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Why do this…

There has been an explosion of digital photography and photographers, both amateur and professional, over the past few years. For digital photographers the focus is the creative and artistic aspect of their work, and this is as it should be. The very nature of digital photography, however, allows for the creation of thousands of images that need to be managed. Digital asset management (D.A.M.) is at the core of my business model. There is a real need for individualized services tailored to the specific needs of the amateur, semi-pro and pro photographers who want to focus on creativity rather than managing files.

How I can help…

Here’s how I've been helping photographers and what I can offer you:

Individualized tutoring at your home or office, or in my studio.

Tutoring Basic to intermediate Photoshop skills tailored  to what you need to know.

Tutoring Basic to intermediate Photoshop Elements skills tailored  to what you need to know.

Set up and training in the use of Adobe Lightroom.

Using Adobe Bridge to its full capacity.

D.A.M. for the photo entrepreneur.

The initial consultation is free either by phone or email.

There is another tragedy that's not being reported

From The Washington Post 7-14-15 

From The Washington Post 7-14-15 

A sad and poignant piece of journalism appeared in today's Washington Post.  See that here  It is indeed tragic that Alfred Postell's life spiraled out of control after he became seriously mentally ill and ended up living on the streets of Washington, DC. While the Post deserves credit for calling attention to the plight of the homeless/mentally ill, this in my opinion is not the story that needs to be told.

As anyone who knows me or follows my photo project "The Invisible Ones" can attest, I spend a fair amount of time interacting with the homeless living on the streets of Washington, DC. One of the dominant themes running through my conversations with these folks is why do you sleep outdoors when you can go to a shelter? Over and over again the answer is the same, "the shelters are dangerous places where you will be hurt and your things will be stolen. At least I am safe outdoors." The reporter for the Post did not ask Mr. Postell why he chooses to sleep in front of a building. I'd bet big money that I know the reason. Most certainly the police know the reason as well, yet they will arrest Mr. Postell and others like him for the crime of needing a safe place to sleep - sorry, they call that trespassing in DC. I have repeatedly heard the argument that being in jail is at least a safe place, where one is fed and sheltered. As a factual matter, there is no worse environment for a mentally ill person then a jail cell. I know because I worked for eighteen years in a maximum security county jail where our in house mental health program was tasked with managing the mentally ill who were arrested in Fairfax County, VA. The Courts in DC know this as well, yet insist they can't do anything  about it. Criminalizing the homeless/mentally ill is a pervasive problem throughout the United States.

Cities are finding more and more creative ways to drive the homeless out of town. One such tactic employed by 33 cities at last count is making it a crime to feed the homeless. To say this is shortsighted doesn't even begin to capture the stupidity of these ordinances and serves to further dehumanize the homeless, likening them to rodents that need to be deprived of food so they will look elsewhere.

Here in DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser has $145 million dollars allocated to deal with the problem of chronic homelessness. There has yet to be a plan announced to divert the homeless/mentally ill from the city jail and into supportive treatment and permanent housing. Ironically there are plans underway to close shelters and put more people at risk as we approach the coming cold weather in just a few months. Surely we as one of the wealthiest  countries on the planet can do better than this. 

Why can't we as Americans do the hard work?

It’s the economy, stupid

During Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville, Clinton's chief campaign strategist coined this phrase that was originally meant for the internal audience of Clinton's campaign workers as one of the most important messages to focus on. That phrase later took on a life of it's own and did in fact focus the electorate and helped Clinton defeat George Bush. I'd like to paraphrase Mr. Carville here to say, "It's racism, Stupid."

Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King

I am alternately fascinated and angered by the public's refusal to look beyond the easy arguments and packaged rationales for what the solution might be to prevent yet another mass murder such as what we have seen in Charleston, SC. While I do not discount the intent or the sincerity of those voices, the idea that if we just remove that Confederate flag or tighten up the gun laws, we will have really done something to prevent another Charleston like massacre. This, in my opinion is misguided and misses the point. How have we become so lazy that we readily accept what the media feeds us. We are bombarded daily from multiple sources with stories and opinions about removing the confederate flag and renewing the debate on gun control. As if that were to happen then all of the Dylan Roof's out there would just evaporate. The Confederate flag is just a piece of cloth. Granted it's imbued with all kinds of symbolism but that flag did not murder nine innocent people. As much as it pains me to quote the NRA, they are correct in saying that a hate filled, racist killed nine innocent African Americans, not a Glock Semi Automatic pistol. 

Is it really too difficult to talk about America's history with respect to race relations? Is white privilege such an obtuse subject that it can't be discussed around the water cooler or over dinner? Is the fact that Dylan Roof's racist and murderous rantings were not seen as alarming by his peers not worthy of a national conversation? Is it laziness, is it too hard to get ones head around the idea or are we simply unwilling to acknowledge that racism is alive and well in America and continues to thrive from one generation to the next.

So what can we do?  How about starting a conversation about racism rather than your favorite TV show or how the home team is doing lately. Several months ago Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, wanted his employees to start a conversation about race relations in America while customers waited for their drinks to be prepared. He was ridiculed and treated to so much derision that he abandoned the idea. Howard where are you when we need you most. 

