Return to California

Posted in Uncategorized on 2012/05/29 by jimhairphotos

In 2006, Vicki and I placed our careers on hold and moved to Indiana to care for her parents; Keith and Priscilla Hawley.  After six years in Richmond we are returning to California.  I have accepted the job of Manager at Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz.  When I was a student at the University of California I used to buy my supplies there in the ‘70’s.  I had a few friends who told me it was the coolest place for artists to work, and now I have come full circle and can verify that they were telling the truth.  After 44 years in the retail business, Andy and Cynthia Lenz, and their sons Andrew and Matthew, have not only managed to survive, but have created an amazing resource for artists and crafters throughout Northern California.  I have worked continuously in the art materials industry since 1978 except for the years in Richmond.

An incentive for our return is that three out of four of our kids live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Vicki’s son Bill was married on April 21 and my daughter Oriana gave birth to our first grandson, Mateo Martin Gliessman, on May 12th in Santa Cruz.

 Image

After the passing of Vicki’s mom, we cared for her father who was a resident of Friends Fellowship, and over the years became involved with the Richmond community.  We purchased two commercial buildings downtown and invested in their restoration and reuse.  I worked on a number of projects that I hoped would improve the quality of life in Richmond, and Vicki opened Unwind Yarn Shop. 

The most recent project I have completed, and one of the most rewarding, is a series of thirty video interviews of Veterans for the Library of Congress through the office of Senator Lugar, at Ivy Tech College in Richmond and Muncie.

Vicki has worked long hours creating Unwind Yarn Shop, which sadly is now for sale.  Every year it has been more successful and has developed a following of knitters who have come regularly from Ohio and Illinois as well as throughout Indiana.  www.unwindrichmond.com

The community of Richmond, Indiana has also experienced a growth in business and creative reuse of historic buildings, so we are also sad to leave just as things are starting to take off.  The historic 1902 railroad depot designed by Daniel Burnham was saved by the community and is being restored, an early fire station, RFD #1 has been transformed into a BBQ and Blues club by two active duty Richmond firefighters, and the Model T Museum, which hosted the world-wide Centennial Celebration of the Ford Model T in 2008 has relocated to the Depot District and will be opening in the next few months.

We look forward to being close to our kids, and now a grandson, but in the six years we lived in Richmond, feel we are also leaving another family of friends and a community that unexpectedly became an important part of our lives.

Best Wishes,

Jim & Vicki Hair

Making Photographs

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2012/03/02 by jimhairphotos

The introduction of a new image capturing device has again initiated discussion on what photography is? The thoughts below are in response to a story broadcast on NPR on March 1, 2012 reporting on the new image capturing device “Lytro” that creates digital photographic images that can be selectively focused after they have been captured. In the story the question was raised about how this would change the process of photography.

Conflict always creates interest, so positioning a new invention as the potential end to photography as we know it gets some attention, and inspired me to review some of what I know and enjoy about being a photographer this morning over a cup of coffee.

Just as the creation of paintings have evolved over time, so has the way we create a two dimensional representation of our world that we refer to as a photograph. The Impressionists are no less painters for their choice of method than the Fauves or Cubists or Realists. Leonardo and Picasso chose two very different ways to depict a woman in a portrait, but they are still artists and primarily painters as they create the illusion of a person by pushing pigments into a particular configuration on a two dimensional surface. Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keefe
chose different subjects, methods and materials, but they are still painters.

Choice has always been the primary variable in how an artist communicates a vision to the world, and it was the same for an Australian Aborgine who sought to describe the Dreamtime in pigments as the people who drew the bison on the caves at Lascaux. It is just the same for photographers and the way they choose their tools and communicate their view of reality. The image they create are photographs whether they use a large format film camera and create a dramatic portrait in light as Karsh has, or in multiple linked images as those of Chuck Close. The arrangement of a view of people in a photograph has ranged from the multiple layers created in printing in the 1850’s by Oscar Reijlander, to the “decisive moment” of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa from the 1930’s to 1960’s. A layering or collage of images has been used by photographers from the beginning, and the complex darkroom technique of Jerry Uelsmann has in recent decades been made possible for anyone by the popular use of Photoshop software in a digital darkroom. Post-processing of images is a term that is now used for dodging and burning and the effects that were once darkroom related, to the manipulations and enhancement of images by computer. Unique effects of film processing and darkroom technique that required alternate film development chemicals to create “cross-processing” is now accomplished by effects within the layers of an image by adjusting digital sliders for hue and saturation and tonality.

