Monday, December 28, 2009

Phillip Stewart Charis

Portraits by Charis

For as long as I can remember my parents have had these two portraits of themselves hanging in our house. My father kept them lit under spotlights in our living room. Over the years I’ve watch them slowly fade the way old photographs do. Faded as they were, there was something that had timeless, elegant, and yes, a certain dignity about them. I figured the portraits were at least 25 years old and there was little to suggest that those photographs were shot in the 70s or 80s, except for my father’s glasses that may have hinted at the decade. There was something about them that looked liked they could have been created yesterday.

It occurred to me a few years ago that I should try to figure out who took the shots to see if I could get reprints. I had hoped there might be a label on the back indicating who the photographer was. This Christmas I noticed that they had been moved from their usual location to a place I could actually get to. I looked at the back... nothing. I was a little disappointed, but that was pretty much what I thought I would find anyway.

The pictures had faded so much that it became obvious where the image had been retouched since the pigments they used hadn't faded nearly as much as the photographs themselves. Back in the day, before I discovered Photoshop, I did my retouching with paints and pigments too, but that was almost 10 years ago. I stood there and noticed where some of the pigments were applied with a paint brush and saw the areas where an air brush was used. I was studying the technique. The area around the sleeves of my father's jacket and the area around my mother's hair had been painted in with a brush. An air brush was used to darken the right side of the image. I imagine it was a vignetting technique. My eyes followed the line made by the airbrush all the way to bottom right-side of the portrait and it was there that I noticed a faint signature. "Charis ©1979". I looked closer. Event fainter: "Phillip". I couldn't make out the middle name, but I hoped I had enough.

I grabbed my iPhone and typed it in. The first entry on the list: "Charis Portraiture - Phillip Stewart Charis". Wow, that was easy. Had I thought about it longer I would have had little hope that a photographer working 30 years ago would still be working today and have a web site, but there it was.

Today, I called the number listed on the site. I told them that I believed that Mr. Charis had photographed my parents back in 1979 and asked if they might still have the negatives and if it was possible to get reprints. The person on the phone, a very kind sounding woman, said that it was very likely that they still had the negatives and should the negatives be found, it’s still possible to get reprints. She also told me that at 92, Mr. Charis is still alive and working.

Charis’s site described him as a master of photography. Was it true or was it just another photographer tooting his own horn? I decided to google Mr. Charis. Perhaps he wasn’t tooting his own horn after all. He was given a five-minute standing ovation as he stood to speak at the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) annual convention, Imaging USA in 2006, Epson features Mr. Charis’s work on their site, and he was written about in the Los Angeles Times. Some of the people he’s photographed include Nancy Reagan, Joan Collins, Henry Mancini, Michael Landon, and Engelbert Humperdinck

I wonder what kind of photographer he was back in 1979. Was he as renowned then as he is now? How did my parents who had only immigrated from Thailand a few years before find him.

I called his studio again, this time to ask how much a commissioned shot would cost. Prints start at 16x20 and cost upwards of a thousand dollars. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. Maybe, one day, I’ll sit for him too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dancing Christmas Robots

Ever want to see a bunch of tiny robots synchronized to dance to Christmas music? Yeah? Me neither. Here it is anyway.

Synchronized Robot Christmas Dance - Watch more Funny Videos

Soju Bombs

My buddy Kenny is mighty fine photographer and the videos he shoots are pretty amusing too. Here is a video of the boys drinking Soju Bombs. Pretty impressive.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank You!


I am blessed to have not one, but two Thanksgivings: one with my Thai family and one with my Filipino family. One of these days I’ll have to work out a way to have a third one with my photo family.

The first stop for the evening was my sister’s place for some deep fried turkey, a sinfully delicious cut of prime rib, and a table full of Thai food.


Manny and Debbie even came over before heading over to the Filipino Thanksgiving after tempting her with a chance to meet up with her friend Diana and a plate full of my sister’s oh so spicy raw shrimp.

The next stop was back home, where, I swear, there must have been 30 people in the living room. There is a tradition where we all stand around the table together, hold hands and say a prayer of thanks and one I didn’t want to miss.



