Sparkles and Taxidermy

In Philadelphia I got to shoot Beth Beverly from Diamond Tooth Taxidermy along with performance artist Melissa Bang Bang Forgione.






Instagram and Self Portraits

It took a while for me to get into the idea of photo apps. Not because they aren't totally utterly awesome... but because they make anyone, I mean Anyone, look like a good photographer. But finally I came to the conclusion that I don't care. I like how they make my snapshots look too.


The reality is a great photographer is not defined by their ability to capture a nice shot but by their ability to recreate that shot again and again in various circumstances at a moments notice. I am certainly capable of doing that. And so, I've given myself permission to play with Instagram. <3

Fred Wahpepah- my vision quest and a great cause.

The first time I met Fred Wahpepah I was 15 years old. He came to my liberal Northern California high school to do a presentation on Native American culture, ceremonies and history. He brought a table full of traditional accouterments- an eagle head, eagle wings, a tortoise shell purse, handmade drums, rattles, and various other items that I can't remember. He talked about sweat lodge ceremony, teepee ceremony, sundance and vision quest. All of it fascinated me. What stuck in my mind was how pulled I felt to Native American culture. It was as if he was speaking directly to my core and my core responded with a resounding recognition of truth. I signed up to receive newsletters from his foundation Seven Circles.

Seven years later I had become very close friends with a girl I met at a truckstop at 3am off I-5 in the middle of nowhere who happened to also be an addict in recovery... named Kim.

"I am going on a vision quest- four days three nights up on a mountain with no food and no water- will you eat and drink for me? Just keep me in mind while you are eating. Especially meat. Hamburgers. Anything." This struck me as funny since she had just become a vegan. Not because she was asking me to eat for her energetically, which perhaps should have been the comical part. It turned out that she had been heavily involved with a Native American community in LA that was headed up by Wolf, one of Fred's sons. However this specific vision quest she was doing under the guidance of Fred himself.

A year or so after that my friend Podge called me and asked me to attend a sweat lodge ceremony with her. I jumped at the opportunity. It was held Sunday at 5pm in a residential area in Berkeley. We crept through the gate of someones house and found about a dozen people standing around a fire pit with Fred obviously in charge. This was my second time meeting him face to face. Fred is a funny, lighthearted man that egged-on participants to share inappropriate jokes. He talked about the importance of sharing his heritage with anyone who felt a calling to it, regardless of age, race, sex or any other factor we use to separate ourselves from each other. I began attending sweats on an inconsistent basis.

In 2010 I met my biological father and siblings. As it turned out my oldest sister Cheryl lives just north of Austin and works in Austin for the Air Force, so I've been given a chance to get to know her since moving here. For her birthday last May her co-workers organized a lovely lunch. On the way home Cheryl told me that I would really get along with her co-worker Jessica since we had similar family issues. I asked what nationality she was since she was obviously exotic looking. Cheryl said Native American and... something else... I'm not sure because I got stuck on the Native American part. I began to tell Cheryl that I was really pulled to that culture and when I lived in California I had been doing sweat lodges with this guy Fred Wahpepah... Cheryl interjected- "That's Jessica's last name!" It turns out Fred is Jessica's Great Uncle. So get this- the guy I had been doing sweats with for years has a great niece who had been working in the same room for years with my sister who I didn't know existed. Wild.

Last October I got hired to shoot a friends wedding in San Francisco and on a whim decided to buy a one way ticket. I hopped online to see if I couldn't find some other reason I should be in San Francisco- perhaps a writers conference or something. I didn't find a writers anything so I went to to see where the sweats were scheduled since they rotated between about four locations. It turned out that they were doing their fall vision quest in Mendocino starting the Wednesday after I arrived. My heart raced and picked up the phone to call Fred and ask if I could join them. It was late in the game, with less than a week to prepare but Fred said yes and told me to come see him as soon as I got in.

In a moment of panic I thought- What if I'm too white? Or what if this is wrong? I called up Nikki Scully who is a friend of my Aunt Jerilyn and does Shamanic Journeys for a living. My Aunt had been telling me to contact Nikki for years, any time I mentioned Shamanism or Native American anything. I called her and to my surprise she picked up.

"Hi Nikki, this is Frankie Brandelius, I am Jerilyn's neice. She had told me to call you a while back, but I am just getting around to it because I wanted to ask you a question. Do you think it's okay for me to go on a vision quest?"

"Frankie, hi. I usually don't pick up this phone after hours. You should be fine doing a vision quest as long as you are going with someone who knows what they are doing. Who are you going with, what community?"

"Fred Wahpepah of Seven Circles." Nikki let out a laugh.

"Fred took me on my first vision quest... what... 25 years ago... actually, 25 years this fall, right now. Fred is great, you will be fine. What are your fears? And how is your Aunt?" We talked for a bit longer and I felt affirmed. This was universal timing.

I got in to town I met up with Fred at his house in Richmond. He asked me why I wanted to go on vision quest and told me how the whole thing worked. I felt thrilled and nervous, convinced that I would somehow mess it up.

