Category Archives: Photography

The Poison of Seeing

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It has been said that we should see things as if seeing them for the first time. This is crucial to photography. Example of futility. Uncle Birney and I went to his home after work. I mentioned to him the issue of seeing things for the first time, whenever you look at it.  He was not a photographer but very smart. This issue had been bugging me for a while and I found no reasonable solution.

There was a tree in front of the house on the lawn. We stopped walking. Birney told me, there is a million dollars buried under the tree. You can have it all, but…there is a teddy bear leaning against the tree. He said, open your mind and tell me if you see it. After a few seconds, I said, yeah I see it. Then Birney told me, you can have the money but if you see the teddy bear, the money vanishes. I said, that’s easy. Then I realized for all of my life, I would see the teddy bear before I ever got a chance to get the money.

His mother, my grandmother, once told me to never poison my mind. I didn’t really pay attention but later, when I needed visual rescue, it dawned on me that Birney and Nana taught me a lesson I will never take for granted. It’s the lesson of SEEING.

See, pun intended, when I was told to see things as if seeing them for the first time, in my mind, it was impossible. I already had the vision planted deep in me poor head. How is it possible to see things for the 1st time after I already saw them? Can’t be done. So, Nana was right about poisoning the mind. Seeing something is poison in your mind. We can’t escape that.  Trying to see past that is futility. BUT…There is a way to stay focused and attempt to have the original thought.  Birney gave me the path to this. See, every time we look at something again, we see the teddy bear. Trying to rid of that is impossible. The trick is to accept the teddy bear and see the tree differently. I tried, but never got the money… and of course, Birney told me no one else could help in any way.

So, seeing something different versus trying to see it for the first time, is completely different. As photographers, we simply must allow a different vision to the commonplace in our lives. Traveling to other countries, places, etc is nice but you can never run from yourself. The simple truth of this is…. no matter how hard you try, you can never make the same photo with 2 different exposures. Put the camera on the motor drive, it fails to duplicate the first frame. There is always some poison in the mind of the photo.

Remembering Lady Sara pt 2

This is Sara’s plant. I got it from her grandson after Sara was buried. It wasn’t that long ago.

When we left the Museum, Sara wanted to show me her camera. So, out of her fancy, dancy handbag, comes a silver Leica M-4 with a silver 50mm 1.4 Summilux. The dang thing won’t wind the film anymore. Don, can you look at it? Sara, is there exposed film inside? No, it just keeps winding and winding. I smiled and said I could explain how to make it work.  She raises her arm and in a minute the Limo arrives. The driver gets out and opens the door and guides Sara into the car. He smiles at me and moves his hand as if to guide me in also.

Sara… Jack, we will go home and take Don with us and after dinner, you will drive him to his home. Yes, Sara. Jack, please stop at the grocery store. Patty asked me to get fresh Salmon and fresh dill. So we get to Elkins Park and stop at the grocery store. A young guy comes out with a shopping bag and hands it to Jack. Off we go to Sara’s home.

We get to Sara’s home and walk up the 4 steps to the door. A tall woman smiles, Hi Ms. Sara and grabs Jack and hugs and kisses him.(I’m wondering where my hug and kiss is, sheesh) Sara introduces  Patty to me, as Jack’s wife. Then we all sit to the dinner table and start having dinner.

Sara … Don, 35 years ago a young man came to me at the museum and told me he was going to be my personal driver. A few months later Jack told me his wife Patty was my personal attendant. We have been family ever since. Jack is chomping away on the Salmon covered with Dill and Lemon Butter. Patty smiles at me and says, how is the Salmon Don? See the front door, Don? Yes, smiling. The other side of the door is the world Jack manages. This side of the door, I manage. I really wanted to ask what role Sara had but I knew better.

After dinner, Sara takes me to the room where all her cameras are living. Some, actually are very familiar to me. Hmmmmm? She hands me some Leica’s and I take the body cap off and breathe the insides of the cameras. I notice on the serial numbers of a few cameras, the letters, letters G*. I asked her about that and she replied, George * was my husband’s attorney. She asked me if I still had the 2 cameras George gave me back in the ’70s. How on earth do you know about that? She said it’s in the ledger. She goes to a cabinet and pulls out a ledger with all the cameras her husband and George had,. My name is in it with the 2 cameras George gave me decades ago.

