PNW Communities: Kids 4 Peace Seattle

The future sure seems a lot brighter when you get to spend the day with a bunch of great kids who enjoy being around one another. On 11 February 2017 I volunteered to help shoot photos for a Kids 4 Peace Seattle overnight retreat. I had a great time. I’ve been shooting photographs at a lot of protests recently, and while political activism is a good thing, protests shed light on issues that divide us. It was nice to be around a group of friendly kids who are interested in supporting one another and talking about the things that unite us.

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Kids 4 Peace Seattle, February 2017.
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Kids 4 Peace Seattle, February 2017.

I learned about the Kids 4 Peace organization when I attended a conference at Seattle’s Town Hall that was focused on confronting Islamophobia. It was a community, interfaith gathering, and Kids 4 Peace had some brochures and a banner sitting out at a side table. In January I saw a reference in The Stranger to a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Youth Advocacy Workshop that was sponsored by Kids 4 Peace Seattle and the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN, part of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound). I went, took some photos, and wrote a short overview here on the blog. A fortuitous chain of events. The program directors at Kids 4 Peace Seattle asked if I’d be interested in helping them get some photos from their 11 February get together. I said yes, and I think I got the better end of the bargain.

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Kids 4 Peace Seattle, February 2017.
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Kids 4 Peace Seattle, February 2017.

I showed up at about noon. The kids had spent the previous hour or two learning some Hebrew and Arabic. I asked some of the kids to give me the gist of the weekend’s activities and objectives. One young man shrugged his shoulders and said, “Just spend time together.” Concise and accurate, but I think it might be an over-simplification. It seemed to me that the kids were taking the sort of steps that help build local communities, trust, and confidence. And they were doing it largely through their creativity, enthusiasm, and initiative. The Kids4Peace staff was actively involved with the activities, but they did not provide explicit lists of objectives or learning points. Instead, they handed over a lot of latitude for the kids to interact and actually talk to one another.

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Kids 4 Peace Seattle, February 2017.
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Kids 4 Peace Seattle, February 2017.

 

Behind the Bar: Witness

Witness, Broadway, Capitol Hill, Seattle. Solid choice for a drink. The bartenders are professionals; they know their cocktails and their customers. I haven’t eaten at Witness, but the Southern inspired food always smells delicious, and the kitchen stays open late.

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Witness, Capitol Hill, Seattle.
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Witness, Capitol Hill, Seattle.
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Witness, Capitol Hill, Seattle.

 

On the Streets: Suffragette City

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Woman’s Century Club Little Theatre, Capitol Hill, Seattle, February 2017.

In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, the protagonist longs to be in the company of the writers and artists of The Lost Generation. Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Dali, Man Ray. Who can blame him? We all want to find that time-machine that takes us back to another era. Without one, we have to make do with our imagination. It’s one of the reasons I love old buildings – time capsules right out in the open.

The Woman’s Century Club Little Theatre is close to Joe Bar, one of my favorite places to grab coffee. The building is fantastic. Red brick, large doors, framed windows, and character. The Seattle skyline is changing daily, but there are still buildings that remind one of Seattle’s frontier past. I’m not a student of Seattle’s history, but I imagine it as a crossroads of hunters, trappers, explorers, seafarers, Scandinavian fishermen, and prospectors. One need only look past the cranes and construction sites for evidence of a pre-Amazon past.

I don’t think the Little Theatre maintains an active association with the Woman’s Century Club. I do know that it is being repurposed and renovated, and I have overheard some of the construction workers discussing the commercial nature of the project in general terms, but I haven’t looked into who will be moving in. I’m more interested in what it used to be.

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Woman’s Century Club Little Theatre, Capitol Hill, Seattle, February 2017.

According to its website, the Woman’s Century Club “is a social club focused on women’s history, the arts, education, and community service.” The website adds that “it was founded in 1891 by suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, a protege of Susan B. Anthony.” Now I’d like to read more about Ms. Carrie Chapman Catt. It’s 2017, and as the recent Women’s Marches suggest, she might slide easily into a conversation between women today. (On a side note, as soon as I read suffragist I thought of David Bowie’s Suffragette City and wondered if the words are related. They are.)

I shot the photograph with a Fujifilm X100T. I took several shots trying to get the symmetry right. As luck would have it, my persistence paid off. As I was taking a final shot, the door creaked open, and out walked a construction worker who was likely on his way for lunch or a coffee break. My first instinct was to feel bad for startling him. Nobody likes opening a door and being confronted by a camera. But as I nodded and apologized, I silently thanked the gentleman for turning a straight-forward photograph into a much more interesting image.

[Closing Note: I try not to get too caught up with grammar, but I’d be lying if I claimed I didn’t think about it. The sign above the door does not have an apostrophe in Woman’s, whereas the official website does. I wondered if that was a financial decision, a technical (sign-making) decision, faded paint, or a simple typo.]

Resist

I spent a good portion of the last twenty years overseas. Even when I was back in the States, it felt transient and temporary. I did not follow domestic issues closely.

I was in the Middle East when 9/11 happened, spending the night on Mount Sinai and freezing because my decision to stay and catch the sunrise was spontaneous and poorly planned. I woke up in the early morning darkness when a group of Australians reached the top. I was cold, tired, and grumpy, and as they looked for sleeping spots, I passive-aggressively wondered aloud why Australians were so loud. It wasn’t my best moment. They probably weren’t being loud at all, and I’m grateful they showed up. It was through them that I first learned something terrible had happened in America.

I wandered over to one of the tents where some enterprising Bedouins rented sleeping pads and blankets and sold tea. They were listening to a radio that did not sound like it was getting good reception. I didn’t speak any Arabic then. They had a little English. They tried to explain that a bomb had gone off in New York City where all the money was kept.

I remained overseas for most of the two years after 9/11, so I followed the subsequent events in the States – the genuine patriotic solidarity, increased focused on terrorism, and the decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq – from a distance. The same was true for much of the 2008 economic crisis. I was aware of the well-known protests and demonstrations, but I’d never participated in one or seen them first-hand, at least not in America. That has changed. I’m in Seattle now, trying to chart a course in photojournalism. It was a politically active city before the 2016 presidential elections. Since November 2016, that political activism has increased, which seems to be a national trend. People across the political spectrum are mobilizing, protesting, marching, and speaking out.

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Westlake Park, Seattle, 29 January 2017.

I’m wary of grand social statements, but 2016 was a divisive year for America. The presidential primaries and election were tense and bitter. That divisiveness has persisted and intensified through the Inauguration, cabinet confirmation process, and opening weeks of the Trump Administration.

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Westlake Park, Seattle, 29 January 2017.

Granted, I wasn’t around for the Civil Rights movement, and I can’t remember Vietnam or Watergate, but I’ve never experienced this level of nation-wide animosity, anger, and distrust. And that’s what worries me most in our present circumstances. These deep divisions have been simmering for a long time, and it’s hard to escape the idea that they’re persistent. Fortunately, our own history provides several precedents for having weathered tumultuous times, coming out the other side of the storm a little better off.

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Westlake Park, Seattle, 29 January 2017.

For now, though, the divisions continue, and I hope to capture or portray them in photos. Chasing a photojournalism dream later in life may not have been the wisest move I’ve made, but it’s certainly an interesting, albeit risky, time to have done so.

(WordPress Daily Prompt: Resist )

 

Backstage Pass: Elijah Dhavvan, Tom Rhodes, and Claire Michelle

I need to make a point of seeing more live shows in 2017. On Friday 27 January 2017, I caught 3 solid performances at Columbia City’s Columbia City Theater in Seattle: Elijah Dhavvan, Tom Rhodes, and Claire Michelle. As I’ve mentioned here previously, I’m not a music expert or a critic. I was there to take photos first, and to enjoy some good music second. The musicians did not disappoint.

Elijah Dhavvan, of Tobias the Owl, kicked things off. I’d never heard of Dhavvan or Tobias the Owl. After hearing his set, I’ve got a new musician to follow.  It was a solo night for Dhavvan, and he served up a set list of soulful, minimalist songs. His lyrics are clear and reminded me of Texas singer songwriters. (I fall back on that comparison too often; I blame it on Townes Van Zandt.)

