The Mundane Life

The Mundane Life

“Neighborly” note left on my doorstep yesterday. Life gave me lemons, so I made art..

I watch a lot of artist talks and documentaries about famous photographers, their work and their methods. Specifically, TED Talks are interesting and easily accessible to everyone. These mini talks given by a wide variety of world leaders, artists, and image-makers are, more often than not, inspiring!

Watching these talks and documentaries helps me to understand what qualities make a ‘great’ photograph and what others think makes a ‘great’ photographer. Frequently, I agree, so and so is a ‘great’ photographer. Watching and listen to other artists and photographers speak about their work also allows me the opportunity to define, and redefine my own photographic work.

An equally important benefit is the clarity of mind that develops; the vaguely unsettling, intuitive sense that while I may find another photographer’s images fascinating and astoundingly brilliant, my own photographic interests, desires, and needs photographically speaking are expressly different.

Recently while watching a whole series of TED Talks organized exclusively around image-makers the thing that struck me was how far away the photographers and speakers went to “get” and “tell” story. It occurred to me, and not for the first time, that while Afghanistan, Brazil, Mt. Everest and all such places are beautiful and eternally photogenic they are ‘great’ because they are exotic. The stories of people and places that we don’t know halfway across the world will always hold our interest because they are stories about people halfway across the world that we don’t know. How could you possibly go to Africa or Thailand or any place other than home, for that matter, and not get at least one decent photograph? How could you go anywhere but home and not have a story to tell? Isn’t that part of why we travel?

Conversely, it seems to me the mundane stuff of life presents a wide variety of opportunities to be ‘great’ and produce ‘great’ stories and photographs.  A great photograph or series of photographs are not just visually appealing but are images that compel us to want to know more about what we are looking at.

I believe the things with which we are intimately familiar are the fixings to and foundations upon which to build great images.  And I also believe the material of our life provides an opportunity to be more mindful, tuned in, and grounded in our experience.  It’s a way to hopefully find appreciation for own circumstance by focusing on it entirely.

Days With My Father is an intimate journal created by photographer Philip Toledano. It’s an example of how photography can be used to document personal circumstances.


My challenge to you is to create a short series of images (3, 5, or 10 images or anything in between) utilizing the substance of your life.  I will select and spotlight someone’s series here on my blog! I will be looking for solid composition, good use of other visual elements and a pretty tightly wound short photographic story.  We call this a visual narrative. It doesn’t have to be profound just your story!

You may use any kind of camera you have available to you to create this series of images – your cell phone, your point and shoot or your DSLR – whatever works.

Please submit the link to your series in the comments section. The due date for submissions is July 16. The “winner” will have their images featured on during the following week July 22 – 26.

I really can’t wait to see what you come up with!!

In the meantime, I will post my own series next week. So, ‘til next time


Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

This weeks’s photo challenge is “companionable”. I thought it might be best to try to demonstrate the world through my dog’s eyes.

Coraline the Corgi is looking at Jackson, who is the newest member of my family’s fur tribe. Jackson Scruffy Boy Amos is a wire-haired Dachshund. He his holy H#ll on four legs when awake and a perfect angel when sleeping. He will be 6 months old in 2 days.

They are beginning to understand each other’s boundaries. Companions, human and fursons alike, must learn to respect each other as well as enjoy each other’s company.

Roll Out the Red Carpet!!!

Roll Out the Red Carpet!!!

Well, I have never won an award in my life! So what an honor it is to be nominated for the Sunshine Award by Judy Lesko!

As I understand it this award has been created by bloggers to honor fellow bloggers whose blogging inspires them to create and continue to be positive!

I’ve tried to trace the origin of this award but it seems to be a spontaneous quantum blog event with no readily traceable beginning!

Sunshine Award origins aside, there  a few steps one must take upon being nominated to accept this respected blogger award. (I’d rather call them steps because “rules” sounds so stuffy! Really who likes rules?)

Step 1:  Include the award “logo” in a post or on you blog. 


Step 2: Include a link to the blog or website of the person who nominated you.

You should definitely visit Judy Lesko’s blog. She has got some great photos, interesting tidbits of inspiration and an all around wholesome blog.


As an aside last week it was raining, raining, raining everyday! Finally we had a day of sunshine and while riding in my husband’s convertible I snapped this brilliant image of the blue sky and sunshine:


Step 3: Nominate 10 Bloggers for the Sunshine Award.