The creation of photographs is primarily a way for individuals to extend our vision of reality by manipulations of time and space. The introduction of the “Lytro” continues the ability of creators of photographs to choose another way to view the world; a new tool for expressing what they have seen that is worth documenting.

on my son’s 24th birthday

Posted in Uncategorized on 2011/09/02 by jimhairphotos

with my kids at Djerassi

with my kids at Djerassi

I have been very lucky with the kids who allowed me to be their father. I was an only child raised by my maternal grandparents in the 1950’s when it seemed like every other kid I knew were living in homes that more closely resembled Wally and Theodore’s, with a matching mom and dad. Looking back it turned out that I was inadvertently a lucky child, and my grandparents gave me gifts that I am still discovering, decades after their passing, but as a child, in the dark, I dreamt of my dad, and made a promise that when I had kids I would stay near them and be part of their lives.

When I told a good friend that I was about to become a father, his reaction was dismay and he explained that I could give up on being an “artist.” I disagreed and stated that my personal work would be all the richer for having children who would help me discover the world and people beyond the limitation of my own eyes and history, and this has come true. I have been places and met people I never would have, had I not had two great kids to open the doors they discovered, often doors I had not even seen.

I have been told that across cultures, a single man is the least trusted, and as I wandered with my daughter at my side, and initially carrying my son on my shoulders, I was allowed to experience and photograph people and events that I know would have been difficult had I tried on my own. My children have pursued their own paths for years now, but I attribute much of my manner in meeting people to the confidence I had when they were young. If you meet me now, you may not see them, but Oriana is holding my hand and I still feel Ben at my shoulder.

Hero

Posted in Uncategorized on 2011/01/16 by jimhairphotos


It is amazing to think that there are people quietly living down the street, in our town, who literally “saved the world.”

Willie: Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur 2184D50v110115

from the letter sent to Willie by the French Consul General :

“Dear Mr. Southerland,

It is a great honor and privilege to present you with the Knight of the Legion of Honor medal. Through this award, the French government pays tribute to the soldiers who did so much for France and Western Europe. More than 65 years ago, you gave your youth to France and the French people. Many of your fellow soldiers did not return, but they remain in our hearts.

Thanks to the courage of these soldiers, to our American Friends and Allies, France has been living in peace for the past 6 decades. They saved us and we will never forget. I want you to know that for us, the French People, they are heroes. Gratitude and remembrance are forever in our souls….

To show our eternal gratitude, the government of the French Republic has decided to award you the Legion of Honor. Created by Napoleon, it is the highest honor that France can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France.”

The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour (French: Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur) is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the First Republic, on 19 May 1802. The Order is the highest decoration in France.

The order’s motto is Honneur et Patrie (“Honour and Fatherland”), and its seat is the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris

In the French Revolution all French orders of chivalry were abolished. It was the wish of Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul and de facto sole ruler, to create a reward to commend civilians and soldiers and from this wish was instituted a Légion d’Honneur, a body of men that was not an order of chivalry, for Napoleon did know that France did not want a new nobility system, but a recognition of merit. The Légion used however the organisation of old French Orders of Chivalry, and so Willie has been awarded the medal rank of “Chevalier” (Knight).

Arnold Genthe

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 2010/11/16 by jimhairphotos

Vicki and I had never been to Fort Wayne, so one Sunday we drove up to explore. Vicki had a list of Yarn Shops, and I had seen that there were a few bookstores listed online. One of my favorite activities is exploring a newly discovered, old book shop. I have a general list of books that I would like to find, and there are some that I have heard of and read portions that have been quoted, but because of their age, never expect to find. One book on this list is “As I Remember” by the German-American photographer Arnold Genthe. It was withdrawn from the Fort Wayne and Allen County Library, and inside it is noted “Jan 11 1941 $2.00”. I paid a little more than that for it, and am amazed to have found a copy.

Published in 1936, this is Genthe’s memories of coming to America as the tutor for a San Francisco banker’s daughter, his establishment of a photo studio and practice, and the amazing people he met as he moved his studio to New York, as well as his travels to Mexico, Guatemala, Japan and Greece.

I have always admired his photographs of San Francisco’s Chinatown, and enjoyed reading about his experiences wandering through the streets, making photographs of strangers, and then keeping appointments to make portraits of people who were at the top of society and the arts. His subjects included the writers Frank Norris, Jack London and Sinclair Lewis, the dancers Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Sarah Bernhardt, Arturo Toscanini, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Mary Pickford, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Barrymore and Greta Garbo.

Genthe had a studio in San Francisco in 1906, and the morning after hearing Enrico Caruso perform Carmen, he was awakened by the earthquake. Having experienced a few quakes in The City, I am not surprised at his descriptions of people wandering outside to look at the damage, meeting for breakfast, and then watching calmly as the fires progressed. He only decided to get a camera mid-day, and when he returned to his building, the door was guarded by a soldier who was under orders to shoot anyone who tried to return to their homes. In an effort to stop the fires, the army was dynamiting blocks ahead of the fires, and Genthe was forced to stand back and watch as his building, his studio, and all his possessions were blown to bits, his “thousands of (glass plate) negatives which I had made during that time were now but chunks of molten, iridescent glass, fused together in fantastic forms. Everything I possessed was destroyed….”

Luckily his Chinatown negatives had been moved to a friend’s vault as he had been warned: “You ought to not keep all these plates and films here. Some day the whole city will burn up.”

Diane and Mike, March 2009

Posted in Uncategorized on 2010/11/05 by jimhairphotos


I would often stop and talk to Mike and Diane as they sat near Joy Ann’s Bakery for a cup of coffee and a cigarette. I had seen them together for at least a year before I approached them. Mike’s speech is slurred, so my side of the conversation is mostly nodding and responding to what I think he said. Diane spoke very softly and so there was very little give and take in our few words.

At some point Mike said they had been together for 20 years, and I made a few photographs of them, and gave them copies the week after. I was able to understand that Diane really liked them, except that she would have preferred Mike to be clean-shaven, and he laughed and said there was no way he would shave his beard. Soon after, Diane stopped coming to Main Street. It has been at least a year now, and Mike doesn’t seem to know where she is.

One of the photographs of them I really liked, and submitted it to the annual open juried exhibition at the Richmond Art Museum, and it was accepted. I told Mike, and he thought that was great, and I thought Diane might enjoy knowing that she is in the Art Museum too, so thought I would look for her.

I started at a nursing home near Downtown, and they referred me to another care center who basically introduced me to reality: if Diane were staying with them, they were prohibited from telling me. If they knew where Diane was, they were also prohibited from telling me. I don’t know Diane’s last name, I am not related to her, and Mike isn’t either, officially, and the staff asked if I knew her family? I don’t, and then thought what if Diane doesn’t have family, and because of privacy issues, whoever is taking care of her is prohibited from telling anyone?

If we do not have a family, do we just vanish?

Images and the Thread of Memory

Posted in Uncategorized on 2010/11/01 by jimhairphotos

It is amazing to see a photograph of my grandmother, the woman who raised me, who I had only known as a woman in her late fifties, as a girl of eight, with her parents and brothers. The expression on her face at eight was one I knew on the woman of 60, and I wonder if the thoughts she had looking into my camera as I made a portrait of her, were the same as the thoughts this little girl has.

Recently I was asked by a cousin for the date my grandmother came over to America from Wales, and so I pulled this photograph out of the box where my family history sleeps. Seeing it again I am reminded that this is why I became a photographer, and why I value the object that a printed photograph is. I can get lost in the image and the object on so many levels.

I remember these people, and through the image can see outwardly what they must have carried with them through their lives. The photograph is a document of a memory they held, having experienced the voyage firsthand, and seeing the image, I am given a little glimpse into that journey. I wonder who made the photograph and would guess that my great-grandfather handed his camera to a stranger to push the button. It is his writing beneath the image, so the negative must have been his, and looking at the reverse, it was never sent, but my grandmother wrote everyone’s name. I wonder if he printed a number of these and sent them back to the family who stayed in Wales to let them know they had made it to America, and what they looked like aboard the Cedric. I am grateful that my grandmother wrote her brother’s names on the card as I knew they were Mark and Doug, but seeing the card realize that Mark was named after his father. My grandmother wrote in her own style, and at some point I will have it analyzed to see what it tells of her character, and how much of it I remember, and what I might not have recognized. As I type this note on a keyboard I am aware that the words only have the meaning that they are given in a general sense, and the emotion that is carried by the handwritten line is missing. For this also I am grateful that my grandmother used a pen.

One hundred years after this photograph was made, I hold it in my hand and am amazed to have a postcard sent from so long a distance, in space as well as time.