March 1, 2007

in labor

Jenn's labor started and is gradually ramping up. We're still at home. Raul Andres is running around the kitchen table being chased by his grandmother. The contractions are starting to get intense. Gotta split.

March 1, 2007

Gabriel Min-Gul Gutierrez

Born @ 8:45PM, 9 pounds 12 ounces, 21inches

Mother and baby are just fine.

More to follow...

March 2, 2007

The Nitty Gritty

Close readers of this blog will notice that I made a post about my wife being in labor at 6:24PM on Thursday and that the baby was born a little over 2 hours later. This is the story of those 2 hours:

Earlier that Thursday afternoon Jenn had been in a light pre-labor, "I think I’m having contractions" she had announced nonchalantly. They aren’t that bad." Then she went about her day and we guessed we might have to go to the hospital in the morning. I was writing that blog post when I was called into the laundry room, so I finished up and hit send. Downstairs my wife was crouched down on the floor, "We have to go now," she announced. I was asking a follow-up question when she put up her hand to stop me and started making a low non-human noise I recognized from the birth of our first son. It was a noise that had preceded the actual birth by only an hour or so just before she went into transition. It was time to GO.

I sprinted down the street to the garage only to find it backed up. "Calm down" I kept telling myself... "Everything will be fine." A few minutes later driving up my own street, I was almost sideswiped by a truck running a very red light. "Inauspicious." It took a full 4 minutes to get Jenn from the door of the house to the door of the car. The contractions would release, she would walk a few steps, and then they would come again. At this point the contractions were coming about every 2 minutes. Not ideal, but not critical yet.. I briefly considered running over to the emergency room of a nearby hospital instead of our assigned birthing center, but the contractions seemed steady so I headed across the Brooklyn Bridge and onto FDR for the drive uptown. A little geography for non New Yorkers: We live in Brooklyn which is across the river from Manhattan. Our birthing center is at St. Lukes Roosevelt on 10th Avenue and 58th Street on the west side..... It’s an 8.4 mile drive but traffic is unavoidable. I was counting on a 30 minute ride. The FDR is an aging highway up the eastern edge of Manhattan. It has no shoulders. Traffic is heavy, and exits are few. Once you hit the FDR, you’re committed. Of course just as we hit the FDR Jenn’s contractions started coming faster... about every 45 seconds. Now if you’ve never been in a Mini Cooper on the FDR with a woman in full labor, screaming bloody murder with each contraction, whimpering and breathing heavily with each release, and holding your arm so tight it’s bruising, well... um...I don’t recommend it. I was trying to focus on driving, speaking in platitudes, giving Jenn updates on our location, and quite frankly, saying a few silent prayers. But platitudes were not what my wife wanted. "JUST SHUT UP!" she bellowed. At about 22nd street traffic stopped dead. We were inching forward. Jenn was banging the windows with each contraction. I realized we could become one of those stories on the evening news. Woman Gives Birth on FDR. I didn’t want to be on the news. I thought about the opening scene in Wings of Desire where the angels float over a highway peeking in on the small self-contained worlds contained in each vehicle... The Punjabi cab driver two lanes over might be thinking of his wife's curry. I noticed a guy talking to his girlfriend who was staring out the window at the city beyond—what was she thinking, and what about the trucker smoking and singing to himself... they were all unaware... I willed them to move. Didn't they realize what was going on? Just as I was losing hope traffic began to move. I decided as long as Jenn was saying, "I can’t do this. I can’t do this" we were fine, but the minute she said, "We’re not going to make", I was going to veer off and find a closer hospital. If she mentioned pushing it would be time to stop the car. I make the mistake of asking if she wanted music. "MUSIC?!!" she responded. Ok my bad. Finally exiting the FDR we made it to 57th street which is littered with red lights (all unbearably long), was clogged with traffic, and was busy with pedestrians... At each stoplight crowds of people hearing the long howls and stop dead in their tracks. At 57th and 5th we drew a crowd. Jenn was completely obvious, she was going internal. One guy gave us a thumbs up. A woman wearing a fur coat blew a kiss. An old lady crossed herself. One guy shouted "She's having a baby!"

