A Camera Is A Tool For Seeing Without A Camera

The post title is a quote attributed to probably the most notable photographer during the Great Depression.  Her name was Dorthea Lange.  Whether Dorthea herself uttered that wisdom has yet to be proven but I can attest that after 30 years of snapping photos [mostly nature, weather and music performances] that this quote has lived up to its claim.  I spent quite a good deal of time behind a camera — until I saw something happening to the landscape of this country that made me put it down in exchange for a pen.  My photos weren’t loud enough for what I needed to say.
Migrant Mother’ – Dorthea Lange, 1936
‘Migrant Mother’ was Lange’s most famous image — an iconic photo in American history. Lange was concluding a month’s trip photographing migratory farm labor around the state of California for what was then the Resettlement Administration.  There are no known restrictions on the use of Lange’s “Migrant Mother” series of images. A rights statement from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information with the black-and-white negatives is available online to this day.  
According to Wiki: The Resettlement Administration (RA) was a New Deal U.S. federal agency that, between April 1935 and December 1936, relocated struggling urban and rural families to communities planned by the federal government.  The organization had four divisions: Rural Rehabilitation, Rural Resettlement, Land Utilization, and Suburban Resettlement.
The goal of moving 650,000 people from 100,000,000 acres of agriculturally exhausted, worn-out land was unpopular among the majority in Congress. This goal threatened to deprive influential farm owners of their tenant workforce. The RA was thus left with enough resources to relocate only a few thousand people from 9,000,000 acres and build several greenbelt cities, which planners admired as models for a cooperative future that never arrived.
…a cooperative future that never arrived.
Seems the one that was admired then is coming up on its own as a matter of necessity. Economic hardship, which on the surface does not appear to be anywhere near as bad as Dorthea’s photo suggests — but then, the government isn’t going to hire a photographer to go out and take those photos.  Now that press is owned by ‘influential owners’ who would be ‘deprived’ of their advertising dollars. They don’t want us to see those images but we see them without cameras.  In our neighborhoods, cities and streets.  Same as war images that are no longer shown or are photoshopped into so much propaganda, or the mainstream ‘wag the dog’ embedded reporting.  
Media has changed since 1936 and has had some glorious moments of integrity.  The time of courageous reporting from Edward R. Murrow is past and we have revisited (and somehow stooped lower) than McCarthyism.  There are few dissenting voices of reason on the idiot box.  That is something else that is coming up on its own as a matter of necessity — with internet freedoms — how long that will last is a matter of opinion and speculation.  Eventually, all opinion and speculation will mean nothing without electricity.  
Something that hasn’t changed since 1936 — agriculturally exhausted, worn-out land.  Now we have a population that has more than tripled because of cheap oil.  Add global warming to the mix, failing infrastructure and resource depletion and we’re staring down the barrel of an even larger humanitarian crisis in the United States. And what is popular with Congress?  Monsanto. 
The best thing for it IS a cooperative future.  Permaculture heals the land and so does community working together.  That cooperative future is arriving whether the government points a camera at it or not.
No electricity isn’t so scary for some photographers . . . natural light is best anyway.
Moonrise , Hernandez , NM – 1941 / Ansel Adams

Moment of Clarity: Breaking News That’s Actually 13 Years Old…

TRC contributor Lee Camp

US Government Found GUILTY Of Murdering Martin Luther King Jr.

Read more about it here: http://exm.nr/LA4AA6 or here: http://bit.ly/Wnn7Sy and watch a short video on it here: http://bit.ly/YP1AXn

Peak Oil and US Media Denial / Time Covers for April

Exhibit A: the next European cover of TIME, April 9th, 2012
Exhibit B: the next US cover of TIME, April 9th, 2012


…One of these things is not like the other…
Ask yourself: why the US media believes its citizens don’t need to know about peak oil?

