Tag Archives: photography

“Folk you” to gentrification

[Image: The band Sugar in the Salt performs on an indoor stage. Maia Papaya plays upright bass while Eli Conley plays acoustic guitar and sings into a microphone.]

Last night I attended a fundraiser concert at El Rio by the folk group Sugar in the Salt, hosted by Causa Justa :: Just Cause to support San Francisco Proposition I in the upcoming election. This initiative would put an 18-month moratorium on new market-rate housing in the Mission District.

I’ve lived in San Francisco for over twelve years, and have seen the rents rise from merely expensive to totally out of reach for all but the wealthy. I’ve also spent a lot of time in the Mission, and met many of the residents during the three years I did food justice volunteer work at the Free Farm Stand. This city desperately needs more truly affordable housing.

I’ve given up on political parties, but I’m still registered to vote specifically so that I can vote on ballot measures like this.  Hear about gentrification in the Mission from someone who lives there, Kai OD, in this video:

Aside from the good cause, the main reason I attended this concert was to watch the performance of my voice teacher, Eli Conley, and his bandmate Maia Papaya. Eli has personal experience with voice changes on testosterone, and is helping me adjust to my new singing range. It’s been an emotionally difficult experience, even though I knew to anticipate it, and it’s great to have the guidance of someone who has gone through it himself.

Eli Conley
[Image: Eli Conley sings into a microphone while playing acoustic guitar.]

Eli Conley
[Image: Eli Conley playing acoustic guitar.]

Maia Papaya is a fun cheerful person and talented multi-instrumentalist. Maia and Eli were both great to listen to as well as photograph.

Maia Papaya
[Image: Maia Papaya playing upright bass and singing into a microphone.]

Maia Papaya
[Image: Maia Papaya playing acoustic guitar.]

As usual I’ve uploaded the full set of photos to Flickr. If you have the financial means, please help me continue to do free shoots like this by sponsoring me on Patreon or leaving me a tip.

Clynton Oliver Cox

[Image: A five-piece band plays on an outdoor stage. A large banner reads Yerba Buena Gardens Festival.]

Today I once again braved hot, sunny weather and lunchtime crowds to shoot another free outdoor concert: Clynton Oliver Cox at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Clynton Oliver Cox at Yerba Buena Gardens
[Image: Clynton Oliver Cox  sings into a microphone on an outdoor stage. Bass and keyboard players play behind him.]

Clynton Oliver Cox at Yerba Buena Gardens
[Image: Clynton Oliver Cox  plays guitar and sings into a microphone on an outdoor stage. Bass and keyboard players play behind him.]

Clynton Oliver Cox band at Yerba Buena Gardens
[Image: A keyboard player and a drummer perform on an outdoor stage.]

I found the set very entertaining. The arrangements were keyboard-heavy; three keyboards were on the stage, with only one guitar, which Clynton frequently stopped playing when he sang.

Clynton Oliver Cox band at Yerba Buena Gardens
[Image: An electric bass player performs on an outdoor stage.]

Clynton Oliver Cox band at Yerba Buena Gardens
[Image: A drummer and keyboard player perform on an outdoor stage.]

The rhythm section was in the pocket. A bunch of folks got up to dance.

Clynton Oliver Cox at Yerba Buena Gardens
[Image: Clynton Oliver Cox plays guitar on an outdoor stage. A keyboard player plays behind him.]

As with the previous concert, I enjoyed the music enough to stay the whole time (only an hour in this case, as it was a weekday lunch hour performance). Toward the end I was asked to fill out a survey. The gender options listed on it were “Female,” “Male,” and “Transgender/Other.” While this inclusion was well-intentioned, it wasn’t really accurate, as most binary trans people wish to be recognized simply as female or male, without qualifiers. But since I’m agender as well as transsexual and want to increase trans visibility, I did choose the third option. I probably won’t bother to contact Yerba Buena about this; it’s a much higher priority for me to educate people who list only two gender options.