A few eternal minutes later we finally screeched into the hospital driveway we were almost rear ended by another car. It was our midwife whose scramble had been just as frantic as ours. She took one look at my wife and said, "We might have to deliver in the lobby."

We did not deliver in the lobby. After much heaving and ho-ing we manuvered Jenn into a wheelchair and rushed her up to the birthing center. Minutes later she was in a large tub of warm water which sent her straight into transition. A few minutes later the midwife, myself, and a labor nurse were all on the bed holding onto legs and arms as she pushed the baby out in what seemed like record time. The midwife caught the baby and put in on jenn’s breast complete with cord. Jenn was sobbing. I was drenched in sweat and viscera... but the moment was oddly quiet almost silent. We were there with this brand new kid, still steaming from the womb. He was blinking and alert, turning toward his mother whenever she spoke. The shadow of death which hangs over all births had passed, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. It was at this point that I realized in the rush I had left my camera bag in the car—a final ironic twist. The moment would be undocumented. I'll just have to put my brain on record," I thought.

This birth was completely unlike the birth of our first son who was delivered in the same hospital, but in a standard hospital labor & delivery room. In that birth, mother and child were both connected to a tangle of monitors and tubes. Doctors and nurses were running in and out of the room, and right after birth the baby was taken away to a nursery for a battery of hospital tests. It was noisy and chaotic and anything but private. At the birth center it was just the four of us (well eventually 5). There were no beeping monitors or needles or anything else. Minimal tests were done and mother and baby were both alert and sharp afterwards. Physically the natural birth took less of a toll even though it was exponentially more intense. Jenn said the hardest thing was the total submission to pain without modulation. She and another fresh-from-labor mom were comparing notes this morning... "There are no words," said my wife. "There are no words," echoed the woman. Later when we discussed things, Jenn said couldn’t outright recommend one type of birth over the other. The lack of relief in this birth was terrifying... She missed the epidural induced pause of the last one. And all those monitors and tubes and needles that had bothered me so much about about the first birth... she had never noticed them, so they weren’t really a factor with her. Of course in this particular birth we wouldn't have had a choice anyway. The wouldn't have been time for an epidural. She did appreciate that I was allowed to stay overnight in the birthcenter, and that the room was our own. No roommates, no nurses interrupting us every few minutes hours. We even had a decent view down 10th Avenue. It was like being in a hotel room.

Late in the evening, lying on the bed with newborn Gabriel between us, we heard another woman in heavy labor—the familiar deep moans, curses and cries penetrating the walls. During lulls we heard her husband saying things, like "just relax, it will be ok. Breath. Try to relax honey" and it sounded so... so... impotent and ridiculous... he sounded like he wasn't even convincing himself... "he should just shut up" Jenn said. "True true," I agreed. We both laughed.

March 2, 2007

First Look

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(update)...

I've had a couple of emails asking if I had the first image with the focus on the baby... why of course:

March 5, 2007

Andrew Moore Interview

Joerg Colberg has posted a thoughtful interview with Andrew Moore, one of my favorite contemporary photographers.

Moore's site

March 6, 2007

Tibet 1942

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In 1942 two U.S. Army officers, Lt. Col. Ilya Tolstoy and Capt. Brooke Dolan were sent to Tibet from India to explore the possibility of getting military supplies to Chiang Kai-shek's Republican Chinese government, via Tibet. Rob Linrothe, Assistant Professor of Art History at Skidmore is doing research on the expedition and has posted a cache of photographs from the Tibet expedition... While many of the images depict a world long destroyed (the pictures of Llahsa and Gyantse are particularly heartbreaking if you know the modern versions of the cities made over by the Chinese into package tour destinations), the images of the nomads are timeless. I've posted two expedition images along with my own modern analogues...

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March 7, 2007

Updates

My wife read my account of her labor and delivery this morning and let me know it wasn't how she experienced it at all. "The car ride was kind of a relief. I barely remember it," was her response. Maybe I'll get her version when we come up for air.

Another friend sends Don't Send Your Baby Pictures... which should probably be applied to blogging too although if you read this blog you know I can't help myself sometimes.

