The benefits of fiber arts

This might be slightly off topic, but here I go.

As I have been working on my research competency paper over the summer I recently took my somewhat neglected spinning wheel out, gave it a good oiling and made some yarn in the evening. 

Merino silk blend made on an Ashford traveller wheel

 I am also knitting some socks and scarves for one of my peers I grad school. She is often cold in the Pacific Northwest as she is from the South and knitting is not one of her skills. So we picked out some yarn before she went on a research trip and I have been making warm things for her. Cottage industry fiber artists, please don’t get upset with me for the following revelation: she wanted to reimburse me for the work and I did not take her money but suggested to have dinner together when I am done with the projects.  

Knee high sock number 1


Fluffy large scarf for cold days

See knitting relaxes me and helps me to get things done. Why that is I was not sure until I just stumbled across this article on FaceBook: 

Mental health benefits of knitting 
So it seems that knitting or other crafts help to the brain to make connections. I often feel my writing improves when I have a couple of days between reading before I use the material. It looks like I might just be on to something here. Also I assume in today’s digital world doing an activity that does not require electronic gadgets or even electricity can calm the overstimulated brain. 

Note: all pictures are copyrighted property of Baya Dee Walls

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My Gender Odyssey 2015 Recap – Part 1

Gender Odyssey 2015 was held at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle from 8/19 to 8/23/15. The first two days were the professional conference geared towards health care providers, social workers, teachers, psychologists etc. The main event photographer and I split up those days between us. She took Wednesday, the day focussing on adults, and I was there for Thursday, the youth focus day. I also was present at each of the main conference days, with the focus for my work on the key notes, the picnic and kid’s camp. I have to admit that I was worried that my presence at kids camp would be perceived as negative by the parents, however the opposite was the case as I learned on Friday when I started to obtain consent for the photo booth we planned to set up. Overall I spent a lot more time with the kids than I thought I would/could/. I took over 55GB worth of RAW images during the conference, or a total of 2100 pictures out of which I only had to delete a handful during the conference. As I am converting and editing those files I am also writing down my thoughts and experiences. Here are the first two days:
     My first day, I reported to duty at around 10am, later than I intended due to a medical emergency of a friend the night before. I got my badge and two staff shirts, so I can change them on Saturday. The white lanyard shows that I have full access to every area of the conference, including the family camp. The folks wearing black lanyards can only attend regular conference events. Yeah me, full behind-the-scenes access in exchange for the labor of love.Throughout the day I practiced the art of taking pictures without revealing the identity of people, such as shots from behind, blurring out the audience, or framing the body of a person without the face, partial shots of note taking, etc.
Me in the official Gender Odyssey Staff t-shirt, I loved how the blue and green color scheme repeated itself throughout the event

Me in the official Gender Odyssey Staff t-shirt, I loved how the blue and green color scheme repeated itself throughout the event

I was getting the first consent forms out and signed, and off I go to document and participate in any way I feel comfortable. Next I had an interesting, sadly way too short conversation with Trystan Cotten. According to the blurb on the GO website he “is an associate professor of gender and African American studies at California State University, Stanislaus. His research and teaching focus of gender, sexuality, race, and nationalism in trans migrations and diasporas. He is also the managing editor of Transgress Press and principal architect of its focus as a social entrepreneurial publishing firm devoted to empowering trans* communities. His most recent books are Hung Jury: Testimonies of Genital Surgery by Transsexual Men (Transgress Press 2012) and Transgender Migrations: The Bodies, Borders, and Politics of Transition (Routledge 2011)” He was around the entire conference, promoting his books and also presenting on Getting The Grade Friday 1:20pm, which I missed. From other conversations I learned that he is around on conferences a lot, so I will have a chance to pick his brain another time. I definitely need to add Hung Jury to my reading list, certainly not just because I love the pun in the title. A quick search on a popular online retailer’s website reveals that both books downloadable and this poor graduate student got her samples right away.

I took pictures at the Parents of Trans Youth/Children Panel, Puberty Delay and Cross Hormones by Dr. Johanna Olson (very interesting, especially the connections between female hormones and growth; she mentioned that girls tend to stop growing after 2 years of puberty, boys tend to grow until their early 20s), and Schools and Public Accommodations (where I met a friend and we decided to have lunch together). Lunch was fun, we went downstairs to Taco del Mar and just chatted about life, the universe, and everything and of course about the conference. My friend told me that she appreciates that I do not use a flash while documenting the con, she is photosensitive and someone used flash yesterday.

