Posts Tagged ‘Politics in Photography’

Putting Funny in Photography

The final shot

How the photo was staged


I’m happy to be back in the saddle here at after a tumultuous year. Thought I’d break the format a bit during the holidays by featuring a photographer who has a ton of fun.

Jay P. Morgan is one hot shot.  No, not the famed financier J.P. Morgan, but the photographic storyteller with visual wit. You’ve seen his work over the years—dramatic, dynamic, tongue-in-cheek stories presented in one incredibly detailed shot like this one. Or perhaps you’ve seen his burning cow on the moon or sumo wrestler on skis.

To create them, sets were built, wires run, models attached to welded metal supports—and fingers were crossed. The effort often took a week to produce. He used Nikon, Hasselblad, and a field camera, all of which he still has and loves. But why tackle such difficult challenges?

“I loved building things,” says Morgan. “My dad helped me build the sets so it was a lot of fun. I held my breath until we were done.”

Morgan’s still turning out exciting work but now with the freedom of digital tools and Photoshop expertise of his wife. More about that in my next post. Check out all of Jay’s work at, and have a laugh while you marvel.


Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Part I

Jess, Bend Oregon- Cover of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by Jeff Sheng, the first photobook featuring the portraits and emails of closeted service members in the United States military who are still serving and are affected by the laws that mandate the discharge of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-identified soldiers.

Photographer and Los Angeles native Jeff Sheng has taken on the plight of Mike, John, David, Natalie, Rico, Alexander, Craig, Matt, Jess, Anthony, Harold, Charles, Mark, Catalina, Nick, Kenneth, and Glynn and Celine—just a handful of the estimated 65,000 LGBT soldiers serving their country today. Another million are gay veterans.

Yet, as one husband of a gay soldier serving in Iraq wrote in an email to President Obama, “The day he deployed, I dropped him off far from his base’s main gate, and he walked alone in the dark and the rain to report for duty. Where the rest of his buddies were surrounded by spouses and children at mobilization ceremonies, he stood by himself.”

“I wanted to bring light to this incredible injustice,” says Sheng, in his Culver City studio. “This is open discrimination by a government founded on the equality of all.” About two soldiers a day are being discharged for being gay. This, as Sheng says, when we need trained and talented soldiers more than ever.  “We’re losing medics, linguists, highly trained soldiers. When you’re lying somewhere injured from battle, you don’t care if the person saving you is gay, straight, nothing. You only want to live.”

And the penalties for admitting to being gay is brutal. In addition to being banned from ever again serving in the military, this from an email in the book from the Legal Defense Fund: “the service member’s DD214 (discharge paperwork) says on it ‘homosexual conduct,’ which is significant because many future employers will ask for that paperwork…”

In addition, they have to repay any bonuses and costs of education at a service academy like West Point, even if they’ve been in the military, 10, 15, 20 years serving the country they love.

One has to ask, how can this be?

Sheng did just that, beginning this project at the urging of many who viewed  his previous project, “Fearless,” a collection of portraits of openly gay high school and college athletes that toured the country with more than 40 exhibitions. He couldn’t say no.

Sheng, a Harvard graduate from Thousand Oaks, CA, took out two lines of credit and began his self-financed, worldwide trip to photograph the soldiers who asked to be part of the project, to bring light to the great risks they were taking by doing so.

Read more the process and experiences next week in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), Part II, coming March 19.


International Women’s Day

From Library of Congress
Women speaking up and changing the world.
Bain News Service, publisher.
14-yr. old striker, Fola La Follette, and Rose Livingston
[no date recorded on caption card]

For more information on this photo, and other photos from the Library of Congress,visit

March 8—100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day

There are facebook pages and stories here and there in the media. Here are two that seemed pretty worthy to bring to light.

First, suggestions for improving the status of women from Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times:

“Today is International Women’s Day, and in fact the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. It’s a date that is much better known abroad but is beginning to get more traction in the U.S. as well.

So what interventions get the most bang for the buck in raising the status of women around the world? What is most helpful in overcoming injustices such as human trafficking and acid attacks? I’d welcome your ideas below, but let me toss out a few of my suggestions for most effective interventions:” Read the rest at

The International Medical Corps has stories to share and ways to help. From their latest enewsletter:

“Today is International Women’s Day — a day to celebrate women’s achievements and to reinforce our commitment to those whose well-being remains at risk.    While there have been impressive strides in recent years, women around the world are still disproportionately affected by natural and man-made disasters.

For many women living in unstable regions without access to medical care, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are often a death sentence. In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, women have a 1 in 22 chance of dying in childbirth, compared with 1 in 8,000 in industrialized countries.”  Read more at

Progress still needed.


Polipics: Obamaniacs

Obama School Speech



Debbi K. Swanson Patrick

Well, let’s just say I’m appalled. States banning an address by the President of the United States to American school children on the value of education? What is going on in this country? How do you spell racism? I-G-N-O-R-A-N-C-E. Or perhaps H-A-T-R-E-D. This abandonment of the pillars of our Constitution is true obscenity to me.

I chose this photo from AP because it shows that this speech was about the students, not about politics or Obama, other than a president usually likes to be well thought of. He wasn’t trying to sell the country on going to war against a dictator who may have been vile, but hadn’t committed any terrorist acts against the United States. He was telling our children to value themselves, value their education, value this country. And parents want to prevent their children from hearing that? Am I hearing this correctly??

How’s this for a news clip? This one from the open-armed state of Colorado:

–Shanneen Barron, a Highlands Ranch mother, said she normally isn’t involved in political activism, even though a sign in her front yard reads “Vote Republican.” But she said she is worried that Obama will put forth a socialist agenda and try to indoctrinate her children.

“Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me,” she said. “I’m an American. They are Americans, and I don’t feel that’s OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now.”

She and her husband will keep their kids at home Tuesday when Obama makes his nationwide address to students.–

My comment: And I guess they’ll also continue to be ignorant.  My ex-fiance’s brother designed Highlands Ranch so I’ve spent time in this perfectly white conservative enclave. Every house is painted a variation of beige. I grew up in similar neighborhoods where, like the movie Pleasantville, everyone was afraid to have too much color.

But back to a more rational view of the story at hand, from the Denver News:

–A White House spokesman released this statement: “The President will speak directly to students around the country about the value of education and the importance of staying in school as part of his effort to dramatically cut the dropout rate. It’s not a policy speech.”

Supporters are concerned about what they call the increased politicization of issues by extremists.

“It’s just kind of ridiculous to think that people are worried that a visit from the president is going to turn their children into socialists overnight or be the kick start to a socialist program,” said Ryan Kelling, a Denver resident. “There’s not much debate about real issues, and this just continues the trend of politicizing everything.”–

My comment: AMEN, BROTHER.

And from Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, via AP:

–PHILADELPHIA – On the very first day of the school year, 12-year-old Mileena Rodriguez was reminded by President Barack Obama himself that hard work can take you places. Mileena listened to Obama’s plea to study hard and stay in school Tuesday, watching along with several of her classmates at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and students across the country. For all the hubbub among adults over the back-to-school speech, many youngsters took the president’s message to heart.

“He said that we’re the future, and he’s right,” said Mileena, who wants to be a forensic scientist. “That’s a president telling you, `I care about you getting your education.’ Just imagine what kids like us can do if we actually listen.”–

My comment: And just imagine how great this country could be if people would open their hearts, and their minds so they could actually think instead of operate on fear and hatred. Paranoia, exclusivity, and ignorance are the problems, not President Obama nor his message to work hard and make something of yourself. That is the message that this country was built on and has been given by presidents past. Do we have collective amnesia? Is the color of the president’s skin enough to make people literally lose their minds? Are these the United States?

If you attended Obama’s speech, send in your photo and your thoughts.


Polipics: Farewell Uncle Teddy


photo via Getty Images

I can’t help but be extremely sad over the loss of Ted Kennedy. I’m going to Boston in three weeks and he won’t be there. My whole life he’s been there, and now he isn’t. His spirit is, of course, in all the work that he’s done in 47 years in the Senate.

For me his loss is bringing up many of my childhood memories:  His brother JFK when I was in Mrs. Silvera’s class in Lockhurst Drive Elementary. His brother Bobby when I was in Hale Junior High. Martin Luther King at the same time. My father when I was 17. It feels like we’ve lost America’s uncle, not just the family’s. We’ve lost the man who has fought for the rights of labor, the disenfranchised, and those who have been discriminated against.

Yes, he was wise to bestow his blessings and grace upon our current president, to be sure his legacy is honored in the healthcare work that is being done today, for tomorrow. Socialist? Hardly. Giving all Americans the right to decent healthcare? Providing an expectation of a decent quality of life? Priceless. Yet everybody wants to hang the pricetag out for battering and bruising. How do you put a pricetag on humanity?

What are you thoughts on the world without Ted Kennedy?

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