COMING HOME 03-02-08

March 12, 2008





Welcome to the second stanza of my trip to Oregon. The main reason I went was to be there for my niece Kiera’s birthday, my nephew Patrick’s performance in the all-city middle school orchestra and to see the oldest son, Ryan, who now lives in Portland. I missed him on the last two trips to Salem. Their father, my brother Shawn, died two years ago. I am now the relative from the Downs side of the family who lives in closest proximity to these wonderful members of our family. It was good to see Lena, my sister-in law, and it’s a joy being Uncle Jerry. I managed to get a picture of Patrick playing his viola during a rehearsal and Kiera, who was acting as an usher for the event.
It would have been too distracting to use my flash during the performance. I did, of course, play with the performers and audience before and after the event. I was amazed at the professional and powerful quality of the actual performance. When I closed my eyes it was easy to feel the emotional intensity that these beings possessed.
I admire teenagers. I appreciate the way they negotiate their desires to be seen and not seen, deal with surprising new emotions, and their ever-changing world. You know, just like the rest of us.
On the way home from the concert, Patrick and Keira played with my camera the same way we had all done on a road trip when we drove into the night on our way to San Francisco last summer. I love the way they treat the camera like some hand-held video game. The resulting images from the 30-second exposures found beauty in the chaos, a visual musical harmony rising from seemingly discordant vibrations. You know, just like life.
Accompanied by viola, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Kiera when we got home. Grandfather David gave his soulful rendition in Chinese.
The next day all the local relatives got together to celebrate Kiera’s birthday and Chinese New Year. We all had a wonderful time welcoming in the Year of the Rat. People born in the Year of the Rat are noted for their charm. They work hard to achieve their goals and are likely to be perfectionists. That’s my girl!

 I left the next very overcast, rainy day. The damp, dark day didn’t lend itself to stopping to take pictures. The world needn’t be a picture to be appreciated. Out the side window I still snapped shots of the somber scenery. This one section was reminiscent of Chinese screen paintings.


The sun was shining by the time I reached Mt. Shasta. The remnants of a tall pine tree that had been destroyed by fire years before caught my eye. Its black bark was beginning to peel. A few years from now, I will find the skeleton form bleached white, unless someone cuts it down for firewood first.

Another tree waved at me from the side of Interstate 5. Interstate highways are a big part of my world, and……..I particularly enjoy taking the time to take a side road. After being in the rain for the last four days, I loved getting out of the car every couple of miles to take a picture, feel the sunlight falling on my face, and the warmth removing the dampness of my clothes.  

Recent rains left reflecting pools along the roadside. I’d never seen such white railroad cars, the perfect blank canvas for spray-paint Picassos.

Cubist compositions and subtle round tones rose out of the warm, late-afternoon light.
After the sun had gone down, I paused to reflect on the cacophony of colors reflected in and around a parked semi. It was a fitting final refrain for my final photo. As I drove on, watching the lights fade on the grand stage, I applauded the powerful performance.

Thanks, my friends, for joining me on this latest journey. I applaud you for the difference you make in my life. Thank you for the fantastic response to the last e-mail. I appreciate your support of my offering of prints for a hundred dollars, and that hundreds of you visited my new website.  Each print I sell helps pay the rent or takes me a couple of hundred miles down the road. If, for any reason, you want to be removed from my mailings just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you received this from a friend and want to be added to the list, send me an e-mail. I will be delighted to include you. I’m sure I’ll see you down the road in a couple of weeks. I’ll leave you with this picture of my nephew Ryan and the look that says nothing but . . .

Be Cool!
Love, Jerry

Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977
“If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.” Marcel Proust


All of my images from my website and e-mails are now available for $100,
 plus $30(US) per order for shipping and handling anywhere in the world.
California residents please add $8.25 per print.
Each print is the same hand-signed, gallery-quality print that previously sold for $400.
Every high-resolution image is printed with 8 archival inks on archival paper.