March 7, 2007

Polaris

Sometimes when I am very tired as I was today, I will lie on my belly, put my arm under my head, bump up against a pillow, cross my feet at the ankles, and fall instantly, blissfully, asleep. I've been doing this all my life although I've never really thought about it until today. It's one of my most primal behaviors. My wife's sister Becky sleeps while holding onto the corners of pillowcases, eventually wearing them threadbare. An electrician in LA, a guy named Joe who spoke in whispers, claimed no matter where he slept he would wake with his head facing north. This trait while comforting was something of an embarrassment, "I'm a human compass," he admitted sheepishly, "my wife hates it, especially on trips. My mother said I did it in the crib." All of us have some primal behaviors we retreat to, and sleep being one of the most basic and misunderstood needs of all things with brains, happens to be one place where these behaviors reveal themselves easily.

During my wife's first pregnancy we spent a great deal of the time speculating on our future (and at that point somewhat theoretical) child. We discussed smarts and looks and so on and so on. I don't think we discussed personality once. He was born and from the beginning his personality clear... obvious and often unexpected. Immediately after his birth we practiced parenting techniques based on our own lives and various books, but until we started modifying them through the filter of his personality many approaches failed miserably. Now personality takes priority over dogma (with much more success). It is almost the one thing around which most of our understanding of him is based. The idea that your personality is well formed at birth is a weird concept because most of us like to think we arrived at our present state through a series of formative events. But more and more I tend to believe those formative events influence us only within a range determined by our particular personalities. Of course family perceptions have a multiplying effect. If we see a child and consider him to be kind, or selfish, or sensitive, or sad or whatever we will tend to treat him accordingly, so perhaps over time personalities become more hard coded than they would have naturally.

Even though our second son has been with us for only 7 days, we are developing theories about what kind of person he might become. Ridiculous as it might seem for a little piglet-like human being who suckles, sleeps, and poops, it seems so obvious after 2 years of experience with our first child that understanding his personality is one of our most important jobs as parents.

Ask someone you have known your entire life to tell you three stories about your early childhood. I'll bet they'll tell you stories that reveal their understanding of your most raw personality, the unvarnished you, and like primal ways of finding comfort in sleep, these traits are inescapable, revealed when we are most unguarded. They are the filters through which we see the world and sometimes the instincts we work hardest to supress. Noble or ignoble, there might be some comfort in knowing that through all our iterations as human beings there are some things about us that never change.

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semi-related: Wikipedia on personality psychology, 9 traits of infant personality, Clotaire Rapaille on reducing culture to primal codes (and using those codes for base, but nevertheless ingenious, marketing campaigns)

March 7, 2007

The New Routine, Night

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March 10, 2007

How my mind works late at night

cornell.1942.jpgThis piece by Joseph Cornell comes to mind for no reason in particular.

Every time I think of artwork by Cornell, this portrait of him by Duane Michals sticks in my head. portraitofjosephcornell.jpg
I think of Cornell living out there on Utopia Parkway with his mean mother and his sick brother. And I think of all the boxes scattered around his room in various stages of completion. I think of the boxes he made for Hollywood starlets. I picture the care and love that went into each one, the precision with which he wrapped them in brown paper, hand addressing them and then sending them from a Queens post office (In my imagination he always mails things on rainy days). Then I see a sunny day in California; the package being received by a maid at a house high in the Los Feliz hills. I see the packages opened, considered for a moment, and handed over to a star who waves it away without ever a second thought.

Cornell must have known this would happen 9 times out of 10, but was kept going by the hope for that 10th time and the knowledge that while the connection was intangible he was connected—if for a moment—to his intended audience...

And this brings me back to Duane Michals who wrote in one of his books:

"It is no accident that you are reading this. I am making black marks on white paper. These marks are my thoughts, and although I do not know who you are reading this now, in some way the lines of our lives have intersected... For the length of these few sentences, we meet here.

It is no accident that you are reading this. This moment has been waiting for you, I have been waiting for you. Remember me."

March 11, 2007

Overheard on Court Street

(couple downstairs in the travel section of Book Court)

man: You have to tell him.

woman: If I tell him you have to tell her.

man: Of course, I wouldn't ask you if I....

woman: So.

man: Let's do it. We'll both just do it.

woman: Let's do it tonight. Screw it, I'll do it tonight. I don't care.

man: Tonight?

woman: Tonight.

man: Tonight. Not tonight, next week maybe. It's too soon.

woman: I'm sick of this.

