Chicago Photobloggers

Sarah-Ji Photography
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Get Closer...


I think someone was trying to recreate the graffiti that was on here before, which I've posted in the past. Not quite the same, but still better than a blank wall.

I got a letter today that reminded me of the hard work of intimacy. This will be a life-long struggle and journey for me. I have been thinking the past week or so about how I need to recenter myself and the importance of my chosen family in that process. It's still so hard for me not to crawl under a rock sometimes and just pretend I can go it alone. But I know I can't. And I'm ok with that.


I'm Still Here...

I realize that 2012 is coming to a close, and I've been absent from this space for many months. I tried to revive this blog, but I seem to have failed. Instead of judging myself, however, I'm gonna shrug my shoulders and hope to be more consistent in the future. Consistently blogging, that is, not consistently absent.

2012 was a huge year for me in many respects. So much growing pains...but growth nevertheless. All in all, I am happier than I have ever been, even though there is so much uncertainty ahead of me and all around me. I'm excited for 2013...



Focus On Myself

soy yo

I've been going through photos that I never got around to editing, and this one came up from 2 months ago. I was covering the Rape Victim Advocates gala fundraiser at Salvage One, and my fotohermana Claudia and I took a little break in the room of mirrors to take photos of ourselves and of each other. I had a lot on my mind that night; so much was going on in my life and in my heart. I was processing changes in a significant relationship, contemplating my present and future selves, still recuperating from the trauma of covering NATO and its related protests/actions, and completely unaware of the journey that would unfold in the next two months.

I look at this photo now with the advantage of hindsight, and I can't help but admire and respect who I see in this mirror. Even then, with so much uncertainty and confusion, so much hurt still lingering, I had begun to wrap my arms and fists around a seemingly conflicting mix of fearlessness coated in transparent vulnerability. In so doing, I pried my fingers loose from fears I never thought I would be free from--the fear of heartbreak, the fear of being known by others, the fear of loneliness--and there instead I found an inner joy--quiet yet fierce--that had been there all along.  

This is not to say that I am totally unafraid. This shedding of fear will be a lifelong process, I'm sure. The lesson that is significant to me, however, is that I am fierce enough, that I am joyful enough, that I am loving enough, that I am hopeful enough, that I am powerful enough to keep making the road and bridges while walking* and to keep choosing love in all its forms, again and again, and in so doing practice freedom and liberation.**

And of course, none of this would be possible without my community and chosen family who have surrounded me with so much love and support which I borrow and draw from when I find my own reserves insufficient. For that, I am grateful beyond words...

*"Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking." ~ from "Proverbios y cantares XXIX" by Antonio Machado

"Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar. {Voyager, there are no bridges, we make our bridges as we walk.}" ~ Gloria Anzaldua

**"The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom. " ~ bell hooks (Outlaw Culture)


Living in the Moment

Grass Lake Sky

Blanket outstretched in the shade overlooking the beach overlooking the vast deep blue of the lake. Kites zipping overhead like birds of prey hungry for a meal, sometimes crashing in the sand. A game of colorful bocce ball being played on the sand. Choppy waves keep the lifeguards in rowboats busy. Cool breeze is refreshing and welcome. 

We sit, we watch, we listen, we soak it all in, this moment that we call our lives.


Wading Into the Magic


We were supposed to be going to Costco to pick up prints before they closed. I looked at the sky, and I knew that the lake would be amazing, and so Costco would have to wait til the next day. I told my backseat passenger that we'd had a change of plans, and that we'd be going to the beach instead, and she started protesting loudly, that she didn't have her bathing suit. I don't use the word 'protesting' lightly, either. These were some LOUD demonstrations of her displeasure. But I knew once we were there, all would be right as rain, and so we went.

The lake was a magic pool of irridescent blues when we got there. She wasted no time jumping into what she does best, which is to play, to make believe, to sing, to dance, to laugh...No, she didn't have her bathing suit, but that didn't stop her from becoming one with the water and sand.

Watching her on the beach at sunset never gets old to me...


This Is Not Goodbye

PSA: Open Doors Can Be Fatal

Dear Jhonathan,

Do you remember this photo I took of your water bottle and glasses? I think it was the first photo I took that was in some way of you. It was on our 2nd coffee meeting, almost two years ago. I was entering what has proven to be the most tumultous time of my life, one of explosive growth, extreme pain and pure joy. Somehow, the Universe connected us, and you were an integral part of that beautiful mess that I call my life.

I can't express in words what you mean to me. You are not only friend, but brother, and a fotohermano at that. Your friendship has been liberatory and life-giving on so many levels. All those hours of conversation with you where I knew I could unpack the pain of my experiences of racism and patriarchy and brokenheartedness, knowing you would provide a safe space for my anger, as well as the love and solidarity I needed to move towards healing--those times are priceless and have changed my life. You were one of the key people who kept being the mirror I needed to see myself as I am, flaws and beauty and fierceness and all. 