The benefit here is that we all get to expand our blogging network and find new inspiration in the words and images of others.

Here are my 10. They are not in any particular order:

  1. Charlotte Hoather, Soprano
  3. Pursuit of Life                  
  4. The 50 Year Project         
  5. just after words                 
  6. The Lantern Room         
  7. BunnyandPorkBelly        
  8. The Dimwit Diary          
  9. NOMADICLES             
  10. posts from the path         

Step 4: Answer 10 questions about yourself. And don’t forget to provide your nominees with 10 questions to answer as well!

1. What is the stupidest thing you have ever done?

 As a young person I did a lot of stupid things. I can’t say any one thing in particular was more stupid than the other. I always say: If I knew then what I knew now, I’d ____. At the same time, the follies of youth are those very same things that make us the people we are in the future. So, if I had the opportunity to go back in time maybe I’d do things differently, maybe I wouldn’t.

2. If your house burned down, which three things would you save?

 I have 5 cats and 2 dogs. So I’d want to save every single one of them first. Then if there was time I’d save my computer box…I have well over 20,000 images on it. And if my cameras were home at the time…I’d have to save those. I’d just have to.

3. What would you say to a dead loved one, if you had the chance?

I love you.

4. What is the worst nightmare you have ever had?

Once I dreamed that giant bees with stingers were chasing me. I was flailing my arms about and I literally fell out of bed onto the floor. I was screaming so loud that I awoke my dog and he was ready to kill whatever was after me. It was summer and we had the windows open. I probably awoke the whole neighborhood too.

These days, in the middle of a dream, as strange as it may seem, I am often able to recognize that I am in a dream. Occasionally, I have strange or disturbing dreams but being able to recognize that I am dreaming helps me to kind of sit back and enjoy it like a movie.

5. If you could talk to a famous person (dead or alive), who would it be and what would you say?

A couple of summers ago, I had the opportunity to intern at a non-profit photography gallery and arts education center as part of the completion of my MFA degree.

I think the most valuable lesson I learned there was that famous people are people too. They put their pants on one leg at a time. So I am not star struck so much any more because I did get to meet many photographers who are really big in this industry. At first it was like “whoa” I am meeting such and so but then I got to know them and see these are real people with real lives.

So in a nutshell I’d just want the opportunity to get to know someone who’s considered famous. Maybe we’d have common interests and maybe not!

6. What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?

Home, after a longtime away.

7. If you had one day to do whatever you wanted (without caring about money) what would you do?

I would hop on a plane with my cameras in hand and fly to New Zealand. I have wanted to go there for sometime now. But it’d be a trip that lasts longer than one day!!!

8. What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?

 Hands down, it’s meeting my husband. He is such an inspiration for me. He keeps me going and grounded.

9. Who or what has affected your life the most?

Again, I think it’s my husband. I think we make a great team in life. Second to that, I would say my pets challenge me to stay compassionate and loving as well.

10. Why do you have a blog?

I started blogging because I wanted to share my love of photography as a medium and mode of communication. I also wanted a way to keep myself accountable to creating work.

Here are my questions for you nominees:

  1.  What’s the best advice you received?
  2. If you had to choose an animal that best represents you, what would it be? And Why?
  3. What is important for you in life, love or money?
  4. Do you have a nickname?
  5. What inspires you?
  6. What’s your favorite beverage?
  7. What’s your favorite season?
  8. What do you like to do on your days off?
  9. What is your dream job?
  10. Why do you blog?

Step 5: Share the news of the Sunshine Award with your nominees!

Make sure you have linked your nominees blogs to your post. Drop by their blog and post a comment with a link to your Sunshine Award.

Well, that. was. fun! Whew!

I am really just pleased as punch that I have been nominated. It’s like the Academy Awards of Blogging! Simply think of me decending the stairs from the podium. Please feel free to give a round of applause. I am waving my best wave and smiling.

Thank you. Thank you very much!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

This week’s post is nothing too heavy. It’s just a photograph of a sign someone adapted…

Mmm Hmmm someone did take the time to do this!!


Either they don’t see the humor in fines for not “pooper scooping” or they just think it’s really funny that we Americans have to do it all. I heard somewhere that in Paris they have official “pooper scoopers” a.k.a street cleaners with one additional duty! I don’t know if this is true or not as I have not ever been to France. I do, however, think that’s kind of a nice service for a city to have!

Well, my sole purpose this week was to make you smile. Did it work??