We sit at a small oval table and Patty brings us a cup of tea. Patty squeezes a slice of lemon in each cup. I never saw such a seductive squeeze. The way she twisted her fingers, no wonder Jack is always smiling. HA! Sara hands me an M3 & an M4. Both are nicer than mint. Don, for the life of me, I can’t get the film to act properly. So, I asked her to load the cameras as I watched. Sputs the spool in the M4 and it doesn’t catch. So I showed her to bend the end of the film so that there is a crease. She does as I explained and yup, uh huh, the film loads perfectly. Many times the film will slip out of the take-up spool because it slips out. Happens to the best of us.

Then she hands the M3 to me. I showed her that basically, the film end should do the same, a crease. The take-up spool has a grip on the spool and it also may slip the film. So she does the way I explain and perfect again.

Patty comes into the room and says, Sara, time for your meds and bath. Ok sweetheart. Sara tells Jack to take me home. I walk to the front door and all 3 stand and wish me a good life,. Sara turns and goes upstairs, Patty says, Sara has fond memories of you and your shared friends. Jack says, this way sir.

A few years passed and I never heard or saw them again. Sara passed away 4 months ago and 3 weeks ago, I got a package from Patty and Jack. It had the ledger, many photos, and a long 5-page handwritten letter in Sara’s handwriting. It explained how many of the people in my life who were mentors, friends, etc, were connected to Sara and her husband. It all started with Ding McNulty, Sara’s very special friend.

It really is a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.

Oh, the plant in the photo is Sara’s essence, minus her incredible legs….

Remembering Lady Sara pt1

It was sometime in 2015 when I was on Market Street around 17th St. I had my M9 and a 35mm Cron. So that keeps me in a state that I am supposed to be in.  Then, then a soft tap on my rear shoulder. Ya’s gotta understand. I watched Bruce Lee. I saw John Saxox and Rocky and Arnold. I know these moves and whoever this is is in danger of my movie watching. Oh yeah, when I turn around, dead meet Buster.

Tap my shoulder, I’ll learn ya, I will I tellya.  So carefully with all the skills I learned in life, I turn to see my assailant and …ohhh my. Gasp. There, there right in front of me is the little lady street warrior with a smile that could raise the dead. Truth is truth. She says, my name is Sara and I have been a photographer all my life. I think she can’t resist me and prolly She tells me she is heading to the Museum because she sent a large donor check and forgot to sign it. She wants to jump my bones. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it. So Sara asked me to accompany her to the museum. So she waves her hand in an NYC fashion and in a minute a real fancy dancy Mercedes Limo pulls up.

We stand there for a minute and she says, Well? Huh, I said,. You do know how to open a door don’t you.?  Yes, I certainly do, but I thought you would open it for me.  Well, she says, you certainly will need some work, won’t you?  So we get to the main entrance of the Museum and I open the door for her. We walk up the stairs and enter. A security guard greets us and we pass thru, We get to the executive office, and a young secretary greets us. Oh, so nice of you to visit Mrs. A. Sara introduces me as her boyfriend. She looks at my face and smiles. Sara asked me to sit and wait as she takes care of business.

The secretary sits next to me. She asked me how well I knew Sara. Well honestly, not a long time. We have a strictly sexual relationship. Her face was kinda contorted and twisted as her mind melted. She does things I didn’t know a human woman could do.  Imagine that? Sara comes back and she sits for a minute, Ok, I’ve done fashion shoots, been married more than a few times, seen more women than I remember but…but as I watched Sara conduct herself, it became at almost 80, she has the finest legs I ever saw.

to be continued…


It’s not about what you make pictures of …

It’s about what you don’t make pictures of …

Olde City, Philadelphia, 1975   Courtesy Richard Chait

Thru the years, actually many of them, I learned when I  was younger, I liked to TAKE pictures. When I became a more hip photographer, it became, I like to MAKE pictures. Years would pass and I became a more experienced shooter and I liked to MAKE PHOTOS. Making rather than TAKING,  after all, let’s not degrade the fine art aspect of photography. The Horror!

