Adoption thing

Hey Amy, I know you said you wanted to talk a little more about adoption but we didn’t get the chance to. This is an essay I wrote a couple of months ago for school; it’s about what we’ve been discussing . LMK if you get the chance to read it!

It was soon after Christmas in Mexico City and the windows of homes, both humble and opulent, were still adorned with decorations in accordance with the taste and income of the families that resided in them. The city’s majestic main avenues boasted an array of lights and greenery, even if the side street scenes were often less than majestic. It was 2008, which means that I was seven years old and my brother was five, but I could swear my recollections of the coming events are entirely accurate.

“Your new baby sister Amira was born in Ethiopia,” my mom said beaming, displaying the photo of a tiny drooling infant in a place that was further away than anywhere I’d ever been. “We’re waiting for a court date so we can go get her. We’re going as a family. We’ll visit other countries in Africa too; it’s going to be an amazing trip.”

In the months that followed, my brother and I collected supplies at school to be taken to the sister orphanage of the one where Amira was being cared for, for children living with HIV. The well-to-do parents at the American School Foundation stopped by our house, or sent their chauffeurs, with boxes of baby formula, protein powder, and antibiotics, at the time still available without a prescription, for us to take to Ethiopia. Our living room slowly filled with stacks of these donations and a baby crib was introduced in my pink princess palace bedroom while all Barbie shoes and crowns that posed a choking hazard were confiscated.

Months passed by and the weekly photos of Amira we received from the orphanage were the center of attention. “Was she gaining weight as she should?” and “Why had they shaved her head?” were hotly debated topics over family dinners.

It was rainy season when we arrived in Ethiopia after a week in Dubai and a safari through Kenya. The unpaved roads clung to our sneakers, thickening like paste and becoming heavy as we made our way through downtown Addis Ababa. Whole coffee beans were roasted over open fires in homes, then ground by hand and served with popcorn, and these aromas filled the streets, mixing with those of goats and wet earth. The entrance to the Layla House Orphanage was painted a vibrant sky blue and was the cleanest and brightest spot on the sticky road. My parents trembled with excitement when the blue door opened and the last name “Dergal” was on the list of those authorized for entry.

The interior of Layla House was as cheerful as any other place that’s filled with children. A group of boys played soccer and welcomed my brother to a team, girls jumped rope and sang songs, and the babies lounged in groups on blankets spread on the floor, looked after by attentive, smiling nannies. Amira wasn’t one of them, it turned out; she had been taken to the infirmary for pneumonia. The doctor explained that she would require a daily shot before she is allowed to leave the country.

Other adoptive families were there, too. Parents cried joyfully as they met their new children, who, except for the babies, seemed cautiously optimistic. The staff and kids spoke quickly and eagerly in bubbly Amharic while the adoptive parents struggled to communicate with a flurry of excited hand gestures punctuated by single English words pronounced slowly and loudly. Most of the parents were American and European; ours was the only family from Latin America.

We were greeted by Ivy, an upbeat, blonde, khaki-pants-wearing American woman working at Layla House: “I’m sorry Amira is so ill,” she said. “She had been one of our healthiest babies; it’s unfortunate you have to meet her like this. She is normally very cheerful.” Ivy knew all of the kids by name and shouted things to them in Amharic as they played. Some of them ran over and hugged her. “This is so cool. We’ve never had a Mexican family adopt here before,” Ivy said. My mom explained that we had begun the process to adopt in Mexico but that there had been some highly-publicized cases of corruption in the Mexican adoption system that caused us to switch countries. Ivy seemed to know exactly what she meant. Some countries had that problem.

There was a waterslide at the Addis Ababa Sheraton. My brother and I catapulted down its three loops and plunged into the icy depths of the pool repeatedly, with my dad standing guard in the rain. Amira was in the hotel room with my mom getting cool towels applied to her forehead and body to control the fever until the antibiotic finally took effect and we were able to fly home.

Amira was received in Mexico with celebratory fanfare. Curious visitors came in droves bearing gifts which were mostly a combination of cloth dolls and pretty dresses. Once over her pneumonia she was just as Ivy said: cheerful, giggly, funny, and playful. And now she was also Mexican, like us.