In the afternoon I attended Understanding Non-Binary Identity with Micah. I would have loved to stay in there just to listen to them speak, but I felt as the only photographer around I should get a wide variety of workshops. Here I also crossed paths with Kristin. She gave me my event photographer add on for the badge, now I feel all official. Then I went to The Road to Expert and took some shots of the volunteer sign-up booth. Car Talk dealt with how to talk to your kids about uncomfortable things like sex and gender. Family Law, Foster Care and Juvenile Justice was another panel discussion I spent some time in.

After that the last event of the day was Outspoken! Trans Youth Panel and I was very careful to get consent from the panelists. One was not quite 18 and they took the consent form home promising to mail it to me after their parent signed it. I received it in the mail a couple of days later, quite relieved that I had gotten permission. The youth panelists comprised of a very diverse group, I actually knew one of them and was shocked to find out that they struggle to find permanent housing. The panel underlined the importance of listening to teens expressing themselves, that they want to be respected for their choices of names, pronouns and gender expression, and that there is a lot of discrimination of gender non conforming kids even here in the Seattle area. The Center School and Nova seem to be the only safe high schools for those kids, anywhere else they are bullied. If it is that bad in Seattle, how excruciatingly awful is life elsewhere I wonder?
     Today was the first day for me to shlep the light equipment with me, I parked in the garage under the impression that it would cost me $16. I did not read the fine print, as I stayed for more than 11 hours I got slammed with $31. Gwyn will have to give me rides Saturday and Sunday as we are almost broke and my budget for the con is $100. Holy cannoli, parking in downtown Seattle is really expensive. There are reasons why I take the bus as much as possible, folks:-)
     I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7:30am. Kristin had called me the evening before asking if I could take pics of kids camp before it is ‘destroyed’, i.e. right after set up was complete. As I had planned to be there by 8am anyways to document the registration of the crowds half an hour earlier did not make a lot of a difference to me. So there I was in this huge ball room full of fun stuff, wishing I could just stay and play dress up, cuddle with the large tiger in the reading corner or craft. This looks like so much fun! I noticed an empty corner next to the tweens and decide to claim it for the photo booth.Next year it should be about this height (6 feet) , but go all the way to the floor and more towards the corner. I need to visually hide the power cords (there is an outlet smack dab in the middle just below the frog). The location was fine, the team even cordoned it off and the kids did not mess with this corner. I will still not leave the light set up for safety and other reasons.By the way, did you know they make rainbow duct tape? I need some!
The photo booth backdrop created by and for the kids

Kids camp: The photo booth backdrop created by and for the kids

Reading and quiet time corner with the comfiest tiger ever

Kids camp: Reading and quiet time corner with the comfiest tiger ever

Self-portrait near the dress up corner (now with official event photographer on the badge)

Self-portrait near the dress up corner (now with official event photographer on the badge)

     I discuss the plans for the photo booth with Kit, the kids camp coordinator, and go about my day, checking back later after lunch. When I come back the backdrop is not done, but I am starting to get consent from the parents. At the end of the day I have 23 children with permission from the parents to take their picture. I am totally stunned as I did not expect to get more than 10 kids. But then, most of the children are kids of con goers or siblings of gender non conforming kids, which I did not think about originally. I am counting this as a huge success as this is the first time official photography is taking place on the family side. If any of the pictures are used on the website or elsewhere by Gender Diversity names will not be used. I hear there are about 200 people under the age of 18 signed up and I have permission for 10% of them, not too shabby. One other reason might be that I promised the parents to email them the best shots, if they leave their email on the consent form. Let’s see how much additional work I have made myself with that and if that is necessarily a bad thing. Anyways, the photo booth did not get finished on Friday, so I started taking pictures there on Saturday and the rest on Sunday. Sadly I was unable to get all of the kids that signed up as some had already left by Sunday morning. Yet, this part was really great and I am looking forward to doing it again. My personal favorite was the kid wearing a dinosaur costume, so adorable!
     Onward and forward to the morning sessions, or so I think. I marvel at the gender inclusive bathrooms, where everyone just goes to do their thing or strikes a conversation during the hand washing ritual. I take pictures at registration and then decide to pay a visit to “Welcome to Gender Odyssey” at 8:30am. Aidan Key is greeting those who were already awake enough to be checked in and provides us all with some information. He tells people that there are conference photographers and asks me up to the podium, as I was the only one already there. I hope I did not fumble too much, told folks that we are documenting the conference and that we are going to be respectful about people’s privacy. I mention the consent forms and encourage the audience to approach us. I get a warm round of applause and feel a bit more comfortable in my skin. Afterwards I begin to wander around into different rooms where the first sessions are held. I immediately leave those where the presenters had set up the chairs in a circular fashion as in such a setting I felt photography to be too intrusive. I am getting some shots at “Finding and Creating Local Support”, “ID Documents” and “Transgender Parents Panel”. I grab some resources for kids of Trans people for our 15 year old which he actually might have opened up that night to our surprise but don’t take pictures in there as it seemed too intimate for me to intrude. Then I go into “Trans-Sculpting the Human Form”, a fancy title for a presentation by a surgeon doing top surgery on FtM individuals and end the first session with taking pictures of the art displayed in the hallway.
Sign on the top left reads: “Gender Diversity Kids Play Group. These paintings were made by artists ages 4-9 from the Kids Play Group that runs in conjunction with a monthly  Gender Diversity support group for Parents of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Children. The play group is a community of transgender and gender non-conoformind kids and their siblings an allies. Visit for more information about support groups and more resources.

