somewhere in between by Maranie Staab

In September 2017 Hurricane Maria, a storm with winds reaching 175 mph, hit the island territory of Puerto Rico, leaving over 3,000 people dead and destroying much of the island. Two years later Puerto Rico and its residents continue to rebuild and work to create a future that is sustainable for future generations. While Maria created new problems for the island, it also served to highlight existing, systemic ones.

During the summer of 2019, much of this came to a head when islandwide protests resulted in the resignation of Governor Rossello. Though under new leadership, the fight against corruption and the debate between independence and statehood, continues. While many young Puerto Ricans are choosing to remain just as many are leaving the island to pursue employment and life elsewhere.

In August I spent several weeks in Puerto Rico, taking in and exploring the small, yet complex island. I look forward to returning and to spending more time with the people, those neither recognized as US citizens nor as independent. To me, they seem to be in a limbo, somewhere in between.

Many of these frames were among the portfolio recent recognized by CPOY 🙏🏾

1 Year by Maranie Staab

Last night and today we celebrated Kaylee being cancer-free for one year with a little trick-or-treating in the rain and a small get together.

For as joyous as that is, it comes with bittersweet news. Last month I learned that Kaylee’s form of cancer is more rare and serious than I had known. There are two types of Wilms tumors; 9 out of 10 children have one but Kaylee had the other, known as one with anaplastic histology. Her mother, Kristina, shared that relapses (about 85%) occur within two years of diagnosis of the original Wilms' tumor, but for some children it can come back later than this. For some reason, I had assumed she was relatively home free. But, on Tuesday of next week she has a scan and will continue to have scans every six months for at least the next five years.

It is hard to believe so much time has passed or that this all began with a trip to the New York State Fair, somewhere I likely never would have gone if not for a class assignment. In many ways, it really feels as though this story has only begun.

lightly, my darling. by Maranie Staab

It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling. (Huxley)

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For years I’ve kept these words on various pieces of paper and come back to them when I feel as though I am pushing and working and trying … and yet, little is coming of it and everything feels, well, just a bit off.

I grew up knowing my capacity to work, push and endure was greater than many. What I lacked in natural ability I made up in hustle. This served me well as a distance runner and as a student, where if one trained harder and studied more “success” was likely to follow. I went on to run Cross Country and Track as a Division I athlete and finished my undergraduate education Summa Cum Laude. These accomplishments felt good but they also felt superficial; I wanted more and it took me until I was 28 to find and commit to pursuing what that was.

Once one learns to use their gear, photography begs for more than the ability to keep things in focused and adequately composed. The craft desires us to connect and to live with intention, nuance, empathy and a deep desire to better understand.

Intuition and energy, both that we as humans give off and that which exists around us are real and ever present. To be in tune with that energy, to know when it is time to pause, to pivot or to stop, can separate a proficient photographer from one who will create images that resonate and last.

At 32 I am still very much navigating this boundary but I find peace in having arrived at a place where I recognize it exists and embrace that sheer force of will is often not what one needs. Sometimes, we must walk lightly.

pursuing long term projects: kaylee by Maranie Staab

It took well over a year until the Marshfield family allowed me to spend time within their home. When Kaylee became sick in early 2018 both Kristina and Todd nearly moved into the hospital and both subsequently lost their jobs. With priorities focused on the well-being of their children the house fell into a condition that, in their words, was just too embarrassing. Though I have joined them on family vacation and spent more than one holiday together I was kept away from home life until recently. An evening with the girls at their home felt like a breakthrough in many ways, another avenue to explore and an invaluable indication of trust.

I recently spoke to a class about pursuing longer term projects. I wanted to demystify how much time it can, and often does, take to establish a deep trust. If you are working on a story or project and feel as though you’ve but scratched the surface I encourage you to push on, be present, authentic and embrace the organic evolution of relationships.

a first step. by Maranie Staab

I’ve buried my old blog, an inconsistent array of fragmented posts and images, to start fresh with a bit more intentionality. For years I have wished to have the discipline and confidence to write and share of my myself; in hindsight I see my hesitancy as a lot of things, not least of which as fear. A fear of not meeting my own expectations, a fear of vulnerability (both in content and in my ability to communicate well and with resonance) and a shade of fear that holds many of us back—one purely of uncertainty. As humans we naturally gravitate towards comfort, but the adage that “comfort breeds complacency” is a truth that we must first become of aware of and then make the conscious decision and subsequent, concerted effort to face.

The intention with this blog is a personal challenge as well as my effort to share some of my experiences on my continued journey as a photographer, journalist and young (when does young end?) woman intent on living a full, connected and substantive life. I appreciate and value when others make themselves vulnerable and so I will do similarly here, writing honestly and openly of my experiences professionally and personally, inclusive of successes, failures and questions that remain unanswered. I’ve long held that we can all learn much from one another if pretense and barriers of ego and fear are cast aside … and so, this is my small contribution towards a world of community, connectedness and mutual understanding.

My first post, beyond this wordy intro, allows a peak into my life beyond the images on this site. For I believe we are much more than what one may glimpse in a moment but rather that today we are some sum of our total experiences, good, bad and everything in between.

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Ten years ago today…I still remember the call but the subsequent weeks are fragments of moments, a result of devastation and confusion.

On October 19, 2009 viral encephalitis attacked my mother’s brain. The virus induced a coma that lasted 17 days and resulted in extensive damage to the frontal and temporal lobes of her brain. The trauma erased the previous decade from her mind and left her short-term memory severely compromised. Today, at age 57, Diana remembers most things for only hours, sometimes minutes, after they occur.
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For the same reason I photograph most things, I picked up my camera in an attempt to understand. To understand why and how … it’s been a futile effort as I come closer to accepting this as a question with no real answer, a waste of energy and a precarious edge of inquiry. I’ve learned time and time again that often there is no “why.” There is only how we choose to react and cope and in some way move on. I’ve managed to do that but how does one without memory retention begin to “move on”?

You see, my mother, once an independent mother of four now has a caretaker and “remembers” most things by taking fastidious notes in a journal we’ve deemed “the book.” Though my mother does her best to remain positive, she lives a life acutely aware of a once more complete existence.

We are made of our memories. They inform who we are in the present and who we will become in the future. They give each moment substance, an accumulation of which gives our lives worth and meaning. A decade has passed since my mom got sick and yet it is still surreal and “the new normal” to spend a weekend, knowing neither the words nor the moments shared will be remembered. For my mother’s part, I admire her strength but wish for little more than medical science, or a miracle, to allow her to remember the last years of her life.