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When I die there should be no sad songs for me…

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In September of 2017, on the cusp of my fortieth birthday, I set a new decade resolution to spend more time with my ninety-three year old grandfather. As a documentary photographer, with an interest in communities, I asked my grandfather if he’d like to do a portrait and interview project in his retirement community. My grandfather said, “yes.”

My goals for this project were simple. I wanted to have quality time with my grandfather, I wanted to honor and appreciate this last chapter of his life and the community that he chose to spend it with. When I asked him who he wanted to focus on for the project, my grandfather chose the coffee group that he religiously meets with every morning except for Sunday.

The result of that project was a book of portraits and interview excerpts called The Coffee Group that I shared with my grandfather’s community in summer of 2018.

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On March 19th, 2019, my grandfather, Robert Harper, passed away at 5:30am. He was the foundation of our family and he will be greatly missed. I will be forever grateful for the time I had working with him on this project, and his words are a comfort as we figure out how to recalibrate our family without our navigator. Here is my grandfather’s portrait and interview from the book:

Robert Harper, Geography Professor/ Author

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Sally and I met working on the high school paper. Working on the paper was really the first time that boys and girls had a chance to work together. Everything was separated, so none of us had any experience with the other sex in a social way. At Christmas that first semester Sally and I were working together, she invited me to go on a hayride sponsored by her club. Well, we went on the hayride and I was thrilled with her. But I was shy around girls, and really, adults too.

Afterward I was afraid if I called to ask her out she might say, “no,” or I might have to talk to her parents, and I didn’t want to do that. So I put it off and put it off. That’s when my best friend, George McCoy, locked me in the basement and said he wouldn’t let me out until I called her. But once that happened the dam broke and we were dating all the time.

I thought she was great. She was prickly, but we got along and I just liked being with her. She was my best friend. I was really thrilled when she put on a card one time, “The best thing I ever did was say, ‘I do.'”

My life was serendipity. It all just bubbled along. A wartime wedding and the GI Bill changed my life path. I enjoyed writing the textbooks. I enjoyed teaching. I enjoyed some of the work with organizations. I didn’t always succeed at stuff when I tried, but generally I did. I didn’t plan my life, but my life couldn’t have come out better, except that I wish Sally had lived longer, and I had lived not so long.

I was always kidding her, saying that I’d die and she’d marry some other guy. She pooh-poohed that. I certainly didn’t expect to be the one to live the longest. I don’t want to share my life anymore with anybody except her. I’m a one-woman man.

I don’t dream much, but when I dream I have almost never seen her in a dream. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss her, but I’m a pragmatist. My feeling is that when something happens, it happens. And when it’s over, it’s over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So there’s no sense mourning about it all. You just have to go onto the next chapter.

I always was afraid of death because I didn’t think there was life after death, but now I’m to a point where it really doesn’t matter to me. When I die there should be no sad songs for me. I have had a good life. But I don’t want anybody trying to extend my life. There’s a difference between living and existing, and I don’t want to just exist.

I grew up in a religious, Republican family. Very traditional. Very conservative. Sally did too. But I think the University of Chicago changed our perspective. There was a lot of social concern and discussion of issues like that. Sally always was afraid she’d become a communist going to that school. But it changed our perspective on life. So once we rejected that old system, it was a matter of learning a new system.

I certainly have shifted from traditional Christianity to feeling that some kind of world religion will ultimately come out of this, and that a lot of religion is just superstition. When you think about how poorly most of the people have lived on the Earth, they were certainly looking for a world that was better than their lot. The poorer you were, the more you wanted.

I don’t really think that there’s life after death, but if there is, I hope they let us look down to see what’s going on in the world, because I think we’re at the beginning of a revolution that is going to change life as much as the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution. I think this information data revolution is going to revolutionize your lives and the lives of your kids. It’s going to be a whole different ballgame.

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For more about my grandfather and how much he meant to our family:

https://paigegreenblog.com/2007/08/15/traditions/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2008/08/26/bathing-beauties/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2009/09/21/apple-dumplings-root-beer-saloon-my-grandparents-and-me/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2009/08/17/65-years-photos-for-my-blob-part-i/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2010/01/12/my-grandpa-will-always-be-my-favorite-santa/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2011/09/26/you-made-my-life/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2012/01/01/why-am-i-doing-this-again-best-of-2011/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2016/01/04/i-want-to-learn-how-to-drive-a-monster-truck-in-2016/

 

Why I marched on January 21st, 2017 along with 2.9 million other people…

Here is some of what happened the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated president of the United States, after winning the electoral vote, but losing the popular vote by close to three million votes, because of his campaign promises to make America sexist, racist, homophobic, and full of hate again:_54a1817paigegreenmarchoak01242017City officials estimate that 500,000 people participated in the main march in Washington, DC._54a2227paigegreenmarchoak01242017250,000 in Chicago._54a2165paigegreenmarchoak01242017250,000 people in Boston._54a1950paigegreenmarchoak01242017200,000 more in Denver.

