a box of fresh produce to a needy family for every one they sell via subscription. I started photographing this project in September, and put together a documentary photo essay called “Growing Hope in the Urban Center”. I may write more about it at another time. I will be continuing to expand my photo essay as the project develops over the course of the next growing season, which, with this weather, is fast approaching. Between running back and forth from 21st and Yesler to the farm in Duvall and home last fall, I came across a call for entries for an exhibition called “Picturing an Ethical Economy” at Trinity Wall Street Museum in New York. I thought that my project fit the description of what they were looking for, so I put together a submission and sent it off. Now, I’ve actually never done anything like this before. I’ve never submitted anything to a call for entries, not even jewelry, so I had no idea what to expect. When I got the email in late November that they had accepted one of my photographs for the exhibition, I was stunned and thrilled. At that time though, I had no idea that there was going to be a reception, so when that invitation showed up, I was again surprised and didn’t know what to do about it. Based on the advice of several photographers whose opinions I trust, as well as the fact that I am committed to the work of telling stories of hope through photographs and words, and hoping that I may have the opportunity to meet like-minded photographers and others involved in the field, I decided to head off to the Big Apple and see what this is all about.

I did, at one point, post the invitation to this exhibition somewhere on this blog, but it was a while back, and I’m sure there are plenty of people scratching their heads and wondering what I’m talking about when I keep mentioning the reception in New York. So I’m off Monday… the Stay-at-home mom from Seattle, moonlighting as photographer, takes on the big city. A new kind of adventure!

As I was wrapping up the writing of this entry tonight, I came across the following amazingly appropriate quote and want to offer it. It is this spirit which guides the Clean Greens project:

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. –Martin Luther King, Jr.

The idea behind Clean Greens is nothing short of a restructuring of an inner city neighborhood from its food supply on up.


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