Golden Days – a Life in Photography

I’ve been sifting through a lifetime of images over the last few weeks, in a myriad of formats – prints, transparencies and digital files. Gail Mooney - early 1980's - New York CityWhat started out as a simple quest: to find photos of my daughter Erin at various ages in her life, for a bridal shower “game”, quickly turned into a major,  yet wonderful distraction.  I was looking through the visual archive of my life – my husband/ partner’s life – Erin’s life and all the family and friends that made up a lifetime.

In the “old days” it was more of a working chore to take photos of casual gatherings.  You needed to bring a camera, a flash and  lenses with you (not to mention film), to be able to document various life events.  Now, with cameras with us at all times in our phones, we are able to capture and share the moments of our lives, easily and all the time.  Sometimes, it almost seems like we are more intent on capturing and sharing our “moments” than we are just living those moments.

I can tell you that experiencing something through the lens of my camera is a totally different experience than just “being in the moment” for me. There have been times when I’ve been intensely photographing something, when I didn’t really feel like I was experiencing “the moment”.  I was shooting “the moment” but I wasn’t part of it.

My camera(s) have been a major part of my life.  They have provided me access to my dreams and still do.  As I looked through the decades of images, it was like reading chapters in a book, each unique yet connected and integral to my life’s journey.

As I thought about my journey, I realized that if I had one big “take away” – my curiosity for life is what drove me. There was always something I wanted to try or do or learn about – and so, I did.  That usually put me in a position where I moved forward, rather than be left behind.  I was lucky because it was organic to my nature.  I was smart and maybe a little brave because I listened to myself.

My passion nowadays is to photograph and film others’ stories as my continued curiosity leads me to another chapter in my life.

Enjoy and savor every one of life’s moments – they go by in the blink of an eye.

“With my maps and my faith in the distance – Moving farther on”     Jackson Browne


Being Thankful

Next week is Thanksgiving.Hands of man in homeless shelter, New York City Call me corny but I’m one of those people that like to think about the real meaning behind the holidays that we celebrate. So today I’m taking pause to think about all the things that I’m thankful for this year. Sure there’s plenty of angst, jobs are less and money is tight but I have a lot to give thanks for.

• My health – for this I am most grateful.
• My family – both my immediate family and my far-flung relatives who I don’t get to see often but are always in my thoughts and I know are always there for me.
• My freedom – I think about this a lot. No matter how many times I feel that things have gotten off track in my country – I have the freedom to speak my mind, pursue my dreams and to change the things that I don’t like.
• My home – I’m lucky to have a home where I feel safe because I know there are so many who aren’t as fortunate these days. I never take this for granted.
• My passion – Sure I have my down days, but I’m thankful that I have an inner spirit that won’t let me give up on my pursuits.
• My friends and my peers – Because of my career and my collaborations with others, I have good friends – some I’ve recently gotten to know and others I’ve known for a long time. And some who I’ve recently reconnected with.
• My sharing of knowledge and making a difference. My husband and I trained a small army of volunteers in our town to shoot our town meetings and get them broadcast on our public access station. And I can see it has made a difference – people have become more civic minded and taken more of an interest in their community.
• I’m thankful that I am able to use my craft and create awareness through my personal projects in both stills and video.  I’m thankful they can be seen globally, via the Internet and the power that has.
• I’m thankful for the many volunteers everywhere who give their time generously to others who are in need.
• I’m thankful for all the little things that are so precious – the sun that warms me on a cold day, the rain that nourishes the land, the colors and calm of a beautiful dawn and the thousands of stars on a clear night.

I’d love to hear what others are thankful for. I have found many times that those who seem to be less fortunate are also the ones who are the most thankful for what they have.

Dealing with Adversity

If there’s one thing I learned from my parents growing up is “you never get anywhere if you take the approach that someone has to lose, in order for you to win”.  They were trying to tell me that I can’t control the actions of others.  I can only control who I am and what I do.

My folks family easterare both gone now, and I’m grateful for all of their words of wisdom. I try my best to live my life with the strength of character that my parents had.  They weren’t perfect by any means and neither am I.  But when things get rough in my life, as they have this past month, I draw on what my parents taught me and I try to get back on track.

