Thursday, December 17, 2009

This month in Brooklyn/Monroe/Kansas City/Philadelphia

Happy holidays! I am thrilled to be sitting in a rental apartment in Brooklyn on Smith Street, a delightfully familiar view out of my kitchen window and dear friends close at hand.

You'll find us here this week, making the rounds, celebrating the births, engagements, projects, and other life-changers that have happened since we've been gone. Next week we head to Monroe for Jessie's family Christmas celebrations, and then after lunch on Christmas day, we'll fly to Kansas City for Owens Christmas dinner, a Santa double header thanks to a year of bumped flights and a growing stash of frequent flyer miles.

Then, Jessie heads to Philly, where she will be delivering a paper on the influence of the photographic on Hawthorne's creative nonfiction -- 1:30 on Tuesday Dec 29th at the MLA. Stop by if you're a member.

She'll meet James back in Brooklyn on Dec 30th, where we'll be dancing and relaxing for the rest of 2009. Katie D has graciously made up her spare room and plans to have a little party. I look forward to hearing the steam pipes at Pratt again this/next year.

We go back to Singapore on January 5th, in time to welcome our second guests, Kristine Z and baby Esme and usher in the new semester.

So, if I don't get to say so in person on this whirlwind loved ones tour, I hope you and yours have a happy holiday season and a fruitful, prosperous, and magical 2010.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

James's birthday

"Do I look older?"

Last Wednesday, we took the day off to celebrate James's birthday. We began the day in the neighborhood at the Tiong Bahru market. I had convinced the plant vendor to bring in a Calamansi lime tree for him, which James had made VERY clear was his heart's desire.

(This bowl of limes was destined to become key lime pie)

After the tree was safely planted in our al fresco bathroom, we went out for porridge at Ah Chiang's, a neighborhood institution, and James's favorite breakfast since introduced to the goodness of pork porridge in Laos.

The shredded ginger and chillies make all the difference.

After breakfast and a nap we headed back to East Coast Park, the site of our Monsoon Halloween to try our luck with the weather. Almost as soon as we sat down with a coconut (to drink from with a straw), it began to rain again. We ran for cover in the same spot, but this was no 2-hour deluge. We had just about made it through the satay and popia rolls when it stopped. We took a beer down to the water's edge and watched antsy high school kids in teams and uniforms build sand castles. Windsurfers went out to the container ships and back again. No paddling through the inside!

It was my intention to get on the water or on a bike, but the sailboat rentals were for certified sailors only, so biking it was. We rode along the beach to a trail which turns north, running alongside Changi airport. It was gorgeous and wild, with the occasional plane watching -- this airport has one of every kind come in like clockwork all afternoon long. We'd ride a while, then watch planes land, then ride a while longer.

After we returned the bikes to the rental stand -- late -- we took quick showers at the changing stand, then drip dried while watching the sunset.

Once we were presentable, we made our way to the "Seafood Centre": the five top rated seafood restaurants in Singapore, all "co-located" by the Housing Development Board into one seafront extravaganza of capitalism and chilli crab. Jumbo, Red House, Fisherman's Village, Long Beach, No Signboard -- all of them set up to seat a thousand diners, all clamoring for our business. The only chilli crab we hadn't tried was the name that suited the day best: Long Beach. All day we'd been pretending that we were in California!

We got "Set A" which came with bamboo clams, rice with tiny, crispy silverfish, spinach and garlic, fried buns, chilli crab, and pumpkin ice cream, served over a jar of smoking dry ice. We ate everything but what got left behind on the table cloth!


While we were photographing Mt Phousi, a group of French tourists decided that James and his camera are part of the attractions of Luang Prabang! Hear the temple drums in the background?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monsoon Season

And it's rained every day since! Just like home!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jessie's first publication, available Feb 16, 2010

In March 2007, I went to the UK (sponsored by the University of Southampton, where Quinn is now!) to deliver a paper on photography and abolition at a conference held in honor of the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in the British Empire. Cora Kaplan and John Oldfield took interest in my work and invited me to submit a chapter for this volume. Scholarly publishing takes time, but Palgrave Macmillan now lists our book for next spring, and this week it appeared on

From the editors' description :
A collection of new essays, Imagining Transatlantic Slavery offers the latest research and thinking on current debates about the representation - past and present - of transatlantic slavery. Building on the interest generated by the bicentenary in 2007-8 of the end of British and American involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, our volume is interdisciplinary, drawing on history, literature and museum and heritage studies. Its focus is on the transatlantic nature of slavery and abolition, and the essays range from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. Its distinguished contributors offer a critical view of the histories leading up to the defining decisions of 1807-08 and its complex legacies over the last two centuries. Essays on notable figures such as Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, Hannah More, Benjamin Flower, and William and Ellen Craft are juxtaposed with those on early Quaker writing and the use of photography in abolitionist discourse. The last part of the book on 'Remembering and Forgetting' addresses debates surrounding the representation of slavery in drama, visual culture, museums and galleries, and appraises the importance of recent research to public understanding of slavery today.

