Tag Archives: The Voice Of Eye

An Open Letter To President Obama: “One Solution For Many Problems – A Strong Case For Transitioning Into A Green Economy”

Dear Mr President,

As you are aware, FDR led the charge toward our involvement in WWII with a “total mobilization of manpower, industry, and logistics” by committing ALL of our available resources toward the war effort, while a decade earlier, he initiated The New Deal through creating public programs toward relief, recovery, reform, and beautification. I think you would agree that FDR’s policies were no less than instrumental in transforming the US into one of the most powerful and respected nations on the planet.

So, with regard to the various crises our nation is experiencing, my questions to you are as follow:

– Being that the future of our nation, our children’s future, and all of life on Earth may very well be on the line, would you take a firm stance to implement constructive programs and policies similar to that of FDR which could ultimately reunite the people under a unified cause, and again infuse our nation with a sense of purpose and pride?

– And, do you have the political courage, conviction, and will to resist: corporate hegemony and greed; the short-sighted, lying, and self-interested Right; the career-minded political establishment; and the oft innate desire to preserve one’s own career, even if it’s at the expense of a greater good?

If so, I ask that you take a moment to please consider the following…

It is my belief that within three to five years, the US could effectively solve many of the problems it currently faces by strategically hurling one, bold stone. This ‘stone’ would be to commit to a fearless and resolute transition away from a Fossil Fuel dependent economy into a Green economy, while concurrently stating to the American people, in a confident, calm, and clear tone, how such an effort would effectively be beneficial, if not altogether profitable, to everyone in both short order and over the long run.

A committed effort to transform our economy into one that is sustainable would:

1. Breath life into and grow a newer, cleaner manufacturing base.

2. After a training period, put millions of people to work almost immediately, while giving them a set of increasingly valuable knowledge and skills, and improving our collective purchasing power.

3. After an initial investment, it would enable the US to pay off our national debt and reduce our annual deficit.

4. Encourage our universities, Silicon Valley, and the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and private enterprise to participate in this noble and profitable venture.

5. Enable the creation of a cooperative government network (similar to Homeland Security) through partially reconfiguring the missions and responsibilities of The National Guard, The Coast Guard, The Army Corps of Engineers, Americorps, The EPA, The Department of the Interior, The Department of Forestry, The BLM, HUD, The Department of Transportation, The National Parks Service, and The Department of Education, so as to treat the preservation of our natural environment as a national security concern.

6. Reduce our over-reliance on the private automobile and the unnecessary and redundant distribution of resources and infrastructure over great distances through encouraging compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development and regional farming.

7. Eventually result in much cleaner food, water, land, and air, which would ultimately engender a healthier population.

8. Germinate an entirely new economic sector of frontier technologies, products, and services that would be in demand the world over while making the US the go-to nation, balancing our trade deficit, and making the US the industrial pioneers by which other nations would soon follow.

9. Enable the US to become energy independent while minimizing the necessity for newly extracted fossil fuel resources, which too would reduce our artificial need to exploit and/or commit war on other regions.

10. Disable energy monopolies through decentralizing and democratizing access to energy.

11. Improve additional national security concerns through implementing #9 and #10.

12. And halt, if not altogether reverse Global Climate change over the coming decades, thereby reducing costs as well as damage to lives and properties as a result of natural disaster and rising oceans.

Mr President… Americans have once and again proven that we can accomplish anything if we commit our hearts, minds, and bodies to the task. We’ve done it before, during both the industrial and technological revolutions. We can do it again. All that we need is a strong, visionary leader to pave the way.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Craig Morse

Thoughts Toward Realizing A Green Economy…

Even though I enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama on his platform for change – which included his promise to usher in a 21st-Century ‘Green Economy’ – frankly, I am wholly disappointed with the Democratic Party’s reluctance to wrestle, take down, and once-and-for-all, pin the Right Wing to the mat.

January 20, 2009 - Washington D.C. Early in the morning, while heading into D.C. on the Metro, I came across the grand daughters of Alex Haley, the beloved author of "Roots". Photo by Craig Morse.

Over the past year, hundreds of billions of tax payer’s dollars have been applied toward the “American Reinvestment and Recovery Act”, otherwise known as the “Stimulus Bill”, which directed tens of billions of these dollars toward road improvement and ‘supposed’ renewable energy projects. The most recent of the ‘renewable energy’ plans to be approved is a nuclear plant to be built near Atlanta, GA, being the first to be constructed in the US in over 30 years. I suspect these projects have moved/are moving forward only because Obama – who is desperate to find middle ground with a minority of self-serving Republican senators and representatives – feels the need to produce results in order to quell the unrealistic expectations of a recession weary American public. Though these projects may produce tens of thousands of jobs over the next couple years, make no mistake, these projects are short-sighted and frankly, dangerous (exchanging the damage being done to our global climate from CO and CO2 for the risks and dangers inherent in Uranium and Plutonium) as our representative, through slight-of-hand, attempt to cover-up the root issues, thereby keeping it from entering the mainstream public dialog.