Rectangular images are printed on a 16″ x 20″ sheet with a 1-1/2″ border on all sides.
Square images are printed on a 16″ x 16″ sheet with a 1-1/2″ border on all sides.

You can order prints on the website or contact me directly. It is always a pleasure to personally talk with you.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Thanks, MJ, for the grammar and spelling edit.


AN EPIPHANY 02-22-08

March 12, 2008





A couple of weeks ago I walked out the door at 4:44 and headed for Oregon. I recorded the mileage in my notebook and the phrase, “out the door at 4:44,” turned on the headlights and set off into the still-dark night. Every time I’ve stopped at the rest area off I-5 in Corning, CA, I’ve thought how great it would be to be there at sunrise. I was surprised that this was the time. It was just like I pictured it.
The warm and cool colors dramatically changed from one minute to the next. Each of the olive trees had its own story to tell. I like the way their character as individuals and as a group are also revealed in black and white.
Mt. Shasta, at 14,179 feet, has such a large presence that it stays with you for hours after it first comes into view until it finally disappears from sight in your rear view mirror. The much smaller peak that the arrow is pointing to is called Black Butte. I had never seen it covered in snow. This volcanic cap normally looks like its name. It’s easy to imagine this immense valley 300,000 years ago alive with multiple eruptions and lava flows.