I want to let you know what I’m thankful for this year. I’m thankful for my families: the Thai family, the Filipino family, and my photo family. Yeah, sometimes we’re a bit dysfunctional, but it keeps things interesting. No matter what, we love each other. I’m thankful for my friends who are just as much family to me as the ones connected through blood, who are there for me when I laugh and never leave my side when I cry.

A special thanks goes out to my best friend, the love of my life, Randy. Thank you for all the years we’ve had together. Thank you for letting me follow my dreams and supporting me without question. Thank you for all the little things you do for me. I know that bringing me home a Slurpee on a hot summer day means I love you. Thank you for knowing I’m not the flowers and jewelry kind of girl and new desk chair for my birthday will make me smile. Thank you for putting up with my constant, horrible singing in the car, thank you for buying the NyQuil when I’m sick, thank you for giving me the good jacket on cold winter nights, and most of all, thank you for loving me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Downtown Disney with Andrea

Andrea and I have known each other since high school, but we lost touch for almost 10 years. Although I’m not sure how, we found each other again a few years back.

Truth be told, Andrea and I hardly knew each other in high school. I was a year (or maybe two) ahead of her so we never really had class together. She also had a signing career back then (see video below), so I don’t remember her being around too much. We would occasionally pass each other in the halls and say hi. The only meaningful conversation I remember having with her was when I got out of math class one day and she sat in the hallway trying to pull out the braids she had in her hair. I sat down beside her and helped her pull them out and we went our separate ways. That was the last time I remember seeing her. Over dinner a few years back she told me that she had moved from Thailand back the U.S that year.

I don’t know why I feel so close to her now. Perhaps it’s that common background of having gone to RIS, having someone else around that knows about that surreal life we had back Thailand. I suppose if we told the stories about what life was like going to RIS, and living in Bangkok, most people wouldn’t believe us. We went to school kids who had more money than most people here would make in a lifetime. Having drivers and maids were the norm. At 14, going out for drinks at the clubs or the bars along Patpong, the red light district, was socially acceptable.

Every time Andrea and I see each other we say that we should meet up more than twice a year, but so far, that’s a pattern that we have yet to break.

Our biannual get together led us to a late lunch at Dave and Busters and then a photo excursion at Downtown Disney. I handed my camera to Andrea and she was the photographer that night. We walked along the shops at Downtown Disney, stopping at a store that sold nothing but mismatched socks – yes, my friends, such a place really does exist.

A quick stop at the candy store to watch some cast members make chocolate treats and to pick up Randy’s favorite sour apple candy.

Anyone that knows me knows that I have a thing for the Disney Channel. Okay, so I watch Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, and the occasional episode of Jonas. How could I not try rockin' the Hannah Montana guitar purse?

Last but not least was a stop at Sephora. How can a girl resist?

These days Andrea works as an attorney. Yup, she’s beautiful and smart. Hopefully we can find more time than twice a year to hang out. Hey Andrea! How about another dinner date after my finals are over?

Note: all photos from this post are courtesy of Andrea. ☺

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Broken Window

We had a little bit of excitement in the Photo Department at Cypress College last night. When Jonathan Fletcher and I walked into Studio 2 to put some frames away I noticed a few pieces of “something” on the floor next to the window. As I moved closer I noticed that it looked like glass and not from the frames that were nearby. Hey! That glass looks suspiciously like the kind in the window!

Jonathan and I open the blinds to find that the window was cracked from floor to ceiling. I quickly called security to let them know about the window and then raced downstairs to let the automotive instructor and students working directly below the window know about the situation.

After a few phone calls to and from the powers that be, it was determined that the window needed to be broken out completely since it could fall at any moment. The area directly below the window was blocked off with caution tape while students and staff were cleared from the area while the window was being broken out. John shot photos from below while I remained in the studio.

Serendipity saved the day. If Jonathan had not needed the cart which the frames were on, I probably wouldn’t have walked into the studio that night and discovered the window. Luckily the pieces of glass that had fallen out of the window fell inside the studio and not out onto any students or staff working below.

