LGBT

Empty

“We hear only our own voices, still echoes returning to our emptiness.”
—Dejan Stojanovic,
The Sun Watches the Sun

James and I should be celebrating 23 years of life together today. Instead, I just feel the emptiness of grief.

"Empty", Nikon D800, ISO 400, f/8 at 1/160 sec., 17 mm

“Empty”, Nikon D800, ISO 400, f/8 at 1/160 sec., 17 mm

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Photographing people, places, pets and ponderings
throughout Central Florida.

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Distorted Love: The Toll Of Our Christian Theology On The LGBT Community

Though not my usual fare, I am re-blogging this post because I am so impressed by it’s poignant look at a very real condition. I have long said that the majority of Christianity will have to answer one day to the people that it has turned away from Christ through intolerance. It’s refreshing to see a pastor who’s finally caught on and is sharing the message.

john pavlovitz

SadGirl


Love doesn’t always look like love.

When I published this blog post two weeks ago, I was prepared for some people to applaud it, and for others to condemn it. That’s what happens whenever you put an opinion out there.

I was fully prepared for the waves of both support and hostility that accompany any vantage point on anything, especially a controversial topic like Sexuality. 

What I was not prepared for in any way, were the literally hundreds and hundreds of people who have reached out to me personally, to thank me for bringing some healing and hope to their families. Parents, children, siblings, and adults have confided in me (some for the first time anywhere), telling of the pain, and bullying, and shunning they’re received from churches, pastors, and church members; from professed followers of Jesus.

Scores of people from all over the world have shared with me their…

View original post 950 more words

You Are My Sunshine

You are my Sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you
Death can’t take my Sunshine away.

Remembering my husband, James Cantrell, on this 1st anniversary of losing him to cancer.

"James" [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/2.0 at 1/5000 sec., 50 mm

“James” [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/2.0 at 1/5000 sec., 50 mm

iPhone-James_Earl_Holding_hands_w_Rings-800x600.jpg

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All of Me

“These wounds won’t seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There’s just too much that time cannot erase”
— Evanescence,
My Immortal

As you can see, I spent some time at the local cemetery again, pondering and perusing the grave decorations. I came upon a few decorations I wanted to photograph for inclusion in my series A Grave Image, and will share those in my next few posts. There is something oddly cathartic for me in the making of these images; something that makes losing James take on a broader context among so many other monuments and tokens commemorating life, friendship and undying love. I find community and understanding in these visual testimonies placed here by fellow members of the fraternity of grief into which I’ve been involuntarily swept up and irrevocably indoctrinated.

I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out. She seemed to take on a life of her own during post-processing and the final image emerged without any forethought of creative intent on my part. I hope you like it.

"The Third Angel" - copyright 2014, earlharrisphotography

“The Third Angel”, Nikon D800, ISO 320, f/2.8 at 1/2500 sec., 28mm
Click the image to view larger size and available print options.

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Photographing people, places, pets and ponderings.

Booking family, personal, business and pet portrait sittings throughout Central Florida

Gerbera Daisy, Transformed

Over the 9 years we were in Utah, James and I didn’t spend Christmas or Thanksgiving together. We both felt that it was important to spend the holidays with our parents: it was important to them and we would have plenty of holidays together after the blessing of having our parents around was lost. I always went home for Christmas and he went home for Thanksgiving. Whomever wasn’t going home stayed behind to care for our kids, the cats.

I took this photo in my parent’s back yard when I was in Orlando for Christmas in 2006. I remember sitting in the grass with the Nikon D100 I was learning to use, very aware of a nearby nest of ants. James liked the photo so much, I gave him a framed 18×24 print for our anniversary. It still hangs on the wall, transformed now somehow into a reminder of how fate can mock our plans and best intentions. This morning, I came across the original image file and decided to revisit it and clean it up using my current editing skills and tool set. The end result isn’t as bright as the original — an unintentional but probably subconsciously driven outcome, for the same can now be said of me. One of the things that has always and will always draw me to photography is the ability of an image to make me reflect and feel, much like one does upon hearing an old, significant song.

