Chicago Photobloggers

Sarah-Ji Photography
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Turning A Corner

Turning a corner

Yay for bicycles.  'Tis all I've got for now.  It's 1am, and I need to be up at six.

P.S. I had a good weekend.


Walk With Me

I love rusty stuff

I unexpectedly had a free evening to myself that required just one errand, which was to deliver a DVD of wedding photos in Wicker Park.  I had no plan, but I had my camera bag.  I eveuntually found myself going east on Division after my errand was done, not knowing where to go, when I stumbled upon a corner I had been meaning to come back to for ages.

Life's Too Short Bar

This is at the SE corner of Division and Elston.  It's one of those inexplicable sightings that when traveling past by car, you do a double-take and wonder what the hell that was.  This was the Life Is Short bar, which, true to its name, has been closed for some years now. It's in an industrial area near the river just west of Goose Island that doesn't get much foot traffic.  It's probably the perfect place for a bar because there are no residential buildings within a several block radius, so you could be as loud as you want, and your neighbors wouldn't care because all you had was the prison-like People's Energy warehouse across the street.  I suppose you could argue that the lack of homes near by may also equate to a dearth of patrons, but that doesn't seem to bother the Hideout, another dive bar (albeit kick-ass music venue) in a tucked away industrial neighborhood.

Love You So

Next to the former bar space is a wall of what looks like street art.  This actually says "I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT HURTS."  Sorry if I misled you.

Look what I found

And now I can say that I found True Love--faded and battered--at the corner of Division and Elston.


Apparently, the bar had a nautical theme.  Perhaps due to its proximity to the river?  Or just the party ethic of a beach/sailor lifestyle?


This was taken from the east bridge on Goose Island.  When I got there, one lonely duck was swimming from one side of the river to the other.  Then all of a sudden, the kayakers and canoers floated underneath me in ones and twos until there was a veritable armada paddling downstream.  I wanted to call out to them, "Who are you? Where did you come from? How do I join you?" but I didn't think my voice would carry.



I kept walking east off the bridge to the corner of Division and Halsted.  I love taking photos of cyclists waiting for the green at stoplights.  Halsted seems to be a favorite route for cyclists.

Cabrini Green

I guess I also like taking photos of people at stoplights too.  That's one of the remaining Cabrini Green buildings in the background.  I was surpised at how empty the neighborhood seemed, especially on a perfect summer's night .

Queen Anne's Lace

And here is the ubiquitously triumphant Queen Anne's Lace growing in a cluster of greenery. oblivious to its concrete surroundings.  I love wild city flora.

Lit Up

By the time I walked back across the bridge, the city had turned on her lights.  It was a lovely sight indeed.

Thanks for walking with me...


Breastmilk: It Ain't Just For Babies

this is what a nursing toddler looks like

DISCLAIMER: This is not a post about breastmilk vs formula.  That debate is quite nuanced, and has been discussed at length elsewhere.  Bottom line: be informed; know what support is available; make your own choice; don't let anyone guilt-trip you.

The photo above is of me nursing Cadence when she was two and a half.  That was over 3 years ago.  I know that may raise some eyebrows here in the United States and many other Westernized countries, but since it's World Breastfeeding Week, and it doesn't seem like there are very many (if any) positive images of breastfeeding toddlers and older children (a.k.a. extended breastfeeding) in our culture, I'm putting it out there, and I'm going to talk about it. 

Off the top of my head, I can only think of a couple references to extended breastfeeding in the media. One is in the movie About Schmidt with Jack Nicolson and Kathy Bates, in which the latter refers to having breastfed her son until he was five.  The other is an episode from Desperate Housewives (which my boss told me about) in which one of the characters weans her co-worker's five year old by offering him chocolate milk.  Neither reference is what I would call POSITIVE.  Both were probably going for the "ewwww" reaction or at least snickers and jeers aimed at any mother who would be so overbearing as to breastfeed a FIVE YEAR OLD.

I'm sorry to say that the recently released movie Cyrus may contribute to the unfounded notion that breastfeeding an older child may lead to the development of a creepily unhealthy relationship between mother and child.  It was very subtle innuendo, that scene in which John  C. Reilly's character happens to pick up a framed photo of his love interest (Marisa Tomei) breastfeeding her (now-adult) son Cyrus when he looked to be obviously much older than a baby, perhaps as old as (*GASP*!) FOUR YEARS OLD.  Subtle, maybe, but the filmmaker's intent in including that photo was very clear.  It was to make you go, "Ewwww! No WONDER they're so codependent!"

Well, you know what? It just so happens that I nursed Cadence until she was over 4 1/2 years old.  That's right.  And I am so glad I did.  You know what else?  I have plenty of friends--all of whom anyone should be delighted to have over for a party due to their intelligence, creativity and over-all kick-assedness--who also nursed their babies into toddlerhood and beyond.  It's a lot more common than you think.  The body of research points to a much later natural weaning age--between 2 1/2 and 7 years--than most people think is or should be the norm.

Why am I bringing this up?  Partly because if we don't talk about it and simply allow the media continue to perpetuate the image of extended breastfeeding as something to be ashamed of, something only clingy mothers with boundary issues would do, then that's what most of us are going to continue believing.  If people realize that some of their friends whom they respect and are sure are not freaks are practicing extended breastfeeding, it'll give them pause before they snicker at the next negative media depiction of extended breastfeeding.  Another reason I want to talk about this is because when Cadence gets older, I don't want her to feel like a freak because she breastfed longer than most of her friends.  She still remembers nursing and even what breastmilk tastes like (chocolate ice cream, she says).  These are fond, nostalgic memories for her right now.  I would hate for that to change when she's older because the dominant attitude towards EB continues to be that it's gross or freaky.  I also hope that by bringing this subject out into the open, it would encourage women who are considering extended breastfeeding to feel like they are supported and not alone.

Extended breastfeeding is not for everyone.  In addition to the social stigma, we have government policies in place that make it extremely difficult for most working mothers.  However, for those for whom EB is a viable and desirable choice, my hope is that we as fellow parents and friends and family would support them in their decision so that they feel like it's the most natural thing in the world to do.  Which it is.


Shutter Sisters Cross Post: Framing Tells Half The Story

Framing Tells Half The Story

(Cross-posted on Shutter Sisters today.)

I was late to a live acoustic music show at a little coffee shop, and I found a seat somewhat removed from the other patrons and the band.  During the performance, I happened to glance over to my left, and that's when I saw her, absentmindedly playing with her hair, soaking in the music, with the late afternoon light from the window subtly illuminating her from behind.  Instantly smitten, I turned my lens towards her, carefully composed the shot and clicked.

I am a big fan of shooting from the hip, but for this photo, I was very intentional about the way I arranged the visual elements of the image.  I wanted the viewer to know that I was at a distance from the subject, that most likely she was a stranger, and by framing the shot within an actual environmental border (the dark outline of the wall on the left, the top of a chair below, and the gentleman on the right), there is a sense that I, the photographer, am looking in from the outside.

In post-processing, I actually considered cropping out the dark borders to zoom in more on the subject.  Doing so, however, didn't tell the story I wanted to convey--namely, that this was one of those random encounters with beauty that I often observe admiringly from a distance, hesitant to get any closer for fear that detection of my presence would chase the moment away.  I was glad that I composed the shot as intentionally as I did, because in this case, the framing really does tell half the story, at least for me.


And My Heart Skips A Beat

Sunday Morning Reading Club--New Location

I am not a weepy person, but when I saw this photo on the big screen last night while post-processing, I totally got teary-eyed.  I've been taking photos of them reading together or side by side since they were 3, but seeing them looking like such big kids, with their heads together in such a comfortable and familiar way--it sunk in just how much I cherish their friendship.


Happy Birthday, Super Rudden!

Happy Birthday, Super Rudden!

Our dear Rudden is turning 6 today!  Many happy returns of the day, Super Rudden!  You are a superhero to me and Cadence and to the many people you touch with your awesome sense of wonder and tenderness.  We love you SOOOOOO much!

Mother and Son

And happy anniversary-of-giving-birth-to-Rudden to my beloved Amy!  I can't express in words the joy you and your family bring to me and mine.  Thank you for walking beside me on this journey called motherhood.  I love you!




"I showed him my notebook
the underside of my soul released
in scribbles on pages
he smiled and held my hand

I knew that he would see
for he dreams of touching beauty, too
there has to be more than the work day...

...I write in my notebook
this feeling, it takes me by surprise
in thoughts that I don't know that I have

they're hidden by useless facts that I
compile at the office where I work
where there is no time for
feeling anything"

From Notebook by The Innocence Mission

We had just gotten out of the car, ready for our beach adventure.  I saw that he had chosen to sit on the grass instead of any of a number of empty benches.  He was scribbling into his notebook, oblivious to the rambunctious noises of two children excited about the beach up ahead.  I smiled to myself, momentarily transported back to a time when I too would temporaily take up residence in random places with my notebook, scribbling away...


Greeting The Morning

Greeting the Morning

I had the rare opportunity to go the beach before work one morning, not too long after the sun had risen.  It was still pretty deserted, except for the seagulls and this woman greeting the morning with yoga.  That has got to be the best way to start one's day.


Shutter Sisters Cross Post: Going Slow


There is a time for going slow, and there is a time for moving fast.  And then there is a time for going slow when all around you is moving fast.  I recently realized this when I found myself in a crowd of downtown tourists whizzing by me on all sides from all directions.  I am not a fast walker.  I am a stroller, an ambler, a meanderer, a wanderer, a dilly-dally-er of the highest order.  This is especially true when I have a camera in my hands and music in my ears.

Instead of picking up my pace to keep up with the crowd, I decided to slow it waaaay down, and just stand around as everyone rushed past me.  It was a bright sunny day, and I could have easily snapped sharp images of people as they walked by, but I decided to capture the sense of being surrounded by motion by using a slower shutter speed.  To do this, I decreased my ISO to 100, narrowed my aperture to f/16 and was able to get the shutter down to 1/10 of a second, which was plenty slow to capture all the commotion of the moment. 

Sometimes (or always, in my case) it's a good idea to slow down and let the whirlwind swirl on by.  Your life won't pass you by because it's not in that whirlwind.  It's with you, however long you may dawdle, in this moment, in this place.


This is cross-posted from today's post on Shutter Sisters.  It gives a glimpse into one of my favorite things to do in the city: get lost in a crowd and enter my own slow motion vision of life.  I derive great joy from this simple activity.


Reflecting On Michigan Avenue

Reflecting on Michigan Ave

One of the best parts about living in Chicago is how easy it is to go unnoticed in large crowds.  When I find myself in such a situation, and I have my camera in hand, I like to walk slowly, stop often and capture my surroundings.  I find it very meditative to just wander around with no agenda, collecting visual mementos along the way.

P.S. My photo from yesterday is the Daily Photo on WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio today:


Quality Family Time

Quality Family Time

This Energy Cannot Be Bottled

A Flurry of Energy She Is

She was under the weather this weekend, but after being cooped up all day Saturday, we decided to hit the beach in the cool of the evening.  This is my favorite time to go to the beach (besides after hours when it's deserted).  I love watching Cadence play.  It's like watching a barn swallow at times, flying to and fro at high speeds.  She makes me dizzy.

Speaking of dizzy, here's a video I did recently one evening when Cadence made us BOTH extremely dizzy.  She is something else...


Late Night Reflection

We left that light on way too long now

I am a night owl.  And by night owl, I don't mean that I merely stay up late (which I usually do).  It also means that I find solace in dark places, long after the sun has disappeared.  These are the times when I can slow down and breathe and think as deeply as I dare.

There's a lot on my mind these days...Our decision to send Cadence to public school has me thinking quite a bit about the state of education in our country and specifically in Chicago.  It is sometimes agonizing to me to imagine sending Cadence to a public school, and yet I know that the mere fact that I have this dilemma shows how privileged I am.  Nevertheless, I find myself wanting to go back to school to do research on education policy and pedagogy.  I thought about applying to grad school for all of 5 minutes before I changed my mind and decided that a DIY education was probably more realistic for me. 

In addition to thinking about education and how that's going to look long-term for our family, I've also been feeling antsy about taking my photography to the next level--not in a technical way, but in a way that is reflective of my desire to create change in the culture and society around me.  I've been itching to do documentary work that tells the stories of the marginalized and oppressed and ordinary.  I really think that's where I'm headed with my photography, but I haven't figured out quite how to get started yet...


My Kind Of Office

Hilary's Little Study

Sitting at that desk, staring out the window, tunes playing in the background, writing to friends in faraway places, daydreaming about nothing in particular, making a mix CD...I wish that could be me...


I Have Long Suspected...

Leaves Me Speechless

...that Cadence is a little sprite.  I submit this photo as Exhibit A.  That couch looks pretty magical, too, in my opinion.  My friend Hilary has an exquisite vintage collection.



Northbound To Howard

Red Line To Howard

One of my favorite places to shoot photos in Chicago is in the subway.  For some reason, I find myself at the Lake Street Red Line stop quite a bit, as I did again yesterday after shooting a wedding downtown.  Everything everywhere was crowded due to the 4th of July holiday, Taste of Chicago and sunny weather.  I just love getting lost in the crowd sometimes, wondering where every one is in such a hurry to get to...