Contributors: Brycchan Carey, Vincent Carretta, Lilla Maria Crisafulli, Eileen Razzari Elrod, Catherine Hall, Douglas Hamilton, Cora Kaplan, HollyGale Millette, John Oldfield, Jessie Morgan-Owens, Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace and Marcus Wood

Maybe you want a taste? Here's the first paragraph from my chapter, "'Another Ida May': Photography and the American Abolition Campaign":
Photography’s potential as a persuasive visual adjunct to reform campaigns was recognised from the inception of the medium in 1839, even if before the half-tone process revolutionised printing in 1880 images had to be distributed hand-to-hand. The majority of photographs made in antebellum America were daguerreian portraits: a unique image typically the size of your palm, imprinted on a reflective mirror, encased in brocade and brass. Daguerreotypes circulated without captions; therefore, authors who utilised these early photographs to depict abolitionist ideology found a malleable and suggestive representative space. Their evidentiary power in political debate relied upon writing to instruct audiences how to ‘read’ these images. In this essay I will discuss images of two little girls, both in appearance white, one fictional and the other daguerreotyped, one free and the other a slave, that nevertheless illustrated the same potent message of late abolitionist rhetoric: that however impugned by the public’s anxieties surrounding miscegenation, the invisibility of racial markers demonstrated a moral obstacle to defining slavery along racial lines.
Pre-order your copy now! Or, since it's listed at $74.95, ask your library to order one for you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Making groceries

James and I went to Carrefour today to pick up some groceries, and ended up seeing Julie and Julia instead, which cast life in Singapore into sharp perspective.

The biggest supermarket in our area is a French-owned conglomerate, which means that we can pick up "Western" items like cheese, sausages, unscented eco-friendly detergents, cous cous, charcoal briquets, and El Paso brand tortillas (oh how far the mighty have fallen!). I heard Carrefour pronounced Ka-fou by a cosmopolitan local friend last night, but we still call it "Care-a-4." Stupide americaines...

The aisles are wide and well lit. Today, touts with bullhorns announced one-hour specials on Korean grapes, bone-density screenings, and ready-made Swiss rostis. Durian gets an entire section apart from the regular produce. The first basement offers the sorts of items one might find in Target (but mysteriously, whatever we are shopping for-- lamps, gardening tools--is never there).

In short, making groceries here in no way resembles a trip The Met on Henry Street, followed by a visit to Scottos or Smith and Vine, followed by Fish Tales, followed by Mazzolas, followed by the green market on Carroll Street, and the many other stops on our peripatetic daily shopping trips in Brooklyn and Union Square. That said, the reason we live in this neighborhood is the extensive wet-market a few blocks away, which we visit with the same frequency we did our marketing at home. So it's all good.

But some things necessitate a visit to Carrefour, which is located on the ground floor and 1st basement of a 9 story shopping mall called Plaza Singapura (which we pronounce with a Spanish accent for no reason whatsoever). This mall is but one of many malls on Orchard Road, an avenue which features 10 blocks of 9+ story malls facing one another, many of which also have grocery stores on their bottom floors and cineplexes on their top ones.

Each floor of Plaza Singapura has a theme: for example, go to floor 5 for hobbies and crafts, floor 6 for music and instruments stores, and a floor each for books, young fashion, imported fashion, home improvement, etc. There are four food courts, each catering to a different taste: mall restaurants, local hawker style food, fast food chains, and the desserts/snacks chains.

Today, I was feeling a little post-shoot malaise. Anyone feels low when a week-long trip is followed by a long work week of catchup, though in my case, this feeling is compounded by nostalgia for the those 7 days of joy, fulfillment, and energy that accompany successful creative output. Add in meeting beautiful new people and trying new cuisines while staying in five star accommodations and you'll understand the catch in my stride. So I planned to enjoy a book of poems written by my landlord at the Starbucks, and then join James in a bit of grocery shopping.

(Caveat: Before you indulge my feeling sorry for my slump today, I should admit that I had a great week at the university and then I spent Saturday: at a poetry reading from 1-2:30, then a dessert date at 3:00 with my female colleagues, then we met friends at Siloso beach at sunset, then J and I watched part of a movie on our couch, then we met up with friends for falafel and foul on Arab street, had a nightcap at a jazz club, and still managed to catch a full night's sleep. So don't let me whine.)