It’s also easy to see why ancient Native Americans felt Shasta to be the center of the earth and the point of creation, and why over a hundred New Age sects and groups regard Shasta as a sacred place, one of the nine sacred mountains of the world. It is considered by some an entry point to the fifth dimension. It’s understandable to see why and how we make something special over another thing because it appears to be unique. All people around the world have their own “sacred mountain,” that is the center of the earth and the point of creation. In South Dakota the sacred mountain for the Lakota Sioux is Harney Peak. Atop this mountain a Lakota shaman named Black Elk had a vision. He saw the hoop of his nation as one of many hoops. He said, “I saw myself on the central mountain of the world, the highest place, and I had a vision because I was seeing in the sacred manner.” And then he said, “But the central mountain is everywhere.”
I reached Salem just as it was getting dark. I was there to celebrate my niece Kiera’s 15th birthday and see my nephew Patrick perform in an all-city middle school orchestra performance. Both events would take place over the coming weekend. While they were in school the next day, I took a trip to the coast 60 miles away. Just down the road I spotted a scarecrow in a spot of light. By the time I got out of the car and set up the tripod the spot of light disappeared behind the clouds. Since I was all set up I though I’d take a closer look at the playful figure. As I looked through the viewfinder a bird landed on the scarecrow’s head. The clouds stayed pretty constant as I passed through the temperate rainforest over the Coastal Range.
 Once I hit the coast I checked the map and saw that the coastal town of Newport was only 20 miles down the road. I turned south hoping to meet Goody Cable, who requested to be added to my mailing list after receiving an essay from my friend, Julie Golden, in Boulder. She is the co-owner of the Sylvia Beach Hotel which bills itself as “A hotel for book lovers.” Goody’s literary talent clearly showed in her lovely replies to these emails. Her generosity extended to introducing me to her friends, screenwriter Cynthia Whitcomb, and neighbors, Jessie Pedigo and Mike Shivers. 
Mike was kind enough to show me some of his own photography. I loved his work and gave him every tip I could think of to get him on the clear path of his bliss. The most important piece of advice was, “Don’t wait. Act as if. The process of proceeding will tell you what to do next.” I was happy to receive the following pictures and this reply after I returned home: “The affirmation you gave me on my work was invaluable and it really got me motivated. I was approved for iStock last week and submitted my first batch of pictures over the weekend.  A new web site is coming along and biz cards are on the way.  Why is it that it’s so hard to admit that your own work is good?  Really Jerry, when you looked at my work and said that it was good, that conversation changed everything for me. My head is swimming with new ideas for shots!” This interaction inspired me and confirmed my belief that we discover what we have when we share it.
Down the road I shared a of loaf bread with a flock of seagulls. By the time I was back on the road I was using the wipers to rearrange the bountiful gifts that the hundreds of birds left on my car. I was so thankful. A torrential rain began ten minutes later to completely clean the car.
Driving in the pouring rain, I dismissed stopping to take a picture. That didn’t last long. The beauty of the rugged Oregon coast and pounding surf had me, my camera and my tripod under a rain poncho taking long exposures. The picture on the right was taken out the windshield on my way back over the Coastal Range, through a tunnel of trees for 30 seconds.
The next day I went to the Portland Art Museum and added a few new images to my “People as Art” series.
I always love the experience of how the world looks different to me after I walk out of a museum.
Every object has a history and each sign of life ask to be witnessed.
I stopped into the Lloyd Center to see Vicky Morton, who I met when I was selling my flower images in the shopping center during the annual Portland Rose Festival. I also got to meet Mark Hanson and the people of the Lloyd Center business office whome Vicky has been kind enough to add to my list. When I was there before, the giant ice rink was turned off and the space was filled with thousands of perfect exhibit class roses. That evening I had dinner with my friend Kate’s daughter, Rebecca and her boyfriend and his father,Dave and David. They both have been receiving my emails and wanted to meet me.
Towards the end of our great meal and conversations, David paid me the most gratifying compliment. He said, “You’re just like I thought you would be. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person.” I was struck by the words, “finally meet you in person.” I realized that this wonderful man, who I was meeting for the first time, already had a picture of who I was because he had been receiving these personal notes from my life for over a year.  
Thank you for joining me on this trip and for being such an intimate part of my world. What started out as a way to stay in touch with friends and have my work be seen has, as of this email, grown to 1,000 people across America and 22 different countries. The internet was made for the way I talk and take pictures. My photographs have always been more about the state of being I am in rather than which state or country. I’m not the kind of artist that works well in galleries. As I have often been told, “You have no identifiable style. You take pictures of everything in dozens of different ways. You need to specialize so you can be unique.” I understand their point from a commercial point of view. I love seeing work in galleries and even understand why they have to sell one of my prints for $800 and give me $400 if and when it sells. I wish them well. I, also, see that if I want my prints to be in the hands of more people, I’ll have to do it myself.
So, as a way to find what I have by sharing it, I am making all my prints available for $100. I’ve decided to follow my own advice to not wait and let the process of proceeding tell me what to do next. The current full details are at the bottom of the page. This is my personal way to celebrate reaching 1,000 people and to acknowledge the value I receive from each one of you.
Again, thank you for your wonderful and supportive replies and for sending these notes out into the world. I am grateful and complimented. If, for any reason you want to be removed from my mailings just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you received this from a friend and want to be added to the list send me an email. I will be delighted to include you. In the next email we go back on the road, celebrate Chinese New Year and go to an all-city middle school orchestra performance! I leave you with another seagull that I broke bread with on a previous trip to the Oregon coast. Continue to enjoy your personal vision and…
Keep Spreading Your Wings!
Love, Jerry

Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977

“The center is the axis mundi, the central point, the pole around which all revolves. The central point of the world is where stillness and movement are together. Movement is time, but stillness is eternity. Realizing how this moment of your life is actually a moment of eternity, and experiencing the eternal aspect of what you’re doing in the temporal experience—this is the mythological experience.
“There is a definition of God which has been repeated by many philosophers. God is an intelligible sphere—a sphere known to the mind, but not the senses—whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. And the center, Bill, is right where you are sitting. And the center is right where I’m sitting. And each of us is a manifestation of that mystery.”
Joseph Campbell speaking to Bill Moyers in the book and TV series, THE POWER OF MYTH, about Black Elk’s hoop vision.
My thanks to my good friend and writer, Merijane Block, for her support and eye for editing.
All of my images from my website (which has been updated with a new look and pictures) and emails
 are now available for $100, plus $30(US) per order (no matter how many prints) for shipping and handling anywhere in the world.
California residents please add $8.25 per print.
Each print is the same hand-signed gallery-quality print that previously sold for $400.
Every high-resolution image is printed with 8 archival inks on archival paper.
Rectangular images are printed on a 16″ x 20″ sheet with a 1-1/2″ border on all sides.