When you told me some months ago that you and Jenny were moving to Guatemala, I didn't let on what a blow it was to me. I had known this was coming, but I didn't know it would be so soon. Since then, I've pretty much been in denial, but the last week or so, the realization has been sinking in, and I've found myself with tears I can no longer force back in random places, like on the red line or coffeeshops or putting Cadence to sleep or when the night is quiet and I'm all alone. 

I suck at goodbyes, and I feel like I'm really sucking at writing this...I guess what I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt is the light that you have been in my life. Cadence and I love you and Jenny dearly, and the two of you have given me hope for love, not in the cheesy hollywood way but in the raw honest bell hooks way. And I know, too, that this is NOT goodbye, cuz let's face it, we had some really good conversations on gchat. Maybel I'll even learn how to Skype. And tweet more. Maybe.

So thank you, mi querido amigo y hermano y compañero. See you in Xela soon.

In love and struggle always,

์ด์ •์•„


Let's Try This Again...

downtown reflected

In case you haven't noticed, I've all but given up on blogging. I was actually going to throw in the towel for good. Part of it is that I've been going through some major life changes that I wasn't ready to write about. Part of it is that I'm really busy with things that require me to not spend as much time behind the lens. Part of it is writers block. Part of it is shutterblock.

But I'm back. Again. I know, I know...soon enough I will have things to write about. And hopefully photographs to share.

BOE Rally Mtg-9

For now, here's a foto that captures what's been on my mind these past months. The fight for public education in Chicago is a fierce one. I have lots to say on this, but I'll save that for another day.


And Cadence and I still found some time to get to the beach. With spring coming to Chicago, I've been unblocking my shutterblock and getting out with my camera more. I really need to do this as it's been my primary mode of self-therapy for years now.

Stay tuned...


And This Is How We Begin...

First Foto Of 2012

First foto of 2012: Two of my favorite Geminis in the world.

First meal of 2012: Kung Pao Shrimp

First drink of 2012: Cheap Pilsner

First album of 2012: Black Star

First movie of 2012: Ghost Dog

First cig of 2012: 3 1/2 month old Nat Sherman Menthol

First wish upon a star of 2012: Something about friendship...


piecing it all together

Me (in part)

I thought I'd have it figured out by now, this "knowing yourself" business. And yet here I am, once again questioning and challenging the construct of self that I've held onto for so long. I've been stripping away the layers of how others define me, how I've been socialized to define myself, and I'm trying to piece it all back together again. I am learning to embrace my unfinishedness and to walk comfortably with the idea that my identify is more fluid and flexible than I give it credit for and that I will never be done with the work of self-discovery and reflection...


I wrote a version of the post above for Shutter Sisters yesterday. These thoughts were spurred by two separate conversations I had Sunday with a couple of my friends. I never expected to have these conversations, mainly because there are some aspects of my identity that I had just accepted my whole life without questioning whether they were the real me or not. Recently, however, I've found myself being unsure, and that's where I am now. Unsure about so much. And I'm actually ok with that. I am also aware that this is possible because of the safe space I operate in within my community, something I know I'm incredibly lucky and blessed to have.


Me (whole)

I'm seeking wholeness and authenticity. I know it will require radically changing the way I view myself. I don't know where I'm going with all this, but I'm sooo grateful for those who have been beautifully supportive--old friends and brand new ones.


7 years old and counting

my baby is turning seven today

Today, Cadence turns 7. It hardly seems possible to me. Those days and nights of nursing and dancing and singing her back to sleep don't seem that distant in the past. I can still hear her toddler voice squealing and babbling away. And it wasn't so long ago that I was seeing her off on her first day of kindergarten.

love this so much...

And look at her now. She looks like she's posing for her senior portraits. I already see in her glimpses of the person she is growing up to be, and I can honestly say that I totally look up to this child.

she's fabulous, fer sure

Cadence is definitely a force to be reckoned with. She has singlehandedly turned my life upside down and rightside up, and I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for her presence in my life.

Happy 7th bday, Cadence!


we are all made of stars

sky water sand

I caught the happy virus last night
When I was out singing beneath the stars.
It's remarkably contagious--
So kiss me.

- Hafiz

It's easy to forget about stars when you live in a light polluted metropolis like Chicago. Lately I have been trying to find that first star of the night so i can make a wish, like I did as a little girl. There is something strangely comforting about this simple act. Perhaps this is why I am so often compelled to go to the beach at night. It's the one place in the city where the sky is big and {relatively} dark enough for me to actually stargaze. The rhythm of the waves lapping upon the shore as the soundtrack is an added bonus.