_54a1930paigegreenmarchoak01242017In New York, the estimate ranges from 200,000-500,000.

_54a2038paigegreenmarchoak01242017An estimated 60,000 people marched in Atlanta._54a2257paigegreenmarchoak01242017In Los Angeles, the estimate is anywhere from 200,000-750,000._54a2129paigegreenmarchoak0124201760,000 in St. Paul, MN._54a2048paigegreenmarchoak0124201750,000 in Philadelphia._54a2106paigegreenmarchoak01242017100,000 in Madison, WI._54a2077paigegreenmarchoak0124201720,000 in Pittsburgh._54a2043paigegreenmarchoak0124201720,000 in Nashville, TN._54a2108paigegreenmarchoak01242017And these are few of the 60,000 who I marched with in Oakland, CA._54a2196paigegreenmarchoak01242017In the history of the United States, there has never been a one-day protest that was this large._54a2021paigegreenmarchoak01242017These numbers prove that we are not going accept the agenda of the Trump administration without a serious fight._54a1924paigegreenmarchoak01242017But now that the marches are over… it is time for us to get to work._54a1894paigegreenmarchoak01242017-3

This is not about democrats vs republicans. Or conservatives vs liberals. This is about human rights and decency. This is about love vs hate. To find out what you can do to make your voice heard after the march click here: www.womensmarch.com/100

 

who wants to play next…

The Sonoma County Economic Board hired me to document the different businesses within Sonoma County for their new website. It was like a three day scavenger hunt for good food and people… and getting paid for it.

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I definitely finished the week feeling very lucky to live in such a cool place and to have such a fun job… now which county wants to play next?

Fibershed Fashion Gala 2013

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Fibershed is a project that is very close to my heart.

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I have been documenting Fibershed since Rebecca Burgess first started her personal challenge in 2010.

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I clearly remember the conversation Rebecca and I had in 2009 while we were sitting in the airport waiting to board a plane to one of our Harvesting Color adventures.

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She told me she wanted to do so much more than teach people about natural dyes.

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She was so deeply concerned about what the fashion industry was doing to the environment and to the people working in the factories that she needed to do something more.

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So she decided she wanted to challenge herself for a year to only wear clothes that were created, start to finish, within 150 miles from her home… within her Fibershed.

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But she told me how one of our mutual advisers had completely dismissed her idea saying that it would never be of interest to anyone outside of her small community… so Rebecca was feeling very discouraged.

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I told Rebecca that she had to do it… at the height of the local and organic food movement, now was the perfect time to bring attention to the fashion industry.

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But, I said, she had to make the clothes fashion-forward… otherwise she would be dismissed as just another hippie from Fairfax wearing strange brown clothes.

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So we agreed it could be cool… but I don’t think either of us had any idea how cool it would become.

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Four years later, Rebecca’s personal challenge has become a full fashion movement that is spreading across the country and internationally.

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Rebecca’s vision has evolved in to a non-profit, a Fibershed Marketplace, and most importantly lifelong friendships between farmers and designers.

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And at the Fibershed Fashion Gala, on Saturday December 14th, 2013 at Jacuzzi Winery, the “coolness” was unstoppable.

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Originally I was supposed to be out-of-town on the 14th… and I was supposed to miss this event.

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But my schedule changed at the last-minute allowing me to go… and the moment I walked in to the event space, I knew that there was nowhere else I was supposed to be.

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It is so inspiring to see what the passion and determination of one person can lead to.

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Rebecca Burgess, I am so incredibly proud of you, and I can not wait to see where Fibershed goes next.

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Congratulations to all of the talented designers, the hardworking farmers, the beautiful models and the event planners. It was a fantastic event and I hope I get to work with all of you again in the future.

Mabel Mai and The Big Flip are going on The Katie Couric Show!!!!

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It is an exciting time for the Wan-Rees family and for The Big Flip! On May 22nd, 2013, sweet Mabel Mai was born and we were lucky to have the opportunity to document what day 5 looked like for this family of 6…

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And now for the Katie Couric part…. on Tuesday, June 11th, Mabel Mai is going to New York, with her parents and The Big Flip, to tell Katie Couric what it is like to be in a modern family with a breadwinning mom and a stay-at-home dad. We are crazy excited for this amazing family and for the opportunity to share our documentary project with the Nation.

To find out how you can watch the Wan-Rees family on national television and to learn more about the The Big Flip click here: http://bigflipdocumentary.com/action

who wins your bread…

I was eight months pregnant with my son when Izzy Chan asked me if I would help her document the increasing trend of women becoming the primary breadwinners of their families.

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She had statistics and facts for this new role reversal that painted a pretty dismal outlook.

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As the primary breadwinners of our own households, we were not satisfied by the statistics so we wanted to learn more.

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We wanted to hear from real families…

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From both sides of the story…

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From real dads, husbands, men…

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And from real moms, wives, women…

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Who have very real needs, dreams, responsibilities…

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And that lead us to Bonnie and Chip and their family of five, soon to be six…

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We spent a Sunday…

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And a Monday morning…

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…following these two around, asking questions, listening and watching.