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It’s 2018 in Miami, Florida. I’m seventeen, my brother is fifteen Read more Adoption thing

Self Reveal

If you turn my body inside out, you will see my vital organs, but you might also hear an aria, piercing and sweet.  Since I was 8 years old, I studied classical music, working hard to perfect my head voice, chest voice, and all that lies in between: perfecting and syncing my breathing to a song’s tempo, the tempo to the transitions between my voice, my voice to the pitch, and the pitch to the amount of vibrato. The sound of opera rising up through me and entering the world through my open mouth is incredibly intimate for me. This is why, even after years of expensive lessons, I couldn’t face the intimacy of doing it publicly: it was too private, too personal, and too revealing. When asked to perform, my body twisted into knots; I sweat, choked, vomited, cried, and became so overwhelmed by physical distress that I would lose my voice completely. After months of rehearsing, I could barely muster a hoarse whisper.  

I’m not shy, nor do I have an acute fear of failure in anything other than singing, but the intensely personal experience of revealing the sound that comes from the deepest place inside me causes me the deepest anxiety I have ever known.  In this photo essay, I attempt to illustrate the physical distress I feel when I am asked to perform, as well as how I am beginning to overcome it. I share the pressure I feel not to fail others and myself; performing classical music is intensely revealing and I am slowly learning to conquer this anxiety and turn myself inside-out to share the insides of this alto-soprano.


For the past three years, I have studied the most classic and iconic films in school. My teacher, of course, hopes that they will influence our work or that we will somehow manage to recreate Citizen Kane (he made us watch it four consecutive times). However, entertainment is constantly changing: social media, digital media platforms, and the slow disappearance of cable, make production a new challenge: one that Citizen Kane cannot prepare us for. I was pleasantly surprised to see an exposition at the MOMI about YouTube channel genres, which can cater to such widely varying cultural niches. When media had to be broad because the technology to reach the audience was so expensive, it had to appeal to everyone. Today’s digital channels make content distribution cheap and accessible to anyone who is passionate about something, leading to greater diversification of popular culture: whatever you’re into, there’s a channel for it! The constant availability of video feeds our consumer needs and accounts thrive off of click bait, which is why I thought it was an interesting and bold statement to feature this exhibition; it is almost like admitting that our constant consumption of content is a problem.

I enjoyed looking at the portraits in the portrait hall, especially because many of them bore similar stylistic qualities. All where black and white, glamorous, and had dramatic lighting. The photographs themselves were not all striking, but the formula they followed seemed to appeal to the crowd at the time and satisfied their consumer needs. It’s interesting to compare the classic portraits taken during the early 20th century to the kinds of portraits people take now, which are far more intimate and genuine. However, our need to consume and need to be entertained is greater than ever, so why has our response changed to the formulaic portraits? I believe it’s because in the age of technology , editing apps are so readily available that anyone can look “glamorous” or “flawless;” this might make more genuine portraits more desirable because “natural beauty” by today’s standards is more difficult to obtain than the appearance of glamour.

So much of the time we just press record on our cameras and watch as cars or people speed through our lens, but we seldom take the time to study frame by frame. I know that when I press record, I never meticulously assess every movement. In combination with other images, this photograph made me think about and appreciate all that a camera can do. We have become so accustomed to video, but seeing it in Muybridge’s form, I realized how incredibly precise it can be.

Read more MOMI


As I watched the film “Streetwise”, I was beyond shocked to see teens so involved in drugs, stealing, and prostitution. Though it was disturbing, it sheds light on an important subject and helps serve as a catalyst for conversation and movement regarding the topic. I feel the film is most successful because of how intimate it feels, which is a feeling evoked by the relationship the subjects have with the person behind the camera. The camera almost feels like an invisible pair of eyes: revealing painful details about the subjects and capturing their genuine actions. These “invisible eyes” help emphasize the reality of their heartbreaking situations, but had there been no trust between the kids and the filmmaker, audiences would’ve never witnessed their most intimate struggles. I believe the filmmakers gained their trust by making them feel seen and respected; they did not judge the teens featured and they focused on the kids, who are usually ignored.