Instead, we wandered up to level four to look for a lamp for my office, stopped by the faucet store to a price a hot water heater for the kitchen sink, and did a quick pass though the sale at the fabric store on level five. Since we were all the way upstairs, we decided to visit the cineplex on level 7 to see what was on. There was The September Issue, but frankly, Gourmet's closing this past week has me just too aggravated at 4 Times Square to enjoy a movie about the work (and waste) of putting together a magazine. But Julie and Julia was in sneak previews 5 minutes! so we bought tickets and went in.

I got a little teary in those first few minutes because I simultaneously missed our life in New York, Paris, my mother (Meryl reminds us of her), and Julia Child, who I just love, even though I haven't successfully made a single one of her recipes. I remembered how we used to shop for groceries in Brooklyn, how our apartment (much less than 900 sqft!) also looked crammed with worn but comfortable things, how I also got pearls on my 30th, and oh, all that beautiful fall produce I'm missing! I remembered the first time I read the Julie/Julia blog and marveled at the tenacity of her idea. I remembered the first time I went to Dean and Deluca, and the rooftop parties--it was at my first roof party that I met my dear Parisian friends, who would in time, teach me about markets and picnics and productivity.

The movie is slow in parts, too long by a quarter hour, and delightfully sappy as all get out, but my thanks and my two thumbs up for capturing that moment. (But did we really dress like that in 2002? for goodness sakes!)

After the movie we sat at an outdoor table at Toast Box for butter and jam/butter and ham sandwiches and pretended we were on the continent. Then we did our shopping at Carrefour and tried to enjoy the irony. At the checkout line I bought the last copy of the last issue of Gourmet. Then James made beet salad for dinner, followed by my zucchini bread and some brie.

Bon appetit!

Friday, October 9, 2009

call me

I hate to use this space for product placement but I want everyone to know that you can call us on our 718 number, and vice versa. There's been a some confusion when we call and our 718 number comes up on your caller id, seeing as how we sure don't live in Brooklyn anymore! We subscribe to a service called Vonage that magically transferred our old home line into a little black and orange box, that when hooked up to a DSL line anywhere on the planet, thinks it's still in Brooklyn. So our phone rings here in Singapore, though for all intents and purposes, your phone company thinks you're calling Brooklyn. It works the same for us, too, when we call you. Our bill looks the same as if we were calling you from Brooklyn. Except Vonage throws in 60 other countries for free, including Singapore and her neighbors, Germany, UK, Mexico, France, and 50 other places we haven't had a reason to call yet. For this service we pay a flat rate of about $30, which we call the Momma Bill, since my mom and I love to talk to each other on the phone. Worth every penny!

The downside: having a 718 number that rings in Singapore also means that dinner time sales calls ring here at 6am. And sometimes even well-intentioned callers get the time zones upside down. Thankfully, the service comes with voicemail, so we'll call you back when we wake up and turn the ringer back on.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hanoi airport

We are waiting out a long layover at the Hanoi Airport on our way to a shoot in Laos. James is trying to condense our scouting/shooting in Singapore last week into 200 words for the magazine, while I read the International Herald Tribune and try not to use up all my kleenex (I'm kicking a cold, so we decided not to take a cab into town exploring). James reports that the Banh Mi at the Bamboo cafe in the airport is not as good as at Hanco on Bergen Street.

Every other time I've heard Vietnamese spoken all around me was in the movies. What a trip! We can't help but be dorks about it. I know we're supposed to seem like jaded jetsetters, weary world-travelers but OMG We're in HANOI! What would our 19 year old selves think of us if they saw us now?

The Kodak people interviewed us back in the Spring, over the phone, while we sat at the big table in our apartment in Brooklyn.We rattled off stories about ourselves and what we did to get here. They've just published an article about us in their ProPass magazine. See "Partners in Life, Partners in Business" online at their website along with a slide show some of the photos we have taken with Kodak film these last 9 years. They seem to think that if our 20-something year old selves could see us now "after 9 short years" (really? didn't seem short to me!), they'd think we were living a "fairy tale." There's an editorial in the IHT called "The Referendum" today which posits that since we shouldn't look back (see: Lot's Wife) we look sideways, and evaluate our lives to the paths taken by our dear friends and neighbors. There's a winning view of James from where I'm sitting (at the airport in Hanoi OMG!!!!).

In the article I say that I learn a lot from talking to photographers, but omits the names of to those photographers with whom we've shared long standing conversations and poker games. I'd like to ameliorate that with a big shout out to Cedric Angeles, David Nicolas, Frédéric Lagrange, Zubin Shroff, Buff Strickland, Ball & Albanese, and Joshua Paul. There's a legion of other photographers we know, and some who feel like familiars. My thanks to them as well, but that's a list for another post, compiled from someplace with airconditioning.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


A new look for the new digs! Check it out at!