As usual, I’ve uploaded the full set of photos to Flickr. If you’re enjoying my photography and writing, please consider sponsoring me on Patreon or leaving me a tip.

Son jarocho

[Image: Musicians perform on an outdoor stage. An adult dances on the stage with a child while another child watches.]

Yesterday I returned to the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival to take photos of two son jarocho bands, Cambalache and Tarimba. This performance also marked the close of the fourth annual San Francisco Son Jarocho Festival. As that page notes, this folk music comes from the Mexican state of Veracruz, and has indigenous and African elements.

Tarimba at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
[Image: A musician sings into a microphone while playing a harp on an outdoor stage.]

Tarimba at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
[Image: A dancer and musicians perform on an outdoor stage. A large banner reads Yerba Buena Gardens Festival.]

Tarimba at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
[Image: A dancer and a harp player perform on an outdoor stage.]

Tarimba opened the set. They sang and played a variety of instruments, both traditional and modern. Two of the musicians danced as well.

At intermission, I really enjoyed the music played over the PA system, and was happy when the MC announced the name of the artist: Meklit. She’ll be performing at the festival in October.

Cambalache at Yerba Buena Music Festival
[Image: Two musicians play jaranas and sing into microphones on an outdoor stage.]

Cambalache at the Yerba Buena Music Festival
[Image: An upright electric bass player and a jarana player perform on an outdoor stage.]

Cambalache at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
[Image: A four-piece band performs on an outdoor stage, one smiling with upraised arms.]

Cambalache took the stage next. I greatly enjoyed their performance, especially the beautiful singing voice of César Castro. The band encouraged the audience to join in on the chorus of “La Iguana.” I tried to understand as many of the Spanish words as I could. (I’m nearing a 600-day streak on DuoLingo, but my listening comprehension of native speech is still very weak.)

As an aside – for those like myself who ever wondered about the difference between Hispanic and Latino, check out this handy comic. I love that it’s written by a gay biracial ex-Mormon.

Cambalache at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
[Image: Children sit and lean on the edge of an outdoor stage, watching musicians perform.]

Children dancing at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
[Image: Children dance on an outdoor stage, an adult clapping behind them.]

While I normally don’t take photos of audience members at concerts, a lot of adorable children crowded the stage at this performance, some of them throwing rose petals. At one point the band invited the kids (and adults) to come dance on the stage.

The set closed with both bands joining forces for a rousing rendition of La Bamba, with more dancing (pictured at the top of this post). I’m glad I stayed for the entire show.

As usual I’ve posted the full set of photos on Flickr. I want to keep doing these concert shoots on a regular basis, but I really need a long lens to work more effectively. I’ve added this goal to my Patreon page. Please consider sponsoring me there or leaving me a tip. Thanks!

Chinatown Music Festival

[Image: A four-piece band plays on an outdoor stage. Instruments include an electric guitar, a guzheng, and an upright bass.]

Today I headed back to Chinatown to take photos at another outdoor festival, the sixth annual Chinatown Music Festival.

SF Guhzeng Music Society
[Image: Two young children play guzhengs on an outdoor stage.]

SF Guhzeng music society
[Image: Two people play guzhengs on an outdoor stage.]

SF Guhzeng Music Society
[Image: A young person plays a guzheng on an outdoor stage.]

The first several performers were from the San Francisco Guzheng Music Society. The guzheng is a Chinese zither (I learned today from Wikpedia).

Creative World Music Ensemble
[Image: Three musicians perform on an outdoor stage. Instruments include a guzheng and an upright bass.]

Creative World Music Ensemble
[Image: A singer plays a hand drum while singing into a microphone on an outdoor stage. An upright bass player plays in the background.]

The next group, the Creative World Music Ensemble, also featured a guzheng. I was excited seeing this band set up when I arrived, as I hoped the upright bass meant they might play some jazz. They did not disappoint. The white percussionist also got great applause, as well as praise from the MC, for singing in Chinese.

Portsmouth Square Dance Club
[Image: Dancers perform in front of an outdoor stage, wearing red “I ♥ SF” T-shirts and black pants.]