(Will continue…)

Final film project outline

Pitch: An art film that highlights how skin tone and individual fashion choices help people embrace their culture.
Concept/story: nonlinear concept revealing how one’s choices in presentation reflect a certain culture.
Goal: Demonstrate how different people embrace their skin and how they accessorize their person in accordance to their culture and sense of individuality. Audience should end up with new perspectives of the role skin tone plays in not only embracing one’s culture, but their personal identity.
Intended length: 1 minute
1. Where: stairwell by cafeteria provides ample space and lighting + gives us the opportunity to approach subjects
2. Who: we will select specific individuals (diverse) on their way to or from the cafeteria who are willing to participate
3. When: weekday afternoons, when students are most likely to be in cafeteria
4. How: use of two cameras/ two angles at once (Canon 7d, Canon 5d). Will need to rent out tripods and lighting equipment.
References: A-Z of hair, “Flava” by Princess Nokia
These videos feature empowering shots of subjects that feel vulnerable and intimate. Our film will not feature a spoken narrative as both of these videos do through audio and text.
5. Roles: Bebe will focus on post-production, while Izzy and Ximena work on renting equipment and filming.
6. Audio: Our video will feature instrumental music that will occasionally synchronize with the images.


This photograph belongs in Cartier-Bresson’s collection of “the decisive moment”. I was immediately drawn to this image upon entering the gallery because of its clear, structured lines and its curious narrative. Both the line on the wall to the left and the line created by the canon force viewers to look at the child, which helps create an interesting narrative. This photograph was captured in Italy during the 1930s, when Italy was under strict, fascist control by Mussolini. The lines in the image are straight, rigid, and firm, a perfect visual representation for the way the country was being controlled. The lines lead us towards the child: a product of this authoritarian world. Mussolini insisted that all boys be warriors; he wanted all males to act as fascist soldiers, and all women to bear more than five children. The fact that the child stands next to a canon introduces the idea that he is being forced into violence. The fact that he is only a silhouette, not an individual, refers to the quantity of young children expected to act violently. I believe that featuring this one child, instead of many, is very valuable to the photograph’s composition and story. The child can represent the masses, but there is a beauty to his solitude and it creates an interesting juxtaposition between this singular child vs the expectation that women must bear multiple children.


This photograph by Elliott Erwitt captured my attention because it reminded me of Kara Walker’s work. Here, he features three African American silhouettes, as Walker often does. The photograph is incredibly successful, which can be attributed to its composition, lines, shapes, contrast, and concept. The three subjects are placed according to the rule of thirds, and the fact that there are three subjects helps create a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing picture. The eye first moves to the silhouettes, but the lines don’t allow our eyes to linger there. In fact, the lines encourage viewers to travel through the photograph (from left to right); the shapes created by the tree and the subjects serve as a final resting spot for viewers’ eyes. The triangular shapes, the repetition of shape and form, and the fact that the subjects are looking outwards draws viewers into the photograph and leaves us imagining what the subjects could be looking at. The juxtaposition between the lights and darks in the photograph may relate to the political and social struggles of that time. Erwitt photographed his subjects during the peak of the civil rights movement, so by having his subjects against such a light background he is emphasizing the differences between races. In addition, the high contrast allows viewers only to see the subjects’ silhouettes. There are no distinguishing features amongst them and there is no sense of individuality. The fact that the subjects also look “fenced in” could be relevant to the struggles of that time: African Americans were segregated, they were separated from the rest of society, they did not have equal freedoms. Therefore, the fence may represent their struggles and sense of confinement.

What interests me most about this photograph is the fact that the subject is slightly uncentered, and a ring of light surrounds his head. When this was photographed, France was in the middle of the Great Depression, with unemployment peaking. The ring of light around the subjects’ head may represent the hope for those who were affected. Meanwhile, the fruitless trees represent France’s barren soil; France is struggling financially and is unable to provide for its people, just as the soil is unable to provide enough nutrients for the trees to flourish. The subject in the photograph is wearing dark colors to emphasize the uncertainty many French people are facing. This darkness is reinforced by the light background, creating a complex yet appealing combination of lights and darks. In addition, the movement in this photograph is striking: the man is prominent in the picture and moves your gaze upwards, towards the lifeless trees.


Artist Statement Project 1

Frosty Starbucks cups with their emblematic green straws poking out are a symbol of tween independence, a fashion statement being made en masse in malls and trendy thoroughfares across the U.S. that says, “look at me, I grew up!”