Square images are printed on a 16″ x 16″ sheet with a 1-1/2″ border on all sides.
Purchases on the website can be paid with credit card or through Pay-Pal account . (The shipping fee is in the drop down menu on each picture—enter once.)
 You can, of course, contact me directly. It’s always a joy to talk with you.
I look forward to hearing from you and to meeting some of you “in person” for a great conversation and a cup of coffee.


March 12, 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day!
I want to send you love and appreciation on this fine day. What follows is a poem that I wrote many years ago for a friend’s wedding. It was great to come across it again and to take a look at my flower images that I have seen so many times that I forget what they mean to me. It’s good to remember what we have and to rediscover the value of seeing it in a new way.

The Dance

In the dance if I lead it is only because you follow.
You are behind me guiding every step of the way
in a dance that holds the future
and lets go of the past.
Once I led you into a dance
of the hours and lost
my sense of time.
I became afraid that the dance
would end and found myself
standing still.
I couldn’t see how it happened.
We were dancing cheek to cheek
and then all of a sudden
we were up against a wall.
I could see nothing but the wall.
Over my shoulder you could
 still see the dance floor.
You whispered in my ear.
You said, “It’s all right.
I’m okay. We can stay here
and be wall flowers for awhile
if you like. And if you like,
I’d love to dance with you.”
You held me and I let go of my fear.
I heard the music behind me
and it became the music in front of me.

I stepped through the wall
and you followed.
Thanks for joining me in the dance of life. These emails help remind me that we don’t dance just to get done dancing. We dance for the joy of the dance. I appreciate your replies and that you send these notes out into the world. It moves me and inspires me to get up and dance some more. I’ll be sending another road trip photo essay soon about a great trip I just took to the Pacific Northwest.  If, for any reason, you would like to be removed from the list just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you received this from a friend and want to be included just send me an email: jd@jerrydownsphoto.comI’d be happy to include you.

Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977
Human things must be know in order to be loved, but divine things must be loved in order to be known.

Blaise Pascal

HOME AGAIN 01-19-08

March 12, 2008

 TRIP-3 ENTRIES   3 OF 3   – END 



 On my back home to California I stopped in Colorado for a couple of weeks over the holidays. On Christmas Eve there was quite the snow storm. The next day I woke to blue skies and a very white Christmas.



I had come to Colorado to be with my sister Eileen and her husband and my good friend, Jake. She was recovering from surgery and he was in a cast with a broken leg. At their mountain home in Evergreen I helped with errands, shoveling snow and carrying in wood for the fire. I enjoyed every minute with these two characters with their great sense of humor and warm hearts.




Eileen is the oldest of the eleven kids in our family. I’m number five. When I said she was a character with a great sense of humor it may have been an understatement. The day after Christmas I took her to Denver for one of her radiation treatments. Years before, my sister Maggie (#8), when she was visiting my brother Shawn (#7) in New Zealand sent Eileen a set of “Possum Pasties” as a joke. Eileen very much appreciated the care of her nurses, Michael (her father wanted a boy) and Carole and thought they could use a good laugh. So…..Eileen positioned herself on the machine and covered her chest just as she had done every day for the last two weeks. Eileen positioned me so I could get a picture of their reaction. It went something like this: “So, Eileen how was Christmas? Did it wear you out? How are you feeling today?” Michael asked. “Christmas was great and I’m feeling just fine,” Eileen answered. “I do have a question about these two growths that may have been caused by the radiation.” Michael lifted the sheet and saw the two furry pasties. After the shock and laughter subsided Michael called Carole on the phone asking her to come in for a consultation. The entire treatment was repeated. We were all in stitches laughing. Surely the best therapy of all.