At the wedding the following day I told my friend Alecia about the vision quest. "Whapepah? That is my daughters doctors name. Ask him if is wife is a pediatrician! We love her." And indeed, of course, his wife is.

I met up with my Aunt while I was in San Francisco and she told me about Lit Quake- a writer's convention that was happening that week, that for some odd reason didn't pop up in my internet searches. I only made it to one of the panels where five new authors discussed what it takes to be in the industry. The next day, after much preparation for the ceremony that I'm not going to get into here- I arrived in Mendocino and met Joanna- she would be the woman cook in charge of the kitchen throughout the vision quest. "I recognize you- were you at Lit Quake?" She asked me. Wild. I also learned later that day that Fred had been on tour with Rolling Thunder who was a good friend of my Aunt as well. All of these elements affirmed that I was right where I was supposed to be.

So- why I am I blogging about this? Fred is 80 years old. His daughter- Kasha Wahpepah is 18 and has decided for her senior project to take a road trip with her dad from Richmond CA to Oklahoma where they will go to the reservation where he was raised. Kasha will be making art, taking photos and recording all that she can about her roots on this once in a lifetime trip to meet her family and see where she came from.

A part of the money is going to get Kasha the equipment she needs for the trip and for college- a camera, laptop etc. And did I mention she got admitted to Dartmouth? She is one smart cookie. This project sits close to my heart- everybody knows that my Grandparents are the world to me- I wish I could drive with them to where they were raised and record it all. Fred is like a father to so many people. He has opened up ceremony to everyone regardless of demographic and I hope we can all pull together to help them make this trip happen.


My bootie made the cut

Last week was SXSW in Austin. My sister flew down from Seattle to hang out. We saw Big Boi at the Austin Power Plant, Foo Fighters and TV on the Radio at Stubbs, and Wu Tang Clang with Erykah Badu at the Austin Music Hall.

I received a call a couple of weeks ago from a good friend Ben Kutchins asking if I knew anyone in Austin who does videography. I referred him to half a dozen local filmmakers, editors and videographers I've met in the last year. The job was for SPIN magazine for a SXSW feature. Although they didn't need a photographer, it felt really good to be able to pass on work to friends. The day before the shoot Ben called to let me know that their main photographer cancelled. They booked me for three days of portraits.

The shoot was set up in a side building/storage shed at Stubbs, a huge venue in downtown Austin. They turned the room into a country store sort of set up with a bar, rocking chairs, wooden barrels scattered about, and taxidermy and wagon wheels on the walls. Artist would come in, do an interview with the head of and then I would pull them to the side to shoot a quick portrait.

I am pretty lucky because I can never remember who anybody is. I don't remember quotes from movies, the names of bands, actors or celebrities. I can't remember what most famous people look like and I can't recall songs unless you sing them to me. This minimizes any starstruck-ness.

First up was two members from Explosions in the Sky. I pulled them aside after the interview and introduced myself. "I know you!" Munaf Rayani said. Turns out he is an Austin local and frequents the same coffee shop as me- where I just hung my photo show. He recognized my name and my bookmark. How cool is that?

Next up was Gayngs, The Bangles, Duran Duran (who gave a killer interview), Little Dragon (a Swedish band who has a member that I'm in luv with), Surfer Blood (whose lead singer acted like he was too good to answer questions that Duran Duran answered), and Chromeo (who I've danced naked to a dozen times).

The second day we shot Wild Flag (later I was told that one of the chicks was from Sleater-Kinney, who I would have totally girl-crush-gushed over... but I didn't recognize her), then Moby (who I thought was black... ¿ ... he's not), B.o.B., and Bob Geldof (who said I was a beautiful girl. I don't know who he is but I think I'm in love), and Cisco Adler... not thong song Cisco. My favorite quote of the day was from Cisco- "I came out of the vagina ready to rock some shows." awesome.

The third day we shot Panic at the Disco, Black Lips, Pentagram, Liz Phair (who was super rad to shoot and inspired additional creativity), Diplo (who is more intelligent than his twitter feed would let on to), and Theophilus London who presence seeps timeless class into the air. My bootie made the Thephilus London video. Holler.

You can watch the videos here.



New York Times

I got a call while I was in California from the New York Times asking me to scout some location shots for them in Vallejo. Of course I said yes... it's the New York Times...but I don't generally scout. Regardless, it's the New York Times.

He said he loved my landscapes (which I like to hear because I don't feel like it's my strongest arena, though I really enjoy doing it) and gave me a list of things they needed shot. Before we got off the phone I asked how he found me. He said from a photo assistant website, they looked at San Francisco based assistants and I popped up. I told him that was great, I don't generally scout and haven't assisted in a couple years, but was stoked that they found me and would love to do it.

Vallejo is a super cute little town. Though, I don't think they will use my images for the article since they probably already have a photographer hired, it is still really great to get my images in front of they NYT.