"Gerbera Daisy, Transformed", Nikon D100, ISO 200, f/5.6 at 1/250 sec., 98mmClick the image to view larger size and available print options.

“Gerbera Daisy, Transformed”, Nikon D100, ISO 200, f/5.6 at 1/250 sec., 80mm
Click the image to view larger size and available print options.

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Photographing people, places, pets and ponderings.

Booking family, personal, business and pet portrait sittings throughout Central Florida.

That Thing With Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers –
that perches in the soul –
and sings the tunes without the words –
and never stops – at all…

— Emily Dickinson

Today is James’ birthday. This is one of the “firsts” I have been dreading; James and I always treated each other to a special dinner at a favorite or must-try fine restaurant for our birthdays. That time has past, that life is gone. Knowing I didn’t want to be anywhere else today, I drove to North Georgia to spend the day with his mom, sister and brother. We will visit and place flowers on his grave. We will grieve. We will mourn. We will find joy in our love, comfort and hope in our faith. But despite all that we will share, we will walk away with nothing to fill the holes in our hearts and still too many days until we will see him again.

Happy birthday, James. You are — and will always be — my sunshine.

"At-one-ment", Nikon D800, ISO 200, f/10 at 1/100 sec., 122mm

“At-one-ment”, Nikon D800, ISO 200, f/10 at 1/100 sec., 122mm
Click on the image to view larger size and available print options.

Carly Simon: You Are My Sunshine

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Photographing people, places, pets and ponderings.

Booking family, personal, business and pet portrait sittings throughout Central Florida.

Eggsistential

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty what he was before.
      — Samuel Arnold, Juvenile Amusements, 1797

I am a few days early for a new year’s eve message, but today’s photo prompts me to get on with it. As I was walking along a sidewalk downtown, I came upon an egg that had fallen out of a nest built on a street light above. The sun had dried out the splattered yolk and a few ants scurried about the broken shell, feasting on misfortune. It struck me as a fitting reflection and symbol of the year that now comes to a close.

Despite the many advances in GLBT rights, I will forever equate 2013 to loss, destruction, pain and death. It is the year that shattered my life of happiness with James, watching him so cruelly and horrifyingly being eaten alive by cancer. Like a new and long-hoped-for egg, we embarked on the adventure of marriage on July 29 – after 21 years together – only to have that monumental accomplishment tossed out and splattered across the sidewalk a month-and-a-half later. Now, I sit alone in a nest that echoes with emptiness while hell taunts me with thoughts of what was and what never will be.

Goodbye, 2013 – and good riddance! I pray that 2014 will be a year that holds some hope of starting to heal from the experience this egg and I have shared. Perhaps my hopes are tainted by knowing all-too-well how Humpty Dumpty turned out.

"Eggsistential" [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 320, f/2.0 at 1/350 sec., 85mm

“Eggsistential” [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 320, f/2.0 at 1/350 sec., 85mm
To purchase a print click here.


Please vote for this blog in the 2013 Cool Photo Blog Awards – just click here and it’s done. Many thanks for your support!

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Now booking individual, couples, family and business portrait sessions for 2014

Current Social Engagements

Find me on Instagram at @EarlHarrisPhoto, where I am posting photos (including lots of kitty pics!) captured and edited solely on my iPhone. #herekittykitty #instagramcats

Tweeting from @EarlHarrisPhoto

And, of course, I’m on Facebook.

Cross of Shadows: A Question of Character

WARNING: Today’s photo comes with a bit of a personal soap box. Thanks for indulging me.

 

“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
— 1 John 4:8

Perhaps it’s all the hoopla and undeserved attention Phil Robertson is getting that compels me to write today’s post. I’ll be the first to admit it contains a great deal of an entirely personal rant based on entirely personal perception. I hope you’ll excuse me for adding another voice to the chaos.