Jake, Eileen and I had spent Christmas Day with their good friends and neighbors, Mike and Mary. Mary (on the far right) was born in Italy and the food was as delicious and plentiful as it was for her own childhood Christmas. Mike’s family was there from all across the country. I, of course, took pictures. Mike and Mary’s daughter, Nicole, said, “This is the first time all of the cousins have been together. Could you take a picture?” After getting them all in one place I took the picture. Eileen, very aware of family relationships and ever alert to make each moment special, put it together that all of “the cousins” also meant all of the grandchildren. We put Marilyn right in the center and made the picture that was a gift that will keep on giving for generations.



I, also, had the opportunity to visit my friends Steve and Cheryl. Steve’s son, Emmett and his wife Laura were part of the group portrait along with the other members of the family, Chena and Baxter. The late afternoon light pouring through the windows also made for some very beautiful and dramatic individual portraits.
My friend Elizabeth invited me to a dinner party with her family and a few of their friends. It was great to see her again and to enjoy “the kids.”
Ever year, on New Year’s Day, my friends George and Melanie host an informal kite flying event with friends. My brother, Dermod (#10), picked me up in Evergreen so he could bring me to the airport the next day. On the way to his home in Denver we stopped to surprise some of my friends. The kite flying was just ending as we arrived. It was a joy to see some familiar faces and to see a few face forms in the frozen snow. That is Melanie flying one of her giant kite creations the last time I was at the event in 2003.
It was good to be in the place that I grew up and will always call home and, after having been gone for three weeks, it was good to come home San Francisco. I looked forward to a weather forecast that didn’t include “accumulated inches of snowfall” and “wind-chill factors.”  Two days after I got home to Sunny California a rain storm hit that knocked out power to a million homes. During the eight hours that my lights were out I took pictures and treated it like a “snow day.” There are no special effects on these two pictures other than the same 30 second exposure. The effect on the left was simply created by taking a picture through the window that was being pelted with rain and the mighty oak thrashing around during the exposure. The trunk of the tree on the right stayed fairly stable as its leaves and limbs whipped from side to side in the 50 miles per hour gust of wind.
After four days of rain the sun came out and it was time to get out of the house. I went my friend and fellow photographer, Joe Burull, to Stinson Beach for some breakfast and to catch a few rays with our cameras. As soon as I got out of the car I saw a group of individuals against the ocean. Relying on my automatic settings I raised the camera and clicked the shutter. I immediately discovered that I had my auto-focus turned off from the last time I had taken a picture out the window at the wind and rain. When I looked at the picture when I got home I discovered how much I liked this mis-taken image. The seashore is normally populated with a screech of gulls and a crackling of crows, but this day a volley of vultures filled the trees. When we reached the shore we found out why. The storm had covered the beach with debris. The violent surf had also sealed the fate of a California seal and provided the vultures with quite a feast.


Though the beach was littered with piles of plastic, the sea foam you see is not a form of pollution from detergent. It is created from the agitation of the surf and consist of inorganic and organic particles of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. The proteins provide surface tension to allow the bubbles to form. An occasional single strand of kelp danced in the tide reminding me of the enormous kelp forest rooted just off shore in a very alive world of water.
Thanks for joining me on this trip to so many different worlds. And thank you for all of the replies from Russia with love, from Poland with praise, from Texas with thanks and from Dayton declaring it made your day. I am enormously complimented when these notes strike a cord with your own music and magic. If, for any reason, you would like to be removed from the list just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you received this from a friend and want to be included just send me an email: As my mother always said, “There’s always room for one more.” I’ll leave you with this “Portrait of an Artist” that I took in my own neighborhood just before I left on this last trip.
Have a good laugh! 
Love, Jerry

Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977
WHERE IS TAO?Tung Kuo Tzu asked Chuang Tzu, saying, “What you call Tao-where is it?” “There is nowhere,” replied Chuang Tzu, “where it is not.” “Tell me one place at any rate where it is,” said Tung Kuo Tzu.

“It is in the ant,” replied Chuang Tzu. 

Why get so low down?” asked Tung Kuo Tzu.

“It is in the weed,” said Chuang Tzu.

“Still lower,” objected Tung Kuo Tzu.