Now that I am in the September of my years, I MAKE IMAGES, not TAKE IMAGES. Proper images at that. Of course, maybe  I am the only one that notices or even gives a hoot. Not true but saying it releases a lot of pressure.

Ok, all, grab your camera and let’s go for a virtual walk, It’s fine to use your virtual camera now. A few things to bare in mind. You can make virtual photos of anything you want. As we walk about, whatever suits you to make a photo, do it. Next to me is Jenny. She stops for a second raises the camera and clicks. She asks me to look at the frame and I do. So, we walk a wee bit more and I ask her, jenny, what made you stop our virtual walk and make that photo?

She replied, virtually of course … “well Don, I wanted to see what was missing before the photo. I was connecting my units, as you showed me. I felt it was all together and I realized instantly I needed to make the photo.


I know I mentioned triggers, sensitivities, sensibilities, and other visual things that make the recipe of a photo. So, what is it that does not conjure up an image in our minds? Is it that we are living in a world that is mundane and we seek the special?  That’s maybe a part of it but methinks it’s more than that.  I feel that the photo we want to really make and breathe, calls to us. We don’t find anything but something finds us.

There is a special duty a photo could serve. There is a special purpose we could serve to make them. There was a shrink many years ago named, Dr. Murray Banks. He was brilliant and had a very good sense of humor. A quote of his is, “As you go throughout your life, brother whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.”  This sums up the concept,  “It’s about what you don’t make pictures of …”

Imagine if you will, that there are some people and you want a photo of just one. This person is in a group but you just want that person. That person will feel special because you singled he, she or trans out. That is a special feeling. But, what of the others that you don’t make a photo of?

That person was worth the memory. In time, and quickly, you will love the memory of that person and the experience. But the others, no memory will survive, Does that mean they aren’t worth the memory or the memory of the experience? I think not. It’s the things that draw us that command a memory. They are not always the first choice but they count and need to be honored with a memory of your life experience that joins yours.

I made a photo of my grandmother sitting on a sofa in her home. It was like 1975. The photo is one of my prized possessions. When I clicked the shutter I was fully aware that the photo would eventually outlive her and in time outlive me. I remember Pop. my grandfather standing 5′ away but he didn’t sit down. He was looking out the window. I made the photo and since then my heart aches because I miss both of them and only have the photo of her. I have the memory of the loss of him.


Love and Death of the Ricoh GRIIIx


When I was an admin at the now defunct Ricoh Forum, it was wished by all that Ricoh would make a GR with a 40mm FOV. See, 28mm and 40mm are a perfect pair. That was in the daze of the Ricoh GRD3 & GRD4. Time moved on and the forum was closed. Pavel was a great guy, dedicated to the group, etc. I guess the financial responsibility was too much to bear himself.

Along came the Ricoh GR. It was an experience that brought many to the Ricoh brand. Time passed again and the GRII was released. An amazing camera. It did things with 16mp that other makers couldn’t match. I took a nap and when I woke…(not WOKE, but woke) and then, there,  there it was, the one and only Ricoh GRIII. Now we have a camera that just about kills everything else.

The GRIII never fails to inspire and work with me. But wait my friends, oh yes… there is more than you can imagine or want to.  I was out on the street and Muddy the Ricoh GRIII told me he got an internal message from a Ricoh engineer. The message was about a new, real new Ricoh GRIIIx. This new-fangled camera sees at 40mm. That’s right. After 12 years, Ricoh made the 40mm GRIIIx.

Now, you’ll know me and I am not impulsive at all. When it comes to acquiring a new camera, I might just take a full minute to decide. I know, I know… usually 30 sec.  So I watched all around and then, then on the eBay listings, there it was. I mean the guy had a listing for a new Ricoh GRIIIx and it was ready to ship.  13 seconds later, he thanked me for the buy. He said it would ship in less than a day.  2 daze later, I had the camera. I immediately named the camera, Peter, after my old friend that passed years ago.