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape, Background

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape, Background

This week you are getting a two-fer (is that a real word??)!  I didn’t get to post last week but I had a post all planned out in my mind and then time just got away from me!

I really loved the theme of escape. And then this week the topic of background was equally intriguing. So I figured why not combine them into one! Who says you cannot take the rules and adapt them to your purposes??

So, let’s get to the meat of it!

I am a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to you other than the Buddhist part – this likely evokes images in your mind of a perfectly blissful individual meditating and escaping worldly ills and troubles. It also likely evokes images of exotic lands and people not folks who live in a relatively small city in Upstate New York!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a teaching at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra located in Woodstock, NY. This monastery and Buddhist shrine is the North American home of my lineage’s spiritual leader.

Since I have been in graduate school for the last 4 or so years, I have not been as engaged in my “on the cushion” practice of meditation as I would like to be. So my attendance at teachings and ceremonies has often been like an escape or a mini-vacation.

Certainly there are elements of Buddhist practice that can be perceived to be like that, however, the reality is that spiritual practice, of any kind, is not about escape but rather spiritual practice is about being in touch wholly and sometimes even painfully with reality.

Spiritual practice, in general, and Buddhist practice in particular should bring you closer to what it means to be human. Hmmm, and what does it mean to be human? It means that we all experience suffering and have a desire to ultimately be free from this suffering.

And whether we are “on the cushion” or “in the pew” our practice should be something that engages our whole being creating positive effects upon us and those around us. At the grocery store. At the music concert. At the dinner table. Doing dishes. Doing the laundry.

Our practice is our life. Our life is our practice.

I wanted to share a few photographs from my weekend at the monastery. An escape of sorts but really more of a return. Please Enjoy!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern

I have a treat for you all for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge!

First a song:



I live in Albany NY. This is a city found by Dutch settlers in the 1700’s. So each year the city remembers its Dutch heritage with a weekend celebration called the Tulip Festival. There’s the traditional Dutch Street Cleaning Ceremony, a Tulip Court and Queen, Coronation of the Queen and a Grand Ball. For us common folk, there are food stands, music bands, family events and such in the park.

Of course, being a Dutch city in the heart of America, there are Tulips! The city gardener plans a year in advance how Washington Park’s Gardens will look.  All over the city tulips bloom in all varieties of colors.  The park becomes a nature photographer’s dream in the early spring when the tulips rear their heads for a short few weeks. The Tulip Festival is a celebration of life, community and the spirit of this city affectionately called “SmAlbany”.

Flowers as a photographic subject are a bit trite. Regardless, it is fun to go back them each year at this time because flowers, especially tulips, do remain as one of nature’s truly sublime elements. Everyone can appreciate a flower’s beauty! Photographing flowers offers an opportunity to return to an unfettered state of simply looking. You know what they say….You have to stop and smell the roses and in this case it’s tulips!

Everyone appreciates flowers and their spring Patterns:

Happy Spring!!


Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above!

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above!

Hey Everybody! I missed you last week! I was a little bit under weather and swamped with work! But this week I am back in action!

The Weekly Photo Challenge for the week was “From Above”. I am only 5’2″ so most everything is over or above me! Consequently when I think of “from above” I tend to see things from a “worms eye view”, that is to say looking up, as opposed to a “bird’s eye view” or looking down from above.

Actually, I love looking at the sky and the clouds. I love the sun shining on my face. I love the way sun shining from above makes interesting patterns on walls, creating shapes and shadows that could not exist without it.

Hope you enjoy my take on “From Above”!

The Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY. The Plaza is this massive set of marble buildings and concourse built by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. Copyright © Pilar Arthur-Snead & Photographic Expressions
Another view of The Plaza buildings. The Empire State Plaza also houses The EGG, which for anyone not familiar, is exactly what it sounds like…A big marble egg shaped building. Copyright © Pilar Arthur-Snead and Photographic Expressions
Parking? Copyright © Pilar Arthur-Snead & Photographic Expressions
Going up? Copyright © Pilar Arthur-Snead
View of the plaza from one of my favorite restaurants in Albany during the spring and summer: The City Beer Hall. Great food, music and of course, beer! Copyright © Pilar Arthur-Snead & Photographic Expressions
Another view from the City Beer Hall patio. Copyright © Pilar Arthur-Snead & Photographic Expressions

Have great week everyone and keep looking up!!