I’d like to share some other words of wisdom from my folks:

  • Be the best you can be, instead of trying to be better than someone else.
  • When someone treats you poorly, it’s rarely about you – it’s about them.
  • Humans have frailties – show compassion when they fall short.
  • Never expect more than you are willing to give.
  • When you stand up for what is “right” – realize you may be the only one standing.
  • Friends come and go.  Honor the ones who stick with you to the end.
  • There is only one truth.
  • Forgive those who hurt you – including yourself.
  • Stay clear of folks who bad mouth others because one day you will be the one they are bad mouthing.
  • Things are meant to happen for a reason.  Remember that at your darkest hours because it’s usually a signal that you need to make a change in your life.
  • Don’t feel sorry for yourself – there’s always someone who is worse off than you.
  • When you are afraid to take a risk in life, ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Thanks Mom and Dad for what you have taught me.  You have given me the strength and courage when I have needed it the most.


I’ve often talked about how important collaboration is in video.  And with the right mix of people collaborating – wonderful things can happen.

My longest collaboration has been with my husband and business partner, Tom Kelly.

June 4, 1977

Today marks our 35th wedding anniversary, but our relationship goes back even further – another 4 years.  It’s truly hard for me to believe that so many years have gone by, but that’s what happens when one is busy living life.

The way Tom tells the story of the day we met is that we were with our classmates (our first class of Brooks Institute) on a field trip, and we ended up at a roadside hangout in the mountains just outside Santa Barbara, California.  We were on a patio drinking beer – I was barely of legal age – and Tom spotted me – “this exotic chick with rings on all of her fingers and smoking Turkish Ovals (cigarettes)”. I didn’t have rings on all my fingers and I stopped smoking long ago, but the real reason I stood out back then was that I was 1 of only 6 women who attended Brooks at that time.

For me, going to Brooks Institute in the mid ‘70’s, was like mixing “oil and water”.  I had just come back from a yearlong “hippie-backpacking” odyssey around the world. I was the ultimate free spirit and I was thrown into a rigid educational environment with ex GI’s from the Vietnam War.  But, I met Tom and that’s when our collaboration began.  I knew nothing about photography, other than managing to get lucky with some images that I took with my Nikon FTN and 50 mm lens, on my travels.  Tom had processed reconnaissance film in the Air Force and had a dark room as a kid, so I looked to him for advice. That’s how we started and we quickly became a couple – being there for one another.

After graduating from Brooks, we moved back East and worked a year in NYC as assistants to two commercial studio photographers. (I had gone to high school in NJ and Tom grew up just over the state line in Pennsylvania) We also moonlighted, shooting jobs our bosses didn’t want to do and also shooting for ourselves on the weekends. One summer we took our bikes and cameras “down the shore” and shot a wonderful personal project on the boardwalk – some of those images shot during that summer, remain favorites of mine. Perhaps that’s when the lines between business and personal became blurred.

We were extremely lucky in our early years to have an amazing mentor, Adrian Taylor, who was art director of Travel & Leisure at the time.  Adrian gave us many precious gifts as young photographers just starting out.  The most important gift was his encouragement and his unwavering belief in us. Every time Adrian gave us an assignment, we wanted to raise the bar and Adrian’s eyebrows as well.  Each assignment for the magazine was more challenging and ambitious, shooting major city stories with celebrity subjects, and luxurious environments in fabulous destinations.  And the best part – we got to experience this together!

As much as we’ve had an extraordinary career, working together and independently,  we’ve also had a wonderful marriage and family – our best collaboration – our daughter Erin. Tom and I  are so completely opposite of one another, but somehow it has worked.  Tom is more comfortable being out of the limelight and pointing it at me. What’s amazing is that Tom not only manages to produce his own jobs but he also takes care of a lot of things around the house.  There is a whole secret world in our basement, that I know nothing about. I’m the dreamer with the crazy notion to think anything is possible and  Tom has always been there for me, supporting my latest scheme and adventure. He has been the wind beneath my wings. It hasn’t been easy,  and there have been times, when both of us have wanted to walk away – but we didn’t.  In our “throw away society” I suppose that’s rare. I think it’s a pity that people give up too quickly – you never know what’s just around the corner.

Like any good story though, a life well lived comes with conflict and contrast.  Sometimes that has to happen to get you to the “next place”.  I’m grateful to be celebrating a life well lived with Tom, my husband, my partner, my soul mate.

Happy Anniversary Tom – love you.

Technology – Connecting our Past and our Future

These days with social media it is so easy to connect with people all over the globe.  We can make new friends and reconnect with old friends with ease. We can use social media to share knowledge and ideas or simply stay in touch with friends.

One thing I have learned in reconnecting with friends from the past is that even though time has passed and changes have transformed our lives – the underlying character traits of most people, remain the same.  If someone I knew had been an adventurous soul in college or high school – they were still adventurous souls.  At least this has been my experience when I have reconnected with people from my past.