Motivation matters.

Think about any recent bombing or mass shooting directed at a group of people with something in common such as a religious affiliation, allegiance to a particular cause or country, or simply celebrating an event that they all have in common. All of these attacks no matter their country of origin are seen as acts of terrorism. All were done to terrorize a general group of people, and to make a political statement. It's terrorism by any definition of the word. I'm thinking in particular of the 2013 Boston marathon bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his deceased brother, Tamerlan.  Both Muslim, both vowing to make a political statement and to seek revenge for injustices committed against their people. Was there ever any serious consideration given to the "misguided, troubled youth" defense? Or perhaps bullying by American peers in school? No, of course not. They were and are terrorists who sought to frighten and intimidate a group of people assembled for a common purpose.

Dylann Roof

How is it possible that Dylann Roof, a self proclaimed white supremacist who identified with the Apartheid countries of South Africa and stated at the time of the killings that he, "needed to kill black people" is not seen as a homegrown terrorist. By what stretch of the imagination can his murdering of nine church going African Americans not be designed to intimidate, frighten and send a political message to other African Americans. Yet, just 48 hours later news media outlets are pursuing stories about Dylann Roof's "troubled and misguided adolescence." In the absence of any psychiatric history to suggest otherwise, of which there is none. He is a terrorist yet he is not labeled as such. Why is that? An article appearing in today's Washington, Post speaks to this very well. You can read that here.  

A police officer clears the area after a bomb threat came in as parishioners exit a memorial service at Morris Brown AME Church for the nine people killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A police officer clears the area after a bomb threat came in as parishioners exit a memorial service at Morris Brown AME Church for the nine people killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

As much as we might want to think that events such as this are isolated acts. They are in fact representative of a festering, insidious current of racism in this country that needs to be uncovered and called out whenever it rears it's ugly head. Just one example to consider. For what purpose would a bomb threat be made directed at a group of mourners if not to threaten and intimidate. We have much to talk about in this country. Having the will to do that is a different story altogether.

The duplicity of Mayor Muriel Bowser

Photo  http://www.ledroitparkdc.org/

Photo  http://www.ledroitparkdc.org/

This afternoon, Thursday, May 7, 2015, The Mayor of Washington, DC will hold a town hall style meeting with 60 pre-selected youths from the city. Ostensibly the purpose is to prevent the kind of civil unrest that recently took place in Baltimore by learning what the youth of our city are thinking about. This is what Mayor Bowser excels at, high profile, high visibility press coverage where she and her appointed deputies can spout policy initiatives and platitudes that will make excellent 15 second sound bites on the evening news. The Mayor is a master at the well orchestrated presser. One can only dream that a rowdy, independent minded youth will ask the Mayor to speak to the hypocrisy of her campaign promise to require the Metropolitan Police Department to wear body cameras in the name of transparency and accountability, only to then insist that the camera data must be exempt from public viewing via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. So much for transparency and accountability.

Thankfully, the Washington, DC City Council is sufficiently outraged by the Mayor's duplicitous behavior that they are moving to block her being able to exempt video from police body cameras. Hopefully that will happen. 

Clueless as to what matters in DC

FedEx field, the current home of the Washington football team, located in the Maryland suburbs just a few miles from the city of Washington, DC

FedEx field, the current home of the Washington football team, located in the Maryland suburbs just a few miles from the city of Washington, DC

Today Muriel Bowser, the newly elected Mayor of Washington, DC floated a trial balloon aimed at her 11,000 Twitter followers. The question posed was, do you want to see a Redskins stadium in the city of Washington, DC. The results for what they are worth coming from Twitter were less than positive. More on that from a Washington Post Sports columnist.  Aside from the ongoing controversy of the racist and insulting team name is the larger issue of the Mayor being in the thrall of developers who stand to make millions from developing city owned property not to mention the huge tax breaks given to the teams owner to lure him to move from the Maryland suburbs into DC.

There are countless more worthy causes and better uses for taxpayer dollars than trifles such as another sports stadium in the city. It's worth noting that it's not the case that the teams owner is threatening to leave town if he doesn't get his way. This is a battle for bragging rights between the suburbs of Maryland, Virginia and the city of Washington, DC, all within a 20 mile radius of one another. This point alone makes the idea of wasting city dollars even more ludicrous.

One can only hope as the office of the Mayor tries to get more traction with this plan the people of the District  of Columbia will rise up and say resoundingly, "enough is enough, take care of the city first and let the billionaires take care of themselves."

Pennsylvania police officer charged with criminal homicide after fatal shooting of unarmed motorist - The Washington Post

Officer Lisa Mearkle of Hummelstown, PA

Officer Lisa Mearkle of Hummelstown, PA

It's about time that a District Attorney finally has the balls to do the right thing and charge a police officer for murdering a citizen. Sadly, the only reason this story seems to rise to the level of headline news is the fact that the officer was actually charged with homicide. This is a particularly vicious instance of trigger happy policing in that the victim had been shot with a taser twice, was lying face down in the snow and was then shot twice in the back by the officer's service weapon, killing the victim. All of this in the context of a traffic stop for an expired inspection sticker.