“It is in potsherds,” said Chuang Tzu.

“Worse still!” cried Tung Kuo Tzu.

“It is in manure,” said Chaung Tzu.

And Tung Kuo Tzu made no reply.

NOTES 01-12-08

March 11, 2008




My next stop was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University in Washington DC. The church and main altar are enormous. The mosaic (3,670 square feet) is the largest mosaic of Christ in creation. There are also dozens of side altars all dedicated to visions of Mary from around the world. The mosaic on the right is Our Lady of La Vang in Viet Nam. The verity of art is as varied as the visions.



I was at the basilica to record images of the concert rehearsal.



Part of my assignment was to take pictures of an exhibit at the basilica about the Russian Orthodox Church under Communism. The Crown of Thorns was created by a priest, Pavel Florensky, from the barbed wire fence enclosing his Siberian Gulag before he was executed for not renouncing his religious beliefs. The bullet holes in the icon (middle picture) occurred in 1917 during the Russian Revolution. Under Communism many of the churches were turned into museums that displayed the evils caused by religious belief. The word “revolution” comes from the time of the Catholic Inquisition and referred to anyone who believed the heresy that the Earth “revolved” around the Sun. The word, “catholic,” means “universal.”
I found myself making my own judgments about religion and beliefs as I shot the exhibit and was led to this quote by Hieromonk Seriaphim (Rose) 1934-82, “Orthodoxy does not at all mean having the right opinions about Christianity. True faith is in the heart and is fruitful, humble, patient, loving, merciful, compassionate…”
As a side trip for the Russians we went to the National Portrait Gallery. Using only gestures I arranged three of our party, who didn’t speak English, in front of the museum for a portrait. I don’t know what gesture I used to make them laugh out loud. My friend Silvio gestured like Lincoln for a picture.
I took the picture, “The Changing of the Guard at Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square” when I was in Russia in 1987 when “they” were our “enemy.” The Russians enjoyed the part of the gallery that was dedicated to images from the Cold War period. Having spend my time in Russia and the last few days with these very warm individuals I wondered what “we” had been thinking. I told one of the English speaking Russians about a poet that I had met on a train between Leningrad and Moscow. The poet and I were having a great discussion and he said, “Let us have a cigarette.” We moved to the open space between railroad cars. As the countryside that looked a lot like Minnesota rolled by he said, “Now we can talk openly.” and added, “There is no difference between our people. There is really no difference between our governments. Both governments both lie to the people. The only difference between the American public and the Soviet public is that we know it.” Standing on the steps, in front of the museum in our nation’s capital, I finished the story and we both laughed out loud.
On Monday it was time for the Christmas Oratorio by the Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev at the basilica. The organizers wondered how many people would attend. Well before the first note it was standing room only.
After taking a few pictures of the choir assembling I ascended into the heights of the Basilica as the powerful music rose from beneath me.
Earlier, the church staff had shown me how to get to the choir loft and to the secret passages through the stone walls in the upper regions of the mammoth cathedral. I was in a unique position to witness the performance and the audience. I love the license being a photographer allows me.
I get to have a very intimate point of view of our world and our fellow inhabitants. I am free to be with nuns who are none too shy to smile and kids kind enough to let me capture their likeness.
Thank you for accompanying me on this next stanza of this life spawned by the Music of the Spheres. The next verse will be of snow falling in Colorado and the crescendo will be a thunderous storm that knocked out the lights on my return to California. If you want to be removed from these mailings just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you received this from a friend and want to be added to the list, send me an email. I will be delighted to include you. I leave you with a shot on the steps of the cathedral that cracks me up.