Portsmouth Square Dance Club
[Image: Dancers perform in front of an outdoor stage, wearing red “I ♥ SF” T-shirts and black pants.]

Next up was the Portsmouth Square Dance Club. Portsmouth Square is where this event took place; these dancers practice there regularly. I recognized some of them from last month’s Dancing on Waverly festival.

Yea-Ming and the Rumours
[Image: A four-piece band performs on an outdoor stage. A banner in front of the stage reads “Chinatown Music Festival.”]

Yea-Ming and the Rumours
[Image: A guitarist sings into a microphone on an outdoor stage. An electric bass player plays in the background.]

The final set I attended for this festival was Yea-Ming and the Rumours. (Performances continued for the remainder of the afternoon.)

Glad I ventured out, even on a hot sunny day at noontime, to enjoy free music in a great city. I’ve uploaded the full set of photos to Flickr. If you like my photography, please consider supporting me on Patreon or leaving me a tip so I can continue to do shoots like this.

Pistahan Festival

[Image: Dancers and musicians in brightly colored outfits perform on an outdoor stage. A banner above reads “Pistahan Parade + Festival.”]

Yesterday I attended the Pistahan Festival, an annual celebration of Filipino culture in San Francisco. This two-day event included a parade and a number of performances and exhibits. I stayed for only a small portion of the festivities; my primary interest was taking photos of the performers on the main stage at Yerba Buena Gardens.

The Reflex at the Pistahan Festival[Image: A singer with a black and white checkered shirt and white rimmed sunglasses sings into a microphone on an outdoor stage.]

The Reflex at the Pistahan Festival[Image: A six-piece rock band performs on an outdoor stage. Square multicolored flags hang above them.]

First up was a cover band, The Reflex, who played basically a “greatest hits of the 80s” set. (Including, as you might guess from their name, Duran Duran.) I could tell it was an 80s band as I recognized every song in their 45-minute set; I was glued to MTV and Casey Kasem’s Top 40 for a good part of that decade.

Tip to singers and other rock musicians: If you need a music stand, but also want good photos/video, consider lowering it to half-height. (I speak from experience on both sides of the camera, here.)

Little Manila Dance Collective at the Pistahan Festival[Image: Barefoot dancers in matching maroon shirts and black knee-length pants perform on an outdoor stage.]

Little Manila Dance Collective at the Pistahan Festival[Image: Dancers in matching multicolored sarongs and brightly colored blouses perform on an outdoor stage, holding yellow fans.]

Little Manila Dance Collective at the Pistahan Festival[Image: Barefoot dancers in matching blue and white dresses smile and perform on an outdoor stage. Behind them smiling barefoot dancers wear stripped blue and black shirts and knee-length orange pants.]

Little Manila Dance Collective at the Pistahan Festival[Image: Young barefoot dancers in white and yellow outfits perform on an outdoor stage.]

Next up were several groups from the Little Manila Dance Collective. As with last month’s Chinatown dance festival, I loved all the brightly-colored outfits; my image descriptions don’t do them justice. Getting decent photos of all the white costumes at high noon was also quite a challenge. (As was finding a good spot to shoot from without getting in the way of the audience or the official photographers. I really need a long lens for my primary camera…)

Nuff Kidz at the Pistahan Festival[Image: Dancers in matching long-sleeved maroon T-shirts, black pants/leggings, and white shoes perform on an outdoor stage.]

Nuff Kidz at the Pistahan Festival[Image: Dancers in matching long-sleeved maroon T-shirts, black pants/leggings, and white shoes perform on an outdoor stage.]

Aftermath at the Pistahan Festival[Image: Dancers in matching black T-shirts, leggings, and shoes perform on an outdoor stage.]

Two high-energy  dance troupes, Nuff Kidz and Aftermath, followed on the stage. I took a lot of photos of Nuff Kidz. They had an audio glitch and ended up restarting their performance, then the sound glitched in the same place. But they finished the dance without music, to wild applause.

