Lens on Life book

Some months ago I was contacted by Stephanie Calabrese Roberts to be part of a book she was writing on documentary photography. Stephanie had interviewed me back in 2009 for the site Shutter Sisters, a collective of female photographers who share impressive resumes, and considering that she's a member of that group, was already the author of the best-selling The Art of iPhoneography, founder of the non-profit organization Lens on Life,  and is a talented documentary photographer in her own right, I was more than happy to agree. She came to visit me here in Maplewood and I spent a fantastic afternoon with her as she conducted our interview and asked thought-provoking questions about my process and work. She then came along to pick up the girls from school, after which she took pictures of me taking pictures of them.

The book, entitled Lens on Life: Documenting Your World Through Photography, was just released last month and I'm very honored to have my own chapter among a group of photographers that includes some serious veterans in the photo world. The other artists are Elliot Erwitt, Sion Fullana, Ed Kashi, John Loengard, Beth Rooney and Rick Smolan. You can purchase the book on Amazonphoto-eye or through most other major booksellers. Here's the press release to give you more info:

"Mostly candid and spontaneous, documentary photography serves to preserve a moment in time. In Lens on Life celebrated documentary photographer and author Stephanie Calabrese Roberts inspires you to explore, shoot, and share documentary photographs, guiding you as you define your own style. Illustrated with the author's striking artwork and diverse insight and perspectives from other seasoned photographers this book will sharpen your artistic intuition and give you the confidence to take on personal or professional documentary assignments. Full of advice that will challenge you and strengthen your photography, Lens on Life shows you how to capture an authentic view of your world."

Many thanks to Stephanie for giving me the opportunity to be part of her project!


Death of four fish, all at once

(Click to enlarge)
Rest in peace Brainy, Stubby Jr., Spotty Jr., and Goldie III, we hardly knew ye. Actually, you lasted longer than your various namesakes, which I must give you credit for. Despite your untimely demise(s) I'm comforted by the fact that you all passed on at the same time and thus are in fish heaven keeping each other company. 

It was a bit shocking I have to say--at bedtime they were swimming around in their tank on June's dresser as usual, and not more than two hours later all of them were belly up. Luckily the girls were asleep and so avoided seeing the horror with their own eyes, but I think James, as the keeper of the fish, was mildly (temporarily) traumatized. He took excellent primary care of the buggers (since I refused to help other than tossing some food in occasionally) but when he cleaned out the tank the day before they died the new water must have been funky, through no fault of his own.

I should mention that our tadpole Supertad (whose name would have had to evolve into Superfrog, if he'd ever managed to evolve himself) kicked the bucket the day before the fish. Poor guy, we put the blame on him for being a weakling, thinking he was a runt due to the fact that in two months all he'd managed to do was sprout "legs" that were the size of sesame seeds. Now we know better, so to you Supertad (wherever you are) I offer my apologies.

As always what's interesting to me is how the girls react. I must admit I was sort of avoiding the topic until Edie herself noticed the fish were gone and asked where they were. I put it to her straight and she was like "iiinteresting," practically stroking her chin in imitation of a detective deep in thought. I decided to deal with June another time as she was off playing happily, but later I heard her ask Edie why the tank was lacking its occupants. When Edie replied calmly that "they all died, all at once" my heart contracted a little in my chest as I heard June begin to wail. Just as I was heading up the stairs to comfort her Edie added that Goldie had "a bunch of babies" just waiting at Petco for a decent home to call their own, and June immediately perked up and hasn't mentioned the matter since, even a good week later. So much for those poor lonely goldfish orphans.

Over the years we've had our share of household animals die. The first experience for the kids was with our hermit crab Jed--you might remember me writing about the experience ages ago in my post "Death of a hermit crab." I revisited the topic when Jed's sister Lila followed his example about a year later in "Death of a hermit crab II." There wasn't much fuss over her, and as we continued our string of bad luck re: crustaceans there was similarly barely any fanfare over the passing of Jed II, Fancy and one whose name I can't remember because it looked like a rock and had a personality to match.

More devastatingly to the grownups in the Worrell-Fleming household was having to put our sweet dachshund Frida to sleep. I briefly mentioned some of Edie and June's reaction in "My Famoly"[sic]. I was surprised at the time by how well they handled it, taking it pretty matter-of-factly overall, while James and I sobbed in bed at night. We were so shell shocked I managed to drag him five days later (and two days post gallbladder surgery mind you) to meet a dog I'd come across on Petfinder. (The site was my puppy porn in the days after losing Frida; I found it strangely comforting as I tried to process dealing with a suddenly very empty-seeming house.) In retrospect it all happened startlingly quickly--we had said we'd mourn for a year or so and then start looking, but the universe works in mysterious ways (as does grief) and the next thing we knew there was Willa.

If I'm to be honest that first month or so with her was extremely difficult. She was a rescue, very sweet but very scared--and not fully housebroken, despite what her foster family might have said. Plus it was the winter of the wretched back-to-back snowstorms, which blew in just as we brought her to live with us. I kept wondering if I'd made a mistake--she felt like an interloper; I didn't know what she needed or liked and I compared her constantly to Frida, who was a much different companion. Frida was the dog who didn't give a shit and would look at you like "I know what you want me to do but whatever and good luck with that" while Willa was the opposite, staring at us with what the girls call "buggy eyes" as if to say "if you discipline me I will sit on your feet and shiver until you show me you love me and will never leave me." Despite my own hesitation the kids were instantly smitten and attached, and the best part about Willa is that she loves children and wants to be as close to them as possible, which obviously serves us well.

And here we are a year and a half later and I love her like crazy. Still, it's weird to me that it's been that long since Frida died. I don't even want to think about what the girls would do if anything ever happened to Willa, because she's truly their first real pet. Frida was around before they were, and so she was James's and my dog. Willa is James's and my and their dog, because they got to know her just as we did and they were able to bond with her from the beginning. She'll be the dog they talk about when they're off at college, the one they miss and the one who with any luck will be rheumatic and grey but still waiting at the door for them when they come home to visit.

P.S. You know you're a photographer when your husband goes to flush your fish down the toilet and you yell "wait! I want to take some pictures!" You know your husband's a photographer when he gets it.


James Worrell interview with Evan Kafka on A Photo Editor

A few plugs for my (if I do say so) talented husband James Worrell. The first is an interview he conducted with the also very talented Evan Kafka which is up on A Photo Editor today; you can read the entire interview here. In addition to his commercial photography and impressive interview skills, James also makes humorous and excellent videos. He recently did one highlighting his latest promo which you can see on Vimeo; I helped put the M&Ms in the light bulbs, thank you very much.

I don't say all this just because James is my husband--it's nice being married to someone whose work I admire and enjoy, so giving him a little PR is something I'm happy to do. Now off to edit, thanks for looking.

James on the left, Evan on the right. Handsome fellows.