The camera is essentially set up the same as the GRIII. I went for a walk a bout the next day and well, it was nice but I was like…what have you done for me lately? Peter the Ricoh GRIIIx told me, look shooter, I am the new guy. I don’t appreciate you putting pressure on me to perform until we bond. I agreed and quietly apologized. The next day we go out again. I must say… the GRIII is one of my lifesaver cameras. I mean, when I am in a stalemate with life, I take the GRIII out and it saves me and revitalizes my vision.

That being said, I felt the GRIIIx can’t do that. Maybe, because my mind is trained to see 28mm and then Peter makes me see 40mm. Old habits are hard to break. I’m too old to want to do any of that. I waited maybe 12 years for this 40mm Ricoh and now that I have it, I don’t like it. It’s not the 40mm either. My M43 cameras love that Lumix 20mm 1.7.  The GRIIIx is a fine camera but not for me. I suppose I need to sell it off. I rather swap out and get something new.

awww, no worries, I have more tales of life and death of my cameras, soon


June 24th, 2019 … Finding Your Way Thru The Mist of Your Creativity… Pt1

Did ya’s ever kinda sorta, maybe feel like your out of place? You don’t have to say anything. We can keep it a secret. Myself, I been feeling like that for as long as I can remember and I’m sure it goes back further than that. There’s not much ado to make yourself feel more at ease so, just accept it and get on with things. That’s what I try to do. Ya know, this will apply to your photos also. I know it seems hard to believe, but ye olde shooter knows something about this. What ya can’t do is surrender. There’s an energy that we can tap into that gives us stamina during the down times and we need to feed on that.

To be honest, I never ever felt lost, or even a lack of energy to work. That’s not the point. The point is I know many who have been in this situation or are even in it now. The best advice I could give is to, close the box with your photos or just don’t look at any photos you made. Just don’t keep any images available for viewing. Of course, if your really a shooter, those photos are in your head anyway. Just don’t think of them. It’s not like you can have a fresh start but you can have a start that’s not jaded with your photos.

We are creatures of habit. We get very comfy doing things that work over and over. I have talked about trigger mechanisms many times and If you think about this, your photos are trigger mechanisms. Yeah sure. See, you have these photos you really like and they become platforms for your creative mind. The photos of the past will drive the photos yet to be borne from you.

This is not like breaking a barrier. It’s more like being comfy on this side of the fence and wondering what’s on the other side. Don’t get me wrong. I am not an optimist. Many have told me thru the years that the grass is greener on the other side. Oh yeah, ya know why… cause there more BS there to fertilize. I’m talking about finding your way thru the mist of images you already have and trying to find the ones out there you haven’t discovered yet. Maybe this doesn’t seem important to you. Dunno but sure is to me and many I know.

I’ll do a series of articles and am open to offer my opinion on the comments page. Each post will address a certain are of creativity and the Dreaded BLOCK. Be blessed all and have a sweet photographic experience that lasts your lifetime.

November 30th, 2018 … Watching You Watching Me … Passing Time With Harry Bertoia

I was heading out to Harry Bertoia’s place in Barto Pa, and was anxious to talk with him.   Harry had a mind that was limitless in thoughts. He was expecting me and had a cup of coffee ready when I arrived. Harry was sitting and looking at some of his sculptures. I sat in the chair next to him and by the way, the chairs were sculptures by Harry. Harry looked at me and asked, “What do you see”? I know that no matter my answer, it would either be wrong or in adequate. I told Harry that I can only explain what I’m seeing that connects my heart. (If this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right) I said I see the light, textures, shapes and the physical things associated to each piece.

Harry smiled and said, what do you think the pieces are thinking as they look at us? My eyes kinda perked up and I was caught off guard. It’s 1976, my son Paul was born 5 months prior to this event. I hadn’t done any drugs in a long time, no pot, no alcohol either. Clean and sober except for photography. So I felt kinda trippy when Harry asked me that question. I never thought about my works watching me as I watch them. It’a absurd I tellya, totally absurd. That’s not the lesson he was teaching me.