March 11, 2007

Fazal Sheikh

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Working in the formal language of late 19th century and early 20th century photographers such as George Barnard and Paul Strand, New York born MacArthur Fellow Fazal Sheikh tells stories people forgotten by the rest of the world, people often misrepresented by popular media. Several of his books are now available in abbreviated online editions. I recommend starting with "The Victor Weeps". (As a side note the book is available for only $17 on Amazon.)

You can view an interview with Sheikh on the Tate Modern's site, a second interview is available here.

Related: Jake Miller's essay on Sheikh's book and Edward Grazda's Afganistan Diary, Simon Norfolk's Chronotopia, Photostudio portraits of the Taliban

March 14, 2007

Sense Memory

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March 15, 2007

Jennifer Trausch Interview

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Jennifer Trausch has been traveling around the country with the legendary 20x24 Polaroid camera shooting black and white portraits of people she finds along the way... Her brand spankin' new website features a few shots from this ongoing project as well as many images from Skateland which was shown last year. My interview with Jen is up Andrew Long's Daily F'log which is highlighting polaroid photography this week. (Polaroid Week has already produced many fun articles including a Michael David Murphy's interview with Mike Slack, check it out.). If you've ever seen the 20x24 in person it's a thing of beauty and being so in awe of the camera itself most of my questions were about process...

March 16, 2007

H. C. Anderson

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Long time readers of this blog know I love photostudio portraits. In the hands of a good photographer these types of portraits, when collected, become a more than simply the record of people passing through a studio and function a a poetic window on the life of a particular place and time. Henry Clay Anderson's portraits of the people of Greenville Mississippi are exactly such a window.

You can view some of his images on the web along with thoughtfully organized background information at the The Anderson Photo Service website or in person at the Steven Kasher Gallery on 23rd street in New York.

March 18, 2007

Babar summarized or why we love Babar

Babar's mom is shot and killed by a hunter. He runs away the city where the little old lady adopts him. She hands him a purse full of money and marches into to a department store to buy a green suit and derby. With his fancy clothes he becomes something of a dandy, popular at dinner parties. By chance, he runs into his young cousins Celeste and Arthur who have run away from the jungle and takes them back home. On the same day he returns the elephant king eats a bad mushroom, turns green, and dies. Cornelius the oldest elephant anoints Babar king. Babar promptly marries his young cousin Celeste. On their honeymoon they are captured and almost eaten cannibals (of course strictly speaking cannibals eat each other while in this case they looked like they were going to eat Celeste, but you understand...). The honeymooners escape but are soon sold into slavery in a circus. Luckily they are saved by the old lady. On returning home they find the elephants are at war with the rhinos. With Babar's help the elephants defeat and humiliate the rhinos putting them in small cages. Eventually Babar builds a city of elephants (Well mainly elephants, Cornelius becomes the old lady's gentleman friend). Eventually Babar's wife has triplets while he's out smoking his pipe and shortly after their births the children are a) almost choked, b) accidently sent over a precipice and c) almost eaten by crocodiles.

March 18, 2007

Chen Jiaojiao and Peng Yangjun

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Ever since Colors Magazine changed it's editorial regime in 2004 it's been uneven... but issue 70: Beijing: stories from a city is a return to form. The entire issue, both text and photography, is the work of two Chinese artists, Chen Jiaojiao and Peng Yangjun, and their monograph does a good job at evoking the range of change and contradiction found in modern Beijing.

Better versions of some of the images and more information on the photographers can be found in the press kit.

March 21, 2007

100 Year Old Blog

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Shorpy calls itself the 100 Year Old Photo Blog, it's a blog featuring well selected vintage images from the early 1900s. Shorpy is the sister blog to The Ghost Cowboy which features photographs of the old west. Both projects are smart marketing for the The Juniper Gallery which sells modern prints of the images featured. (via david gallagher's always super delicious links)

March 23, 2007

Two little old ladies recounting their dreams

@ the diner on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn

lady in yellow hat: I was flying.

lady in blue hat: I’ve had that dream.

lady in yelllow hat: I went to Jersey.

lady in blue hat: I always go to into city. I shop.

lady in yellow hat: You shop in your dreams?

lady in blue hat: I always shop.

lady in yellow hat: I just fly. Nude... Totally, gloriously, nude.

lady in blue hat: Me too! Well...except for my shoes, I always fly in my best shoes... and a hat. I never go out without a hat.

lady in yellow hat: You always were the better dressed than me.

lady in blue: But you turned the boys heads.

lady in yellow hat: Maybe next time you should leave the hat at home.

March 26, 2007

Changing Diapers

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A friend I haven't seen since college wrote saying she had a hard time imagining me changing diapers.... photographic proof. Not only do I change infant diapers but I change 2 year old diapers and as Jenn's mom says of our 2 year old, "He makes dong like man!" Taking on diaper changing duties is one of the baseline responsibilities of all good dads. Hell, it's the least we can do.

March 27, 2007

Birthe Piontek

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I love straightforward beauty of so many of Vancouver based Birthe Piontek's photographs. Her project Sub Rosa on teenagers at the cusp of adulthood was selected as a "Juror's Choice" for this years Project Santa Fe (now known as Center) Competition by New York Times Magazine photo editor Kira Pollack.

March 29, 2007

Rinko Kawauchi

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I have seen some of Rinko Kawauchi's images around the web but had never explored her work until today when I got a chance to check out two of her books, Cui Cui ("a family album for 13 years") and Aila on births and deaths. Both are beautiful intelligent explorations of sharply focused themes. While many individual images are stunners (the shocking birth portrait for example) the books make it clear these images were meant to be seen together and viewing them any other way (on the web for instance) is like taking a single line from a long poem. Many have deemed Aila an instant classic and rightfully so. A few more images can found here and here.

More links: An interview, a 15 month cameraphone diary

March 30, 2007

Witching Hour

In literature the witching hour happens around midnight, but for the infants my wife and I produce, it's 6PM. At that hour Gabriel like his brother before him, regardless of being well fed, held by someone who loves him, and otherwise comfortable, begins to cry. But not just any crying, it's desperate crying, as if all sadness in the world were wrapped up in that little 12 pound bundle. He's inconsolable for about 90 minutes. Then as suddenly as it starts, it ends. The kid sleeps. Our first son outgrew this in a few months and we trust the second will follow. Of course we try all the standard calming techniques, but they have limited effect. [The only things that take a bit of the edge off are a mechanical swing, the one horrible baby device that passed through our 'no plastic baby crap' filter, and a pacifier. We are new to pacifiers (Raul Andres spit them out as if we had put garbage in his mouth), and Jenn doesn't like them either ("Yikes, makes him look like a little Hannibal Lector."), but whatever works, right? ]

Jenn blames the daily crying session on the baby's new and undeveloped digestive system, but my grandmother would have had another explanation were she alive. For her an inconsolable baby was obviously the work of someone who had given the child "mal ojo" (the evil eye). "It happened to you once," she would always tell me with a laugh.

Then she would explain that once she had forgotten to cover my face when we went out and the neighborhood fortune teller peeked and hated my blue gringo eyes. "You started to cry right there," my grandmother would recount, "and you cried through the night and into the next day and we couldn't do anything to help you."

The next day she ran into the fortune teller who asked, "that baby cried all night didn't he?" My grandmother said yes and getting angry told the woman that neither she nor the baby had done the woman wrong and demanded a cure. The woman (my grandmother always called her una brujita feisima) led my grandmother to her garden and pulled 3 fresh brown eggs from a chicken coop. "Rub these gently over the baby's head when the moon is out. Then break the egg carefully. If the yolk is whole and looks like an eye, the spell will be broken. Throw the eggs out into the dirt. If the yolk will not stay together, you might be in for a lifetime of worry." While the eggs were rubbed on my head I am told I screamed bloody murder. Immediately afterwards the eggs were dropped in water, and eye was formed on the first try. "You stopped crying instantly" and if my grandmother is to be believed, "the crying never returned."

Maybe we need to break out some eggs.

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