Mika Gorospe at the Pistahan Festival
[Image: A young singer wearing a white off-shoulder crop top and peach skirt sings into a microphone on an outdoor stage.]

Mika Gorospe at the Pistahan Festival
[Image: A young singer and three backup dancers perform on an outdoor stage.]

The next performer was thirteen-year-old singer, Mika Gorospe. Complete with backup dancers, she’s already set for stardom.

Crywolffs at the Pistahan Festival
[Image: A violinist wearing a black jacket, light brown hat, and black-rimmed glasses performs on an outdoor stage.]

Crywolffs entertained the crowd with an electric violin and live looping.

Shelby Miguel at the Pistahan Festival
[Image: A singer wearing a gray and black sleeveless top and black leggings sings into a microphone on an outdoor stage.]

Singer Shelby Miguel gave a rousing performance, the final set I watched for the day.

Happy to have attended this festival, which, like the one in Chinatown, I found out about through Funcheap SF. I’ve put the full set of photos on Flickr. If you like my photos and want to help me continue doing free shoots like this (and maybe get that long lens I’ve been coveting), please consider supporting me on Patreon or leaving me a tip.

Animal rights, not vegan rights

[Image: Buster, a steer with curly dark brown hair, stands in a field surrounded by smiling human friends.]

Update, July 2016: Since publishing this post I have left Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). My points about animal rights still remain.

Direct Action Everywhere, the animal liberation group I’m currently involved with, has come under fire for (amongst other things) not promoting veganism. This charge is misleading. As my friend and DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung explains, we do not condone the use of non-human animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. However, the mainstream conception of veganism puts the focus on humans and our desires and vanity, not on the primary victims of animal agriculture.

Harvey at Preetirang Sanctuary[Image: The face of Harvey, a calf with brown and white hair. A human with long blonde hair is holding his chin and looking into his eyes.]

The original definition of “vegan,” a word coined by Donald Watson and his wife Dorothy, encompassed more than a plant-based diet; it was an ethical objection to violence. Unfortunately, that meaning has been almost entirely lost, and veganism is now largely seen as merely a dietary choice for privileged people. I respect those activists who are trying to reclaim the word, and simultaneously speak out against human oppression, such as Sarah K. Woodcock of The Abolitionist Vegan Society and Corey Wrenn of Vegan Feminist Network and The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. However, I have chosen to focus instead on the phrase “animal liberation,” while fighting for the same goal as the abolitionists: Ending the property status of non-human animals. I believe DxE’s increasing press coverage has shown it is possible to spread this message effectively without using or emphasizing the word “vegan.”

Kush at Preetirang Sanctuary
[Image: The face of Kush, a goat with brown and white hair.]

We activists are allies to our fellow animals, and we should be amplifying their voices, not just promoting the nondairy cheeses and faux flesh products that many see as somehow intrinsic to a vegan diet. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these products (in my opinion), but companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle market them to keep vegans quiet about the bodies, eggs, and milk of murdered animals that they market to humans with healthy incomes. Instead of promoting their humane-washing, activists might consider volunteering with organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project, to make plant-based meals more accessible to people who are poor, homeless, or living in food deserts.

Shiva at Preetirang Sanctuary
[Image: The face of Shiva, a steer with curly white hair.]

Regardless, our fellow animals should the focus in animal liberation messaging. Human activists should not be held up as the heroes of the movement. That would be like featuring white allies in promotional materials for #BlackLivesMatter, or cis allies in promotional materials for trans rights. Not that this hasn’t been done before…

Mahalakshmi at Preetirang Sanctuary
[Image: Mahalakshmi, a cow with brown hair, stands in a field chewing hay.]

The photos in this post were taken last November at PreetiRang Sanctuary. (Originally published on Facebook, I have now made the full set available on Flickr as well.) At PreetiRang, I had the pleasure of meeting Buster, the sixteen-year-old steer pictured at the top of this post. He would never have lived that long in the dairy industry, where he was destined to be killed mere weeks or months after being torn from his mother’s side. Buster died last week, sadly, but he was surrounded by loving human and non-human friends. Every animal rights activist should make it a priority to visit a sanctuary if they can, to connect personally with the faces we fight for.