The Shift Is Coming – What Is It?

by Gabrielle Price

I used to write a spiritual and progressive column on an internet site that claimed to reach a broad audience and could make me some part time money if I just kept writing and plugging away.  The money was ‘pay per click’ with some commission for ad revenues initially – now that site just gives away coupons, travel miles and vacations or some manner of toy, gadget or consumer item.
For a writer trying to eek out a living is hard enough…to write progressive content about dumping the corporate mindset of political greed and consumption on a page full of ads that I had no control over and could potentially be about the very companies buying our democracy?  It just made me feel like an asshole.  Not that I wasn’t pleased with my final work but I felt the advertising would call my integrity into question.  That and I just can’t eat a coupon.
I quickly created my own site and never looked back.
Until recently.  I revisited both columns – I’m a firm believer that we don’t know where we’re going until we remember where we’ve been.  It was the spiritual column that found me chuckling at myself.  Not because of the work – it was at best indicative of a time during my own personal journey of intention and positivity – at worst it was incredibly naive.
I recall at the time that I struggled internally to write the words ‘power of positive thinking’ and ‘law of attraction.’  Not that there isn’t a little something to that – but I’m also a realist.  That comes through in my photography.  I don’t like to photoshop the hell out of a simple image but work with shadows and lighting until the essence and feeling of that moment reveals itself to me.  Sometimes it is a completely happy accident.  I think the world is plenty photogenic and mother nature doesn’t need candied-up like so much glitterati.
A quote has resonated with me over time that has been attributed to one of my favorite photographers, Dorthea Lange.  “A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.“  As one of the photographers who recorded the haunting and famous black and white images of The Great Depression, she would know.
Life, like photography is a balance of shadows and light.  I had to admit to myself that a lot of what I was seeing without my camera was worrisome.  The political and environmental concerns were too real to imagine positive thinking could ‘change’ all that.  It’s the same as praying which I didn’t put too much stock in at age 8, let alone in my 40’s.  Then I saw a video that made me realize I was on the right path and that no path is full of rainbows and unicorn farts – unless you’re a sheltered pre-teen or a character in a Disney movie.


