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Posts Tagged ‘Erick Riedell’

You guys have met Erick Riedell through some of my photos already.

In The Eyes Of The Hungry 600

In The Eyes Of The Hungry

And I’ve recounted some of his health battles with you guys too.  He’s been fighting cancer on and off (though it seems more on than off) for over six years; a little longer than the entire time I’ve been with Geoff.  Geoff and Erick have been good friends since highschool, a friendship I’m impressed they maintained even though they live in different parts of the country.  They kept it up through different romantic relationships, different places they lived, health problems, marriages, children… they’re still there for each other.  Their friendship is inspiring.

This year has been especially difficult for Erick, his wife and their two young sons.  It’s been almost non-stop health problem after problem; surgeries, hospital stays, being sent to specialists in other states… it just hardly seemed to stop.  And it’s bad again.

Erick has only one functioning kidney and it’s failing.  So he’s back in the hospital, tests are being run and solutions are being searched for.  Why the kidney is failing isn’t entirely known yet, but it could be caused by another tumor.  That’s the last thing you want to hear about anybody, but especially as someone with Erick’s history of fighting these deadly growths.

The Yellow Knight

The Yellow Knight

I’d like to share something with you that Geoff wrote about Erick.  He has such a way with words, he really captures Erick’s personality in a way that will translate even to those who have never met him.  So please, let me introduce you to Erick, by way of Geoff’s words:

I’ve never put much stock in karma.

If there was such a thing, the roads would have a lot less traffic and there would be no reality television.

But, as I see what my friend Erick and his family are going through, it’s clear karma is a myth…if not an outright joke.

I have known nobody more straight-edge than Erick. No drinking. No smoking. There has been an occasional overindulgence in fried food and cheese…especially in the days before he got married. But, how cancer finds its way into a clean-living scenario like that is beyond me.

He is, quite simply, the friendliest, most good-hearted, good-natured person I’ve ever known. We don’t go anywhere where somebody doesn’t know him. And if by some odd chance we do, by the time we leave, he’s made new friends. He is effortless in that way.  Always has been.  It’s a trait my grandfather had, too…a genuine ability to connect with others. It’s a trait I’d be happy to have inherited from either one of them.

But my curmudgeon gene is too strong.

I’ve never ridden with him in Los Angeles freeway traffic, but I’ll bet he wouldn’t scream obscenities the way I do.  He’s even-keeled, easy-going and relentlessly upbeat that way.  I’d invent new swear words in a traffic jam.  He’d lead a conga line between the cars.

That’s just who he is.

He’s Murray the K.

Look it up…that’s what Wikipedia is for.

He just has “it,” you know?  “It.”  That “it” that certain people have.  Charisma.  Like a gravitational force.  It makes him the center of the room.  And the calm eye in the hurricane.  You can’t learn it.  You’re just born with it.  Like the Force.  And it runs strong in this Jedi called Erick.

So yes, I downplay the existence of karma, but I totally buy into the Force. Because I’m a child of the 70s.

If this sounds like a eulogy, blame the context of the day.  Because it’s not.  This isn’t over.  Because the other thing about Erick is he has more fight and determination in him than I’ve ever seen in anybody.  A hell of a lot more than I do.  But far too often, we don’t say the things we should when we should.  And knowing how we all feel about him at a time like this can’t hurt anything.  Because, though he has always seemed bulletproof to me…everybody can use a little encouragement.

So, I urge everyone reading this to do exactly what he asked this morning.  Share a story.  Share your feelings.  Pile it on.  Let him know the world is a better place because he is in it.

Because it is.

Ribbon Armor

Ribbon Armor

 

It most certainly is.

You guys may not have ever met Erick, but take my word that he is one of the most wonderful people you could ever meet.  A true hero who has had to fight for his life too many times to count.  And right now, he needs help.  Help from those he knows, but even from those he has never met.  I would ask you to please do two things.

One: Reply to this post leaving messages of love and encouragement for Erick which I will pass on to him.  He needs all the love and encouragement we can give him.  Let’s show him the overwhelming love the world has for him, even from people he hasn’t met!