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Elijah Dhavvan, Columbia City Theater, Columbia City, 27 January 2017.

Dhavvan talked to the audience throughout, explaining that it was never easy to get up in front of people and perform. I believe it. He was sharing his experience with the audience, not asking for its sympathy. That’s one of the great things about catching acts in smaller venues – you get a better sense of the artistry of it, rather than an understandable emphasis on the production. He also mentioned that one of his first performances was on that very stage at the Columbia City Theater.

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Elijah Dhavvan in the audience, Tom Rhodes on stage. Columbia City Theater 27 January 2017.

Tom Rhodes was up next. He drove up from San Francisco for the show, but his musical roots and influences traveled a lot further. I think I heard him say Virginia. With that drawl, the occasional twang, the wry, self-deprecating humor, I assumed he was from that region – Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, or West Virginia.

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Rhodes has a reserved stage presence, and as bad luck would have it, for his and Claire Michelle’s parts of the show a loud, talkative group showed up at the back of the bar that was not there for the show. It’s a bar, it happens. Regrettably, I missed some of his descriptions of his music and lyrics. I heard enough to know that his father, who has passed away, figures strongly in his music. His website has some fantastic old photos, and I’m assuming that the older gentleman in them is his father. Rhodes also explained that he normally plays with a band, sometimes up to eight people. But he was playing solo that night, because cramming eight people into a Ford Focus just wouldn’t have been pleasant. I hope Rhodes points that Ford Focus (or perhaps a van) north again soon.

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Tom Rhodes, Columbia City Theater, 27 January 2017.

Claire Michelle closed out the evening. I’ve caught a few Claire Michelle shows now, sometimes solo, sometimes with the band. On the 27th, she played with the band – Andrew Duncan on bass, Alyssa Martini on drums, and Jerett Samples on guitar.

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Claire Michelle, Columbia City Theater, 27 January 2017.

Michelle’s music, like Rhodes’, took the long road to the Pacific Northwest. Michigan was home before Seattle, but with her voice, sparse lyrics, and style, I would have bet that she was from the region where blues, folk, and maybe a little bit of bluegrass collide. I’m not sure that region exists, and I can’t say I’m all that familiar with music out of Michigan. Regardless, it all comes together really well. It’s a tough call, but I think 12714 and Emergence are my favorite tracks off of Out of the Shadows. If you catch Claire Michelle play, and you should, I’d wager a drink that at some point in the show Michelle will get into a short contest of tuning wills with her guitar. I envy musicians their ability to discern sound and music that clearly.

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Claire Michelle, Columbia City Theater, 27 January 2017.

On the Streets: Two Bells

On Sunday 29 January 2017, I took photos of a protest against President Trump’s 27 January Executive Orders on immigration and refugees. I parked fairly far north of Westlake Park on 4th Avenue. Walking to the protest, I passed the Fleming Apartments, a building that always catches my eye. Brick, old school painted-on signage that is chipping away or fading, and some adjacent buildings and restaurants.

I want to get a photo of the Fleming building from the north/northwest during the day. But walking back to my car after the protest I noticed that I also liked the view from the south/southeast, with the Two Bells Tavern in the foreground. A man and a woman walked up while I was taking photos. The man waited outside while the woman went in, and since he didn’t seem concerned about being in the picture, I kept shooting. Two Bells seems to have several names: Two Bells Tavern, Two Bells Bar & Grill, and The Two Bells.

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Two Bells Tavern, Belltown, Seattle, January 2017: ISO 6400, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/60second.

On the Streets: Clever Dunne’s

I’m still relatively new to Seattle, and I’ve only been to Clever Dunne’s Irish House once. But when a friend of mine told me it was closing at the end of January 2017, I made a point of trying to grab a photo of it before it poured its last Guinness. It’s impossible to be in Seattle and not see and hear about the changes. I’m part of that change, and I’ve always been intrigued by comings and goings. Someone opened that bar with a dream and a vision, and now he, she, or they have decided to switch directions.