Harry was teaching me about perception and how it applies to others seeing me. Harry said that my work is stronger than any mirror image. Look at your self in a mirror and you may adjust yourself as you see fit. When you look at your work, realize that it is looking at you and can’t be adjusted. You just need to accept the fact that it is you and another way of seeing yourself and being seen.

Minor White had a similar concept about viewing work. He felt that it was a 3 way process. The photographer, The work and the viewer. All 3 are as one and not one part shall be excused from the others. I agree with these Master of course. I also like to add that there are other elements involved and even as the work is created. The idea of money or paid work, regardless of the original intent, will most certainly effect the outcome.

The intent of the photo is now maybe divided upon the shooter and the shooter’s client. The photo that’s looking back at us maybe is in the hands of a client and those eyes are watching us intently. Who or whom is our work satisfying now? I think Harry had a getter grasp on this than Minor. Harry made and sold a lot of work. His Sounds Of Sculpture is an amazing recording. I got to play some of those sculptures in his studio. Harry gave me a small mushroom sculpture and I still have it. In fact I was looking at it a short time ago and it told me to write this blog post, so I did,




June 17th, 2018 … Making vs Exhibiting Your Work … Suzanne Part 2

….. Intent ….. that’s part of what we are dealing with Suzanne, See, when your out making photos, you are dealing with them on a one to one basis. Even if your doing a project, your still doing a one on one. When your exhibiting or doing a book or anything that takes the one on one of the photos and joins them collectively, the intent is altered and things are added to it. The end result is entirely different than the result of a single photo. Suzanne looks at me and raises her brow….(it has long been know to all that when a woman raises her brow, you best get clarity and rid any chance of misunderstanding quickly. ) So I start the journey of teaching or passing on what I have learned and  hopefully learn again and more myself. See, knowledge is a wonderful thing to have but if it’s not shared, it’s as close to a sin as any of us need be.

I ask Suzanne what the single most important item is in photography. I will now tell her answers because I care about her and that’s enough. She ask me what. I tell her, nothing is more important than EYE TRAVEL.  This single thing is what determines how long the viewer will engage the photo. Subject matter and color or black and white and anything else is all secondary. This is not a new invention to photography, oh no … not at all. Even as far back as Adam & Eve. Eye travel was crucial. See, Adam and Eve were out frolicking about when Adam noticed Eve and her, ummmm apples. He said, Eve, ya gotz some nice apples. Well in the tree was the snake. The snake said, hee ya, I gotz ya apple right heeer. So Eve being the curious one, looked at Adam and saw Adam didn’t have any apples. Hmmmm she thought, so she took the apple from the snake…. well needless to say, it’s not up to me to convince you or anyone but that Garden of Eden was supposed to be like a paradise. Now look at us….. so, take the apples from your spouse or lover or someone very close but, shun the apple from the snake. Apple Monogamy is essential to healthy life.

Of course Suzanne at this point tells me I lost her and she wonders how that relates to photography.  Ok, youse alls take a minute and think how this applies to your photography. I’ll wait for ya’s a few lines down…………………………………………………………


Ok, I know youse all figured this out. I will run thru it just so we are all on the same page. When you make photos, mostly you are your own audience. Yeah, yeah, Flickr and 500px and Instagram, all nice places but the real satisfaction should be YOU! I’m not talking about work for clients etc, that’s a post in development.

When you exhibit work, now there’s a new dynamic involved. That dynamic is known as the viewer. The viewer is now an independent partner in your work. Of course you are the source and maybe you think that’s all that matters but your wrong. Just like in viewing single photos, an exhibition has it’s own way of presenting and viewing the work. Suzanne, there are a few ways to do the exhibition and i’ll explain some and then you can decide which is best for you.