Rather than look toward a hopeful future and seek to make amends that would benefit the greater whole, these ‘solutions’ maintain an unhealthy status-quo, catering to embedded special interests and lobbies under the auspice of laying the foundations for a 21st-century green economy.

It is my belief that one simple idea – a plan to implement a thoughtful and systemically comprehensive long-term Sustainable Strategy – has been completely overlooked during the many debates and dialogues from over the past few years.

Besides plotting a map to where we want to go, and what we want to accomplish, over the next 5, 10, 20, and 50 years, we should seek to get beyond the symptoms, to understand the root problems: their respective origins and histories; how each is internally wired; how each relates to (or perpetrates) other problems; and how each problem relates to and affects the economy, culture, public health, environment, employment, climate change, and our species’ legacy … instead of perpetrating the usual covering-up of symptoms with distraction, misdirection, and fiscal Band-Aids.

Let’s take a few steps back to consider the big picture, and seek to understand each problem systemically, then seek to understand how each problem connects to or affects other elements in this picture. We are teetering on the edge of a threshold and have a choice to make. Do we take that bold step into the uncertain, to probably lead and inspire the rest of the world through initiating an age of renewable energy and materials through a Green Revolution? Or do we simply continue to fall back on tired formulas, to keep making the same mistakes until it all comes crashing down?

Following are a few thoughts about how a Green Revolution might usher in a paradigm shift toward a Silver Age. Through applying sustainable technologies, practices, processes, and cradle to grave educational and informational resources (that would encourage each of us to think about and measure the cost/consequences versus the benefits of specific behaviors, products, resources, and energies) we could effectively participate in creating a more conscientious society while being the stewards of our planet, insuring a clean, healthy, and enjoyable quality-of-life for our children.

In my opinion, transitioning into a Sustainable Economy would mean to:

• Reestablish the United States as a first-class manufacturing economy… followed by a substantially increased GDP, reduction in our national deficit and debt, collective purchasing power, and an increase in gross sales- and income-tax which, if properly directed, would significantly improve public infrastructure, public utilities, public education, and access to health services.

• Spur on the development of technologies and products that are cutting edge, energy and resource efficient, useful, in-demand, and recyclable, reusable, and/or refurbishable.

• Similar to how we led the world in the desktop computing and the internet revolution – developed by the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. – the United States could again be at the forefront of the research, development, and application of green technologies, which would translate into tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of jobs, and billions (if not trillions) of dollars each year. If we approached a Green Technology with a similar enthusiasm consider the technological advances that could be realized, and the invaluable knowledge that would be revealed, if we engaged in the full-on, dedicated research, development, and improvement of solar, wind, geothermal, rare earth magnetic, water and bio fuel, superconductor technologies and applications.

• Re-ignite the mid-western and rustbelt manufacturing economy, as well as enliven Silicon Valley research and development, through creating an immediate demand for a highly skilled and educated workforce, while retrofitting vacant and ‘dirty’ material and energy industrial complexes for ‘clean’ material and product manufacturing.

• Lessen our demand for and impact on public services, utilities, and infrastructure through (to the chagrin of energy monopolies) democratizing access to energy by enabling each home/business owner to supplement their energy needs through on-site systems (solar, wind, geothermal, insulation, etc).

• Balance the Trade Deficit by creating high-quality ‘Made in America’ products and services for export to other nations.

• Minimize the need for newly extracted natural resources through implementing reusable, repurposed, refurbished, and recyclable material and energy resources.

• Reduce our dependence on the private automobile, and thus promote the reclamation of our public streets and thoroughfares toward better uses. Consider the gross acreage of landscape that has been capped by asphalt, concrete, and rooftops. Such repurposing of these linear rights-of-way would greatly contribute to the permeability and greening of our landscape, thereby enabling the eventual recharge of our fresh water aquifers, along with a significant reduction of storm water runoff and flooding. Additionally, these existing rights-of-way would be very useful for bicycles, light rail, high-speed rail, linear parks, urban and suburban architectural infill (which would translate to higher density, mixed-use communities that in-turn would result in accessibility to services, walkable neighborhoods, as well as fewer and shorter trips).

• Encourage a transition toward sustainable applications for urban planning & design, building architecture, landscape architecture, business practices, public services, the long range city plan, and zoning and subdivisioning regulations. Additionally, municipal Planning Councils and Boards, and Chambers of Commerce, should be informed about the advantages to (and how to implement) sustainable practices and technologies so as to save municipal monies and lessen the impact upon the public infrastructure.

• Legalize Hemp, being one of the most useful and versatile plants on the planet. Some of the benefits to consider are as follow: 1. Hemp is a hardy perennial with a remarkable turnover time between planting and harvesting, as opposed to trees, which take many years to grow. 2. Its cellulose level is almost three times that of wood, and its processing utilizes less energy and fewer chemicals, so it yields more and better quality paper. 3. It is a nutritious source of food and well suited for hair and skin care. 4. The oil extracted from its seed provides a highly efficient source of fuel, and may be used as a raw material in paints and plastics. 5. It provides one of natures longest and strongest fibers, so is very useful for textiles. 6. It is very useful as a component for building materials, such as concrete, fiber board, and composite materials. And finally, 7. Hemp is ideal for crop rotation and it’s water requirements are negligible.

•Slowly enable a climate change course correction by significantly reducing carbon emissions.

• Enable the planet’s filtration and ‘immune’ systems (forests, rivers, oceans, biodiversity) to again get a foothold, to then cycle and cleanse the air, water, and land.

• Force us to rethink the way by which we educate our children; to incorporate knowledge and training that is applicable to building upon and maintaining a Green Economy. This would encourage future generations to consider our personal and collective impacts, natural cycles and feedback systems, as well as the relationships between of cause vs effect, impact vs consequence, initial cost vs the ultimate price paid.

• Improve the quality of our food, water, and air… and thus our overall health. Additionally, if devastated ecosystems were able to repair, while existent ecosystems were less likely to be impacted by development, pollution, and human interference, many very useful natural pharmaceutical substances may yet be discovered.

• Reduce the likelihood for warfare, colonialization, and the exploitation of other cultures. One reason that war happens is related directly to our desire to have access to and control of others’ natural resources for our own purpose. Meanwhile, though quantities and intensities may differ, every person on this planet has access to sun, wind, and water.

Think about it… We’ve done it before, we can do it again. Whether it be nuclear science, the human genome, super-computing, or flying to the moon, we’ve made what was once considered science fiction become real science. And when we consider contemporary great public works projects, such as the myriad of FDR’s WPA projects (including the The Hoover Dam and The Lincoln Tunnel), The Golden Gate Bridge, The Panama Canal, or The Interstate Highway system, it is indisputable that we’ve completed some seemingly unreal and truly momentous projects that have, unquestionably, changed the course of human history. So, if we have a dream, and we put our hearts and minds toward making into a reality, we are capable of accomplishing almost anything.

And though it will cost a lot of money up-front to initiate this change, make no mistake, such a transition will make a lot of people a lot of money, while giving even the least fortunate segment of our population access to a cleaner and more affordable water, food, transportation, and energy.

Lets talk about this further, then compel our leaders to recruit then employ the greatest visionaries, hearts, and minds on the planet from the sciences, the arts, and industry… especially those who are able to think beyond their own self-interests.

With this said, though these ideas make perfect sense to me, I am, by no means, an expert in any of these fields. So, to improve my own understanding, and that of other readers, I invite you to contribute your own comments and suggestions.

Finally, feel free to pass this link along if you have any friends who may be interested in reading and/or chiming in…

Thank you!

:) Craig Morse aka The Voice Of Eye

PS – Following are a few other advances in renewable energy and sustainable technologies that you may be interested in reviewing and passing along:

– HHO Fuel… http://b2bf.com/ and http://b2bf.com/hydrogen_generators.htm
– Zero Point Energy… http://www.prlog.org/10306202-how-to-build-zero-point-energy-generator.html and http://ezinearticles.com/?Zero-Point-Energy-Magnetic-Power-Generator—Fully-Power-Your-Home-For-Free&id=2486194
– Magnetic Refrigeration… http://www.scientificblogging.com/welcome_my_moon_base/new_magnetocaloric_material_will_allow_magnetic_refrigerationSee More
– Waterless Washing Machine… http://www.physorg.com/news136555635.html
– Gray Water Systems… http://www.greywater.com/
– Rainwater Harvesting… http://www.rain-barrel.net/
– Rooftop Gardening… http://www.cityfarmer.org/rooftop59.html
– Black Water Treatment… http://wapedia.mobi/en/Blackwater_%28waste%29
– Evapotranspiration Cooling… http://www.eoearth.org/article/Evapotranspiration
– The Water Fueled Car… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water-fuelled_car
– Insulations… http://insulation.sustainablesources.com/
– Rammed Earth Walls… http://arch.usc.edu/Programs/Research/RammedEarthConstruction
– Adobe Bricks… http://www.elmerfudd.us/dp/adobe/brick.htm
– Straw Bale Construction… http://www.dancingrabbit.org/building/straw_bale.php
– Passive Solar Design… http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/construction/solardesign/orientation.html
– Geothermal Heat Pumps… http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/space_heating_cooling/index.cfm/mytopic=12640

An Open Letter to Kevin Wright of Bend, Oregon’s City Church

Dear Kevin…

I am a social documentary and fine art photographer who, after living in San Francisco for ten years, moved to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. For 2-1/2 years I chronicled the myriad of challenges and recovery efforts as well as documented the variety of communities that make New Orleans such a beautiful and wonderfully unique city; being a place endowed with culture, heritage, spirituality, and a troubled history.

Well, the other night I heard you being interviewed on Dick Gordon’s “The Story” on WAMU. Afterward, both pleasantly surprised and very curious, I found myself visiting the City Church website.

Before I say anything else, I would like to say “Thank You!” Though I am neither a religious person nor do I desire to be, I found your message to be a breath of fresh air. It was thoughtful, conscious, compassionate, inspiring, and frankly, courageous. This threw me for a loop, because I often find myself frustrated with the fearful, ignorant, servile, self-centered, righteous, pushy, intolerant, and willfully apocalyptic greater Evangelical movement. In my mind, your words and actions are infinitely closer to what Jesus would have wished from those who follow His Word.

Secondly, I would like to ask you if, someday, you and your congregation might be interested in me coming to visit your church to document your services, your community, your contributions, and your example. All that I ask is that I am not targeted as a potential soul to be saved. I would rather be treated as an ally and with kindness: recognized for my contributions and respected for my curious and questioning nature. So, though I have no desire to become a Christian, nor do I wish to be an advocate for Christianity or any other belief system, I recognize how important and meaningful it is for some people to have a moral and ethical framework so as to give a person a sense of guidance, belonging, identity, purpose, and greater understanding. And from what I’ve both read and heard, the mission of your church is one that I greatly admire and respect, inspiring a message that seeks to enhance a participant’s awareness and understanding, participation and contribution, while offering one’s service to heal and ease another’s suffering.

With that said, I invite you to visit my online gallery to see the work that I’ve done in New Orleans and beyond. But with regard to “the beyond”, if you have difficulty looking at images that may be contrary to your beliefs, I urge you to proceed with caution. Because besides being a photojournalist, I am an artist, an agnostic, and a liberal activist. So, though I make a point to provoke thought, challenge our society’s assumptions, and shed light on the oft unknown, I always attempt to chronicle my subjects honestly while highlighting their humanity and preserving their dignity.

The link to the best of my New Orleans’ imagery may be found here

Anyhow, thanks again for having the courage to be positively affective, blaze your own trail, and share your story with the greater American public. I am certain that your thoughtful message will be very well received by many Evangelicals and other Christians alike, as well as by those who follow other faiths, or no faith at all.

Stay true to your path. I look forward to hearing your thoughts or suggestions.

My very best,

:) Craig Morse

The Conflicted Photographer…

Before jumping into the following essay, I ask those who I have photographed over the years to not take personal offense to some of the things I am about to say. Because I have done thousands of hours of work over the past ten years toward promoting other creatives at no charge, or in the spirit of being spontaneously creative, I have occasionally had to struggle with interpersonal frustrations, miscommunication, and unmet expectations, I think it prudent for me to take the time to put my thoughts into words. And as such, I hope to establish a rudimentary understanding as to who I am, why I do what I do, how I hope to relate to those who I have yet to photograph, and what I can realistically provide…

Since my creative awakening at Burning Man in 1999, I have received numerous emails that, whether polite or not, ask some variation on the following question: “Would you please send the photos that you took of me?”

I am very fortunate to be gifted with a talent for taking beautiful and meaningful photos of truly interesting people and subjects, but one of the banes of my existence as a photographer has been to receive impatient and demanding requests for, though worthwhile and important, what are typically art-for-art’s-sake or speculative documentary without the expectation of compensation for my time. Then, when I am able to fulfill these requests, I have over the years come to learn that I am not only rarely thanked for my efforts and for sharing these images freely in the spirit of co-promotion, but I am also not credited properly. What troubles me most though, is that even when the subject would typically expect to be paid by an event promoter or venue to perform, to sing, to dance, or whatnot, and who is quite capable of offering a gift, exchange, or compensation for my time or a print, I am only very rarely appreciated as a working artist. Yet, when I am unable to meet these demands in a timely fashion, believe me, I hear about it, and am made to feel inadequate. So, through sharing the following, I would like to clarify both my purpose and circumstance as a photographer, as well as set down, in policy, the standards by which I would like to approach all future recreational, portraiture, musician, performance, and speculative documentary work.

I am a D.I.Y. artist and documentarian who has, for the past eleven years, lived on a hand-to-mouth budget while doing the best that I am able with what few resources I have available to me. I live minimally. I don’t hold down a “regular” job, because I have the equivalent of three roles as a photographer (pointing the lens and pushing the button; the editor/retoucher of my own work; and the promoter/manager), which is, I feel, the most meaningful way that I can contribute… working almost every waking hour toward these ends. I sleep on friends sofas, so that I am able to put what few funds I do have available to me toward my craft and to co-promote my creative allies. And instead of being able to own and use what camera and computer I desire, I make use of an inexpensive prosumer camera, and perform all of my post-production work on a 2001 laptop that I bought at a discount rate back in the middle of 2002.

Now, on one level, I empathize with the frustrations of the few who have discredited me. However, this isn’t because I think that I owe them something. My understanding of this troubling issue comes from the probability that, over the years, I have not effectively communicated my purpose, my ethic, my situation, my limitations, the resources I have available to me, and the hard fact that photography is what I do for a living.

I am not an independently wealthy photographer, such as was Diane Arbus. Nor do I currently have a support staff to whom I can delegate my administrative, marketing, creative, financial, and managerial tasks. And I am most certainly not a one-man Fotomat. I am a thoughtful, kind, and generous person who’s first loyalty is to spread awareness and provoke thought, dialogue, and positive change. My second priority is to inspire mainstream society to consider other ways of living and being through pointing my lens toward unapologetically genuine and unique individuals, creatives, and alternative lifestyle communities so they may be inspired to express themselves authentically, to perhaps recognize and break from the prescribed reality. My third is to co-promote the various grassroots creatives who I appreciate and respect, and who do what they do for the love of it or because they cannot be untrue to their calling. So, in order to maintain the facility to move about freely and without distraction to discover and share lesser understood realities, I have forsaken creature comforts, geographic stability, and the soul sucking job that holds most of us firmly in place so that I may honor this purpose.

So as to give the reader a sense of the history and compounded gravity of these demands without consideration of recompense, it all started in 2000. At that time, I was still shooting film. At that time, I provided small prints at no cost to my subjects. However, at $30 a roll (through film, processing, and printing costs) plus event entry fees combined with the effort it took for me to do a shoot, travel to and from the lab, and edit the photos, I was fast going broke. It was in 2002 when, disheartened, I looked down upon about 500 unprocessed rolls from my early years that I had to consider either going digital, or deny my passion as a visual artist and activist. I, of course, chose to go digital. However, in doing so, I incurred an enormous up-front expense to purchase a new camera system and the computer that I still use today. And to boot, I still have over 400 of those 500 rolls yet unprocessed.

Ironically, after I started to shoot digital, I was soon overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of images that I had to manage, while also becoming responsible for post-processing, which up to that point was mostly left to the lab… unless I was printing for a show. Nonetheless, some people would say, “Just send the photos as they are!” Maybe this is just my ego talking out loud, but that’s not the way that I operate. I am interested in quality, not quantity. And the level of quality that I hope to attain, and that which I wish to attach to my name, requires effort. And though there are more than a few photos that might be considered excellent, I am only capable of applying my efforts toward one or a few before moving onto the next project.

What surprised and disappointed me most, however, was when such a statement would come from the mouths of artists, dancers, musicians, or performers. This is because these, of all people, are the ones who should most be able to understand where I am coming from. I want only my best and my finished work to leave my possession, to perhaps enter the public realm. And where a painter might, for example, complete one painting per week, I am often dealing with up to 3000 images per week. I have often wondered how some of these people would feel if I demanded that they paint, dance, sing, or perform for me halfway… or for free.

Another surprise is how more than a few of the people who I have photographed – who live materialistically minimal, and sometimes spiritual, alternative lifestyles – could become so attached to the idea of a picture of themselves. Then, occasionally, expressing dissatisfaction with receiving only one or a few images. It frustrated me most to know that some people would retroactively corrupt a genuinely fun, creative, and productive photographic experience simply because they based their entire experience on the expectation that they would get something beautiful for free… while assuming that, for me, it was all just cake.

So, over the past year, this growing accumulation of unmet expectations has weighed heavily enough so that I have actually asked myself, “Should I stop taking photos of people? Should I just photograph places and things that won’t demand so much from me? Should I leave the camera home during moments of great creative potential? Or during historically relevant moments?” Then, after a lot of thought, and considerable melancholy, I decided, “Hell no!”

Though I am not a religious man, I feel blessed. I was put on the Earth with a gifted ability and a purpose. I will not be made to feel as though I should stop chronicling beautiful people and important moments simply because a few spoilers can’t see the big picture. To choose to not take photos, and to not share what I am able to provide with the world at-large, would seem to me to be short-sighted, selfish, and personally self-destructive to not heed my calling.

So, with the exception of a few people who really seem to get it, I am sometimes made to feel alone in my endeavor, and separate from some of the people who I otherwise respect, admire, and/or enjoy being around. Thankfully, the people who understand me and appreciate what I am doing make it all worth it. Nonetheless, each time I aim the lens and push the camera’s button, though I tend to feel that I have taken one more step forward and am actively making a difference, it feels as though my ability to manage my works is pushed back another ten steps.

Well, I guess that’s my bane… and the spoiler’s loss. Because, though I do have the desire to be generous and make people smile, I have absolutely no desire to compromise my purpose, nor sell short my creative soul. So, I repeat… I was put on the Earth with an ability and a purpose. I intend to use my talents to the best of my ability, while continuing to do my very best to be kind, generous, and true.

With that said, though I will continue to take the time to capture historically relevant moments and co-create artistically provocative imagery with a knowing and consenting subject, I think it important to state that my talent, my time, and my person is of value.  And how I choose take photos — which at this time is expressed through black and white photography; and what I choose to release to the world, which are images that I deem worthy of investing my efforts toward retouching; and how I prioritize my shoots, which first honors paying work, then low- or unpaid social/environmental/economic justice work, then speculative fine art portraiture, and so on — is my prerogative.