Love, Jerry
Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977
A painter paints pictures on canvas.  But musicians paint their pictures on silence.  ~Leopold Stokowsk

My friend Kate Priest took this picture of me in Moscow in 1987. I was there to document a tour by Children as Teachers of Peace, the first group of American children to visit the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. My assignment last month for Inside the Vatican Magazine sparked many warm memories of the time I spent and the wonderful people I met on that trip 20 years ago.
How did Jerry, of all people, get a job from Inside the Vatican Magazine shooting a Russian Orthodox bishop composer and a 150 piece orchestra and choir? The answer starts a few years after my trip to Russia. I had pretty much given up being a photographer and was doing large paper collage artwork. Though I had already sold the image of my BIRDS OF A FEATHER artwork to The San Diego Zoo and The Nature Company for use as a poster, the money I made only paid for my accumulated debt. I was sitting in my Boulder, Colorado home/studio after I had borrowed the money to get the heat turned back on when the phone rang. It was some guy from Canada who said that he knew of a guy who might buy the original. “No promises,” he said, “but the odds are good.” I called my friend Joe who was living in San Francisco and asked if he wanted to go on a road trip. I rented a Ryder truck and, with Joe, hydroplaned the 1,500 miles to Toronto during a winter snow storm. I did sell the original to my now friend, Nick, who came through in the nick of time. The 6×8 foot artwork was later exhibited at The Royal Ontario Museum at the entrance to the bird wing.
The “guy” on the phone was Silvio. We were born on the same day, two years apart. Though I have only seen him on four different occasions over these 17 years he is a true friend who I call my brother. When he called asking me if I would shoot this job for his friends I, of course, said yes. Anyone who is a friend of Silvio is a friend of mine.
I created BIRDS OF A FEATHER not just for my love of birds and nature but also as an illustration of connection and individuality. It is about how we are all the same species and how every individual has a valuable place based on their own unique talent and personality.
I flew out of San Francisco on the 15th of December and headed East.
In less than two hours I was staring at the skyline of New York. In the next instant I beheld the sphinx in front of a pyramid in the absolutely unique world of Las Vegas.
Before long I was back in the air enjoying my bird’s eye view of the world as I winged my way to Washington DC.
I arrived at the hotel just after dark. The choir and orchestra didn’t arrive until 3:00 in the morning. I got up to record the arrival. The image on the right reminded me of a shot I made on my trip to Moscow. The children I was traveling with visited a number of schools. To create a symbolic image of this historical event I picked the cutest American girl and a beautiful Russian teen and set them up with a globe in the beautiful window light. All the Russian photographers ran over and took the picture. When they all finished I set up my tripod and directed the two girls to look out the window and imagine a bright future. The photographer from the state-run Pravda newspaper leaned over and said, “I see we are not the only ones who understand propaganda.” He had me there and we had a good laugh.

On Sunday I attended a two hour Russian Orthodox mass at St. John the Baptist in Washington. Golden icons and art covered every inch of the vaulted interior. There were no pews.
 Most of the ceremony happened in the middle of the room. And although it was a highly ritualized event, there was also a casualness. People came in late, walked through the ceremony and lit candles or walked to the bishop to respectfully kiss his hand and receive his blessing. It all had a touching sense of community.

I am always impressed with the number of ways we find to express the magnitude and beauty of the mystery.
Most of the ceremony happened in the middle of the room. And although it was a highly ritualized event, there was also a casualness. People came in late, walked through the ceremony and lit candles or walked to the bishop to respectfully kiss his hand and receive his blessing. It all had a touching sense of community.
The sense of warmth and community continued in a lunch by the parishioners to honor Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev and guests of the Russian Orthodox Church and government. The man in the red sweater is the Russian Minister of Culture, Alexandre Sokolov. There were many speeches and toasts, all in Russian. Each toast of wine or vodka was always accompanied with singing from the entire room. It was an absolute honor to be a part of this world.
As is my custom, I presented a stack of my business cards, each with a different image, to several of the tables and invited them to take their pick. One woman, after making her pick, pulled out her cell phone to show me why she had made her choice. I speak “niet” Russian. Small matter. We all have to eat and drink. We all look at the same world. We all can recognize a smile.
Thank you for accompanying me to yet another world inhabited by our same species, where every individual has a valuable place based on their own unique talent and personality. My life helps me see how differences are relative and how we are all related. I appreciate you being a part of my family. The next emails will be the rest of my warm time with the Russians, followed by a very white Christmas in Colorado and a rambunctious return to California. If you want to be removed just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you received this from a friend and want to be added to the list, send me an email. I will be delighted to include you. I leave you with another one of my collages that speaks to our connection.
Enjoy Our World of Worlds!