One way is: to have the prints hang with some space between them so each photo makes it’s own statement unto itself. The exhibition is like a retrospective in a way. The photos reflect the photographer’s vision and not necessarily connected in a way that  seems obvious. Each as always is an image of the shooters vision. One of the most common mistakes in this way, is to place the photos too close together. What happens is, they seem connected in a way more than from the same shooter. They appear to be connected as in a group or project and this is not the real case. They want to be viewed independent of each other. They are individual statements that together add up to a mark in a photographers life.

Another way it to hang as a project and that means each photo is a part of the whole. It happens in a way different from the previous method. This method makes the sum equal to or greater than the whole. The story or project comes to like because each photo adds to the story or the whole.

So, Suzanne, we need to determine what your work is and how to present it. Maybe time we get into sequencing some. She looked at me with groggy eyes and said, she’s tired and needs to sleep. Good night luv, seeya soon and I left with Andre’ the Leica M240 and headed home.


April 28th, 2018 … Making vs Exhibiting Your Work

….just pulled the lens off of Walker the Fuji X-Pro2. Walker needs a good cleaning and it’s his turn so we do it. Ya know, if I was level headed, I’d put him in the sink and wash him the right way. Thing is, if I did that, my doc would send me to the place where messed up patients go and don’t get out too often.  Oh, sorry I forgot….phone rings…. ringy ringy…I answer. On the other end is a voice I know very well. “Don, I need help, I am in a bad way.”  It’s Suzanne and I tell her we can meet in the morning. She want’s to talk NOW! So, I ask her what’s so pressing. She tells me she got word that she has a major exhibition in Japan in October 2018.  I congratulate her and I hear and feel her tears.  She agrees to meet in the morning. Somehow I feel it’s gonna be a long day.

For those new here, a little bit about Suzanne and our relationship. She’s Japanese. Lives in the USA for over 2 decades.  She is a heart doctor and does surgery and stuff. She has been a stufentof mine for about 7 years. Her friend Polly is an Opthomologist and she also studied with me. Suzanne is a very talented photographer.  Her images are exceptional. She’s a lovely woman and means a lot to me.

Suzanne addresses 2 ways. She calls me don when we are, making photos, doing the gear thing or whatever. When she calls me Mr Don, I know it’s serious and it’s business. We are at her home and sh has about 100 photot on the floor. They are all 7×7 prints. This is not what I was taught but it is what I learned and what I teach. She ask me to edit and sequence the photos. I agree and look the room over and tell her we need to move furniture. After about 15 min, we have a reasonable workspace. I ask Suzanne what is the goal of the exhibition.

She looks at me with kinda vague eyes. It’s a similar look I have when Tanya ask me if I put the trash out. She tells me it’s a body of work about immigration and prejudices she encountered in her life. I tell to sit on the floor with me. I say to her, that is the purpose and intent of the work. It is the driving force behind the thoughts and emotions of your photos. It is not the goal of the exhibition.

The goal of the exhibition is to allow and compell the viewers to explore the thoughts and emotions that drove you to make the photos. A few wrong photos or even misplaced photos and  your left with visual chaos. Take a 50 word paragraph and jiggle the words around. Every word is visible and reads as a word. The issue is that even as the words are all there, the story of the paragraph is incoherent as a whole. The thoughts, emotions are all there as a single word but none and all do not support the story. Everything is fragmented.

She says she kinda gets it. She as me if I’m sure about this. Suzanne, your a Heart Doctor. If something happens to me, I don’t wanna be laying on a table with my chest cut open, and have you thinking…son of a bitch messed up my exhibition. 😇

She laff’d and I felt better, she did to.

I think I need to continue this post in a few days.

Be blessed all………🙏

February 28th, 2018 … Vietnam … Lost Souls, Humanity Found and a Leica M4

Chu Lai beach, 112f, the scent of sally joints permeates the hot dry air. I’m lying on my back joint in my lips, the young bloods music playing loud. Most of us are in the water, swimming or surfing or just trying to forget what they remember.

“Hey, I’m looking for jingles” I answer, what for. I open my eyes and this guy looking like Brad Pitt before Brad Pitt looks like himself is leaning over me. I been assigned to 2 squad and I’m to bunk next to you. Says his name is Ken. I’m jingles or Don. I tell Ken to get to his boxers and enjoy free time cause 2 days, we in the shit again. Ken goes to the hooch and comes back in a few minutes and has a Ricoh TLS or something. He ask if it’s okto take pictures. Now I know why they put him next to me.

Some girls are working the guys and one comes over an lays on top of me. I know her well. Ken is looking at her cause she’s French Vietnamese and about as fine a woman as ever was. She whispers in my ear. “he baby”. I smile and tell her I pay. The fee is $5.00 and $2.00 credit fee. The girls know us and trust us to pay later in the day.

She slides over to Ken and climbs on top of him. Slips her hand in Ken’s boxers. I looked at his face and saw the sun in one eye and the moon in the other. It took Ken about 30 sec to release. She hugs him, kissed his neck, kisses his lips, lays close on him and tells him, I love you baby. About 15 min later, she takes her silk dress off and Ken’s boxers. A few guys and me watched as she took his boyhood away and made him feel like a man. She rolled over to me and said 10 dollar baby.

Ken said to me Don, that’s the first time I did it. Ken, in your life you will never find a woman that can be your angel like her. He looked at me like, a lost boy. Ken, we are walking corpses. Our souls are lost, humanity is a word. At 20, I learned there exist things worse than death. That girl makes me feel like I am alive, like I want to be alive.  That girl accepts me no matter who I am or what I do. She is the angel of love and mercy, for all of us.

Ken told me hid dad owned  a few banks. He wanted Ken to come to Nam and be a hero so when he came back to the bank, it would draw a lot of business. Ken made me promise something. He told me that if he didn’t make it to mail the letter in his pocket to his dad. I wonder how he knew he wouldn’t make it and how he knew I would.

A few days later we had to do a sweep of the village. It was just our 2 squad. We at the time were 11. We were looking for activity by VC. So we sitting smoking cigs and breathing. Then we heard a girl crying and screaming.  We all ran to her defense. Then we stopped in our tracks as this girl squatted  and gave birth to a baby. We were all so used to the taste, smell and feelings of death that this miracle took hold of us and unarmed us. Chuck, our medic went to her aide. He also was on his 4th tour and could speak Vietnamese. He talked with the girl and she said she was 14 2 days ago.

She said the VC came to the village an killed her 2 brothers and father. They took her and her sister and 4 of them raped them many times. She never saw her sister again. Her mother told her to leave because she can’t afford to take care of her and a baby. Mother told her to go and never come back. Kissed her good by and that was it. (14, dammit, 14, she delivered at 14, what does that mean?)

Then we heard a shot ring out. We all hit the ground. Chuck covered the girl and the baby. One shot, we knew it was a sniper. Roger had the M79 and looked up in a tree and fired. The canopy exploded and something  fell with the leaves and branches. The partial remains of the sniper. Medic,  Medic….calls out we run over to where the call comes from ….. son of a bitch, first out 10 days in country, first sex with an angel, the sniper chose Ken because no helmet on. East target. I looked at Ken humped over, head and face mangled. We stood around and kinda hurt and maybe saying prayers privately. I reached in Ken’s pocket as he asked me and put the letter in mine. It occurred to me that we found what we were looking for. VC activity, Ken paid the price and the girl, the aftermath of the VC rapes.

We got back to home as we called it an and we put the girl and baby on Ken’s bunk. Chuck said that we should call the girl Gai, meaning sister. For everyone of us, Gai was our sister. We took care of her and the baby and she took care of us. She would come lay with one of us after a while. NO SEX EVER! It was finding humanity and she needed to as much as we did. We got the MPs to give her ID as a civilian worker and she was safe on base. When we came back from a mission, the hooch had flowers all around, was clean, and a real feeling of life.

I sent the letter to Ken’s dad and I wanted to write my letter to him also. I couldn’t, because I had never with all I been thru or would, ever hated anyone as much as Ken’s dad. I wrote a small note that said….. I hope your satisfied that now you have your hero back home.

If you need to ask what these memories have to do with my photography, well……..

….oh, my Leica M4….. no film for  2 weeks.