Two: If you can, please donate to his health care fun through GoFundMe.  I know, money is tight for everyone right now.  But even a $5 donation would help!  It doesn’t have to be much.  As you can imagine, being in the hospital and fighting cancer are extremely expensive.  Every little bit we can give will help him and his family so much.

Help Erick Riedell Fight Cancer

 

If you can only do one or the other, that’s ok!  If you can do both, great!

There is so little we can do that feels constructive.  I can’t enter his body and rid it of any cancer cells I find.  But we can send him messages of love and show our support with a few dollars.

Lastly, please keep Erick in your prayers, if you are the praying type, your thoughts, send him good energy, light a candle in his name, however it works for you.  I deeply thank you for anything that you can do for him, and I know he and his family do too!  The world has so few truly spectacular people in it; we cannot afford to lose one more.  Thank you all so much for your help!!

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I have known Erick Reidell for several years, but he and Geoff go way back to high school.  Erick has always been an adventurous, creative, gregarious person, and we found a lot of artistic common ground to talk about when I first met him as Geoff’s new girlfriend a little over five years ago.  Which was a relief to me, since I just wanted Geoff’s friends to like me!

It was a shock to everyone when he was diagnosed with cancer that same year.  Cancer cruelly seems to always pick on the best, most wonderful people.  Erick would not be anyone’s “typical” cancer patient.  He doesn’t smoke, lives healthfully and is always full of optimism and cheer.  That first year Geoff and I were dating, Erick had a seven-pound tumor removed from his abdomen.  There were many breathless months while Erick endured chemo and treatments and recovered from surgery.  I vividly remember the night Erick’s wife called Geoff to tell him that the most recent scan had come back clear, and for the time being at least, Erick was in remission.  Everyone was, of course, extremely relieved.

Since then I’ve gotten the chance to get to know Erick better myself, and I can say he is one hell of a guy.  Hard-working, artistic, funny, a great husband and dad and always ready to face the next challenge his body throws at him.  He is such a lovely man that I suggested he become ordained online so Geoff and I could have him marry us at our wedding, which he did.  The wedding was, of course, a wonderful, beautiful blur of a day, but it will always mean so much more looking back and remembering it was our dear friend, and not some stranger, who performed the ceremony.

Alex/my man of honor, me, Erick, Geoff and Geoff's dad/best man, Larry.

Alex/my man of honor, me, Erick, Geoff and Geoff’s dad/best man, Larry.

Late winter, after several years of being clear, Erick’s cancer once again returned, and once again, he beat it.  Not without great effort from him and his doctors, but he did it.  When we knew we’d be seeing each other over Christmas, Erick asked to be a part of DreamWorld, which I gladly said yes to.  I also felt that a very serious charge had been given to me.  I wanted to make sure I did something special for Erick, something true to DreamWorld, something that spoke of his struggles and also something that would ring true to other cancer sufferers.

Out of these swirling thoughts came the Yellow Knight.  Yellow, since that color is associated with cancer-awareness ribbons, LiveStrong bracelets and the like.  His armor is made out of little bits and swirls of ribbon (or paper, as it ended up, but it looks like ribbon) much like the awareness ribbons.  Though ribbon would seem like a frail and flimsy defense, he defeats the horrible cancer-monster.

I’ll talk briefly about how I made Erick’s costume on, again, a next-to-nothing budget.  His cloak was the same one I’d used in Paul Telfer’s Sleeper’s Sentinel photos, so that was already made.  I wanted to make a chestplate and bracers for Erick’s armor.  Ihough I’d originally planned to use actual ribbon, I was dissatisfied with the ribbon selection both in my ribbon drawer and the craft store, so I decided to use paper instead.  That was also quite a bit less expensive, so double win!

For the chestplate, I stared by gluing two layers of cardstock together to give it a firm, stiff base, and covered one side in muslin for a more “polished” finish.

Matching up cardstock and fabric shapes.

Matching up cardstock and fabric shapes.

Cardstock back of the chestpiece.

Cardstock back of the chestpiece.