I’m glad the situation was quickly resolved and action was taken quickly by all parties involved. Thank you to the security staff, the evening Dean, and the automotive instructors who worked quickly to make sure everyone was safe.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Flick War

Oh yes, that's right, it's flickr war time again. John is still winning, but that's only because I'm letting him.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Miller Halloween Party

This year the Millers decided to throw a Halloween party. I knew I couldn’t miss it. There is nothing like a Miller party and this one was no exception.

Since it was Randy’s birthday, Lynette graciously baked a chocolate cake for Randy. A guest at the party helped to handcuff Randy to a chair as the entire party sang something that I assume was supposed to be Happy Birthday to Randy, but came out as a jumbled mess – which made it even more hilarious! Okay, you just had to be there.

The night went on with many beers and many shots to be had by all. Unfortunately, most of the photos taken that night were far too incriminating to post and so, I share with you the few tame ones.




Saturday, October 31, 2009

Randy's Birthday Dinner

Randy's Birthday Dinner
Halloween is a special to me not only because I like playing dress up, but because it’s Randy’s birthday.

Before heading off to the Miller Halloween party tonight my sister made Randy a special birthday dinner consisting of squid larb, BBQ ribs, and som tum, all quite yummy. Thank you again sis!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Making the Costume


This year I’ve decided to be a BEER BELLY DANCER for Halloween (I would have been just a regular belly dancer, but I don’t quite have the figure for that, so I figured I would just work with the beer belly I’ve got). It was also the perfect compliment to Randy’s sheik costume.



My sister has been making my Halloween costumes for me since I was a little kid. No, none of that store bought stuff for me. Tonight she’s putting on the final touches to the skirt. I drove to her house for a final fitting after a frantic phone call from her saying that she might have measured me wrong for the skirt, “It’s so big! I think I measure you wrong.”

It turns out that she didn’t measure me incorrectly, I am just that big – 39 inch waist. I like my food, but don’t like exercise quite as much.

My sister is wonderful, not only did she make the costume for me (and insinuate that I was fat) she also made sure that I had something to eat. I love you sis! I really do.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gone too Soon

This morning I awoke to a voice mail from Ron. He didn’t say much, only for me to call him back. There was something about the way he said it, something in his voice. I knew something had happened to someone close to us… but what? and who? A few scenarios flashed in mind as I dialed Ron’s number, preparing to hear the worst.

It was Damon. “What?!?!” I was already sitting down, but I’m sure I would have fallen over if I wasn’t. Was it a heart attack? Did he slip in the shower? No. His death was suspicious was all they said. There was a flood of phone calls for the rest of the morning and early afternoon as I called people to find out what happened and other people called me. I found myself glued to the social networks hoping to find any news on what had happened.

A few hours later I got a phone call from Paula, the person who was responsible for introducing Damon and I in the first place all those years ago. She was frantic. The police were calling it a homicide. A coworker had found him at his home in Laguna Beach after he didn't show up for work on Friday. More phone calls.

By the afternoon I was physically and mentally exhausted. I was still dealing with the loss of Jerry, and now another wonderful member of our photo family is gone, and both too soon.

For more information please read this article by Rachanee Srisavasdi and Deepa Bharth at The Orange County Register.

***Update from Paula Martin (10/24/09 @ 10:07pm): I talked with the LB Police. They found Damon around 12 noon on Friday. The window of the last known contact with anyone was Thrs evening/early Friday am. Anyone knowing or has any information please contact the Laguna Beach Police at 949-497-0371/Detective Kelso. Any information no matter how small it may seem to you will help them. I spoke to the investigator Tim Kleiser at LBPD who said pass on this information to anyone who can help them. Damon was so special.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Krista's Beard


This semester Krista is taking a Stage Makeup class at Cypress College taught by Barbara Meyer. Each week she’s been working on various makeup techniques such as making someone look old or blocking eyebrows. This week she had to put on a fake beard.

I asked her to come back to the Photography Department with the beard on so that I could see it and needless to say it was HILARIOUS! She said that as she walked back people would look at her strangely - looking at the beard, then at her breast, then back at the beard. Even in person the fake beard looks pretty convincing so I can understand how people would get confused.