Using a photographer’s analogy:  A lot of ‘new age’ spirituality never resonated with me because it literally ‘photoshopped’ right over reality, like many religions before.  I never liked The Secret and was a critic of it from the get go – but there were other ‘new age’ problems.  These problems were made very apparent to me after my first viewing of Josh Fox’s documentary, Gasland.  I had to pause the movie several times because I was moved to tears.  Things were worse than I had ever imagined and something had to be done.  I was changed.  I shared via my social network that I had viewed the film, and stated that, “I wish I could unsee Gasland but what has been seen cannot be unseen.”
Within 5 minutes there were two ‘new age’ folks asking me, ‘Why can’t you?’ and ‘Pretend you didn’t see it.’  This, ladies and gentlemen, in a nutshell is what my intuition had already been telling me was absolutely, inherently wrong – so very, very wrong – about this country’s inability to take their own blinders off.
I have the Smile or Die video bookmarked to share with others like me who share my same concerns.  They are more often than not, deeply spiritual people who know how bad things are right now but that listening to their own intuition serves them well.  They are incredibly vigilant.  The keen observers, scouts and warriors for humanity and the environment that has sustained us.
“Has” being the operative word here.  That’s all about to change in a big way.
What is the shift?
I believe it is an energy shift that is happening in waves.  Part of the shift, the human aspect, is happening right now.  All around us.  You may not believe it has much to do with politics, markets, resources or government – but I put to you that is has everything to do with these things because they are, in fact, globally intrinsic and effect all people.  The web of life.  Whether you pay attention to the news outside the idiot box or not there are many things happening in other countries that your government does not want you to see – and if you are a truth seeker, like me – you dig until you find what resonates with you.
The digging is also a spiritual undertaking.  An excavation.  Investigating for your own peace of mind is one thing, to do it for the benefit of your craft, sometimes your own consciousness can take a good beating.  You learn to assimilate information that makes you uncomfortable – but that is the purpose of any real spiritual undertaking – to get out of our own comfort zone.  Learning to handle the truth, when we have been lied to for so long about so much, takes not only mental but spiritual stamina…stamina we have to want to obtain.  This can be difficult when pushed or pulled in other directions, even from well intentioned others.  This is when solitude beckons and only then can intuition be developed.
When I say ‘consciousness takes a good beating’, what I mean is that it is challenged – you challenge your comfort zone, your own way of thinking.  The outcome of this practice is keener observation and your intuition becomes acute.  A sharpened sword molded under your own blacksmith’s hammer.
This is not an easy task in the world we live in now – shifts are happening faster.  One must make time to do the work, study, practice and meditate.  Yes, meditate.  The mind is a big place with lots of bright lights and swirling data coming at us at an alarming rate every day.  It’s the best tool for quieting one’s mind in order to focus our best intentions even when the information we receive seems confusing.  Finding the truth is like separating the wheat from the chaff.  The best way to start to do this is turning off your television and picking up a book.
The journey isn’t about arriving
I know a lot of people who enjoy traveling but not always for the reasons that seasoned travelers take to the road.  Arriving isn’t the goal – it is the journey that teaches us about observing.  Speed bumps on the road aren’t so much of a surprise when we’re able to slow down and move over them smoothly.  Many people are ill-equipped to deal with the slightest hiccup in their lives – the fastest way from point A to point B can be more fraught with difficulty than if we take our time – and in rushing, we miss an awful lot of the scenery and opportunities to learn from our surroundings and other people.
People in a hurry to get where they’re going are usually not attentive for long periods of time – so reading, researching and absorbing information can be a chore for them.  Perhaps this is why it is frustrating to me to read badly written headlines, when many only read them like so many Twitter updates, rather than reading the content.  Headlines are designed to capture attention.  How long that attention lasts is of no concern to most media spin doctors.  Some headlines are inflammatory, others are just plain shocking.  To the point at which a satirical piece can be taken seriously, even by people we tend to imagine should be much more observant than the average Joe.  Then again, politics doesn’t always denote intelligence.
What I have found is that the more I seek – I am sought by people who share my sensibilities and love of life.  In the past two years, I’ve met people with a lot of courage to change what they see broken in the world we share.  They think little of themselves and more of the greater good.  They know what effects them, effects everyone – we really are all connected in more ways than one – but our biggest connection has been being fellow passengers on this boat.  When people seek to sink the boat, some of us take it personally.  This is exactly why people are in the streets with Occupy.  This is why people complain about their government being corrupt.  It’s also why politicians and banks that own them are nervous – they know we’re right.  Quite simply, there are more of us then there are of them.  When you don’t do right by the people and they finally learn the truth, they will let you know about it.
Imagine all the things that have come to light already by switching off televisions and reading alternative news sources!  There really is an underground college that has taken shape via the internet.  It is a very important tool for learning, sharing ideas and meeting people with common goals and concerns.  Even a thousand miles away!  I have found it to be a marvelous place for spiritual growth in this way as well.  The shifts that are occurring are less scary when you find other people experiencing them – the same problems – the same suffering, and that connection is healing medicine for the planet.  It is what the Buddha taught – that in our suffering, we also learn compassion for ourselves and others – because all beings suffer.  Awakened beings wish to help ease this suffering, or what is called Samsara, by teaching a way of detachment of earthly possessions, among other things, which cause us unnecessary suffering and keep us from enlightenment.
Representation of samsara in Buddhism / wheel of life
Right now, there are many people in the 99% globally, who have learned this lesson quite acutely, not through spiritual practice or a guru but by physically losing their savings, work, homes and loved ones.  You don’t see them giving up, nor their neighbors give up, their towns will not give up and a whole glorious wave of compassion is being unleashed and what I see now is that America, the sleeping giant,  is finally coming out of REM sleep.
The hope is that it does not behave like a rudely awakened child because we have a lot of work ahead of us and we need to catch up with the rest of the world. Begin by embracing the reality that we no longer passengers on this ship, we are all crew.  Prepare to roll up your sleeves.

Media Culture 10 Years Later / How Much Will It Cost To Buy You Out?

by Gabrielle Price
(Originally published 9/11/2005 | updated, 9/10/2011)

“The last half of the 20th century will seem like a wild party for rich kids, compared to what’s coming now. The party’s over, folks… [Censorship of the news] is a given in wartime, along with massive campaigns of deliberately-planted “Dis-information”. That is routine behavior in Wartime – for all countries and all combatants – and it makes life difficult for people who value real news.“ ~ Hunter S. Thompson / “When War Drums Roll” 2001

The date that lives in everyone’s memory and the beginning of a road traveled by many.  Some have seen the signs, taken the detours and some are still blindly on this road.  I traveled down it entirely too long.

I do not wish to take away from the tragedy of that day, or forget those who lost so much (and made me realize what I had).  I also do not wish to turn this into a 9/11 Truth discussion.  There are many things that happened that do not make much sense to me and an independent investigation is warranted, in my opinion.  But this isn’t what this post is about.  This is about buying into the fear that was sold at every turn by an administration and the media after this tragic day.

