Feed on

What do you remember of your childhood summers? I remember orange pushups, the frozen sherbet in cardboard tubes. I can still hear the ecstatic noise of kids playing at the park pool, bombing off the high-dive and splashing all the girls in bikinis. I had a favorite sundress that my mom made for me. It had giraffes printed on it and it tied in bows at the shoulders. Other: The sweet smell of rain as thunderheads moved across the plains. The parades we would put on with wagons decorated like floats and girls dressed up in glittery gowns. I was the one twirling the baton.

I recently did a photo shoot for Avanti, a card company in New York. I worked with a gaggle of adorable four-year-olds on a sultry summer evening. They brought back moments that I relish being reminded of.  Thanks, kids, for the memories!

oh summer day!

Adieu © 2012

Today is the last day of my exhibit in New York. Time has gone so fast. From Robin Rice Gallery it moves to the wonderful Iris Gallery in Boston and Aspen. My images will hang in the Boston Gallery this summer–perfect for an exhibit with water and sky.

As I reflect on the months (and stress) of putting together the show, combined with other life events, such as the death of my friend Mary and the more recent death of our dear kitty friend, Maxx, I welcome the perspective achieved by time and distance. I am so grateful for this beautiful summer day, for the opportunity to create images that people buy to hang in their homes. I am grateful for friends who support me and for the creative life I get to live.

After a little break I will return to teaching two classes this summer through PCNW in Seattle: Natural Light Portraiture and also an intensive lighting course. And a book deadline for Amherst Media–my textbook of lighting for anyone who wants to learn what I teach. Due in August.

Here is one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. I kept it taped inside my bathroom mirror for years and years so I could be reminded of its message every day, not just every summer day.

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean–

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?



small miracles

Today I stepped out the door to go for my walk. Under the pale blue sky and with no thought in mind except to walk, I happened to look toward our pink-flowered hawthorn tree where I noticed a pile of grass that seemed unusual, like the leftovers from mowing the lawn.

I turned it over. It was a nest that had fallen from the tree, a little sworl of grass and twigs vacated by the robins who had built it.

Inside the nest:  turquoise shards of egg shells from babies who had flown away. And some pink flowers.  How did they get there? Did a some person put them there after the nest fell? Or did the robin put them there?

I added some blue lobelia from our yard and photographed the nest under the the tree from which it fell. It seemed a small miracle to me.

The opening was fabulous! Wednesday, May 8 came as the hallowed date that had been circled on my calendar for many months. As it came down to the weeks before the exhibit, we were in flat-out mode: printing, framing, shipping. Everything had to work like clockwork. There were anxiety-producing glitches, of course. A call from the framer about a spot on a print that needed to be fixed. Done. A bad batch of framing material that needed to be reordered. Done. An extra-large print that needed to be shipped to New York but the shipping tubes were the wrong size. We got that fixed. Everything got shipped out with the help of the wonderful Julee Geier of Phil Borges Photography. And everything arrived in good shape in New York except for one tiny crack in a frame which my husband repaired with white putty. Whew!

It looks so beautiful! The walls of the Robin Rice Gallery were painted white so the images appear to float. On the morning of the opening, the heavens opened (perfect for a show photographed in water)! It rained a record three inches, flooded streets and some subways. But by 4:00, the clouds pulled away and the sun came out of hiding. When we arrived at the gallery, the sun was shining. Friends and colleagues arrived and filled the gallery for hours. Two friends sent flowers that added a special touch. At the end of the evening we had a party at a nearby cafe with an outdoor courtyard strung with twinkling lights. We played music, sang songs and toasted to art and friendship.

Few people realize how much work goes into producing a show. So it is with much gratitude that I thank friends who came from New York, Boston, New Jersey and even Seattle (!) to celebrate. It really means a lot to any artist when people show up. And a special thanks to my husband, Ted, who has given me so much support during the months that led up to the exhibit. And might I say, for the past 25 years of marriage! See more photos of the exhibit on Facebook.

Arabexque by Rosanne Olson © 2013

Arabesque by Rosanne Olson © 2013

Right now (as I type) we are printing for my exhibit at the Robin Rice Gallery in New York City which opens on May 8, 2013 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. This is a dream-based series called Rapture, based on life-long dreams of floating in the air. It’s exciting to explore one’s inner thoughts as art, to take an initial idea or feeling and translate it to a two-dimensional medium. I hope that the photographs will evoke feelings, memories, a sense of “being there” for those who look at them. If you are in NYC or planning to visit there, please come to the opening. It will be festive!

Tags: , , ,


Mary Gales

My dear friend Mary Gales died in Seattle on January 23. It was an unexpected and untimely death. For thirteen years she was my body worker, fellow artist, musician and friend. I have photographed Mary a number of times over the years and we had plans to do another photo session soon. She was a beautiful person in so many ways. I am glad that I have photographs of her so her family can use them to remember her. Several friends and I have set up an art scholarship in her name at Gage Academy. Death is very difficult to process in any circumstance. But an untimely death such as Mary’s leaves many people reeling and many questions unanswered. One way I have channeled my grief is to create a video and song to honor her. If you’d like to see it, click here.

Tags: ,

I recently taught at a portraiture class. When one of the students asked me how I work with people, here is what I said:

“To me a portrait is not just a picture. It is an exploration of (and with) the person who sits before my camera. My approach, which has evolved over 30 years, is to understand whom I am working with, how they see themselves and what they want to convey. It is a deep art which I half-jokingly call photo-therapy.”

The portraits above were all taken over a period of a few weeks: an opera singer, a pianist/composer, a writer, a young woman I have known since birth, the poet laureate of Washington, a cancer patient, an anniversary portrait, a mother and daughter, among others. Each photo has a story and a connection.

When I present the portraits, it gives me great joy when people get a little emotional or excited at being properly “seen.” When that happens, I know I have done my job of of photographing . . . and listening.

Tags: ,

Alex at 100

Alex in the gardenThis week our friend Alex turned 100 years old. We have been friends since my husband and I moved to our neighborhood 26 years ago. Since then, Alex has entertained us with his harmonica and singing. He is known to stand on his porch and yodel to neighbors and to passers-by.

Alex has been my muse for many photographs, with a love of the camera and a penchant for hamming it up. The first of September he moved from his home to an assisted care center a couple of miles away. He was not too happy about the idea, but it seemed the best way to take care of his aging body.

I decided to make some photographs of him before he moved from his house.  I photographed him as he dug up his last potatoes in the garden he would leave behind. It was a bit of an emotional moment.

His main concern about moving to assisted care is that people would think he is “old.” “But you are old, Alex,” I said. “One hundred is quite a milestone.” The thing is that Alex can bring joy everywhere he goes. I do believe he will have them all dancing at the retirement center.

On his 100th birthday this week we took him out to our favorite music venue where he was celebrated with a chocolate cake. At the end of the evening he took out his C-harp and played a polka for all of us.


Behind the scenes: this photograph was made with a 4×5 view camera using selective depth of field.

Tags: , , ,

Michael Warren is a photographer based in Boston who happened to be in Seattle for a job a few weeks ago. He put a note out to ASMP (the professional photographers’ community) asking for ideas for his “Somebodies” project. The Somebodies project is a wonderful series of portraits of people accompanied by a still life of something meaningful to them. I had an idea or two so I emailed some names. And then, in the course of our communications, I offered myself as a subject. I thought it sounded like fun!

I arrived at the rented Pioneer Square studio on a Sunday morning accompanied by my special thing: a box of blackbirds. These birds have been in many of my photographs. They have been part of an exhibit called “Four and 20 Blackbirds.” They have even been to Europe with me. I spent a couple of hours standing on a white backdrop, often jumping in the air (like a bird), as the strobes flashed. I was grateful for my years at the gym as I leaped over and over again. It’s an odd thing to be in front of the camera after so many years behind it.

When we were finished I asked Michael if I could make a couple of photographs of him with my camera using the lights that were already in place. Check out his Somebodies project. It’s terrific!


Kathleen Flenniken is the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate of Washington State. She has two published poetry books (Famous and Plume), is co-editor and president of Floating Bridge Press in Seattle, a press dedicated to publishing the poetry of Washington State poets. And she is the president of the board at Jack Straw Productions.

Kathleen began her professional life as a civil engineer and hydrologist, three years of which were at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. She retired from her career to stay at home with her young children. During that time she took a poetry class and has been serious about poetry ever since. (See below for photography “Behind the Scenes.”)

Here is one of Kathleen’s poems from her new book, Plume (University of Washington Press 2011):

Richland Dock, 2006

The Columbia Rolls on,

unimpressed with the desert,

a king and his court

plowing through crowds of serfs.

The river is unattached.

It’s a girl who doesn’t need boys

in order to dance, a school of fish

with a single conscience,

an endless line of warrior ants.

The river speaks French

in a land of inferior grammar.

The river is blue in a field of brown,

green in a field of grey,

black in a field of bronze.

The river shuns the desert.

It holds its tongue.

It saves itself for the ocean.

The river is fast, undammed.

Rapunzel’s hair let down.

And won’t allow this

shrub-steppe plain to climb it.

The river won’t lend itself

to grow a tree. Look––

sagebrush flush with its banks.

No meeting, no kiss, no marriage.

Look at the tumbleweeds.

The river bathes in its glory,

the desert eats dust. The river

belongs to somewhere else.

The mighty river passes untouching.

But not untouched.

See Kathleen’s website: www.kathleenflenniken.com

The Far Field (the Poet Laureate site): kathleenflenniken.com/blog


Behind the Scenes for photographers:

I wanted to create a photograph that would reflect the warmth of Kathleen’s personality and her lovely character. I chose to use window light combined with a Westcott continuous light soft box. This photograph was lit using a north window light on the left of the photo and the light box directly in front of Kathleen. There is a small amount of fill on the right side of the frame provided by a sheet of foam core. We went through several changes of clothing, actually starting with this purple top and coming back around to it as the best option.



« Newer Posts - Older Posts »