Chicago Photobloggers

Sarah-Ji Photography
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Be My Mirror

Looking In The Mirror

I recently posted on Shutter Sisters about what I see when I see myself. It wasn't an easy post to write. It took me years and years of stripping away layers of self-doubt and unfounded feelings of unworthiness to be able to write that and to mean it. It's a process I go through every day, this choosing of how I see myself. As I told a good friend last night, I go back and forth between embracing my fierceness and awesomeness and then quaking in my boots.

I foresee a lot of self-reflection in the months ahead. I know I will need courage and authenticity, things I'll probably often need to borrow from others. I know I'm not supposed to walk this path alone, but sometimes it's really hard for me not to start digging a hole in the ground and make a secret path unknown and inaccesible to others.

I made this video because I wanted to show my shutterbrothers Brett and Dave how much I want to reflect back to them the beauty I see in them. What I realized as I watched the final cut is that I made that video as much for me as I did for them.  They have been my mirrors, showing me who I am and who I can be, as have a host of other friends.  I don't know where I would be without them...

And yet, mi querid@, I will not lie...The road ahead is unlit and unmarked. I'm afraid of getting lost; even the brave misread maps. I'm afraid of falling; even the strong can trip on a pebble. Whether I lose my way or skin both knees, I'll keep walking that road...don't be surprised, though, if I ask you to keep me company...


On Kneeling and Kissing the Ground

Humboldt Park

Sometimes? The only way to show reverence is by the lifting of one's face to the warm kiss of the sun, delighting in the profound blue of the sky, marveling in the broad feathery brush strokes of clouds, breathing deeply of the crisp winter air and reveling in the simple yet perfect joy of that moment.

Hope in the midst of winter

Sometimes? Even dead blossoms still whisper echoes of their beautiful and glorious past and prophecy hope in the resurrection to come if you will only be patient for Spring, who will surely return no matter how bleak the world may now look.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground

Sometimes? Savoring a quesito and cup of cafe con leche on a park bench accompanied by that book of mystical poetry you haven't been able to put out of your mind for days is one way to kneel and kiss the ground.

"Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

~ Rumi


Shutter Sisters Cross-Post: What I See When I See Myself

Me and Cadence (foto by Gabo Machabanski)

"Cadence, tell your mom it's okay for her to have her picture taken sometimes..." (spoken by my wise and dear friend Gabo before I surrendered the camera to him for this shot)

You never did like having your picture taken. I think that's one of the reasons you became a photographer, so that you can hide behind your camera, so that you could be the one in control of whose photo gets taken and when. Those days are over now because you have fallen into a circle of friends who love to take your camera out of your hands and turn the lens on you for a change, friends who have welcomed and embraced you and gently pried your fingers away from your eyes as they became your mirror, reflecting back to you who you really are.

So tell me. What do you see in yourself, now that the scales have fallen away from your eyes? Yes, I know it's hard to admit, it feels strange to say it, but go ahead. No one's judging you here., but mending...hurt, but healing...broken, but being made whole...In fact, I'm strong...fierce, even...full of love...full of joy...full of hope...

Yes, that's a start. Keep going, don't stop now.

I...think I might be...kinda awesome?

You think?! Own it, sister!

OK...I AM pretty flippin' awesome. I have a beauty that is unique and my own. I am worthy of being loved and cherished...I am worthy of being known.

Ah, yes, that's better...


(It's actually March as I'm posting this, which was posted to Shutter Sisters back at the beginning of the year, and I forgot to cross post here. It's a post that means a lot to me, so I guess it's better late than never.)


When I Turn My Lens To You, It Means I Love You

(Photo by my dear friend and shutterbrother Brett Jelinek of Olaf Images)

When I turn my lens to you, while you are gazing out into the distance, it means I love you. I see the beauty inside you, I want to remember this moment, and I love you.

When I turn my lens to you, while we share a meal amongst those close to our hearts, it means I love you. The laughter, the joy, the affection--I want all of that captured to be cherished, because I love you.

When I turn my lens to you, little one, as you give me that look of fearlessness, it means I love you. Bare your teeth, with that one front tooth missing, and my heart fills to the brim, and I love you.

When I turn my lens to you, as you gather your own into your arms and pour into them unconditional love, it means I love you. I cannot be the mother I am without being witness to this, and I love you.

When I turn my lens to you, those who struggle for yourselves and your children and for the people, it means I love you. Power to the people, always, you carry on the beautiful struggle, and I love you.

When I turn my lens to you, as you dance with abandon and joy, it means I love you. Do you know how beautiful you are when you let your body be as free as your heart and soul? And I love you.

When I turn my lens to you, as you become a child again with my child, it means I love you. A flurry of energy moving at the speed of Cadencia, how could I not but love you?

When I turn my lens to you, as you turn your lens to me, it means I love you. We see each other and we see the world together, and for that I love you.

When I turn my lens to you, while you are looking straight at me, it means I love you. Windows to your soul, I know this is an honor and blessing to be able to look into them, and I love you.


To all of you who allowed me to turn my lens to you, know that I was also capturing you in my heart. I love you fiercely.


Running Into 2011


I love this photo so much. When we thought the evening couldn't get any lovelier after filling our bellies with Filipino empanadas and sword fights at Target, we discovered that the sledding hill was totally abandoned, save for some geese who flew away as soon as they saw us running uphill. What a perfect night for sledding...slightly misty but warm enough so we felt comfortable flying down the hill multiple times.

In some ways, this photo is representative of how I feel like I'm entering 2011--running up a hill with a heart overflowing. There is freedom and joy there, but also a recognition of the challenges to come, a fear of the unknown. And yet, I know that my friends are there for me, running with me up that same hill, and they will pick me up if I fall (or come rescue me at the end of the evening when I can't walk down the hill in my slippery dress boots).

Where will you be, come December 31, 2011? Where will I be? Who will we have become? We are heading into a fog, arms outstretched, so much hope and anticipation in our hearts. If I need someone to hold my hand and be by my side through the darkest patches, will you find me? Can I do the same for you?

Regardless, let's eat empanadas and go sledding.




Café Conmigo, Por Favor?

Time has slipped by us quietly and unnoticed, and I don't know how I got to be over here while you are over there. Can we ever go back and reclaim those moments that should have been ours together? The conversations never exchanged? We can trudge on and pretend we didn't miss a beat, but someday it will become evident that we are out of synch.

Café conmigo, por favor? I will be waiting here...


Another Reminder...

Get Really Close To Another Human Being...

I realize that I've already posted a photo of this locale not too long ago. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to go and take a night-time version of the shot.  There was a fresh blanket of snow covering the beach, and everything was quiet and still, except for the wind whistling through the snow.

I'm realizing how hard it is for a fiercely independent and self-sufficient person such as myself to follow this mandate to get really close to another human being. I feel like the lesson I've been learning lately is to dismantle the walls I've built around myself and to let my friends be there for me. It takes both vulnerability and courage to receive love with an open heart and humility. It's not easy, believe me...


Slowing It Down...

Playing Pooh Sticks

OK, let's be straight with each other. This photo is not at all representative of how I actually spent most of my weekend. Nevertheless, it was the perfect way to bring me back down to the ground, to slow down and be present and to be like a child again. Cadence is an expert at helping me to do that.

I think a game of Poohsticks (which is what Cadence and I were doing here at Garfield Park) is the perfect ending to a weekend of joyful mayhem, unjustifiable stress, mingling with multitudes, inspiration for the revolution, intoxicated/ing dancing, way too much el Jimador and Malibu Coconut Rum and American Spirits, the inevitable morning after (or in my case, morning OF), and severe sleep deprivation.

If a six year old ever asks you to play a game of Poohsticks, my advice is to always say yes.

So much love to you all this Monday morning...


Me, Myself and My Camera


Every now and then, even in the dead of winter (which we are still far from, let's not delude ourselves, never mind the chilly temps), I get a hankering to visit this beach. I spent many an evening and late hour here this summer, writing letters and dancing with the waves. Tonight, I went back there for old time's sake. I been missing the lake, the waves, the sound, the rhythm, and I needed a little fix, the cold be damned.

And I'm glad I went. I can always depend on the lake to still be there and be as beautiful as ever, no matter what the windchill may be. I pulled an all-nighter last night, but I've been wired all day, and this was just what I needed to come back down, to still my heart and my murky mind and to remember what it feels like to rest again.




There is no better way to end the day than to have your face kissed by gentle rain and mist as you walk out onto the boulevard, and all around you has been transformed into glistening gold. Especially if your heart is full from a day packed with the love and presence of friends, some of whom you weren't even expecting to see. And especially if your heart is full from longing for friends whom you miss dearly, near and far.

I thought of you as I took this photo. I held you in my heart and imagined you were next to me. Yes, you. And you. And you, too.

You know who you are. And if you don't, you should.


Finding My Way Back

Get Really Close

I've been gone awhile. I don't know if I'm ready to be back, but here I am, after searching for days for a graceful re-entry, and failing miserably. Do I pick up where I left off? Do I explain myself? Do I pretend I was never gone? How do I fill in the blanks of the past weeks? For once, I don't even have the images to speak for myself.

(And yet I do...snapshots of moments etched into my heart for safekeeping, a private album already treasured and lovingly thumbed through.)

This is going to take time...I hope you don't mind...


Shutter Sisters Cross Post: Different Focus

There Is a Common Struggle

When I first took this picture, I have to admit that I didn't mean to focus on the flowers. My aim was at the men sitting against the wall, but I missed.  I retook the shot, with the focus being on the men themselves instead of the flowers, but for some reason, I found myself drawn to this version of the shot because there was a more compelling story that was emerging from this image.  Perhaps the inability to identify who these men actually were emphasized the common struggle that we all face these days.


This post appears today on Shutter Sisters. I wrote it in the middle of the night and was actually alternating between sleep/dreaming and writing, so it's not as coherent as I wanted it to be. One thing that I did get out of taking this photo is that it's easy to snap a shot in passing and not think about the significance of what it is that you actually took a photo of. These men were sitting on the side of a building, obviously down and out, as I captured the image in passing. What I would hope is that the act of creating this photo would impress upon me (and hopefully others) the struggles of the people--struggles that may look different on the surface but have interconnected root causes--so that we realize the need for solidarity to bring about change and liberation for all.


After Hours In the Motor City

Thank you, Detroit, for the little night-time stroll.

Dear Detroit,

I walked your streets in the light of day, and I would've sworn you told me to come back after dark, and so I did. Thanks for the tip. You are beautiful at night, just like I knew you'd be.



A View From Detroit


Just got back from a couple days in Detroit. It was my first time there, except for driving through on a few occasions in the middle of the night. There was much for the photographer in me to love, although I sometimes forgot about my camera (hard to believe, I know) and just soaked in the sights and sounds. I am hoping to go back there to do a more in depth photo exploration in the near future.


Standing in Solidarity With Whittier School Parents

Playground @ Whittier Elementary

Last Wednesday, a group of parents took over the field house at Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen. I went down there on Friday and Sunday evenings, and I'm greatly inspired by these folks who, having had promise after promise broken, are taking direct action to positively impact the future of their children's education. Not only that, they are standing up to some big powers that be here in Chicago to take control of their tax dollars that have been funneled away by the controversial Tax Increment Financing.

I believe that revolutionary change will happen from the bottom up. Our political process is so broken, and the current conditions so critical, that to think merely voting in "the right people" will bring about change that is urgently needed is a misguided notion. You want change you can believe in? We gotta make it ourselves, in solidarity. That's what these mothers at Whittier, a.k.a. La Casita, are doing, and for that I applaud their efforts and stand with them. Their struggle is my struggle. It is your struggle too, whether you know it or not.


Waiting For The Show to Start

Waiting For The Pixies Show

It's not every day you stumble upon the venue where the Pixies happen to be headlining that night.  These folks were congregated outside the very beautiful Fox Theater. I thought about going to the show, but decided to keep walking instead.