Krista made a joke about how she’s now “part of the club.” As I looked around, everyone in the stockroom at the moment did have some sort of facial hair. Naturally, it was time for a group photo. I feel a little left out, but I’m perfectly happy without facial hair. I’m sure Randy is too.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jerry Burchfield

i stood with my feet in the pacific ocean and watched the sun drift below the horizon as i said my silent thank you and farewell to jerry.

jerry burchfield died september 11, 2009. since his passing i’ve read numerous articles describing him as an artist, educator, and a dedicated family man. they also listed his many accolades, the projects he worked on, and the multitudes of books he authored. to me he was a friend, colleague, mentor, and a member of my extended family.

i took my first class with jerry in the spring of 1998. it was his conceptual photography class at cypress college. i was just beginning my photographic education at that point and was pretty proficient in the technical aspects, but had no clue about developing concepts and executing them. i struggled with that class. heck, i only got a “d” the first time i took it. it took me years to figure out what he was trying to teach.

jerry was an artist and i had no desire to be one. his methods were more abstract than i was comfortable with. he pushed me to develop my photographic style and learn how to use my photography to communicate a specific message. what style? i had no style. he told me that if i kept taking enough pictures a pattern would emerge and sure enough one did.

i was a slacker in school. i would do projects at the last minute. after a few classes with jerry i had learned what kind of pictures to turn in. i would bullshit my way through it after my friend mick told me the key was to say, “i meant to do that.” one year i decided to not do that anymore, not to put off projects until the last minute and really work on something meaningful to me. i turned this project into jerry and for the first time, he didn’t like what i did. i was frustrated. wtf? i can half-ass a project and he loves it and when i work on something really hard he doesn’t? i stopped taking pictures for nearly 4 years after that. i focused on my job, on the postproduction side of photography. i resented jerry and photography for those years. i finally told him how i felt and he just said that perhaps working on things at last minute forced me to work more instinctively and for me to trust my instincts. i did just that and my photography been better ever since.

jerry worked on these grand projects that i’m still not sure how me managed to pull off: creating “the tell”, photographing the entire length of laguna canyon road with an elaborate lighting rig, and taking part in creating the world’s largest photograph to name a few, all the while finding the time to raise a family, teach, write books, and produce art. it was through watching him that i learn that the things i once thought were impossible were possible especially with the help of friends who are just as crazy and enthusiastic and a little bit of tenacity.

he had more patience than anyone i knew. he took the time to help those who other people might have gotten frustrated with and given up on with the same care and attention he would give his dearest friends and loved ones.

i was stressed one day at work and it brought me to tears. he had been diagnosed with cancer by then. my problem was miniscule by comparison, but he still took the time to take me out to lunch and talk about it. he still took the time to care for me when he bigger things going in his own life.

jerry worked hard to expose his students to experiences that would enrich their lives. he would have his students learn how to publish their own books, be part of real exhibits, make clothing out photographs, visit galleries and museums to see the work of others – maybe they would inspire us in our own work, get access to photograph an abandoned air force base, and get them involved with projects that called for mass participation.

i can see him sitting at his desk and eating his lunch. he would offer me bites of his food if he thought i would enjoy it. he would do silly things like stand in front of class with a gag holding a sign that read “will work for art”. his performance pieces were strange yet somehow entertaining. he spit chewed up leaves at me for one. he did manhole rubbings with his “man hole” for another. it’s the little moments that i remember most.

these experiences and more i’ve had a chance to have because of jerry. his influence has shaped part of my life, my outlook on life, and the possibilities that exist. for these things i’ll always be grateful.

his friends stood on the patio of the hotel laguna and watched the sunset with me. i know he touched their lives the same way he did mine.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Flickr War

okay, so i'm a little late with this flickr war post. john is still ahead, but i still think i can overtake him - nay, i KNOW i can overtake him. i have mad skills. just watch.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


during our visit to solvang we passes by a fair and decided to stop and check it out. It was a fiesta held at the mission. i didn't even know there was a mission here.

spending a couple hours at the beach at UC Santa Barbara. it's pretty chilly here, but not too bad.

Steak for lunch

even though we're camping, it doesn't mean we don't eat well. steak for lunch people!

The view from my tent

This is the view from my tent. Everyone is up except me. I'm happily lying in my oh so warm sleeping bag.