Quite honestly at this point in my life, I am so involved with my “now”, I don’t really have the urge to dig into my past. I’ve never been to any of my high school reunions and there have been many.  But when I do reconnect with people from my past, they are always people I have a natural and lasting connection with.  What attracted me to those people then, are usually the same things that attract me to them now and vice versa.

With any type of relationship, I take the attitude that the people who are in my life are those that are meant to be there at this time. There’ll be good relationships and not so good relationships, but each is meant to play its purpose in my life.  The same holds true in business relationships – there’s always an ebb and tide in most relationships, and we learn by it…. Or we should.  There’s the sweet and the bitter side to anything in life and it’s almost like those two ingredients need to be there for a “life well lived.”

I’ve learned a lot about filmmaking and the art of storytelling over the last couple of years, and the one thing that stands out, is that every story needs a “conflict” or an “opposition”. Every story needs contrast.  If it doesn’t – it’s not a good story – at least in terms of the entertainment business of films, TV shows, books, magazines etc.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and I try to identify those themes when I watch a movie or read a book.  There is always an element of conflict or opposition to almost all stories and stories are taken from real life.

So when I look at my ultimate story –my life’s story –I tell myself to accept both the pain and the joys of life, because they are meant to be there. They are part of the process. I tell myself to expect the unexpected and leave any and all possibilities open. I tell myself to bridge the past with the now and allow the future to be what it’s meant to be for a life well lived.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

When “We” Became “Me”

It started happening after JFK was assassinated, followed by Martin Luther King’s death and finally the brutal slaying of JFK’s brother, Robert in the kitchen of a hotel in Los Angeles.  We were beginning to shift from a culture of “we” that began after the troops came back from the “big war – WWII” and everyone wanted to get back to normal life – having families, friends, and earn enough money to take a vacation every year, pay your bills and be able to educate your kids so that they would have a chance at a better life.

I was a kid in the fifties and it was a time when there was a real sense of community – definitely a “we” feeling in many ways.  Our backyards all connected into one big play field for all the kids in the neighborhood with the “woods” being the un-chartered territory beyond. We ran free, till dark, feeling like our own tribe of “we” with our own set of rules. Everyone pretty much looked out for one another –parents looked out for their neighbors’ kids, kids watched out for other kids, moms helped out other moms and dads the same.  We had a sense of community.

In the late sixties things began to change.  The Vietnam War was in full swing, along with the Civil Rights Movement and student unrest was building to the “Arab Spring” of its times. Our dreams were beginning to fade – our friends were coming home in body bags, our cities and neighborhoods were being destroyed during the riots of the late sixties, and our leaders were assassinated, one after another.  A shift was starting to happen.  We were becoming divided.  Fences and hedges started to divide our backyards, breaking up that once endless playing field.  We were starting to become more about “me.”

As a culture we roared through the 80’s and 90’s following a path as a society that believed that in order to win, others had to lose.  We became greedy, thinking only of our personal gain and caring little how that affected others. The divide among us has exceeded beyond what most of us would have ever thought possible.  We have made an art of  “ how to get nothing done” with our political system and no one is getting anywhere.  We are expending so much negative energy and if we don’t turn that around, we are all doomed.

I’m not a pessimist – just the opposite. I think if we can all just stop and flip our mindset into what we “can do”, instead of slamming the “other guy”, we just might be able to turn things around.  I see a younger generation, the 25-30 year olds who are thinking more in terms of the “we”, and getting away from the “me” mentality.  I have great hopes for this generation. We are at a turning point.  I’d like to look back at this time 10 years from now and say to myself  “I’m glad I did something.”

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Family Biographies

I think one of the most gratifying areas I create videos for is in documenting family stories. This past weekend, I traveled to Michigan for a large family gathering. Because this part of my family is over 800 miles from me, I don’t get to see them as often as I like. I also know that the years go by like minutes these days and that many of my aunts, uncles and cousins are getting on in years.

On this particular trip I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and decided to set up time to get my relatives to sit down for video interviews. I wanted to archive their stories for future generations of our family. Mom,Jereta, Joyce, Dorlen, Frenchie

We took an afternoon and one by one, each aunt and uncle told me stories of growing up and the hard, but happy life they had on the family farm. They talked a bit about my mother and I’m grateful for that because she is no longer here to tell her story.

At times the tales were funny and it times they were quite emotional. But I think at the end of the day we all agreed that what we had accomplished in taping their stories,  was an important thing to do. Video is such a wonderful tool for documenting a family’s story because they are telling their stories in their own way, with their own voice. Creating family biographies is one of the most rewarding areas that I work in. And it’s also the most appreciated.  I’d like to think in my own small way that I’m continuing a legacy for future generations to come.

%d bloggers like this: