Thoughts About Life, June 19, 2020

comments 32
Inspiration / Performance Photography / Photo Log / Photography / Positivity


July 14, 2011, San Jose Blues Festival, San Jose, California.

Here’s a secret: I really enjoy doing performance photography. But it’s not a concentration: I’ve only posted performance photography twice before. The first was in my fourth blog post ever, on November 30, 2018.

Today, for reasons that might already be obvious, I’ve decided to post another.

This is Ruthie Foster. She grew up with music in her genes and in her early teens she knew that her life would revolve around music. She had a definite idea of exactly how that would be: early in her career she turned down an opportunity to be promoted as a pop star by a major record label, preferring to stick to roots music and blues. Many albums and awards later (including three Grammy nominations) she has stuck to her dream and is living it to the max. She is a person of huge talent and integrity.

This picture catches her in the act of doing what she like to do best and reflects the pure joy of being alive. As I write this, I’m listening to her latest album.

Ruthie Foster was born, raised, and still lives in Texas. And in that state, one hundred and fifty-five years ago today — June 19, 1865 — the last Texas slaves (thus the last slaves in the United States) were declared free. The anniversary was originally celebrated as Jubilee Day. Now it is celebrated as Juneteenth.

Recent events have made us more aware of this anniversary than ever.

Recent events of unimaginable insanity (unimaginable except for the fact that we’ve seen the videos) have plunged this country and society into a day of reckoning. Things must change.

Our so-called leaders have proven that they can’t be relied on to make meaningful change as they continue asserting their own peculiar versions of what they think is “right.” While those who cannot lead but only brag hold their feckless rallies — the latest making a mockery of Juneteenth and the massacre in Tulsa ninety-nine years ago — it falls on us as individuals and families and communities to make the change.

The first step in solving any problem is simply facing it and seeing it as it is. I say “simply” as if it’s easy. In fact, it may be the hardest part of the whole process.

My own viewpoint is that a person’s body is a wrapper for the essential spiritual being who drives it. We’ve all had the experience at gift-giving time of discovering that sometimes the most modestly wrapped package contained the most miraculous gift while the most impressively wrapped package contained something trivial. Predicting or judging the contents by the appearance of the wrapper is at best misleading. It’s a false criterion. At worst it is actively destructive of life.

Is a gift better or worse because the paper is red or green or black or white? Really? But way too many think and act that way.

So why do I, when walking down the street, sometimes feel a twinge of fear when I see a wrapper of a given description? Why? One way or another I’ve been carefully taught. And while I’ve been working hard to shed myself of that particular education and I’ve made major headway, I need to work harder.*

Those who cannot lead can only make empty brags. In their spiritual weakness they bury their heads in the sand. We can do better.

Those of us who are alive and can actually see can work on ourselves and our families and closer communities — because that’s the only way we will get true, lasting change anyway. It starts with each of us.

So let’s take a lesson from Ruthie. It’s pretty obvious to me that she celebrates her wrapper and that the essential gift inside shines ever so brightly.

Let’s follow her lead.

(Canon 7D; Canon EF 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM Zoom. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 3.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)


* I’m not one to think in extremes and consider that if I’m not perfect I’m worthless. We’re all works in progress and as long as we recognize that fact and keep working on improving as individuals and members of society, we’re on the right track.

The Author

California based fine-art photographer featuring abstract, impressionist, and minimalist seascapes — near and distant — and floral-based images. Fine-art photography can be seen at All original images on this blog are copyright 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 Michael Scandling. All rights reserved. No images on this site may be copied, duplicated, reused, published, or re-purposed in any way without express permission from the copyright owner, Michael Scandling.


  1. Couldn’t let this one go by without sending kudos for your thoughtful, on-point commentary. And you’re right Michael, your beautiful portrait DOES show how beautifully she lives within her “wrapper”. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s a wonderful portrait, and I’m sure it triggers a smile in every viewer. Pure joy. And a good essay, Michael. I live in the most ethnically/racially diverse area of a very segregated and often troubled city, and I love the communal spirit and acceptance in my neighborhood – – and some things are just so simple, something as basic as a smile or just a “hello” is all it takes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Heartwarming portrait Mike! Thanks for writing this, I really appreciate what you’ve shared and the *way* you’ve shared it. The wrappers analogy is so good!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for posting this Michael. The photograph is beautiful. She is so vibrant and draws you in. I was not expecting your words but I am thankful for them.
    As a white woman I understand my privilege ( which despite what many seem to think, has nothing to do with wealth) but more than that I understand that I will never understand what it is like to be judged, negatively , and every day, purely on the colour of my skin. That’s privilege.
    It is up to white people to embrace change, look into their own hearts and call out racism wherever and whenever they find it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very well said, Michael, and a beauty of an image to accompany the message. First things first, I agree – seeing the problem and facing it. Not easy. And it starts at home, as you said. Thanks for the intro to Ruthie Foster – I just listened to “Georgia” on YouTube. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. melissabluefineart says

    This is beautifully written, Michael. As an artist I find it absolutely bizarre that anyone would be judged by the beautiful tints to their skin, and how can anyone fail to note, the glint of the gifts waiting inside the package?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much. Ultimately it has to do with understanding. There’s a progression people go through: first they don’t understand something, then they feel different from what they don’t understand, then they fear it, then they attack it. Part of the fear and attack then becomes a reluctance to understand. It’s a vicious cycle. It would be very helpful if all sides turned the rhetoric down. Turned it way down.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s