The Art of Survival

[Image: Four women in creative, colorful outfits sing and dance on a stage.]

This Sunday I attended The Art of Survival, a vegan arts, music, and food festival held in San Francisco. I found out about this event only a week ago, and thought it would be a great opportunity to photograph some bands in a non-violent setting. The organizer, Andreas Knüttel, is also a photographer; I’d met him previously at a Direct Action Everywhere gathering. I knew it would be my kind of party when his invitation asked attendees to please “not wear animal products i.e. leather, wool, fur and silk.

Coley 'n Mikki performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man and a woman sing into microphones on a stage. The man plays guitar and wears blue-rimmed glasses and a black shirt. The woman wears a black hat and a black shirt with a large black and white design.]

Coley 'n Mikki performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man and a woman smile at each other on a stage. The man plays guitar and wears blue-rimmed glasses, a black shirt, and blue jeans. The woman wears a black hat, a black shirt with a large black and white design, black skirt and leggings.]

The opening act, Acoustic Love with Coley ‘n Mikki (aka The Cole Tate Band), turned out to be my favorite set. This was a newlywed couple, and you could see their love for each other in their performance. I especially liked their cover of Come Together, a song I’ve enjoyed singing while playing on the bass (though my voice has dropped too much to sing the lead part well anymore, as I discovered!)

Oinga Boinga performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A woman with bright red hair, dramatic makeup, and a black outfit with sparkly trim plays bass on a stage.]

Oinga Boinga performing at The Art of Survival
[Image:Two women posing on a stage. One is wearing a black bodice, skirt, and tights, turquoise sleeves and eyepatch, and a very long braid. The other is looking at her, wearing a gray curly wig with pink rollers, black-rimmed eyeglasses, long black bushy beard, sparkly top, and black fishnet stockings with red garters.]

The next act, Oinga Boinga, was an all-female cover band of Oingo Boingo. I could not possibly do justice to describing their fabulous outfits in my extended image descriptions, though I made an effort for the sake of those using screen readers! In the above image and the one at the top of this post, they were doing a performance of Minnie the Moocher, a call-and-response classic.

The Moonsaults performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A woman with a colorful crop top and full sleeve tattoos sings into a microphone, one hand on her hip. A guitarist plays behind her.]

The Moonsaults performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A woman with a colorful crop top and full sleeve tattoos sings into a microphone. A guitarist plays behind her.]

Next up was The Moonsaults, in their debut performance. Their name apparently comes from a pro wrestling move.

Secret Cat performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A four-person band performs on a stage. A guitarist with bright red hair is singing into a microphone.]

Secret Cat performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A guitarist with bright red hair performs on a stage.]

Secret Cat was a very high-energy, very loud band. Really would have been great to get video of their stage antics.

Cello Joe performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man with rectangular glasses sings into a microphone while playing the cello.]

Cello Joe performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man with rectangular glasses sings into a microphone while playing the cello.]

Cello Joe, aka Joey Chang, was an artist I had already seen and enjoyed twice previously. He was lucky to be alive and well to perform at this event, as his house burned down last week and he and his girlfriend lost everything (he was able to grab his best cello). Their friends started a fundraiser to help them recover.

Earth Amplified performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: Two men wearing colorful shirts , one with long dreadlocks and one with a cap, sing on a stage.]

Earth Amplified performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man wearing a cap and colorful shirt sings into a microphone.]

Earth Amplified performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man with long dreadlocks, lit by red stage light, sings into a microphone.]

Earth Amplified closed out the show, with plenty of audience participation. After shooting some last pictures, I finally cut loose and danced. It had been a long time.

It had been years since I’d shot an indoor concert, and it felt good to make use of my special skill at low-light concert photography again. I’ve made the full set of photos available on Flickr under a Creative Commons license for free sharing, with attribution. If you like my work, please consider sponsoring me on Patreon or leaving me a tip so I can continue to do free shoots like this.

Light the path to liberation

[Image: A large group of people wearing blue shirts and holding candles stands outside Macy’s at night. Two people are holding signs reading UNTIL EVERY ANIMAL IS FREE, and one person is speaking into a megaphone.]

Edit, July 2016: Since publishing this post I have left Direct Action Everywhere (DxE)I still remain committed to ending the oppression of all animals, human and non-human.

Last night I attended and photographed my second Direct Action Everywhere event this month, Light the Path to Liberation. This action was part of a worldwide animal rights event, with participation from several dozen organizations and hundreds of individuals. Here in San Francisco, we marched to places where the bodies of animals are sold, lit candles, and spoke out against the violence.

At our rehearsal gathering before the action, I saw faces both familiar and new, including human and nonhuman friends.

DxE Light the Path rehearsal
[Image: Several people stand outdoors holding candles.]

DxE Light the Path rehearsal
[Image: A woman stands outdoors holding a candle. Two people stand behind her.]

Dog at DxE Light the Path rehearsal
[Image: A dog with brown and white fur looks into the camera.]

Our first stop was Whole Foods Market, as part of our ongoing campaign against their humane-washing. As with our previous action, I chose to stay outside the store, but nearly everyone else went inside for the disruption.

DxE Light the Path protest at Whole Foods Market
[Image: People holding candles and wearing blue Direct Action Everywhere T-shirts chant outdoors.]

Leafletters offered information and conversed with passersby about our mission.

DxE Light the Path protest at Whole Foods Market
[Image: A woman wearing a blue Direct Action Everywhere T-shirt offers a pamphlet to a passerby.]

Our next stop was Bluestem Brasserie, a high-end restaurant that was the target of a disruption that went viral, featuring my friend Kelly Atlas talking about her little girl, Snow. I again stayed outside, but the remaining activists filled the restaurant.

DxE Light the Path protest at Bluestem Brasserie
[Image: A large group of people wearing blue shirts and holding candles stand outside Bluestem Brasserie at night. Two people are holding signs reading UNTIL EVERY ANIMAL IS FREE, and one person is holding a megaphone.]

Finally, we stood outside Macy’s at Union Square. My friend Wayne Hsiung, one of DxE’s core organizers, gave a passionate speech about the recent passing of Mei Hua, a hen he helped rescue from a so-called “humane” farm.

DxE Light the Path protest at Macy's
[Image: DxE core organizer Wayne Hsiung speaks into a megaphone, in front of a crowd of people wearing blue shirts and holding candles.]

Friendship is what got me out to this protest, after not leaving my house for a week. Building strong communities is absolutely essential to the success of the animal rights movement. As I posted previously, when I began speaking out about animal rights I lost some friends, but I’ve gained many more. Philosophers like Gary Francione (who is debating Wayne Hsiung on Go Vegan Radio with Bob Linden today at 5 p.m. PDT) say that we don’t need groups, but I need a group. Even though I’m an introvert, and anti-social much of the time, knowing that I’m not alone in this struggle gives me the strength to continue.

My friends at DxE are not people who only care about non-human animals. They’ve helped with my volunteer community gardening, stood with me at a Black Lives Matter vigil, and walked beside me at the Trans March. They are not perfect, but they acknowledge and respond to criticism and make good-faith efforts to resolve differences.

I look forward to continuing to speak out for all oppressed animals – human and non-human – with my friends. I’ve made the full set of photos from last night’s action available on Flickr.

Pax with candle
[Image: Pax, the author, holds a saucer with a lit candle and looks directly into the camera.]

Dancing on Waverly

[Image: Young people wearing matching multicolored outfits with very long sleeves dance on an outdoor stage.]

Yesterday I ventured to nearby Chinatown to take some photos at a free public performance, Dancing on Waverly. I found this event through the Fun Cheap SF list, which I used to peruse to find free public performances to shoot. I want to get back into that habit, as we have so much going on in San Francisco year-round.

Belly dancer at Dancing on Waverly
[Image: A belly dancer, wearing a black and silver top, orange and black skirts with black tassels, and many pieces of jewelry, dances on an outdoor stage.]

While this event was sponsored by the Chinese Culture Center, many forms of dance were featured. When I arrived, dancers from Fat Chance Belly Dance were performing and encouraging audience members to join them.

Dance performance at Dancing on Waverly
[Image: Two people wearing matching floral print tops and black pants perform a dance on an outdoor stage.]

However, I believe most of the dancers I watched were representing the Chinese Folk Dance Association. Many different styles were represented, with beautiful, colorful costumes.

Young people dancing at Dancing on Waverly
[Image: Young people in flowing costumes of different colors, with matching black, gold-trimmed vests, perform a dance on an outdoor stage.]

Young people dancing at Dancing on Waverly
[Image: Young people with matching blue and white costumes and floral headdresses perform a dance on an outdoor stage.]

Young people dancing at Dancing on Waverly
[Image: Young people with matching red floral tops and blue pants perform a dance on an outdoor stage.]

Some of the performers were very young, though a variety of ages were represented.

Children dancing at Dancing on Waverly
[Image: Young children with matching pink costumes, blue floral aprons, and red fans, dance on an outdoor stage.]

Dancers at Dancing on Waverly
[Image: Dancers wear matching flowing white and pink dresses with green trim, hold tambourines and smile while dancing on an outdoor stage.]

I’m glad I braved the Saturday afternoon crowds to attend this performance, despite being jostled by many fellow photographers and onlookers. I’ve made the full gallery available on Flickr. Support from readers like you will enable me to do more shoots like this, so please consider sponsoring me on Patreon or leaving me a tip. (Thanks to my supporters, I’m already halfway to getting new business cards!)

Follow your bliss?

[Image: Jonathan Mann plays guitar and sings into a microphone.]

Back when I was first contemplating transitioning, I attended a couple of peer support groups for transmasculine and genderqueer people at the Pacific Center in Berkeley. One group discussion rule that I really liked was: Use “I” statements. That is, don’t give other people advice, just say what has worked for you.

I am spectacularly unqualified to give personal advice on most issues. I am also quite cynical by nature. Hence the question mark in the title of this post. “Follow your bliss”* is advice I hear given to artists a lot. Do what you love, and the money will follow. But will it really?

Being a financially successful independent artist, writer, or musician takes a huge amount of work, along with a fair amount of luck. Most need another source of income, either from another job or a family member. I envy those who can work a full-time or part-time job and still have the energy to do creative work on the side.

Partly due to worsening clinical depression, I found it impossible to do many hired photography gigs while still working a day job. I was fortunate to have family support for my living expenses and health insurance while I tried to get my career off the ground. Ultimately I realized I could not make a living as a photographer. But at least I didn’t go bankrupt trying, and as I still have spousal support I can try to pull in a little income through crowdfunding, as detailed in my previous post.

Lately I’ve also begun to realize that most of the people I’ve seen give advice to “work for love, not for money” are able-bodied cis white men. These privileges can be so invisible that most people don’t even realize they have them. It’s a lot easier to rely on the good will of others, to say “the universe will provide”, when you are self-confident, full of energy, and your appearance doesn’t ring any alarm bells.

One white cis male artist who does recognize his privileges is Jonathan Mann, the first person I supported on Patreon. He’s frequently written songs and essays about social justice issues. His dream is to make a living entirely from user contributions, but for now he has to write corporate songs to make ends meet. I admire Jonathan, who I saw in person several times when he was living in the SF Bay Area; the photo at the top of this post is from his performance at Macworld Expo in 2011, where we first met. I also had the fun of collaborating with Jonathan and dozens of other people in a video last year:

Later this week I’ll write about some of the other artists and writers I’m supporting, on Patreon and other crowdfunding sites.

* Follow Your Bliss is also the title of one of my favorite songs, by the B-52’s.