In terms of my documentary imagery, if you enter the public realm, where any number of other recording devices may capture your likeness, or you are in someone’s space where I have been given permission to photograph, I will, whenever possible, be among the first to ask for your permission beforehand.  Additionally, I will do my very best to one day share the selected image or images with you to post on your website, MySpace, Facebook, or whatnot.  But in saying so, it will be on my own terms, by my own quality and selection standards, and if I am not offered some form of compensation, in my own time.

And though I recognize that the subject’s time is of value too, I will no longer commit to a photo shoot with a person if they cannot first understand the position I have stated in this essay.  So, if one day I should approach you to ask if I may take your photo, and if, in your heart, you are attached to the expectation of an end product without any thought or consideration for my priorities, my livelihood, or the resources I must own and maintain in order to take and process the photos… or if you cannot understand my commitment to being an artist, a visual historian, and a hopeful agent of change… or if you cannot appreciate all of the heart, and sacrifice, and effort that goes into bringing what I capture through my lens to completion… or if you have difficulty living in-the-moment, enough so as to at least engage in an experience simply for the joy of being creative… then you should probably politely decline my request.

But, on the other hand, if, you trust my eye and know that my intentions are good, and you wish to one day be able to see and share the strange and wonderful keepsake that is an artful photographic memory as seen from my point-of-view, then, in recognition of all that is necessary to make it manifest, I would, at the very least, appreciate a smile and a “Thank you!”.

The New Fountainhead

With our economy going to hell-in-a-handbasket, there has been a worrisome stir in the extended community that includes architects, planners, and developers. Being that houses across the country are being foreclosed, home loan approval is nearly impossible, housing developments sit idle, half-built, and office buildings are emptying into the streets of every major city, what may yet become of their livelihoods? Allow me to put those minds at ease…

Assuming that President Elect Obama will keep his promise to light a flame underneath an economic plan that will ignite a “Green Deal”, it’s only the very beginning of a new era in architecture as well as physical layout and design, when there will be opportunities too numerous to count. This is because in this proposed future, a lot of heads and hands will be necessary to implement out-of-the-box solutions for square-one designs, and energy-efficient retrofits of old architecture and municipal layout/infrastructure to become manifest.

Assuming the perceived urgency of the current Green Movement continues to gain momentum, I expect maverick architects, planners, engineers, and developers will have a field day (or rather, a field decade) with consideration to all of the unhinged possibilities for creative engineering and re-imagining. The heretofore bridaled visionaries will perhaps have more creative latitude, funding, and public support than ever, at least in the modern age, to propose super innovative and foundation-shaking solutions. And where municipal zoning and subdivision laws have literally made everything resemble everything else in our physical environment, while attempting to make every function fit neatly into the same size and brand of box – be it a mall, a Walmart, a McDonalds, a parking space, or a cubicle – local, state, and federal agencies will soon hurry to pass legislation that encourages intelligent physical design and thoughtful accounting of resources. Through the coming years, this will further be facilitated by federal funding requirements and the shift toward supporting industries, a labor force, and a marketplace that manufacture Green materials, technologies, and systems.

Give it a decade…  If the forthcoming administration can lead the charge toward dedicated research, development, and application of conservation-minded technology, energy, material, and space solutions, an entirely new family of products and services may yet become available…  to eventually become ever more efficient and affordable.

Consider how the personal computer, the internet, the digital camera, and the cell phone have indelibly changed our lives over the past decade.  If the aforementioned ideas can get a foothold for even one-half a generation, Green thinking and conscious behavior will no longer be on the fringe. It will simply be the way things are…

The Flight Of The Phoenix

An online Flickr acquaintance, James, contacted me with the following note, which is paraphrased…

“Greetings Craig… I am at an Internet cafe and received your article… worded and sent out into the world with true heart and passion. Since I lost all of my stock holdings, I am currently homeless. I’m living in the Florida Keys: selling my art work, doing cleaning jobs, dish washing, and other things to survive while preparing for Saskia’s arrival on January 4th. When the stock market crashed, life went from having everything to absolutely nothing. I suppose it’s a chance to start at ground zero with a good attitude and faith in the good energies that will allow folks, such as us, to continue the struggle and create. It gives the world a chance to even out. Anyhow, I wish you strength, peace, joy, and love in life… James”

I responded…

Dear James… “I’m so sorry for your loss, but I really admire your attitude!