Two super talented photographer/artist friends Sean Franzen , and his lovely wife Jeremy live in Vallejo. We met for lunch then drove around Mare Island taking photos. We stopped at the One of a Kind Altered Barbie shop. Oh. My. God. I am in love with this woman Lavonne Salle. Her dolls are the kind of dark pop humour that I love. There was a separate room for all of the 'adult content' creations. Seriously incredibly creative and fun stuff. I guess christian residents got all up in arms because she painted nipples on the barbies... as if children don't know nipples exist.











And here is some of the shots from around Vallejo and Mare Island.







Rob was one of my awesome Kickstarter benefactors. We took these images out in west Marin, the Presidio and at his house. I am always so nervous about shooting in the rain (ruining my camera), but I loved it. It was totally fun and not half as scary as I imagined... of course it was just fog and drizzle. Rob is now traveling Brasil and South America. Soaking up the rays.


...and we're off!

Hello Lovelies!

The opening was a huge success. I sold 6 prints and have had inquiries about 4 more. The show will be up in San Rafael CA at 1122 Fourth Street until February 20th. Go check it out! Make a date night of it. There is a great Puerto Rican restaurant called Sol Food, or there is hippy awesome food at Cafe Gratitude. (Food is one of the things Marin does particularly well.) The cafe is right next to the Rafael Theater, so stop in there for a flick, then hop over and check out the my photos.

So, for the opening I ordered bookmarks to handout that offered up a description of what Saturn Return is and some tips for surviving it... unfortunately they did not arrive in time. I requested super fast delivery however, the printer made a mistake and sent them ground.

Of course I realized this at 3 am the day of the opening. In a panic I called my friend Nano, he works at a local print shop in San Francisco-. He wasn't at work, but told me to call his co-worker, Ken, and let him know that I was Nano's friend. Ken said "No problem! Send the files to Joe, tell him you're Nano's friend, and we will push them through." Of course I wasn't near internet access... AND I wanted to redesign the bookmarks to match the flier I posted on my last update... so on the drive into to city (to go to therapy) I was on my laptop hustling to redesigning the bookmarks (don't worry, my friend Lila was driving). I got the files sent and within two hours the bookmarks were done. It was magical. My friend Kari picked them up, paid for them, and delivered them to the show, which was over the top sweet.

The opening went great. I showed up around 4:30 with my Grandparents to do a walk through before it got too crowded. It was really nice to have them see my career on display, and have an opportunity to show them the various places I have traveled and people I have shot. It gave context to why I am always running out the door or on my computer retouching/writing. (My Grandma is very depression era wired. The thought of having a freelance career seems ridiculous and unreliable to her. Even though she loves my photos and thinks I'm talented, she has suggested, on more than a few occasions, that I look into a career at Peets Coffee or Rite Aid. I know the intention is Sweet. She just wants me to be able to eat.)

After the Grands left, I went to the art supply store a few doors down from the cafe and bought a guest book and a second little book to record what images sold and what the prices were. I mentioned before that I was a little afraid that it wouldn't feel like an opening because the cafe didn't want outside food/beverages or music. Luckily that was not the case. At about 6:30 a steady flow of people began trickling in. From family, to friends that have known me for years, to acquaintances of my Aunt's, to fellow photographers and local artists, to friends in recovery, to ex-boyfriends, to friends of friends and so on. It was great. All in all there were about 200 people in attendance throughout the evening. I was really happy to have bookmarks to give out. They were a great conversation starter... then Kari pointed out that I misspelled... PHOTOGRGRAPHY. Ha. Oh well. I love them anyways.

I designed a set of 4 postcards which are arriving next week at my apartment in Austin and my photo book is going into production starting the 12th. I have a dear friend who is helping me design the book. I'm hoping it will be finished by Valentines Day-ish.

A few days before my opening I saw that a gallery in San Rafael was packed with people. The art looked tactile and interesting so I went in to check it out and quiz the gallery owner on the fine art world. The art was awesome- hundreds of Self Help books had been taken apart and re-stitched together to create all sorts of ridiculous magicalness. The spines of the books were cut up and reworded to make up some Outstanding new titles and the dedication pages were cut up and sewed back together to make what looked like a 4' tall cream coloured tear drop. Check it out if you are in the Bay Area.

I ended up telling the woman at the gallery (who turned out to be Donna Seager herself) that I was living in Austin, which led to the question many Bay Area people have- Why? Which more or less resulted in me telling her an abbreviated version of my my life story. (I left out a lot of the more interesting details as I am learning to do...I need to keep the memoir in mind.) Long story short, it turns out her husband knows my Aunt through the Grateful Dead scene and I went to high school with her son (who I may or may not have sold acid to). She seemed to be very intrigued by me. She asked to see my website, however her gallery doesn't show photography. She wrote down a list of galleries and people she thinks would be interested in my work. It was great.

SO, for the rest of my week in SF I will be ordering prints, shipping rewards, checking out galleries, going to meetings and spending time with the Grands, friends and the therapist. Got to keep the head checked.

So much love,


Also, feel free to check out my other blog to read more about my brain-