The site

Dang! My iPhone map is so accurate!! The blue dot is exactly where I'm at. I'm lying in a tent under that very tree.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

On out way

it's nearly midnight and we're on the road on our way to the campground at cachuma lake. we got a late start and yes, it's my fault. i had stuff to do before we left and I didn't get done until it was pretty late. we ended up leaving the house at 9:45pm, but it's okay. some of our family members are already at the site.

this was a rather impromptu trip for us. I didn't even know we were going until thursday night. The family often does things at the last minute. every now and then you just have to get up and go. it keeps life interesting.

honestly, i was hoping for a relaxing weekend at home, but i'll still have fun. i always do.

Friday, August 07, 2009

David Pouge

one day while searching for people to follow on twitter i came across david pouge, the personal technology columnist for the New York Times and an Emmy Award-winning tech correspondent for CBS news. he's also one of the world's bestselling how-to authors, with titles in the for dummies series and his own line of "missing manual" books. i first saw david in a video on the TED web site and thought he would be interesting to follow (his TED videos cracked me up).

david was in the middle of collecting responses for his new book "the world according to twitter." every day he would post a question such as "what’s your greatest regret?" or "what’s the best toast you ever heard?" and his followers would respond. well, it turns out that a few of my responses actually made it into the book. david is current in the middle of signing 1500 hundred books to send out to people who contributed to the book. the last i heard (through twitter) he had signed about 750 of them. i can't imagine what that would be like. and i though signing my mortgage papers was a lot of writing! one of those books in the picture above is mine! i get a free signed copy! i'm so excited!

thanks @pouge! you rock!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Albertson's Beer Room

while grocery shopping for the photo house meeting vergil and i came across the beer room at the supermarket. how kick ass is this? a walk in refrigerator full of beer!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Pat Thai

nong nang made me some pat thai for me tonight. she even showed me how to cook it. it always kicks ass to watch your food being prepared, although i doubt i'll be able to make it taste as good as hers... yet.

thanks so much for dinner!

Max Gerber's History of Photography

max s. gerber's take on photographic history:

camera obscura - niepce - talbot - daguerrotypes - stereoscopes, man - matthew brady - muybridge wins a bet - kodak beings - stieglitz - f64 - man ray invents photoshop/practice of having hot female assistants - lee miller (see previous) - kertesz figures out that if he uses funhouse mirrors girls will pose naked for him (see two items prior) - fuji comes late to the party - farm security administration run by a guy with the most macho name ever (roy stryker) - bresson - hasselblad comes late to the party - steichen/family of man - winogrand - irving penn - avedon kicks everyone's ass - wegman jumpstarts greeting card industry - C41 jumpstarts cancer - mary ellen mark begins a 35 year ass-kicking career -- cindy sherman jumpstarts narcissism - avedon kicks everyone's ass in the american west - sally man jumpstarts exploiting your kids for art (in a good way) - canon EOS comes late to the party - adobe releases photoshop, bull in the china shop - digital cameras ruin life for everyone - flickr (see prior) - digital cameras slowly make life better for everyone - polaroid goes bankrupt - twice - annie leibovitz goes bankrupt - publishing industry goes bankrupt - everyone becomes wedding photographers - economic collapse - everyone becomes divorce photographers.

there's your photo history. i just saved you all six weeks of homework. you're welcome.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Kate Reid at Steamers

last night i went to see my friend kate reid play at steamers jazz club (and have a few caramel apple martinis while i was at it).

kate is not only a great jazz singer and pianist, she's also the head of the jazz program and chair of the music department at cypress college teaching the jazz vocal ensemble, jazz improvisation, jazz history, and music theory.

kate performs regularly in jazz clubs around southern california so go check her out and buy her CD (she'll even sign it for you).

Flickr War - July

ahh yes, it's that time again... the flickr war. i almost forgot about it until john tweeted me. here it is.

i got a nice spike a while back thanks to my friends ron and lynette.

i'm on vacation starting from today. i don't have to go back to work until august 10. during this time i plan to do nothing but catch up on my picture stuff and cleaning my room. i'll win this war. oh yes i will. you'll see!