Moby is right. We are all made of stars. Billions of years within each of us. So the stars that I gaze and wish and hope and love upon today, that light which took a gazillion years to reach my eyes, these stars may someday be the very stuff within our future selves. Thinking about that helps me to resist cynicism. When what we do and who we are seem so insignificant, I'll think of those stars and believe that the light we shine now will someday be seen, and that the stuff we are essentially made of--not just the physical but the emotional and intellectual and spiritual as well--will still be around in some shape or fashion even though we ourselves may be long gone.

Y'all really should come to the beach with me one night...


giving in to the blur

letting go

The motor of the camera’s lens spins and whirs, straining to make sense of the darkness. Sometimes, autofocus is plain futile, and you just have to switch to manual. Even then, your eyes struggle and squint through the tiny viewfinder, and so, out of frustration, you give in and let everything go out of focus and click. And that’s when you breathe deep, relax and see the beauty in the blur. You had no idea. THIS is what you wanted to see tonight.

Life is like that too sometimes, isn’t it? You work so hard trying to maintain clarity, to keep things in focus, utilizing the light you have. Maybe sometimes you just have to give in to the blur, to the unknown and the unknowing. Maybe sometimes you just need to stop struggling so hard to see, to have that perfect vision. For those of us who like to remain in control at all times, the mere thought of letting go in such a way can be an unsettling experience. And yet maybe it can be beautiful. Maybe it is beautiful…


words to chew on

Go Slow

I had a post up on Shutter Sisters yesterday using this foto. I've taken a similar foto at this spot almost 2 1/2 years ago at night. I have these places in Chicago where I like to go by myself at night, and it's always a different experience to be in those spaces in the light of day when other people are around and I am not cloaked in the safe anonymity of the night.

Anyhoo. I think I need to chew on these two little words "Go Slow" for a bit, even as life continues at breakneck speed here in Chicago, where we try to squeeze the last drop of sunshine and warmth out of our summer days before we wake up one morning and find that summer left without so much as a note goodbye, and winter has already moved in. I'm thinking about this as I nurse a strained ankle which is forcing me to slow down during an extremely event-packed week. I have reasons for still going to these events that I won't get into here, but my ankle is making me think about the space I create for myself when I am at these places.

This might be one of those times that I look for solitude even in the midst of community.


The Moments In Between Here and There

My friends had just finished a soccer game in the gloaming, and we had been taking "team" photos in the fading light of this merry band of futbol players. While I think the posed shots were a ton of fun, I have to say that my heart is drawn to the candids in between the "formal" shots. To me, that's where my favorite stories are in photography--those moments in between people's awareness of the camera, those moments in between the subject's consciously exhibiting the persona that they want the camera to capture, those moments in between the awkwardness for those who are uncomfortable in front of a lens.

I love the light in this photo, that light in between day and night, that last glimmer of sun fading into the darkness. I love the chaos in this photo, everybody doing their own thing or trying to spell the letters AMC [for Allied Media Conference which was where we were at] before the photographers yell at everyone to get in position and to hold still. I love that I can still feel the love and joy and magic of this moment, even now..

And there's joy

And I love this...the exuberance, the energy...and mi chiquita in the middle of it all, feeling totally at home w/ mama's friends. And so this is what I read in between the lines, this is what I remember between here and there--that feeling of gratitude for community and friends who "get" my daughter and still love her, because it is a sign that they "get" me and love me too, and I love them back fiercely.

And so my heart melts, again and again, for there is no better way for you to show your love and friendship for me than by showing the same to my child, to treat her with respect, to let her sit in the lap of The Community, totally safe and free to be herself (even when that means her Ornery Self). And this is one reason that I take remember these moments that remind me of how much we are loved and how much I love in return.


Making The Road by Walking


Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road--
Only wakes upon the sea.

~ "Proverbios y cantares XXIX" by Antonio Machado

And so this is how it feels now. In struggle, in life, in friendship. There is no marked path for me to walk, just my feet still trodding on. Those who speak the truth (even when it's hard to hear), with grace and with love--they are welcome to hold my hand along the way. Those who remind me of who I really am and help me clear away the cobwebs of lies-they are welcome to link arms with me in solidarity. Those who believe in dismantling fear and breaking down the self-made fortresses around our hearts--they are welcome to hold me and to be held by me.

I'm gonna lighten the load and leave the naysayers behind. I ain't got time for them.


A Thousand Ways

When I put my camera to my eye at just the right moment and click. When I slice, slice, slice vidalia onions until the pores of my hands sweat out their scent. When I gingerly place filling in the middle of the dough, fold and tenderly seal w/ the graceful twist of la repulge. When I rub her 6 1/2 year old back as she finally drifts off to sleep. When I drive through Chicago in the middle of the night without destination but with a full heart. When I sit by the edge of the water in darkness and let the sound of the waves wash over me. When I lay down in the grass of Humboldt Park as we talk of heart matters until the sky turns morning pink. When I "move to the rhythm that we call resistance." When I speak with my eyes because I cannot find the words.

Do you see me kneeling and kissing the ground? Because I am.