We have long found the quote on the first page inspirational. It's from the hilarious first chapter of Moby Dick, "Loomings." These days it seems an apt slogan for our new lives on the equator, though we've edited out the part about lungs and ragged purses.

And introducing two new features: a Print SALE, found on the About Us page. This month we are offering Dr. Tibor Beske's favorite, and generally beloved image from Rovinj in Croatia. (FYI: The existing print sale is closed.)

And an image library will be up and running by the end of the year for all you photo-editors and researchers.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mythologies, or One Month in Singapore

Before we readied ourselves to move here, “Singapore” was not a proper noun I often said or often heard. In the months prior to the Big Move, dozens of friends passed along contacts and recommendations for our new lives here. I found it startling to uncover unknown connections to what was at that time a faraway, unknowable place.

This blank spot in my imagination’s map effects my daily life in a way I did not expect. I wander around this city without a representational map, without layers of history and mythologies to guide me. When we drop into a new neighborhood bar, we don't know how long it’s been there, what the neighborhood is called, what they serve, what language the locals speak, what religion they celebrate. It’s not at all like the West Village, where I can point out where the Velvet Underground or Bob Dylan first played, the temperature of the local contemporary scene and the highlights of scenes past, which restaurants are new and which are treasured, what ethnicity predominates now, and who was there before they moved in.

I’m no longer a tour guide. Now I guess I’m a resident tourist. It’s a feeling strange to me. Is this what acculturation feels like? Am I getting my first real taste of what it feels like to be a minority? Am I making the first steps towards assimilation or towards global citizenship, or even *gasp* expatriation?

In the month since we arrived on July 21st, we’ve figured out the bus system, comparison shopped our local markets, run errands all over central, northern, and western Singapore. We hit the ground running like we're on a shoot, enthusiastically applying every ounce of that talent for producing that James and I share. We’ve reveled in the details of new-homemaking. (And let's be honest: we were already fluent in "mall" and "ikea.") We have just begun to make friends and have even marked a few special spots we can’t wait to show the people we miss.

(We had very little to go on. I can recall four details about a-priori, pre-arrival Singapore. I’m embarrassed to include them here, but it seems somehow useful, to record my blindness before my eyes adjust and I can see what’s plain in front of me:
1) In the 90s, the story of the diplomat’s kid who was caned for vandalism dominated the Singapore myth.
2) Don’t chew gum.
3) According to Anthony Bourdain, the food is inventive, spicy, and cheap.
4) “We sail tonight for Singapore…we’re all as mad as hatters here…”
My dad, who was in Indonesia at the time, has told me another side, so that item of news seems tinged by the retelling. Still, I do miss admiring graffiti. I watched the No Reservations episode on Singapore twice before coming. So far, #3 strikes true. Tom Waits is probably not the best conduit of cultural knowledge of this sort, but the song sticks with you. None of these three wise men are Singaporean. )

I am delinating the counters of a blindspot, recognizing unknown islands of history, of cultural legacy, of ideology that mean so much to me and my work. Without storytelling, this place seems more foreign, even if the day-to-day-life, for better or worse, feels much the same.

We’re just catching up on what signifies what. I’ve never lived, or for that matter, been a tourist someplace I knew nothing about before. I'm a know-it-all with a penchant for living in places seeped in stories that fascinate me. I’ve learned, then taught, propagated, and enacted "Brooklynite" or "New Orleanian" as a resident actor and artist.

Maybe that’s why we travel? To walk through closed down markets of Paris at night, shining in the rain, to drive a convertible right up to the club door in Los Angeles, to shine a light into the cave of the Cyclops, and survive to tell the tales, and to have these tales become part of us.

I believe, following Roland Barthes, that the culture encoded in images and speech communicate great volumes of meaning, which are enormously powerful in practice. They influence communication between cultures. We're in the business of communication between cultures. When we shoot, we riff on this script of prior representations. So what myths will we learn, point out, and propagate here?

Earlier this week the locals started burning tissue paper luxuries – bundles of fake money, paper houses, paper shirts – in high piles in the park in front of our house. Altars covered in food and incense turned up all over. I knew from a walking tour of NYC Chinatown that these paper luxuries honored the dead. I’ve since discovered that this is Hungry Ghost month, when the boundary between the Other Place and ours blurs. There are new orange cakes at the market I had to ask about: they’re bland to living humans, to be bought for the ghosts. One of my students came up to me after class the other day to explain that I was not to walk through the piles of ash, or angry spirits might follow me home. How treacherous ignorance can be!

My starry-eyed honeymoon with Singapore has begun. These last few days James or I has turned to the other and said: "I really like it here" and "This is all turning out much better than we could have hoped." We’re hitting the culture scene hard to make up for lost time: talks, museum visits, art galleries, film festivals, activist happenings. I try to order something new each day: today's delights were Kickapoo Joy Juice and Prawn Mee (translation: Mountain Dew, but greener, and shrimp spaghetti, but yummier). I’ve signed up for an afternoon lecture on working with the different cultures that make up our new society. I ordered documentaries on Hungry Ghost and on Singapore history from the local Netflix. James has shared a you-tube video of the Prime Minister talking about cultural and religious tolerance. I expect we'll turn out to be a quick study in “Asia 101,” as we're putting all our energies into finding the groove of our new home.

But I’d like to acknowledge, one month in, what a humbling and intellectually invigorating road lies before us.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My commute, a slide show

In honor of the first week of school: my commute.

The tune is "Early Morning Blues" by Archibald. (Thanks Brent for the track, and yes, I know the title of the song is misleading, but for some of us arriving at work by 10:30 means early. Somehow I managed to lose my wallet later that afternoon--it just disappeared!--so that day was a good day to play the blues.)

Total eclipsed time in real life: 45 minutes. Oh, and the campus is now thronged with students. I won't see all those empty seats in the canteen and on the bus until December. But the train is always that empty both ways due to the "reverse" commute out of town.

My first class meeting isn't until Friday morning, 9:30am. "Nineteenth Century American Literature and Culture." I am looking forward to kicking off the new job and meeting the students.

We're all moved in -- our stuff arrived on Saturday, and we've been spending the three day weekend (Happy 44th National Day!) unpacking and rearranging and shopping. When the shipment first arrived, and our things started appearing out of boxes, I admit a few teary moments. I guess this really means 545 is no more! for real! but our things do look beautiful in here. The track lighting and 18% gray walls are very flattering. We chose well, and brought only the very best stuff, and it all made it here in good shape.

After 6 weeks of living out suitcases it sure feels good to put them away -- full of winter clothes for our December visit!

Monday, August 3, 2009

A bit more from the neighborhood

Here's a few more walks through the neighborhood. Sorry for the camera shake!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Two shakes and off to Tiong Bahru

We headed to our new digs today in Tiong Bahru. Check out some of the fun bits and a tour of the place!

I hope to post a tour of the neighborhood soon.

Friday, July 31, 2009

We have KEYS!

It's official! we have a beautiful apartment in a a fantastic, traditional neighborhood. We fell in love with the first one we saw. It was featured in the local paper, The Straits Times, after renovation a few years ago. Moh Guan Terrace is a distinctive and historic building just a few minutes from the subway to work--and a few minutes in the other direction to the best fresh market I've seen. Did I mention the patisserie? the seafood joint? the Chinese garden? the French grocery store? the parks?

The previous tenant lived a few blocks from us in Brooklyn, believe it or not! Our landlord is a published poet. And our agent, Alvin, has been accommodating, knowledgeable, and generous. We've been blessed throughout this whole transition so far -- moving to Singapore has been surprisingly smooth and easy. Warm as the weather.

Click through to link to the story on the apartment, posted on Alvin's blog, which is a good source on the neighborhood if you want to tool around.

We'll be following up with photos of our own in the coming days. (It's a little freaky living in the kind of place we usually would be assigned to photograph!) In the meantime, we're in the horse shoe shaped building... the market is in the triangular one. Our place faces the park, from the bottom of the "U."

Whoo hoo!

PS: at almost the same moment it seems my cousin Laura posted pictures of her new place near Berkeley!

"What a Woman Can Do With a Camera"

My title comes from an article published in the September 1897 issue of Ladies Home Journal written by Francis Benjamin Johnston, one of the first women to have a successful career as a commercial and editorial photographer. She supported her self with her camera for nearly seven decades, from the 1880s when she began photographing, until her death in 1952. Her advice, ladies:
“The woman who makes photography profitable must have, as to personal qualities, good common sense, unlimited patience to carry her though endless failures, equally unlimited tact, good taste, a quick eye, a talent for detail, and a genius for hard work. In addition, she needs training, experience, some capital, and a field to exploit.
When she wrote this article, she was the age I am now. She had a studio in Washington DC, where she photographed the political and upper classes. (And where she also threw great parties complete with a photo booth. That's her in a self-portrait)

I submitted a little article on FBJ today for an encyclopedia on American Women.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jessie Cookies

Extra high fiber!

Another quick note: The Peruvian pan-flute players that used to play the plaza at 43rd street at 6th avenue are here, and they draw a huge crowd at the mall ! And they are dressed in full regalia -- feather head-dresses and moccasins, the whole thing. Same songs too. Familiar faces!

Apartment update coming soon... we meet with the agent to finalize tomorrow...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pictures from around NTU

We're staying in an on-campus hotel until we get an apartment. We've been running around town though, checking out apartments and studios, checking in at quarantine on Simon and Maybe, getting our S Passes (like a green card) at the Ministry of Manpower (total wait time: 3 minutes), and eating eating eating. I will admit we've even visited a few of Singapore's mighty malls. And even liked the experience.

Here's some snapshots from our first 72 hours. First, "Breakfast Set A" at the nearest student canteen: strong coffee with condensed milk and sugar, two half-boiled eggs seasoned with soy sauce and pepper, and three mini-sandwiches of wheat toast with butter and kaya (the word means "rich" in Malay) a sticky sweet local jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut cream and pandan essence. According to Wikipedia, pandan essence is extracted from the local screwpine tree. I can't get enough of it. My second night here I bought a bag of ten croissants slathered in the stuff, then thought better of it and shared the rest around the office. This breakfast, a perfect blend of savory and sweet, costs S$1.50, but probably 1500 calories.

The new Humanities and Social Sciences Building, still in the late stages of getting ready for the semester. My office is on the third floor overlooking an atrium that opens up in the center of the building. I don't get a lot of natural light, but I imagine once the courtyard fills with students and a coffeeshop, I'll have a good view of the local social life. My mailing address is Asst. Prof. Jessie Morgan-Owens, HSS-03-71, 14 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637332.

The residential area of campus, over by Canteen 2. The covered walkways are lovely when it rains -- besides keeping us dry as we walked around, they sound like rain on tin roof. This shot was taken from the bus stop, a vital piece of campus real estate. Six buses loop around campus, making stops at other residence halls, the library, the administration buildings, and the academic buildings. Two public buses, 179 and 199, and one NTU shuttle leave campus and drop passengers at the MRT (subway) station, passing through the neighboring apartment buildings on Pioneer Road. We've caught buses here several times a day since we arrived. You touch a metrocard to a reader as you board and come off the bus. For the most part they seem reliable, but I'm building 20-25 minutes into my commute any time I need to catch the subway into city center.

We take the 179 to Boon Lay MRT station, which features an adjacent megamall, Jurong Point, which my colleagues tell me recently doubled in size, which is considerable. Check out the food court on level one. This is one of five food courts in this mall (that I've seen, there may be more). We saw Harry Potter last night, which was fun, but made me a touch homesick, especially when I left Hogwarts to wander this busy, bright, extrasensory experience in search of a late night snack. That said, James did catch me gushing about the mall before the movie, and did not hesitate to point out that he never thought I would get excited about a mall.

When in Rome, shop like the locals do!

I can't believe this was just two weeks ago!

Here's Uncle James and Uncle Greg and the nephews in the community pool -- Friday night in Kansas City!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"We Sail Tonight for Singapore"

Here I am waking up on my first morning in Singapore, our new home for a few years.

WOW. As I told my mom on the phone from the gate at JFK: This may be the craziest thing we've done yet. Or not. It could also be one of the smartest of our good decisions -- like the one to move to New York in 2000 or to marry James at a wee 23 years of age. Only time will tell!

Now because our dearest friends and fun-loving families put together the most delicious three weeks of memories of you all for us to savor, I don't feel all that homesick yet. I probably won't until I a) get through these mix-cds and b) lose these extra five pounds of po-boys and BBQ and watermelon mojitos and c) this feeling that "we're just away on a long shoot" for a few months wears off. Since we have plans to return to the states in December and again next June, I hope we can keep up this cycle, at least for the first year or two. Or until you all get yourselves over here for a visit.

Yesterday I made it through the first half of my orientation at the University; they thankfully postponed the complicated bits about health insurance and all that for today at 3:00pm. I got the keys to my office, and an email address and faculty id card.

We discovered the grocery store about 20 minutes walk off campus-- we explored this map's worth-- and bought a month's worth of kopi (strong coffee with sugar) in single serving tea-bags for the hotel room, and six Australian oranges. Our total = S$ 5.80 or US$4.00. They had the most beautiful live "flower crabs" for sale. At the bakery near by, we bought four buns -- one cheese, one red bean, one sweet potato, and one coffee for S$2.00 or $1.30. Two hawker centers were there too, with the usual menu items. More on that later. There was a GIANT and architecturally gorgeous (water falls, Gehry-esque curves) Protestant church across the street that had a box office line up of teens for evening services. We passed big groups of people on our way home, getting off buses and pouring into the church.

Today, I could barely make myself stay in bed until 6 am. I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking of my office, whether getting a MAC is a battle I'm up for, how to organize it, who to keep my research going in two places at once. Then I'd nod off, and get back up, and so forth until morning, which broke rainy. Made some instant coffee, read a little, and headed to the gym at ....7 AM! Now James has finished his workout too, and we're off to one of the student canteens to get breakfast, then to the bank to open accounts.

Heard on the radio at the gym, that there's a solar eclipse in this part of the world this afternoon. Quite a strong omen for one's first day, don't you think?

More soon, Jessie

Friday, May 22, 2009

Image Chosen by AP25

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

Thanks to American Photography 25 for including us in this year's chosen category. The image above was shot during a road trip story for Budget Travel.

There is a slide show of selected and chosen images here: For a little friends and family background information on the contest, here's the press release email:


May 15, 2009

We are pleased to present the Selected and Chosen images from this year's American Photography 25 sliver-anniversary competition. All winners were previously notified by email in April.

On behalf of the entire jury, I’d like to thank everyone who entered this year for their submission and support of American Photography. It’s greatly appreciated and we look forward to the opportunity of viewing your best work again next year.

From a record-breaking 10,100 photographs submitted through our online submission site, our distinguished jury (which include all past Jury Chairs) met in February to select the best images from 2008. After careful consideration, and quite a lot of fun, they humbly Selected only 351 photographs by majority vote or better to appear in the book. AP25 will be distributed world-wide in hard cover in November. Another 171 images were then Chosen with at least two votes to accompany all images on our web gallery TRIBUTE to be launched with the book in November at

A link is provided below that will take you to a slide show of the Selected (book) and Chosen (website) images. From here you’ll see the winning images presented in alphabetical order by photographer. Additional credits, photographer's contact and complete captions will be included in the book and on the permanent web gallery in November.

American Photography 25 Slide Show

The slide show will be up for a limited time in preparation for the official launch at The Party on November 12th! Be sure to mark your calendar for this one-of-a-kind, highly-anticipated, annual event - and stay tuned for details and upcoming announcements on the book design and production. Discounted, advance orders for AP25 will be available in September at (A few copies of the current volume AP24 are still available at

Again, our thanks to everyone who submitted work this year and our congratulations to all the winners! We are proud to present your work in the 25th edition of the industry’s finest example of Pulp and Circumstance.

Congrats to all the other photographers and photos in AP.
Thanks to the makers of the memorial, and respect to those it represents.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Doctor Jessie Morgan-Owens, Ph.D.

Last week, Jessie finished her dissertation, 250 pages entitled "Black & White: Photographic Writing in the Literature of Abolition." Her abstract reads:
In Black and White: Photographic Writing in the Literature of Abolition, I examine the influence of photography on American abolitionist literature and culture following the Compromise of 1850. My study of the diverse print culture of abolition focuses on instances of what I call photographic writing, or description reconceptualized in relation to a distinctly photographic way of seeing. I compare visual and verbal representational modes in anti-slavery rhetoric to show how this new technique of persuasion was intended to prompt the reader to action.

Photography was introduced into the United States in 1839, but four decades would elapse before innovations in print technology enabled the dissemination of photographs in the media. During this period, abolitionist authors used photographic writing in their didactic texts to convince audiences of the truth of their claims. My dissertation offers an analysis of the production and dissemination of anti-slavery photographs, before pursuing a second order of photographic testimony in texts in which actual photographs play no part. Throughout the daguerreian period in the United States, “to daguerreotype” meant to represent or describe with minute exactitude. This figurative connotation builds on the assumption that photographs register a neutral copy of what they represent without mediation or interference. I argue that photographic writing functions as a means of borrowing the immediacy, veracity, and accuracy promised by photography. When Harriet Beecher Stowe offers to “daguerreotype” Uncle Tom for her readers, or when Frederick Douglass describes scenes as “daguerreotyped” upon his memory, they express the culture-wide assumption of the medium’s fidelity and claim its representational authority for their narratives.

Historicizing the innovative literature of abolition within the history of photography, my dissertation offers a new perspective on these early attempts to appropriate the power of visual evidence. Abolitionism in the 1850s provides a test case for radicalism in America. I argue that the modernization of the art of persuasion began with these efforts to deploy images strategically in antebellum political discourse.

She has been researching and writing this dissertation for many, many years under the guidance of her advisers at New York University, Nancy Ruttenburg and Bryan Waterman. The first thing most people read when they look at a dissertation is the acknowledgments page:

I would like to thank my advisor Nancy Ruttenburg, who, with a singular warmth, has directed these thoughts into writing. Her praise, though effuse, must be earned, and for that I am grateful. My gratitude also goes to Bryan Waterman, who has guided me through graduate study with unflagging energy. He makes scholarship look cool.

This study was enriched from the start by conversations and seminars with Virginia Jackson, Elizabeth McHenry, Patrick Deer, Ulrich Baer, Mary Poovey, Eduardo Cadava, Cyrus Patell, Mary McCay, and Leslie Parr. My final year of writing was made possible and pleasant by the Humanities Initiative. My thanks to our roundtable of Fellows for the opportunity to test and refine my ideas in your distinguished company.

I was lucky to come to NYU when I did, for I found in my cohort Maeve Adams, Sam Anderson, Alan Page, Melissa Hillier, Susan Harlan, and Jon Farina, my most brilliant and jovial companions. Maeve, the dearest of these, tells me she admires this work so often that I have begun to believe her. Even so, I hope to keep her by my side. For our long summertime conversations about writing, life, and politics, I’d also like to thank Raphaëlle Guidée and Xabi Molia. I also count among my educators the members of GSOC, who taught me about solidarity, equity, and long campaigns.

This city has provided me with both the resources to do my research and the environment to make pictures of my own. I’d like to recognize my photo editors, for the assignments near and far that have refreshed my vision with the steady clicks of practice, and to express my gratitude for the esteemed photographers I am lucky to count among my friends, for indulging my theories about the art we produce.

I come from a large and far-flung family that has kept pace with every turn of this dissertation. My thanks to all of you, siblings and parents, aunts and uncles, Morgans and Owenses alike, for your pride and understanding have blessed my labors with love. In everything I do, I owe my success to the women who have taught me balance, my mother Missy Cotita and my grandmother Ruth Liuzza.

And I must acknowledge my partner in art and in life, my beloved James Owens, who makes my dreams possible.

On Wednesday, May 27th, Jessie will defend her dissertation before a committee. On that day she will have completed all of the requirements for her PhD. So last Wednesday she turned in a copy to her department for them to read. Here's her desk on the last day of a long road.

Her family came up to New York last weekend to celebrate her graduation. Her Mom and step-dad Tim from Monroe, Louisiana, her dad who works in El Salvador, her sister Katie and her husband Nick from Tuscon with their little girl Emma, and her brother Andy, who lives in Belgium, and his girlfriend, Quinn. We had a wonderful weekend eating and celebrating all over Brooklyn. This was a week to remember.

After the ceremony at Lincoln Center:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The BIG coast of little Istria

Last summer, Jessie and I shot a wonderful feature for Budget Travel in Croatia. The shoot list took us all over the Istrian coast…on a map, it’s but a pin prick, but once there it's as big as any southern european coastline. The Italians, Germans, and Russians love this place (that’s mostly who we saw there)…and with good reason. The food is every bit as good as much of Italy, inland ranges as lush and gorge-ous as much of Germany, and something about it…could be history?...feels a touch of Russian.

So we roamed from mid-size Pula in the South to mid-size, and slightly more roulette-ish, Piran just inside Slovenia. In-between is Istria, a peninsula that looks like a bunch of grapes. It’s got coast towns, gorge towns, medieval towns, towns filled with truffles, loaded with salt flats, and of course tear-drop towns jutting out into the Adriatic…. We liked it.

One of the more surprising treats, was the trip into Slovenia, where the town of Piran didn't blow us away completely--could have been the vegas-strip style drive into it--but just south is something films could be made of, and perhaps have been. The salt flats are just gorgeous, and if I had our negs here, I'd slip in a few shots from the rain-hewn inlet that draws it's flavor from the uppermost portion of the Adriatic. We brought home a bag of salt (Piranski Sol, one for us, and one for our friends Maeve and Robin) and are just near emptying its contents....10 months later! It's a gem-like bag, and try as we may to empty it, there seems to be more for the next meal. I think it's magic, but Jessie thinks I'm just stingy with it. I do have just a couple more scans from Piran below.

Check more out in the May issue of Budget Travel!

Monday, April 27, 2009

City Art

It's hard to believe that a 55 degree day back in March was an excuse for an outdoor art tour, but we find something special about touring city art in the winter. Remember when it snowed on Christo and Jean-Claude's "Gates" in Central Park? We took a Saturday walk around downtown and spent a little time gazing and grazing, following a short list of new and old public art.

"Group of Four Trees" (Jean Dubuffet
) at the base of the Chase building, financial district, which we followed with Financiers at a little bakery nearby. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of bankers coming in to work on a Saturday.

Picasso sculpture, "Portrait of Sylvette," at Silver Towers, the faculty housing at
NYU, which should take better care of it's treasures!
On the way there we ran into a college roommate on Bleeker Street, whom we haven't seen in 12 years.

Here's the "Balloon Flower" piece by Jeff Koons, right next to the entrance to the Path at the WTC.
Here is what you do with it: