Category Archives: Photography

Posts featuring my photography

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.

Trying a new funding model

[Image: Montage of three people singing and playing instruments with the logo superimposed.]

Brief summary: If you like my writing and/or photography work, please consider supporting me with a monthly pledge on Patreon or leaving me a one-time tip.

Back in the year 2000 I acquired my first digital camera. I began taking photos of anything and everything. By 2008, I had gotten enough praise for my photos that I decided to launch an official photography business, Funcrunch Photo, the following year.

Unfortunately, I was a terrible salesperson. And as any artist will tell you, making a living from art is 90% sales and marketing. While as an event photography specialist I considered myself more of a photojournalist than an artist, trying to convince people to pay for my work when more and more people were content with amateur snapshots was becoming increasingly difficult.

I also felt I had no control over my work once it was posted online; Facebook and many other social networks stripped metadata, some people cut out or cloned out my watermarks, and some gave me pushback even when I simply asked for attribution for my work. While in the USA, a photographer owns the copyright to their work the moment the shutter is pressed, trying to explain that just made me look greedy in an age where many expect anything digital to be freely available to all, without restriction.

So in August 2012 I stopped taking on new gigs, choosing to focus on volunteer work in food justice instead, as my partner Ziggy was earning enough to cover our living expenses. I continued to license my existing work and do occasional shoots, hoping to bring in enough income to at least cover my business expenses, but I became more disillusioned with the state of the photography industry. My output dropped precipitously; my Lightroom catalog for the year 2011 contains over 25000 images, while for the year 2013 there are fewer than 4000.

Still, I could not bring myself to shut Funcrunch Photo down completely, and I was beginning to miss shooting events. I still wasn’t accepting hired gigs, but I began taking photos at animal liberation actions and other events, and posting them online in full resolution, without watermarks. I also started contributing more high-resolution photos to Wikimedia, such as the ones I took at the Trans March, as more free photos are needed in this area. Especially as my food justice volunteering wasn’t working out (more on that in a future entry), I felt that I should use my photography talents, in addition to my writing talents, to advance social justice causes if I could.

Meanwhile I was noticing that more and more artists were using crowdfunding to support their projects. I was supporting several such people on Patreon, and decided that might be a way to cover my photography expenses. I hate advertising, and liked the idea of having users support my overall work directly, in writing as well as photography.

So I’ve set up a page on Patreon for that purpose. For those who don’t want to commit to a monthly pledge, I’ve also set up PayPal buttons so you can leave a one-time tip.

While my photography work going forward will be released under a Creative Commons license for free noncommercial use (with attribution), I’m treating my older galleries a bit differently. I’ve made all low-res images free for download, cut the price of high-res image licenses in half, and eliminated print options on all but my art prints.

I hope this new funding model will help me fit in better with the evolving expectations of the digital age.

We are all animals

[Image: A group of people holds up signs with photos of animals, the words “WE ARE ALL ANIMALS”, and the Direct Action Everywhere logo.]

Update, July 2016: Since publishing this post I have left Direct Action Everywhere (as has Saryta Rodriguez, who is in the top center of the above photo.) My points about animal liberation and the intersections of oppression still remain.

Yesterday my partner and I participated in an action with Direct Action Everywhere. I’ve been involved with this animal liberation group for about a year now, ever since having a falling out with Gary Francione, whose writing first got me interested in becoming an animal rights activist. Though I’ve been vegan since 2011 and vegetarian since 1992, it wasn’t until last year that I was convinced I should actively speak out against animal exploitation.  Welfare reform isn’t the answer, as “humane farming” is a myth. The answer is abolishing the property status of animals, or to put it in a more positive way, animal liberation.

Direct Action Everywhere protest at Whole Foods Market[Image: A group of people marches outside a Whole Foods Market, carrying a colorful banner reading “WE ARE ALL EARTHLINGS” and featuring the eyes of human and non-human animals.]

I like Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) because the people I’ve met in that community are more diverse and outspoken against human oppression than many of those in larger animal rights organizations. I’ve learned that all oppression is interconnected, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and speciesism. I won’t support animal rights groups or individuals who use sexist campaign tactics, like PETA, or say hateful, violent things about women or ethnic groups, like Gary Yourofsky. The ends do not justify the means.

Direct Action Everywhere protest at Chipotle[Image: A group of people hold signs with photos of animals and the words “WE ARE ALL ANIMALS”. A woman in the foreground holds a white rabbit. Another woman speaks into a megaphone, a large dog standing next to her.]

Total animal liberation means everyone, humans and non-humans alike. Other writers and activists outside of DxE who get this include A. Breeze Harper of Sistah Vegan Project, Sarah K. Woodcock of The Abolitionist Vegan Society, lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project, Corey Wrenn of Vegan Feminist Network and The Academic Abolitionist Vegan, Christopher-Sebastian McJetters of Vegan Publishers, and Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet.

Direct Action Everywhere protest at Chipotle[Image: A group of people stand outside a Chipotle restaurant, holding signs and a banner. In the foreground a man is speaking into a megaphone. Behind him a woman is holding a large white rabbit.]

As a queer black trans person, I feel safe and respected at DxE. In addition to taking photos at their events, I’ve written several entries for their blog, The Liberationist, on the topics of masculinity and aggression, dairy and racism, and gender identity and respect. I also participated on a DxE-hosted panel of queer-identified activists discussing the links between LGBTQ and animal rights. The organizers and most of the panelists were people of color. It was an empowering experience.

Direct Action Everywhere protest at Chipotle[Image: A group of people stands outside a Chipotle restaurant, carrying signs including a colorful banner reading “WE ARE ALL EARTHLINGS”.]

Lately, I haven’t been as active in DxE or other animal liberation activities as I would like, as depression and dysphoria have made it difficult for me to leave the house much of the time. I’m glad I made it out to this weekend’s action though, as it was in downtown San Francisco (so I could walk there and back), and I wanted to get photos of the companion animals the activists were encouraged to bring along. I especially couldn’t get enough photos of my friend Lisa with one of her beautiful rabbits, Aster.

Lisa pets her companion rabbit, Aster[Image: A woman with straight brown hair, rabbit-shaped earrings, and a blue T-shirt smiles while petting a large white rabbit sitting in a carrier.]

Rebeca and her dog friend Lexie[Image: A woman with curly brown hair and a blue T-shirt smiles while kneeling and petting a large brown-and-white dog.]

Pat and her dog friend[Image: A woman wearing a straw hat and brown jacket smiles while holding a small white dog.]

I’ve uploaded the full set of images to Flickr under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared for noncommercial use with attribution. (I also posted the photos to Facebook, but I’d rather not drive traffic to that organization currently, in light of their harmful, ongoing “real names” policy.) Looking forward to spending more time with my friends, human and non-human, at DxE.



Pride and pictures at the Trans March

[Image: Pax, the author, is outdoors on a sunny day in a crowded park, back to the camera, looking over their shoulder. They are wearing round sunglasses, a faded black baseball cap, and a purple hoodie containing the words “trans march” and a star.]*

Last week’s landmark Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality came just in time for the annual Pride celebration here in San Francisco. I’d attended Pride weekend festivities numerous times, often marching in the parade. I had a great deal of fun dancing on a float with the Bisexual contingent years before my transition, and singing along with the Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band while carrying the Transgender flag last year.

But each year after I finished marching down Market Street and waving to the thousands of cheering onlookers (which, I’ll admit, felt awesome), I would be overwhelmed by the crowds, corporate branding, and abundance of alcohol. (I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in over six years.) I felt that Pride had become a giant beer-soaked sellout, catering more to gawking tourists than to the needs of the LGBT community.

So this year, I did not attend any official Pride events. Instead, I went to the Trans March, an officially safe-and-sober event organized and run entirely by volunteers.

Chris and Pax at the Trans March[Image: Chris and Pax, the author, smile for a photo along the route of the Trans March, on an overcast evening in San Francisco, with many other marchers in the background. Chris is wearing a pink V-neck T-shirt with the words “HAPPY HEN CHICKEN RESCUE” in black and the silhouette of a chicken. Pax is wearing a faded black baseball cap, round eyeglasses, a purple hoodie with a star, and neon rainbow striped arm warmers.]

I’d first attended the Trans March last year with my partner Ziggy. This year he was out of town, but my friend Chris came along (and also took the two photos of me in this post). I was particularly interested in getting good photos of the pre-march performances on the stage this year, as my friend Diana was playing a set.

Diana Regan performing at the Trans March[Image: Diana Regan plays ukelele and sings into a microphone on an outdoor stage. She has long black hair, rectangular black-rimmed eyeglasses, a black tank top with a colorful design and black polka-dotted camisole underneath, and multicolored bracelets.]

Another highlight was this adorable little girl, Emmie, singing “Popular” from Wicked.

Emmie perfoming at the Trans March[Image: Emmie, a young girl with long blond hair and a frilly blue dress, sings into a microphone on an outdoor stage. She is smiling with her left arm uplifted, while people in the background smile and applaud.]

Dancers from AsiaSF gave an energetic and exciting performance.

AsiaSF performer at the Trans March[Image: A woman outdoors in the sunshine leans back with her eyes closed and her mouth open in a big smile. She has long brown hair and is wearing a silver headband, long earrings, necklace, and a low-cut sparkly white bodice with black trim.]

The headliner was Ryan Cassata, trans male singer/songwriter and activist.

Ryan Cassata performing at the Trans March[Image: Ryan Cassata sings and plays guitar on an outdoor stage, with a harmonica around his neck. He wears a rainbow-striped headband, black-rimmed eyeglasses, and a red muscle shirt with the words LOVESTRONG and Gay-Straight (with other words obscured) in white. His right upper arm is heavily tattooed.]

But my greatest delight was a surprise appearance by the talented and inspiring Laverne Cox, trans actress and activist. She gave a great speech about the realities and hardships of being a trans woman of color.

Laverne Cox at the Trans March[Image: Laverne Cox smiles while standing in the sunshine, holding a microphone. She is wearing large sunglasses, a long-sleeved navy blue top, a navy blue buttoned skort, and fishnet stockings.]

I’ve made all of my photos from this event available under a Creative Commons license, so they can be shared freely for noncommercial use, with attribution. I’ve posted the full set to Flickr (Laverne Cox photos are in a separate gallery), and uploaded a few to Wikimedia as well, to support the Wiki Loves Pride 2015 campaign.

I’m glad to live in a city where events like this can happen. Trans and nonbinary people need more visibility, so that we can get the rights, respect, and resources we need and deserve.

Pax wearing rainbow stripes. Photo by Chris[Image: Pax, the author, is sitting outdoors on the grass in a crowded park on a sunny day. They are smiling and wearing round sunglasses, a faded black baseball cap with the AIDS Walk logo, black T-shirt and off-black cargo shorts, chain necklace with metal rainbow-colored triangles, and neon rainbow striped arm and leg warmers.]

* Inspired by Everyday Feminism, I am using extended image descriptions to make my blog more accessible to the blind and visually impaired.