Love, Jerry
Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977
“When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart”
Russian Proverb
Website of Jerry Jampolsky and Diane Cirincione who created
Children as Teaches of Peace and
The Center for Attitudinal Healing


March 11, 2008



Hello my friends. Before I leave town for three weeks I thought I would send you a colorful seasonal greeting full of hope, joy and love. My good friend and fellow artist, John Aaron, began an event called CHALK4PEACE. As John would say, “This is not an anti-war event. Fighting against war just ends up making you angry. This can’t be political. It is simply an event for children of all ages to express their own vision of peace.” Working with his own funds and the good will of a few friends, small businesses and the magic of the internet he has turned this simple idea into an international event.

Always spreading the word in any way he can, John got permission from building owners who were about to tear down a building in his neighborhood of Emeryville, California. As seen in the picture on the left with the car shadow, an elementary school down the block took it upon themselves to create an event in front of the sign. He’s a regular Johnny Apple Seed. He just keeps planting the idea and watches it grow.
This year I accompanied John to events in San Francisco’s East Bay. The shot on the right was taken at Cragmont Elementary School in Berkeley and shows the final artwork from a full day of play.
Earlier in the day the scene was full of children, parents and passer-bys jumping at the opportunity to make their own individual mark….
and have a hand in creating an artwork that covered sidewalks, walls and playgrounds around the earth. If they were assembled into one place the artwork would cover half a dozen football fields. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when enough people come together and do just one simple joyous act.

At the MOCHA Museum in Oakland, I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of the participants and the uniqueness of their personal vision.
After the event John received reports and pictures from hundreds of locations around the world. Many he had set up and donated chalk to himself. And there were many more who had heard of the event and spontaneously created a happening of their own. Here are but a few highlights of this expression of joy and peace. A list of the photographers appears at the end of the email and also on the CHALK4PEACE website along with hundreds of additional images.
At the Barcroft Elementary School in  Arlington, Virginia, nine of the kids found their own way to illustrate their connection to the world.


In Washington DC at the Organization of American States, children of diplomats and neighborhood kids drew a world where all children were of one family.


I first met John when we were neighbors in Boulder, Colorado twenty-five years ago. We were both pleased to see this event blooming next to the flowerbeds in front of the Boulder Library.
John moved to The Bay Area a year ago. Before that he lived in Arlington, Virginia. That is where CHALK4PEACE was born. Here are a few images taken at The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in neighboring Washington, DC.
Here is some of what happened on that same September day on the steps of St. George’s Cathedral at this celebrated event in Cape Town, South Africa.
And given the appropriateness of this time….as we approach Christmas….these pictures of Palestinian children arrived from the Hermann Gmeiner SOS School in Bethlehem on The West Bank. 


If you would like to lend a hand to next year’s event, September 19th-21st, 2008, start your own event or simply send John a note of support here is his email: and here is his card:
Thanks for joining me for this celebration of our universal connection. As always, please feel free to forward this email to the rest of our family. Enjoy this season of grace. To be removed from this list just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you received this from a friend and want to be added to the list send me an email. I will be delighted to include you.

Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977
CHALK4PEACE website:
More photos of CHALK4PEACE and of John’s Ceramic Sculptures and paintings.
My thanks to the photographers who contributed their talent to CHALK4PEACE and this email: Tim Benko (Boulder Library-center), Sarah Jayne Bleiweis (The West Bank), Gabriele Gross (Organization of American States) Alissa Karton (Barcroft Elementary School) Marielle Mariano (Dr. Martin Luther King Library) Donna Gartenmann (Boulder Library-sides) Angela Rackstraw and Gabby VanHeerben (Cape Town)
The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship,
 their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit,
 and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.      — Black Elk (1863-1950)