Sign on the top left reads: “Gender Diversity Kids Play Group. These paintings were made by artists ages 4-9 from the Kids Play Group that runs in conjunction with a monthly  Gender Diversity support group for Parents of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Children. The play group is a community of transgender and gender non-conoformind kids and their siblings an allies. Visit for more information about support groups and more resources

     The second round of sessions starts at 10:40am, I go through the first door where the workshop “It is my transition, too” is held and never leave the room until lunch break. This workshop was geared specifically for the partners of trans* folks, the introduction by one of the coordinators made me realize that I had to sit down, put away the cameras, and be fully present in the circle. There were at least 30 partners present and a handful of trans* folks who were free to stay and introduce themselves, but the conversation was centered on the partners. This was really refreshing. I have to admit that I first thought I don’t have anything to contribute, but just being there and knowing there are of course other partners out there was great. There is even a regular meeting in Seattle which I vaguely was aware of, but I never thought I’d be interested in attending. One learns something new every day, not necessarily in school! I have to admit that it was difficult for me to listen to some of the older generation wives of trans* women, who had been married for decades before their spouse came out, especially as I met my spouse a month before she had GRS and never knew her former self. I could identify much more easy with the lesbian partners of trans* men because of my former girlfriend’s transition 15 years ago. Stories were shared, tears were shed, and those of us who wanted to keep the conversation going signed up for an email list.
     I met for lunch with a local couple with whom I have been FaceBook friends for some time, but we never had the chance to get together in real life before. It was great to spend some time with them and chat and I can only hope we can fit some time into our ever so busy schedules to hang out together in the future. They are good people, as are many I meet at GO either for the first time or have met before.
     For the first set of afternoon sessions I visit “Actually, I use a different pronoun” where one of my fellow grad students is one of the facilitators. The room is packed with people split up in three different circles, and I need to leave after taking some pictures of them with their permission, carefully avoiding anyone else. I meander towards “Male to Female Surgical Options”, take some pictures and then notice that I need a break. So I withdraw to a corner with comfy couches, read FaceBook, check my email and relax for a little while. Then I wander around for a bit, chat with some of the vendors, and take pictures of the art currently made in the family conference hall way.
     For the second half of the afternoon I had a grand plan to make up as much ground as I can as I did not document a lot during the first half. And I got promptly stuck in “Intersections of Trans Identity and Aging”, where issues such as transition later in life or dealing with aging while trans were discussed, This was interesting to me as my spouse just turned 50, I am only three years behind, and we both had to struggle with major health issues. I mostly listened after introducing myself and I can only assume I was the youngest in the room.
Andrea Jenkins giving her key note speech “To be Young, Gifted, and Trans”

Andrea Jenkins giving her key note speech “To be Young, Gifted, and Trans”

     My final assignment for the day was taking pictures at the first keynote speech, eloquently delivered by the ever so gracious Andrea Jenkins entitled “To be Young, Gifted, and Trans”. She began with a poem which gave me goosebumps all over. I can’t wait for the recording to be online to listen to the entire speech again as I was sometimes just too busy with getting pictures. Her speech was powerful,  thoughtful, and uplifting. When she read the names of the 18 trans* folks killed that we know of so far in 2015 the room wept. Her message that #BlackTransLivesMatter cannot be repeated often enough. Then I turned around and scanned the packed room. Where are they, the people of color? I scanned a sea of white faces interspersed with some yellow dots and the occasional brown or black speck (I do not mean to be disrespectful by using colors instead of other designations). How can a person of color afford to take time off from work in order to travel across the country and spend another fortune on hotel and food if they are the most likely to live in extreme poverty? We might give lip service that they matter, but what do we really do in terms of removal of barriers? I do not have the end all, be all answer to this question, but this is a conversation that needs to happen over and over again. She also talked about hopes for the future and that one day folks like her, Aidan Key and Kate Bornstein will be the “Transgender Dinosaurs” when the kids that are starting to grow up now, more supported than ever before, look back at how things used to be at the end of the twentieth century.
     All in all this was a day full of meeting people, having conversations, listening, and learning and I went home tired and ready to come back the next day (but not at 7:30am mind you)

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15 Things That Happened at Gender Odyssey

Gender Odyssey – an international conference, a thoughtful exploration of gender – took place August 2015 in Seattle. Here’s what happened.

I’m still working on my blog post sifting through images and memories. Stay tuned, is you will.

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Gender Odyssey 2015

I am one of the two event photographers this year. Today was my first day  of dipping my toe into the pond for the second day of Go pro. I hope to have taken great respectful pictures, which I will not share as they don’t belong to me. There were the beginnings of networking, yeah. Saw some familiar faces and went to lunch with a friend whom I did not expect to run into. Lastly I learned something new and cried while watching “How to be a girl”

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2015 Seattle Race Conference: Perceptions Kill! Impacts of Implicit Racial Bias

Seattle Black Feminists

Image source: Date accessed July 3, 2015. Image source: Date accessed July 3, 2015.

The Seattle Race Conference began to create a shared understanding and language about the nature of racism, refine definitions of its modern day forms and identify the tools that can be used to end it. Using this as a foundation, the objective was to cultivate a “movement” for racial justice in Seattle that includes components of sustainable action. This year’s theme is “Perceptions Kill: The Impacts of Implicit Racial Bias”.

Join us for the 11th annual conference with workshops, presentations, edutainment, resources, and opportunities to network with community members looking for answers to these and other important questions.

~How pervasive is implicit bias?
~Why does it persist?
~How does it injure and create inequity?
~What can we do about implicit bias?

When: Saturday, October 10

Where: Seattle University, Pigott Hall

Time: 9a-5p

Cost: Early registration: 25.00, students and youth (21 and under) 10.00…

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My daughter, Caitlyn Jenner, and Laverne Cox


As the mother of a young transgender child, my response to Caitlyn Jenner’s headline-grabbing announcement is a visceral one. Yes, I’m kind of put off by the hype. No, I’m not a big fan of celebrity culture or reality television. But when I look at the cover of Vanity Fair, and read the news articles that respectfully use Jenner’s new name and female pronouns, I’m overwhelmed by this new state of affairs, and by a world that might just be ready to accept my daughter. And that knocks me off my feet with awe and gratitude.

I called my friend Alice, a member of our support group whose trans daughter is a few years older than mine. “Did you see it?” I said. She knew what I was talking about.

“Of course,” she said. I could hear her shaking her head over the phone, as overcome as I was…

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5 Things Cis People Can Actually Do For Trans People (Now That You Care About Us)

The (Trans)cendental Tourist

It’s been a weird year for trans people.

Allow me to be more specific: It’s been a heated, daring, tumultuous, graphic, specularizing, aggressive, pointed,contentious, highlyfatal, and really, really complicated year for trans people.

Here are a few examples: Kristina Gomez Reinwald, Ty Underwood, Lamia Beard, and many othertranswomen of color have been brutally murdered at the hands of lovers, family members, and strangers.Meanwhile,Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have come to fame and exhibited incrediblefeats of grace, articulation, and poignancy under the gaze ofan eager media. Blake Brockington, Leelah Alcorn, Taylor Alesana, and many other transgender youth have committed suicide afterenduring endless bullying and systematic brutality. Meanwhile, Jazz Jennings became the new face of Clean & Clear and published a children’s picture book about her life, and teen trans couple Arin Andrews and KatieHill (best known for “Can You Even Believe They’re Trans?!” types of headlines) wrote and published individual books…

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Dabbling in visual anthropology Part II

I am back with more pictures and stories. Of course this one has to include cats, this is the internet after all and there are rules, man.

On the Prowl

“On the Prowl”

After playing with a rental DSLR for two days I broke down and landed a deal on a Canon T5 from a warehouse chain. I just could not image myself switching cameras every week or two or going back to using my Panasonic Lumix. The only use I see for the Lumix is that I could hand it to my research participants for photo voice exercises. First thing at home, after the battery was charged, I played around taking pictures. I turned off the flash and the focus beep as they spooked the cats and started to take pictures with the 18-55mm lens, ISO 3600, F 5.6 1/50. I instantly remembered how difficult it is to shoot animals; they never keep still or do what you expect them to do. This is my seven-year-old cat Loki: he was actually curious and started to hunt the camera. The longer I had the camera out, the less shy he became. I feel this is a very good picture, not as cute as the ones often circulated on the Internet, but instead it captures the barely domesticated almost wild animal that could kill you if it were 500lbs and still had its teeth (he was allergic to his tartar, his mouth was constantly inflamed the poor thing) and front claws (we got him from a shelter, he ran away from the folks that did this to him)

Our Darkness.

“Our Darkness”

I continued to play around with the settings; this time I changed the ISO to 400, F 5, 1/8 exposure, same lens. I totally forgot that I also have a 75-300 mm zoom lens, so I got really close with the 18-55mm set to 55mm. I was surprised that I was able to get such a relatively steady shot of our other cat, seven-year-old Odin. He only held still because my spouse had cuddled with him for a while, otherwise he tends not to cooperate. This is a whopping 18 pounds of cuddle monster with an affinity for drooling all over his humans and he has the softest belly ever.



I took the first image on Thursday morning in the Husky Union Building on campus. When I entered I was immediately mesmerized by the piano music coming from the second floor. I discovered the source and sat down next to the grand piano on the couches and listened for a while. At some point I remembered that I had my camera equipment with me and so I began to take pictures. Fortunately I already had the focusing beep of the camera disabled, as it might have been even more disruptive than the closing of the shutter was to me. I did not want to take direct facial shots, first because I had not asked for permission, and second as I also wanted to see the hands to capture more of the embodiment of the activity. This shot was taken with a 70-300mm telephoto lens at 3200 ISO (it was not very well lit, did not want to use flash) during the most intense part of the music played. One can see the focus in his facial expression as his fingers dance vividly and purposefully over the keyboard. What is not in this shot is the fact that the player had removed his shoes to have a more visceral contact with the foot pedals of the piano. I used to play myself and am wondering if I used to do this or if I left my shoes on. Somehow I cannot remember and sitting there watching him made me long to play again. I stayed until he was done playing and had a brief conversation with him as he left. I got his verbal permission to use the photos for class, he told me that he has been playing for years and that the piece was a personal improvisation piece that never turns out the same each time he plays it.



This photo is a detail shot of a Maori piece with the title kuaha (Gateway), made by Parateno Matchitt, a member of the Whanau a Apanui (tribe) in New Zealand in 1985, gifted to the Burke Museum by the New Zealand Ministry of External Relations and Trade (Catalog Number 1992-73/1). This is one of the largest pieces in the exhibit we photographed, if not the largest[1] and is very impressive to look at. I focused the camera on the center part atop the lintel and the figure standing with legs spread wide open. I used the same telephoto lens as for the previous shot at 800 ISO and F 6.3, which resulted in a nice three dimensional photo and I was able to catch every detail. This was for me the most interesting detail to get a closer look of. From a distance the figure appears to be genderless; the smooth body does not reveal any hints towards the identity of the figure. But if one approaches the gateway and looks up, a very distinct clitoris and vaginal opening reveals itself to the onlooker. Due to the position of the lights this feature remains in the shadows, but I am quite certain this must have some significance to the carver and the cultural context of the piece. As I know nothing of Maori culture I’d rather not speculate. However I must say that I was very intrigued to find this detail of female anatomy so beautifully carved, right here at the UW. I wonder how many people walk past it not even noticing or immediately looking away in shock.

[1] Dimensions are L: 69.5 x 93.5 in, W: 14 x 14 x 14 x 11.5 x 11.7 x 21.2 in, H: 10 x 66.5 x 66 x 62.5 x 63 x 20 x 23.7 in according to the information found online at



This week we were doing portrait shots in a settling with a lot of things going on in the background. I chose a popular restaurant during lunch on the Ave. When I looked through the results I also noticed some issues related to focusing, in some the camera had focused on someone in the background or the background in general. Lighting was also an issue, I used to flash and it was a rainy day. Some natural light illuminates the right side of the face, but the left is darker. This was one of the shots where the difference was not too intense. I got my friend’s permission to help me with a class project and started taking pictures while we carried on lunch and our conversation. To show my appreciation for their help I also offered to email them the best pictures. I intend to carry on sharing pictures featuring people with them to give something back to them.

What’s the story here? We were having lunch at a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant and my friend is looking over the bubble tea selection to decide what to get. However the title of the photograph also hints at different decisions people make everyday, such as what to wear, how they represent their identity, or how to be comfortable with the choices made not caring what others might think.

Maianthenum dilatatum

“Maianthemum dilatatum”

I did not take nearly as many pictures as I usually do this last week. On a recent stroll to a local park I took some pictures of the plants and I picked this one for my second photo as it shows so nicely the curled petals of Maianthemum dilatatum, commonly known as false lily of the valley. I chose this over a similar shot where I had everything in focus as I feel that the blurry background in this case provides a better contrast to the delicate plant. This park is close to where I live and also to the community college where I earned my transfer degree. A section of it was actually transformed into an ethnobotanical garden by the Edmonds Community College LEAF (Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field) school in cooperation with the Snohomish Tribe[1] during Summer quarter 2010. I was a member of LEAF school the year prior and learned a lot about the native plants in the Pacific Northwest. Places like Gold Park show me that we can all make a difference, especially as efforts to care for the project continue with regularly occurring work parties to remove blackberry bushes and other non-native invasive species.


Spring in the Quad

“Spring in the Quad”

This is one of the 24 pictures we were challenged to take during the hands-on part of the class. Taking photos in that way very much reminded me of the times when I was using film in a camera, which is for me about eleven years ago. I noticed how digital photography and the capacity to take and save hundreds of images on an SD card shifted the way I think about the pictures I take. When I only had a certain amount before having to change rolls I was a lot more conscious to get the settings right as every picture was developed and I did not want to waste money on fuzzy shots and such. And yet, of course I did. But I had a hard time going to the drugstore to pick up the photos only to find out I had cut off heads, the camera shook, or the photo was not as interesting as I hoped it would be. And I also remember the conundrum of fear that the film might get damaged at airport security, which I believe never actually happened. This exercise taught me that being mindful of every single shot is a useful tool in itself; it helped me to slow down, look more closely at my surroundings with my own eyes first before looking through the viewfinder. This is the story of this picture, which I shot from a low angle, kneeling and keeping both the Rhododendrons as well as the background in focus.

Fire Bird

“Fire Bird”

 Over the Rainbow                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “Over the Rainbow”

Both of these were taken at the 30th Annual Powwow at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, WA on Sunday May 3, 2015. Before I began to photograph I walked around the space for a while with my camera visibly displayed and noticed others with cameras and a lot of cell phones used to take pictures. Still I asked one of the organizers, Dr. Thomas Murphy, which guidelines I should follow. This was a public event in a public space, but I did not want to presume anything. He assured me as long as I don’t take pictures during prayers and would ask individuals who were not dancing for permission I would be good. I decided to err on the side of caution and took only pictures of the crowd or the dances. I had a hard time picking my absolute favorite shot, so I chose one of the adult women dancers, “Over the Rainbow”, and one from the traditional men’s headman special contests, “Fire Bird”. I have to admit that I do not know anything about the symbolisms of the dance costumes in the context of Native Americans and chose those titles intuitively based on my interpretation of the colors and shapes. In my pictures I wanted to capture the movement of the dancers who seemed to fly over the dance floor with power and grace, full of joy and pride, celebrating the diversity of Pacific Northwest Native peoples.

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Dabbling in visual anthropology Part 1

Going to grad school sure keeps one busy! One of the tools I added to my toolkit during the last year were visual methods, especially photography as another form of data collection. Pictures, I know this is an often repeated phrase, can tell stories in a different way. The sensitive nature of my overall research with the German trans* male community might make visual data collection interesting, shall we say.