And fabric front, with a slight seam down the center to help shape it.

And fabric front, with a slight seam down the center to help shape it.

You can see my black and red suitcase on the floor, which just shows how hurriedly I was trying to put this together before we left for our trip.  I got the bracers made too; fabric shapes with cardstock bones to give them sturdiness.  I was planning on just tying the bracers on with ribbon, and I figured I’d do the same for the chestpiece since you wouldn’t be able to see the back or sides anyway, so the problem of keeping them on was easily solved.

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Bracer with cardstock bones.

At this point, we really had to leave, so I just cut lengths of paper and used my rotary cutter to slice nice, straight even strips into them.  I packed my glue gun and other supplies I might need and we hit the road.

Our time visiting family was short, so we decided to shoot right after Christmas.  I spent one long afternoon of our trip bent over the chestpiece and bracers, hot gluing the ribbon strips to them as quickly as I could.  I alternated the colors, types and thicknesses  the papers frequently to give it more depth, using cardstocks, vellum and tissue paper.  Unfortunately, I was so busy feeling stressed about getting it done before the shoot the next morning, I completely forgot to take photos of the gluing-on process.  But you can probably imagine what a slightly-crazed woman wielding a glue gun in one hand, paper ribbon strips in the other, muttering dark curses under her breath, hunched over fabric/paper constructs and commanding the glue gun to heat up faster and just GLUE looks like.

The morning of the shoot came, and I’d managed to finish the costume (though my lower back was still complaining from having hunched for so many hours).  I knew I’d be doing a lot of work to the cancer-monster in post, so I simply had one black trash bag bunched up into a ball which Erick could punch, and I’d made a very, very rough wire frame for another black trash bag into something that was somewhat wing-shaped.

I scotch-taped the bags as needed to hold their shapes and let Erick pummel the central mass of the creature.  Geoff helped tremendously with flipping the cloak and holding the wings up for me to photograph separately and composite into the final image.  All said, it took perhaps half an hour.  The park we were in was just beautiful and quite deserted given the very cold weather and early hour, and I couldn’t resist taking some snapshots of plants covered in jewel-like snow.  I’ve said it before, but as a California-native, snow is UTTERLY MAGICAL to me whenever I encounter it.

Little Jewels

Little Jewels

Erick looked incredibly noble and at home in his costume, and I’m so glad Geoff reminded me to take a portrait of him not in action.  They’re quite different shots, but I think a lot of Erick’s quiet, inner strength and grace shows through, especially in the second portrait.

After that, we all had a lovely breakfast at a local cafe and warmed up with hot food and coffee.  A successful shoot!

I hope these image can be an inspiration to others fighting their own battles; perhaps simply reminders to not give up quite yet.  If you have had experiences with cancer or other long illnesses yourself, I would love to hear from you!  I hope I can make the cancer community proud.

And with that, let’s see the finished photos!

The Yellow Knight

The Yellow Knight

The Yellow Knight

The Yellow Knight -detail

The Yellow Knight -detail

Ribbon Armor

Ribbon Armor

Ribbon Armor - detail

Ribbon Armor – detail

Thank you, Erick, for coming to play in DreamWorld!  🙂

This is not the time or place to get into it all, but it seems I will be heading into another of my own health battles, of the bureaucratic nature this time, and any well wishes and prayers would be appreciated!

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First post of 2014!

How was everyone holiday and new year’s celebration?  Geoff and I had the chance to take a little road trip to see some family, which was really fun!  We got to hit some stops coming and going we’d been wanting to see for a while, so I’ll just get right into it.

First stop was the Arizona Deer Farm!  I visited the deer farm with my family when I was about 4 or 5, and I remember it quite vividly.  I was very excited to realize that not only was the place still around, it was pretty much right on our way!  It’s more of a large petting zoo than a farm per say, and they encourage photographs to be taken.  I have a series coming up which is taking a lot of inspiration from deer, so it was very much a win-win situation for me!  Thanks to Geoff for taking all the photos that have me in them!