But like the dreaded plastic grocery bag, plastic straws are well-known to cause harm to marine life such as fish and sea turtles, and add to the towers of plastic that crowd toward our cities from our landfills and clog our oceans.

Like most people, I was ecstatic when Starbucks announced last week that they would be eliminating plastic straws. Some progressive U.S. cities like Seattle and Berkeley and have banned them already. However, many public policy issues have two sides. Disabled activists and their advocates have spoken out against plastic straw bans, asserting that they unfairly discriminate against the disabled, especially those with hindered motor skills for whom drinking from a cup without a straw is not an option. They argue that it isn’t fair that able-bodied people aren’t inconvenienced by the ban, but the disabled will be expected to carry reusable straws with them everywhere they go.

I appreciate the concerns of the disabled but I think people in general have grown too accustomed to lives of convenience at the expense of the planet. Caring for the environment requires that we ALL make some sacrifices – from giving up the shiny green adolescent accessory of choice, to making sure you don’t leave the house without a metal or silicone straw in your pocket.



MOMA visit

As I stepped into the third floor exhibition room, my eyes were instantly drawn to Aïda Muluneh’s vibrant photographs. In this specific photograph, Muluneh uses line, framing, and color to enhance her theme and create a visually appealing picture. The lines in the background, for example, draw the viewers’ gaze towards the subject, making her presence in the photograph especially proud and prominent. In addition, her subject is uncentered and follows the rule of thirds. Muluneh’s inspiration comes from the stereotypical depictions of Africans/ African Americans in the mass media. She strives to capture Africans/ African Americans bearing face paint; face painting is a worldwide practice and has several stylistic commonalities around the globe. This is meant to give viewers the chance NOT to racially profile, but to appreciate the photograph and remember it by more than just race. In this photograph, Muluneh’s use of color is incredibly interesting and engaging. I believe she only features primary colors because primary colors are universal, and she does not want any color to be associated with a particular race. Her choice to use warm colors in the back, and cool colors in the front is also striking. Cool colors recede, and warm colors come forward. By making the photographs MAIN subject wear blue, Muluneh is juxtaposing the topic of race and color: the issue of race, which is usually pushed back, is literally coming forward.

What first drew me to this photograph was the fact that it reminded me of John Baldessari’s work: the photographs were clearly posed and the subjects’ faces were purposely obscured, which is the focus and statement made by this work. I believe its composition and thematic elements make it a strong collection. The effect of the photo is jarring because it contrasts traditional rules of portrait photography, like the rule of thirds and depth of field, with the deliberate erasing of the subjects faces (replaced by text). This non-traditional element helps engage the audience and reinforce the pieces’ theme: that we are not permanent. The text reads “everything will be taken away,” conveying the idea that individuals perish. The removal of the face illustrates the theme because it demonstrates that people are “taken away” from this earth: erased from the environments that defined them. The photographs are less about the people posing than the statement being made about the impermanence of human existence. The graph paper used suggests precision, structure, and hardness, all of which feel detached, dispassionate, and statement-making. This sense of detachment allows viewers to focus on the message of how fleeting peoples’ lives are, and how quickly they will be replaced. The fact that the photos appear to be vintage makes the subjects seem ghost-like and suggests that they may have already gone; their faces are no longer relevant because life is ephemeral.

Em Rooney’s creative presentations emphasize her photography’s strongest compositional elements, which is why I was so drawn to her work. This photograph, for example, has repeated vertical rectangles throughout. Each is repeated in groups of three; this is incredibly successful because groups of three are natural and most comfortable to the eye. The groupings make the photograph aesthetically pleasing, and this is stressed by the frame, which is also rectangular. The photographs main subject is clear, but the lines in the photograph don’t allow viewers to linger there. The lines draw viewers outside the photograph and into the frame; this is successful because the photographs main subject is not too interesting, and this forces the eye to travel. The lines of the crosswalk almost seem to continue moving into the surrounding frame, since both are a striking, clean shade of white. Rooney aims to create unconventional frames for her photographs. Each frame refers to a specific individual; there is a nostalgic-like quality to the photograph and this is emphasized by the fact that the photo is black and white.