This was a life altering event…an event that brought out the best of us as citizens; the best in people all over the globe when we were experiencing the unimaginable.  What is more unimaginable to me is how people have behaved toward each other since; as if that day never occurred.  There is a time to grieve and move on, yes.  For the families, it is their time to remember in their own way, heal in their own time.  I don’t think there is any harm in having public ceremonies but I’m not sure that they need national coverage now.  I think we should all remember in our own way.  It is as much part of your history as this country’s history as it is etched in the history of humanity.  Like asking your parents or grandparents where they were the day Kennedy was shot…it changed things for them.  It changed a nation.  This day is the same, on a global stage…and the history books may not tell the story the way you will ultimately remember it.  (At least, American history books…)

My story begins with a trip in the way-back machine.  Many events had occurred in my life before that historic Tuesday morning and in many ways, were still unfolding in small increments.  Each day was a new challenge and I was trying my best to believe that each day was a gift.  Many of life’s changes are painful – when you’re in them, they can seem excruciating.  You can’t stop them from coming – but the pain eventually is forgotten and the lessons learned are carried forward into the next inevitable change.

It is the only constant – so you learn to realize you have two choices.  Crawl in a hole and quit or stand up and meet them.  [Often, the biggest challenge is to meet them gracefully.]

My best and dearest friend passed away in 1997 from suicide and dealing with that in itself took its toll over subsequent years, especially with life changes to come.  The betrayal of a husband, once a friend who then became a stranger to me and others who knew him.  This separation directly effected my plan to take care of my grandmother and I had to move out of her house…in so doing, losing the opportunity to buy the house (the family home), the house she wished us to have.  I could not have accomplished this purchase on my own, so I had to leave that dream behind.  This broke my heart more than the spouse ever did.  My grandmother passed soon after I moved out on my own…starting again as a single mom at 33.

Needless to say, I had a lot on my plate and it was a challenge to keep ahead of the curve and keep sanity at the same time.  Friends helped as much as they could; family as well.  Still, when you are dealing with so much, you tend to lay low and lick your wounds to recoup for another day…or for the next chapter of your life to begin.  Without my best friend and my significant other lost to me, recouping was a daunting task.  I cried many tears on many nights…

Initially, living on my own with my daughter was doable on my ‘part time/close to full time as you can get’ hours at a nonprofit.  We didn’t spend a lot on frivolities but we managed to entertain ourselves on a budget.  There was always food on the table and bills were met every month, for a time.  We had our reading nights, video game nights and my piecemeal PC, as nickel and dime as it was, kept us entertained.  And of course, ultimately, we had each other.  Television consisted of maybe 5 channels, the bunny ears leaving arched scratches on the walls for the span of our 6 year stay there.  It offered very few choices.

No high speed internet (remember dial-up? *shudder*) and no cable.  It took me a few years to break down and get a DVD player because I dragged heels on paying to repurchase on DVD, movies that I already owned on VHS.  The only other toy in our sanctuary was my first digital camera and scanner, a gift from my parents for my birthday – which rekindled my affair with photography.  Back then, it nourished my soul when it was most needed…and it gave me a voice I’d forgotten I had.

Time passed slowly and wounds healed at the same pace.  I found that I had opportunities to travel after a year of saving a little aside and I gave myself permission to go to places that I’d always wanted to see.  I went to DC for the first time in the summer of 2001…

I can’t tell you how inspired I was to be in such a place.  I was spellbound by the history seeping out of the buildings and parks on the mall to the alleys of Georgetown.  I was overwhelmed when I visited the Library of Congress and fell in love at the National Gallery.  So much so that I spent two of my four days within its walls.

I was drunk and dizzy with visions of Monet and Rembrandt.  I was stunned to be allowed so close to these works, as much as a nose length away so that I could see the brushstrokes.  Every room I went into, I saw another painting that I had only known from a photo in a book.  Monet’s Lilies, big as life in front of me and I was awestruck.  Out another passage and down the hall and there she was…

‘Flaming June’ Frederic Leighton c.1895 Oil on canvas

Flaming June, one of my favorite paintings by Frederic Leighton.  She was visiting the National Gallery at the same time.  You literally could have mopped me off the floor…I couldn’t stop the tears welling up, I was so moved.  A female security guard walking past me asked, “Your first time here?”  All I could do was smile and nod.

When I returned home from that trip, I was different.  I felt renewed, inspired and humbled.  It was a giant exhalation and release of old for new.  I had taken over 300 pictures in 4 days and I found myself researching DC every time I was online.  I knew I would go back and didn’t want to wait too long to return.  I also found myself watching more news.  I was an ‘election result’ junkie before then and watched the nightly news on a regular basis.  I enjoyed catching glimpses of the monuments and the lights on the reflecting pool.  In my mind, this place belonged to me, just as it belongs to all of us.  Perhaps that sounds naive and in hindsight, I know there was a level of innocence there.  Not all of that has been lost…it’s just different.

Never turn your back on fear.  It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

I remember September 11th, 2001, a Tuesday morning; like it was yesterday.

I was off work and my then boyfriend had stayed over.  We were having coffee and doing the crossword while watching the Today show.  Early reports about the first plane; possible pilot heart attack, small aircraft…all speculative.  I returned from the kitchen after starting another pot of coffee and saw the second plane hit.  Matt Lauer spoke what was in my thought bubble, “That was intentional.”

I forgot everything in that moment.  I forgot the coffee, the crossword, the bills, the plans I’d made that day.  I was hardly aware that my boyfriend was sitting next to me.  I forgot that I was pissed off about not getting my ‘child tax credit’, I forgot that I was angry that Bush was elected.  I forgot everything unimportant in the moments following when I witnessed the horror of the first tower falling.  What I did remember was everything that was most important to me…and I remember sobbing uncontrollably.

After I regained composure, I called my daughter’s school to find out what was happening there.  She was the only person on the planet that I wanted to see and to be with in that moment.  The school was on lock down and they were waiting to see what plan, if any, would be put in action to get the students home.  I was not able to pick her up and I was imagining the panic of the other parents at home, and at work, wondering the same thing.  I called as many people as I could think to call, just to hear their voices and know they were okay.  I didn’t leave the television or that front room for the majority of that day.  (It is quite possible that I didn’t leave the apartment much that week unless it was for work or necessity.)

That day, I told my boyfriend I loved him.  It came out naturally.  It did not occur to me that anything I said that day would be considered inappropriate…it just mattered to me that he knew.  It didn’t matter whether he said it in return or not, I wanted to say what I felt because for the second time in my life, since my best friend had passed, I realized with a jolt – life really is too fucking short not to say what you feel.

It is hard for me to look back on that day now without being angry.  I have to admit a thought that entered my mind then, that if anyone should be in charge of this country at this moment in time, I was glad it was George W.  I remember thinking, naively, he would take care of who did this…he would take care of business.  Little did I know at the time – that was all he would take care of.  In the year following this tragedy, more stories unfolded about the people who lost their lives, the people who saved lives and those who survived.  Unfortunately, there were other ‘stories’ that I bought into…a lot of us did.

I wasted precious time in my life being afraid because I bought the fear the government was selling and the media was distributing.  I was vulnerable before that day…and after being gripped by tragedy beyond my own…I again became vulnerable to the machine of fear.

A machine that was just ramping up and getting started…its sights set on bulldozing ideas and reason.


10 years later.  I thought I would see a day where I would no longer be haunted by that fear.  It has morphed into an urgency – one that can only be managed by writing and sharing information.  My concerns now are not what they tell us we should be concerned about, but the things they do not tell us and should.  What has been seen cannot be unseen.

I don’t recognize my country anymore than I used to recognize journalism and hold it in high regard.  Perhaps it was naive to think I recognized either.  Over these 10 years, I have coveted Hunter S. Thompson’s work and have been told on more than one occasion that my style of political writing was comparable.  Which humbles (and tickles) me because his humor was a powerful salve throughout the Bush years…and still is today.

I often wonder what Hunter S. Thompson would have to say if he were with us but I’ve come to understand why he is not here.  In my mind, he did not die a coward’s death – he bravely gave us his best during the worst moments in political history this country had ever witnessed.

Worst until now.

It was better to see Doc go out like a samurai rather than die of a broken heart.  But there is a part of me that imagined him taking some of the greedheads along in a final blaze of inebriated glory.  Then again, those who know his work (on both sides of the political aisle) know that he had more class than that – even at his worst, he was better than politics and journalism now touts as it’s best.

“Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.” – Hunter S. Thompson

The Doc was right.  But after ten years, that’s about the only tide I’m beginning to see turn for the better.  The ship of professional journalism is being scuttled alongside the Titanic failure of government.  For many witnessing it, there’s nothing left but to build grassroots media and political movements or sink quietly into the watery grave of fascism.

In honor of the good Colonel Thompson, I say let’s build and man the lifeboats…with Jolly Rogers flying…and let the good times roll.

Tell the establishment to keep their ‘change’.

BE the change.