Here are some stories pictures can tell (Disclaimer: all the photographs are taken and owned by me)



This is the first picture taken that day; I was still trying to figure out my point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix. Setting was fully automatic, so I captured a very blurry image of the students leaving class or arriving. Only one person stands still – the individual using a powered wheel chair. The contrast of those walking totally unfocussed staring in their phones and the differently abled student in focus paying close attention to the commotion just strikes me as interesting. This photograph is completely unedited.

Taking a picture such as this one might be an interesting way to keep the anonymity of the people in the picture. It also shows the dynamic of movement in a single frame. What it looses in sharpness it gains in with the stories it tells: the story of the person in the wheelchair on the side, waiting for a chance to get where they need to go. Or the story of so many in the age of smart phones where we don’t pay attention to our surroundings because we are too busy catching up with our emails, Facebook, or text messages. It also tells the story of a building that has seen many people coming and going, each of them a blur from the perspective of the over one-hundred years old Denny Hall with its bare white walls awaiting a make over.

Full Moon

‘Full Moon Obscured’

This was challenging as I do not have a tripod. So I propped my camera on top of a car with a couple of thick books to keep it steady. The Panasonic Lumix I have does not allow me to play around with the settings that much, but it has predefined “Scene Modes”. I choose the “Starry Sky” mode with a 15 second open shutter, this setting was recommended for taking pictures of a dark night sky with some bright objects. This is my favorite, I call it ‘Full Moon Obscured’. It is still blurry as the clouds were moving past the moon fast. But I like the contrast between the darker clouds, the brighter spot where the moon is and also the difference of the brightly brown roof of a building intersecting the picture in the lower right corner. Somehow it feels like I captured the ever-changing night sky over a building that has the aura of permanence, yet it was not there a couple of years ago and will be gone while the moon will stay in the sky.


I took this photo with a Canon EOS Rebel 2 Ti, 18 – 55 mm lens, on a tripod. 400 ISO, F 29, and 15 seconds exposure time. Just after I initiated the shot a car began to drive down the parking lot and then turned into an open spot. I really like the way the headlights snake down on the left side of the photo. But I am not inspired to name this picture, it was an experiment.

Lesson learned: taking pictures in low light conditions does not work with basic equipment. You get what you pay for…



This picture was taken with a Canon T2i rented from the UW during our class excursion to the Ave. Originally I was taking photos of signs prohibiting sitting on the sidewalk, defunct phone booths, garbage and abandoned sleeping gear probably belonging to the resident unsheltered population. Then I noticed that I approached this area like someone who is familiar with it and changed my strategy. This is the photo I finally choose: a shot of the intersection of University Ave and NE 45th St. It is very busy with traffic and pedestrians. But it is more than just a place where two streets intersect. Businesses advertise to attract UW students as customers, banks, bars, tattoo parlors, barber shops, book stores, fast food places, coffee shops, restaurants, beauty salons, psychic readers, second-hand stores and others intersect with the people living on the street, trying to take advantage of the affluence of the students such as the street musician under the detour sign. Buses, cars, skate boarders, bicyclists and pedestrians intersect with each other avoiding a collision. My identity as a photographer intersects with my identity as a student, a woman, a local, the temptation of the store displays and the smells of food.



This photo was taken towards the end of the shoot on the Ave. I was walking past a barbershop on 42nd Street and was originally drawn to take a closer look at t pair of dusty glasses propped up on a brick (bottom left in the window). Those glasses, some coffee cups and old books seemed very odd for a barbershop. I wonder what they mean – does the owner display items left behind by customers? Did people themselves put things there and subsequently forgot about them? The glasses are covered in a layer of dust, so they must have been there for quite some times. I stepped back to get a shot of the entire window to look inside, but instead a got a reflection of the street behind me and myself. So here I am, reflected in the window reflecting on the deeper meaning of things left behind.

Stay tuned for more to come

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Isaac @ Le Faux – What Makes A Man A Man

We went to this show in Seattle yesterday evening and this particular performance positively blew me away. I am really glad someone else took this video and shared it on YouTube, even though the picture and sound quality is not the best, so I can share this here on my blog. Of course it resonated with me, what makes us who we are? Our actions, our exterior appearance, other cultural and social markers are all subjective to change. Does that make us more or less of what we are and who is to decide?

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