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There’s a path for people to walk on, and most of the deer mill about freely inside a large enclosure.   They have plenty of places they can go and hang out or take a nap that are well off the path, so they only are interacting with you if they want to.  And since you get a big cup of feed when you go in, many of them want to 🙂

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Most of the deer are fallow deer; as you can see, they don’t get terribly large, they come in a variety of beautiful colors, and they retain their fawn-like spots into adulthood.

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The price of food: one smooch on the head. This one thought it was a fair trade.

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Checking my hair for edibility; sorry, buck.

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Sadly, my coat is also not edible.

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The males have the most stunning antlers of any deer I’ve seen!  I took lots of photos of this handsome gentleman.

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Once we arrived safely in Kansas, we settled in to the cold weather.  They had an unusual amount of snow for this time of year, which was sighed at by all the locals but I rejoiced in.  We met up with Erick Riedell, a friend of Geoff’s since Junior High, who also got ordained and married us, and who is also a photographer.  In addition to being an all-around great guy, he’s a cancer survivor twice over now.  He had volunteered to be a part of DreamWorld while we were back, and I wanted to find a way to honor his battle and triumphs… hopefully I’ll be able to share the result of that shoot soon!

While we were wandering around a snow-covered wood for the shoot, I was enchanted by the fairy-world sparkle the snow gave all the plants.  I snapped this shot, which reminded me of the fairy tale of The 12 Dancing Princesses and the underground world where all the trees and fruit are made of jewels.

Little Jewels

Little Jewels

On our way back home we stopped at the Wigwam Motel, the epitome of Route 66 kitsch.  We’d stayed there once before, and while the rooms are humble, they are so fun to stay in!  It looks like very little has changed since it opened in 1950.

A cellphone snap of our wigwam.

A cellphone snap of our wigwam.  Those are my gloves on the car trunk, not a wad of used tissues as it appears.

As we made our way home from Arizona, we stopped at The Roadkill Cafe, another historic Route 66 stop.  They had great food (which was not at all made out of roadkill) along with a lovely hand-drawn sign honoring the fallen Hotshot firemen.  I had an unsettling moment when I saw the sign; my heart sank at the reminder of all the brave souls who were lost that day, but I loved that the cafe was honoring their lives and memories.  Regular readers will remember why the loss was hard for me.

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Thank you, Roadkill Cafe, for your very sincere and personal gesture showing your gratitude to the firemen heroes.

So now… on to the first photo of the year!  As much as possible, I feel it’s important to start a year off right with my photos.  Get going on a direction that will determine a positive trajectory.  I wanted my first photo of 2014 to be one I’d look back on proudly.  This photo ended up being quite a bit more work to edit than I’d expected, but I felt waiting a little longer would be worth it.

This concept was actually one I’d shot with Katie at our very first shoot many months ago, but it just didn’t turn out quite like I’d wanted.  The concept was a DreamWorld character; a wind spirit, or perhaps wind goddess would be more appropriate.

I started by making her an art nouveau-inspired headdress.  I remember I’d been looking at one of my books on Alphonse Mucha and had wanted to make a headdress similar to what many of his women are adorned with.

I used my foam head to pin and hot glue sensual, looping ribbons into a headband shape.  The forehead and sides were decorated with masses of little white flowers and small glitter-covered styrofoam balls in a variety of sizes.

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It was meant to be worn rather low over the forehead, which almost instantly gave it that art nouveau feel.

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After that, I hot glued long strands of ribbon to the headband and dotted them with a few more of the styrofoam balls which would help show the blowing wind, along with making it feel more magical.

The second shoot went much better than the first one did!

Where Earth Meets The Sky

Where Earth Meets The Sky

Where Earth Meets The Sky - detail.

Where Earth Meets The Sky – detail

Katie always plays ethereal goddess-types so easily!  Her acting chops are so important to the kind of photography I do.  We both would like to see this kind of headdress become fashionable so we could just go around wearing them all day, at, say, the grocery store… so how about it?  Would you like a wind goddess headdress of your own to help start a trend?  🙂

Thanks to Katie for her patient modeling and to all my readers!  I hope your year has been off to a great start!

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