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We have just gotten started and already we have learned a lot from the Wan-Rees family, and from the other five families we have followed.

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Our goal is to share how real families are making it work in the Modern Home Front, so we can all learn how to move through these new gender, family, cultural changes as successfully as possible.

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So we are currently in the middle of editing a sneak peek of their story, to help us raise money so we can go back…

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And capture the next chapter of their story…

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To (hopefully) be continued soon.

You can follow our adventures on the ‘The Big Flip: Stories from the Modern Home Front’ here: https://www.facebook.com/BigFlipDocumentary and here: http://bigflipdocumentary.com/

the most beautiful home birth I almost saw…

If you asked me how my home birth was, you would not hear me say, “My home birth was beautiful.”

Instead I very honestly would tell you, “It was extremely long, incredibly painful and very, very messy. I can understand why drugs were invented and why people take them.”

Between endless hours of back-breaking contractions, I kept repeating, “This is ridiculous. How can there be 7 billion people on the planet.”

I couldn’t see why anyone would voluntarily choose to do this more than once in their lifetime, let alone 7 billion times.

People told me eventually I would forget and the hormones would win again, but I refused to believe that I could ever forget what that day felt like. And I announced that I was quite happy with one.

Yet here I am, one year and 5 months later, just like everyone said, wondering… if, maybe, should we?

So I was excited when Rose sent me an email asking if I would photograph the birth of their second baby girl, who would be born at home some time in March. It would be a good test. How would it feel to see someone else go through labor? And what was a home birth like the second time around?

I was also excited because I have never seen a human being born. I have seen cows, sheep, and dogs… but not a human (I had my eyes closed the whole time during HAH’s birth.)

And I got a small taste of what it must feel like for doctors and midwives. For once in my life, I had my cell phone almost always charged and I almost always knew where it was. And at gatherings with friends, I would announce, “I can’t drink tonight, I’m on call.”

But then it didn’t happen. The due date came and went. I started filling up my calendar. I had photo shoots scheduled every day. Arann got sick, so I was working all day and on solo parenting duty at night. Until finally at the end of day two of photographing flowers in SF, I got the texts:

4:12pm “I think we are in early labor, midwife is coming over. Will text again.”

4:57 “Come now!!”

I was in San Francisco.

The family was in Oakland.

For those of you not from the Bay Area, 5pm on a Thursday means… Fat chance.

I only had to drive 10.5 miles.

It took me one hour.

When I finally arrived at the house, Rose’s mother let me in and said, “The baby was just born, come on in.”

And this is what I saw…

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While I was disappointed to have missed the birth, it was probably for the best because I got to experience all of the joy and none of the work. Which means I can confidently say that it was the most beautiful home birth, I almost saw.

Thank you, Rose and Jonathan, for inviting me to be a part of this amazing moment in your lives. It was such an incredible honor and I am so excited for your family. And, as Rose said to me after the birth of HAH, “Have fun falling in love.”

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013…

At the end of a year I love to look back at the year gone by…

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…and get inspiration for the new year to come.

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After I have finished reflecting on the year gone by…

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…I take that inspiration in to the new year and…

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…with all of my heart.

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Thank you for being a part of my inspiration…

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…on my journey through photography.

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Happy New Year!

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I hope you have the best 2013 possible.

Eight months strong…

This was Elizabeth on day one of her chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer…

This is what happened next…

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Eight months later, Elizabeth is doing great. She is more beautiful than ever and her positive attitude is inspiring… but her trip through cancer is not over yet.

Why Am I Doing This Again… (Best of 2011)…

Once again I feel so incredibly lucky because 2011 was another very good photography year for me.

Not only were two books with my photography published this year…


(Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess.)

(Cooking My Way Back Home by Mitchell Rosenthall.)

But I also started work on my third book

And I had two photographs published in The New York Times.

(Fibershed made it in the New York Times on July 7th, 2011.)

(A photo of my grandparents in The Lives They Loved)

I was hired for the first time by biggies like Nike…


and William Sonoma.

And by some cool local companies like Stemple Creek Ranch

Nest Architecture Studio

And Susan Hayes Handwovens


I also met and photographed so many inspiring individuals (especially women) who are doing inspiring things…

…Jean Near.


…Leslie Santos.

…Elizabeth Boothby.

And then there was this guy called George Lucas.

And 12 amazing weddings…

And 14…

…very…

…cute…

…families.

But as I was running around documenting other people’s lives, I was also making a little life of my own…

And now 2.5 months later, this crazy little person I created is constantly reminding me how fast everything can change in just a matter of seconds let alone a whole year.

Which leads me to the one photo from 2011 that makes my heart swell like I never knew it could…

I love this photo of my grandfather and my son not because it was published in any magazine or because it is of anyone famous. I love this photo because it helps remind me that in the end none of that fancy stuff really matters. This one photo reminds me that life is too short, we never know what is going to happen next and there are some moments we just need to hold on to.

Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for helping make 2011 a wonderful year. I look forward to seeing what lessons life brings in 2012.

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