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Clever Dunne’s, January 2017: ISO 400, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/280th second.

I shot this photo with a Fujifilm X100T. Definitely not an award winning shot, but I’m glad I got it. I wonder if they’ll be open for last call on 31 January 2017.

On the Streets: Holy Smoke

On 20 January 2017 I spent the first part of the day at Westlake Park in Seattle to get photos of a Student Walkout protesting President Donald Trump’s Inauguration. People weren’t there in numbers, so I walked back to Capitol Hill. Stopped to take some photos along the way.

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Fujifilm X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/340 sec.

This photo is of a stretch of buildings along Olive Way. The architecture and storefronts definitely have character, but they look in need of repair. With all the change happening in Seattle, I suspect some developers have their sights on these.

The gentlemen in the Holy Smoke shop must have gotten a little antsy having a guy with a camera standing across the street checking out the buildings. One of them tried, unconvincingly, to cross the street nonchalantly and offer me a cigarette. He then started in on the questions about what I was photographing and why. I briefly considered replying, “You know the answer.” But I wisely thought better of it.

(Ended up scrambling back to Westlake Park. The students appear to have gotten a late, disorganized start, and they ended up combining their efforts with another protest. No shortage of protests in Seattle these days.)

On the Streets: Speaking Up

The past few weeks I have taken photos at several protests and demonstrations. I got some shots over the Inauguration weekend that don’t fit into a cohesive narrative. Not in the sense that the protests were disorganized, but because I was moving around a lot and took photos of different groups. I liked the images, though, and wanted to post them.

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Student walkout, Inauguration Day, Westlake Park, Seattle, 20 January 2017.
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Heading to the protests, Capitol Hill, Seattle, 20 January 2017.

Disclaimer: This next image is edited heavily. I wanted to practice with a feature in Lightroom. I also liked the photo.

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Westlake Park, Seattle, 20 January 2017.

 

Seattle: Women’s (Womxn’s) March

On Saturday 21 January 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, women and their allies poured into Seattle’s Judkins Park to muster for the Women’s (Womxn’s) March, a 3.6 mile walk of protest and solidarity. I started walking to Judkins from Capitol Hill, but I decided to stop on Jackson Street and take photos of the crowds lining the street waiting to fall in with the march as it passed.

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Women’s March, Seattle, 21 January 2017.

While walking to the march, I got the sense that the city was converging on Judkins. Broadway was busy with people walking in groups, carrying signs, and wearing pink hats. There were lines of people waiting for buses and the light rail, and at several intersections people were hopping into cars at lights or stop signs. Social media amplified that sense of convergence. The Seattle Police Department, news departments, and municipal sources provided regular traffic updates and public transportation suggestions.

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Women’s March, Seattle, 21 January 2017.

There was a sense of excitement in the crowds. Websites coordinating and publicizing the event stated the purpose and rationale for the march, but I suspect that a random polling the day of would not have yielded a consistent or uniform response concerning exactly why people turned out. I couldn’t help thinking about the lyrics of the Buffalo Springfield song For What It’s Worth: “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” The front of the march passed my spot on Jackson at about 1130. I took my last photos at about 1445, and people were still marching along 4th Avenue toward the Space Needle.

We may not realize the significance of the march for some time. Until then, the organizers’ stated objectives will suffice. The event listing in Seattle’s The Stranger explained that “all women, femme, trans, gender non-conforming, and feminist people (including men and boys) are invited to march…[in] support for the community members who have been marginalized by the recent election.” The Stranger’s page connected the march to the Million Women March in Washington, DC, and provided a link to a New York Times Women in the World site reporting that the march organizers planned “to show our strength, power and courage and demonstrate our disapproval of the new president and his values in a peaceful march.”

Obviously, not every woman marched or agreed with the march’s objectives. By most accounts that I have seen, Trump did much better with female voters than expected. I’ve been following some of the stories in the New York Times and other newspapers about how we start discussing political differences with one another again. On social media and on television, discussions tend to go straight to tense confrontations. It would be interesting to get a small group together to discuss the issues once a month over coffee. If you’re in the Seattle area, keep it in mind.