Though I cannot say that my life has ever been overly complicated by money, property, or responsibility to another person, after going through some considerable trials in the nineties, I had an epiphany on Valentine’s Day of 1998. I relinquished many of the so-called responsibilities and comforts that American culture deems important, if not altogether essential, such as functioning as a soulless cog in the machine in order to sustain a materialistic lifestyle and pay the bills. That day, while sitting alone, I willfully decided to go against the grain. I chose to be impractical… to follow my dream to become a documentary photographer and one day work for the likes of National Geographic and Smithsonian. During this process of becoming, I not only discovered there was an artist, writer, cultural anthropologist, visual historian, and activist hiding deep within, but I also realized that I had the tools, the talents, and the resources available to me to get people to ask a lot of questions (instead of blindly accepting the party line), consider different possibilities, and even change their thought patterns and behaviors. Though I have struggled along the way, as a direct result of these choices I have experienced some unbelievable moments in our history, met some truly unique and talented people, and come to know and love (and be loved by) those who I consider to be my dearest friends, without whom, I suspect, I would be little more than a pale interpretation of who I currently am, if not dead.

It may sound cliché, but I firmly believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. This, to me, means that every event that occurs in our lives – whether it is large or small, or perceived as good or bad – presents us with an array of choices. If these choices are recognized, thoughtfully considered, then acted upon, they enable the individual the opportunity to endow themselves with purpose. Essentially, these moments present us with metaphorical benchmarks, which, if attended to consciously and with optimism, result in a more meaningful existence. Additionally, through reminding ourselves to live-in-the-present and do our very best – while minimizing material attachments, emotional dependencies, and selfish expectations – we come ever closer to being truly free.

I was once in-love with a wonderful, beautiful woman who I met in Rio de Janeiro. After sharing a storybook romance, we decided to get married. However, after the hard knocks of reality weighed heavy upon our dreams, this marriage eventually came to an end. It resulted in one of the most painful and confusing experiences I had had in my life up to that point. Yet, I do not regret it having happened, nor would I choose to go back in time to change events, if I could. This is because so much good has come into my life as a direct consequence of this unpleasant event. If I we had remained together, I would neither have had the liberty nor the courage to pursue my passion as a photographer. It is likely that I would not have met any of the wonderful people who today inhabit my life. And if not for the therapeutic, creative, and purpose-driven qualities of my photography, I, as a person prone to depression, might not be alive.

Today my ex-wife is one of these dearest of friends. And though we have been apart for many years and don’t see each other as much as I wish we were able, both she and I are exactly where we need to be in our respective life situations. So, though my life was very painful and without direction at that time, it is as it should be.

Another illustration of the “Everything happens…” tenet relates to those people along the Gulf Coast who were victimized by Hurricane Katrina and the inept response of our federal government. These people had their existential foundations ripped from beneath them. Many were torn from their homes, their communities, and from everyone and everything they, and their families had known and loved for many generations. Whether upon their return to New Orleans or in another place, a many people were driven to despair, while many others tried their best to restore normalcy and routine. But apart from these people, there were a few exceptional souls who understood that their world was changing irrevocably. They allowed their repetitive routines, their material attachments, and their behavioral addictions to wither – effectively shedding their skin – as they adapted to their circumstances, became sensitive to their present, and expressed their thanks for all of the genuinely valuable and important things in their life. So, though they did quietly suffer as they slowly healed, they chose to look deep within while setting their sights on the horizon as they reinvented themselves, having had their eyes opened wide.

Anyhow James, I urge you to read between the lines of your personal experience while continuing to do your very best while in the Keys or wherever you may go from there. If you have faith in yourself and the universe, and choose to remain open, who knows? Perhaps you and Saskia will meet someone who owns a boat and who needs two people to crew their journey through the Caribbean? Or perhaps you will learn to juggle while riding a unicycle and befriend a fascinating and wacky group of performers? Or perhaps you’ll save enough money through selling your art to fly from Miami to the tropics, where a small piece of land with banana trees and cockatoos patiently await your neighborly presence. Your future success is contingent upon you broadening your perspective while opening yourself to new experiences and ways of being…

Trust yourself. Take a few risks. And live each day honestly, authentically, and completely. A great adventure awaits you…

In fact, it has already begun.

:) Craig”

Pardon Me!?!

Just yesterday I received an e-mail from the ACLU mentioning that George W. Bush may very well give Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and others who are or have been in his administration something known as a Preemptive Pardon. When I read this, I said to myself, “Preemptive? WTF!?!”

What rational explanation can justify the granting of immunity by a sitting President to a person who has not yet been convicted nor even formally charged with a crime? It sounds ridiculous, yet it seems to have been acted upon once already… when Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon a presidential pardon before he had been convicted or even formally charged with the Watergate crimes.

Doesn’t this go against core American values of justice and due process? And isn’t it implicit that by allowing high-ranking officials to evade accountability for undermining the Constitution and violating the law will give a “Get Out Of Jail” pass to future public officials who commit high crimes against the people of the world, or against the interests of the American People? Maybe I’m naive, but doesn’t this define a certain powerful segment of the upper tier of our society as above the law? And how can a sitting president project his will into a succeeding president’s term, effectively nullifying the possibility of an investigation into past activities or bringing up charges against a former official?

Let me remind the reader that several officers in this administration, including the President himself, could easily be accused and tried for crimes such as subterfuge, libel, misrepresentation, torture, illegal wiretapping, and even treason under our own Federal laws. And though it would require a great act of political courage by our President Elect, Barack Obama, followed by the tying up our courts for a good whi a series of independent investigations are under way, would most certainly send a precedent to all future public officials and elected representative that they ARE accountable to their actions.

There are so many questions that need answers, such as “Was there tampering and/or fraud committed during the 2000 and 2004 elections?” Or, “Were any of the Bush Administration or American Neo-Conservatives involved with the planning, goings-on, or suppression of information that led to 9/11? And what about war crimes and crimes against humanity, as it is understood under the Geneva Convention and the International Criminal Court?

The Geneva Convention, which was ratified by the U.S., and is therefore as applicable as our own laws, is explicit in that it prohibits torture, the use of “violence,” “cruel treatment” or “humiliating and degrading treatment” against a detainee “at any time and in any place whatsoever.” The War Crimes Act of 1996 made any grave breach of those restrictions a U.S. felony.

This preemptive perversion of the Presidential Pardon would enable Bush to prevent any future criminal investigation into his administration’s activities. Though interestingly, through accepting a pardon, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and so on would be, by default, admitting their guilt.

In an editorial by The New York Times, it stated:

“The Bush administration distorted statutes and case law to legally justify interrogation techniques that had long been considered torture under domestic and international law. It relied on sloppy or aggressive legal analysis as a basis for evading judicial review of a warrantless wiretapping program. It has at every turn chosen the most expansive interpretation of the law to rationalize indefinite detentions and deny federal court review to those in custody. It has, in short, determined its preferred course of action first and then stitched together absurd readings of the law to defend those choices.”

With regard to torture, to outline the laws broken by our public officials, I offer the following information…

To show how inhumane the practice is, a U.S. volunteer is waterboarded.

To show how inhumane the practice is, a U.S. volunteer is waterboarded.

Dick Cheney, the sitting Vice President, orchestrated the use of torture, secret prisons, and detention without charge. The vice president’s office played a central role in eliminating limits on coercion in U.S. custody, and created a distinction between forbidden “torture” and the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods of questioning which they advanced as permissible.

A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner, believed to be Satar Jabar, who reportedly was told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner, believed to be Satar Jabar, who reportedly was told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, authorized the use of abusive interrogation methods at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base and Abu Ghraib. These methods included abuse, humiliation, torture, sodomy, and homicide.

Lynndie England and Charles Graner posing with prisoners ordered to form a human pyramid.

Lynndie England and Charles Graner posing with prisoners ordered to form a human pyramid.

John Ashcroft, the former US Attorney General, reportedly participated in National Security Council meetings authorizing specific forms of abuse on specific prisoners, and approved Office of Legal Counsel torture memoranda.

England pointing to a naked prisoner being forced to masturbate in front of his captors.

England pointing to a naked prisoner being forced to masturbate in front of his captors.

George Tenet, forner Director of the CIA, oversaw the Extraordinary Rendition Program (the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another, particularly with regard to the alleged transfer of suspected terrorists to countries known to torture prisoners or to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture), as well as the abusive interrogation methods, including waterboarding, by CIA officials.

Sgt. Ivan Frederick sitting on an Iraqi detainee between two stretchers.

Sgt. Ivan Frederick sitting on an Iraqi detainee between two stretchers.

John Yoo, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, authored memos that tried to provide a legal basis for the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody.

United States soldier Spc. Graner prepares to punch restrained prisoners.

United States soldier Spc. Graner prepares to punch restrained prisoners.

Alberto Gonzales, the former White House Counsel, chaired discussions about the authorization of specific forms of torture and abuse, and urged the president not to apply the Geneva Conventions to many of the detainees.

Spc. Charles Graner poses over Manadel al-Jamadis corpse.

Spc. Charles Graner poses over Manadel al-Jamadi's corpse.

Condoleeza Rice, the current Secretary of State, chaired the National Security Council meetings reportedly authorizing specific forms of abuse on specific prisoners.

One of the previously unreleased images released in February 2006 by SBS in Australia, showing a man covered in excrement forced to pose for the camera.

One of the previously unreleased images released in February 2006 by SBS in Australia, showing a man covered in excrement forced to pose for the camera.

In my opinion, this should be fought against, tooth and nail, by the American People. Then, there should be clear and rigorous conditions placed on the whens, hows, and limitations of a Presidential Pardon.

The pardon should be made available to correct judicial error, not used for the sake of political expediency or to absolve an administration’s criminal activities.

And now the big question… if these and the many other accusations against the Bush Administration (especially those of fraudulent election activity and/or involvement with 911) are found to be true in a court of law, would it not be prudent to retroactively nullify the many laws and appointments that this administration has made?

What do you think?

•••

Sources include the ACLU’s letter and citations from Wikipedia