The officer's own taser gun was equipped with a video camera that subsequently recorded the entire event including the fatal shooting. This was all the evidence the District Attorney needed to bring the homicide charge. The officer as you would expect claims self defense and that she had other no choice but to use lethal force on a man lying face down in the snow with two taser darts in his back. At the time of the shooting the video clearly shows his hands in plain view with no evidence of a weapon of any kind.

It is really disturbing that these stories are becoming more and more commonplace with the police shooting first and asking questions later. Last month there was this incident in Pasco, Washington. Three police officers shot and killed at point blank range, a mentally ill man who was throwing rocks at cars. Here is a  citizen made cell phone video of that event. What would be your first clue that this man was mentally ill? Who throws rocks at cars in broad daylight and then throws a rock at three armed police officers pointing guns at him. The chief of police in Pasco totally defends the actions of his officers, saying that lethal force was the only option.

What do small towns in Pennsylvania and  Washington have in common with large urban police departments that have been in the news lately for extreme use of lethal force? The common thread is that in all cases the police cling to the belief that claiming self defense will justify killing citizens and that lethal force is the first rather than last option to be used. One can only hope that justice will be served in this small Pennsylvania town and that officer Mearkle will end up in prison where she belongs. It is left to be seen if this case sends any message at all to the trigger happy police in our communities.

San Francisco cathedral will stop dousing sleeping homeless people with water - The Washington Post

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of San Francisco says, "We regret that our intentions were misunderstood and ill conceived…" 

One really has to wonder if the church would ever have come to that conclusion had the local CBS news affiliate KCBS not shown up to film the drenching system in action.  I tend to think they thought it was a fine plan since they cite how well it works in the Financial District in San Francisco.  It also causes one to question why upon learning that the homeless were being treated so inhumanely in the city the church didn't speak out against such practices rather than adopting them for their own use.

651121-thumb-300xauto-561051.jpg

The irony here of course is that Pope Francis has instituted a program that opens up a portion of the Vatican to provide showers and haircuts to the homeless in the city of Rome. Perhaps the only question the Archbishop of the San Francisco needs to ask himself is, "What would Pope Francis do."

One of the many things I have learned from my "Invisible Ones" photography project  is how little effort it takes to make a difference in the day of a homeless person's life. How five minutes of conversation can provide a shred of dignity and recognition in the life of someone that is largely invisible.  Think about that as you make your way around your city tending to the things that you do.

Man killed by police in Metro transit tunnel rushed at officer, officials say - The Washington Post

The headline should read Metro Transit Police shoot and kill a pantless and shoeless mentally ill man who was armed with a tree branch while trespassing in a metro tunnel. The Washington Post goes on at length about the deceased having a prior criminal history including assault convictions and drug charges. The reporter fails to note that the responding officers had none of this information and were in fact looking for a partially clothed male with no pants and no shoes who was spotted in the tunnel by a train operator. If this doesn't alert even an untrained person to the possibility of a mentally ill person, I don't know what would. The officer who killed the man, like all Metro police officers carried pepper spray and an impact weapon, such as a baton or nightstick, in addition to the standard issue Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol. So how it is it possible that an officer cannot disarm a naked man wielding a tree branch with the non-lethal tools at her disposal and resorts to lethal force. Is it poor training, lack of understanding in dealing with mentally ill persons, or just the "shoot first and justify it later mentality" that pervades so many police departments. Sadly in this case the only eyewitness to rebut the officer's account is dead. It would be great, if for a change the investigation reveals that deadly force was not justified. I am not hopeful given the recent history of irresponsible and unwarranted police aggression that is found to be totally justified.

 

What this blog is about

This is about the "Invisible Ones" those people living on the streets of Washington, DC.  I will feature their individual portraits and try to tell their stories insofar as they will tell them to me. All photographs are taken with the subjects consent and shown to them in camera. Any requests for deletion are honored. The blog will also be about social commentary concerning the issue of homelessness and anything else that may be of interest.

In my long ago previous career as a social worker I spent eighteen years getting to know these folks and the problems they face just surviving day-to-day. Very little has changed for the better with this population and in many ways it is worse now than ever before. The title, "Invisible Ones" comes from the simple observation that as you watch the herd of morning commuters on any busy Washington, DC street, you will see them pass by these folks as if they were part of the landscape or not there at all … invisible.  You can see the entire collection by visiting "The Invisible Ones."  Sadly the project is ongoing with no end in sight.

If you were inclined to get in touch I am best reached by filling in this form or following me on any of the social media links on this site.

Your comments are welcome. I've always taken pride in not being a unidimensional person. So while I do what I do to earn a living there is more to me than just work. I have a passion for photography. Black and white street photography to be exact, with a little color thrown in to keep things lively. You can see some of my work by going to the Best of my Black & Whites. I'll keep this updated as I make photographs that I think are good enough.

Thanks for stopping by. 

Gerry

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