As a second-class citizen currently denied the rights given to others, I quite often encounter those who think of themselves as Christians acting as voices for hate rather than love. To that point, today’s post is intended as a bit of a reality check. It is quite clear that A FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH has been put aside in the practice of the Christian faith, one which concerns me greatly. It is the question of God’s character and the failure of most denominations to understand and conform their teachings to this simple and critical truth.

The Bible teaches that God is love. (1 John 4:8). But what exactly does that mean? Let’s start by looking at what it does not mean: It doesn’t mean that God is loving. You and I can be loving, but we cannot be love. Only God can do that. Since scripture should always be used to interpret scripture, we can look at 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4 – 8 for a definition of love. And here’s where I’m going to ask you to do something different. Instead of reading these familiar verses as a revelation of what love is, understand them as a revelation of who God is. I’ve substituted “God” where “love” occurs in the scripture to help you see it.

“4 Love God is patient, love God is kind, it He isn’t jealous, it He doesn’t brag, it He isn’t arrogant, 5 it He isn’t rude, it He doesn’t seek His own advantage, it He isn’t irritable, it He doesn’t keep a record of complaints, 6 it He isn’t happy with injustice, but is happy with the truth. 7 Love God puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. 8 Love God never fails…”

Why isn’t this what churches — and Christians — are teaching today? How many times have you heard preachers hurl from the pulpit endless strings of admonishment about God being angry, eager to throw sinners into hell? How can this be reconciled with the clear scriptural evidence of God’s character? Who should you choose to believe, the Bible or your pastor? Yes — the Bible does say to “fear God”, but is the concept of “fear” communicated the kind that leaves us quaking with terror in a corner somewhere, incapable of having a relationship with Him? How can you truly love someone you’re taught to be afraid of? No, it means to look upon Him with awe and respect, reconciled to the truth that there is and can be no greater focus for our love and allegiance.

And what’s truly beautiful about that is the fact that God’s character is unchanging. Can you say the same about your understanding of Him? I hope not. “Judgment Day”, rightly understood, is not so much about how we are judged by God as it ultimately is about how we have judged Him. I may not be trained in theology, but I have spent my life studying God’s Word and seeking to know Him, despite the attitude of the church toward me. Though it would be nice to be accepted into a church family on the sole fact that I love God and seek to have a relationship with Him, I don’t need other believers to validate and confirm God’s love for me. I am grateful for the fact that God is love, even though most Christians are not even loving. Phil Robertson, and those like him, would do well to revisit Scripture and do so with an open mind and a spirit of understanding. Until they do, it’s not God they are serving, but His antithesis. Simply put, if it’s not love that motivates you, it’s not God.

"Cross of Shadows" [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 3200, f/1.8 at 1/80 sec. handheld, 50 mm

“Cross of Shadows” [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 3200, f/1.8 at 1/80 sec., 50 mm

I would appreciate a vote from you in the 2013 Cool Photo Blog Awards. Just click here and you’re done. Thanks for your support!

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Social Engagements

Follow me on Instagram at @EarlHarrisPhoto, where I am posting photos (and quite a few kitty pics!) captured and edited on my iPhone. #herekittykitty #instagramcats

Tweeting from @EarlHarrisPhoto

Stone Mourning

“Death abides by no one’s rules…it takes what pleases it without consciousness to its decisions. It destroys what it will. It took the pieces of perfection I once knew and shattered them. Now what remains are shards of a dream, drawing blood with every step.”
Cassandra Giovanni, “Pieces of Perfection”

One of the hardest things to face since losing James has been that every morning when I awake, he dies all over again.

"Stone Mourning" [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 320, f/2.0 at 1/1250 sec., 85 mm

“Stone Mourning” [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 320, f/2.0 at 1/1250 sec., 85 mm

If you like this post/photo, please consider sharing it on your social networks. Thanks for your support!

COUPLES PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: I need a couple, or two people who will pose as a couple, in their 20’s or early 30’s, who are comfortable in front of the camera and want to model for an outdoor concept photo shoot in exchange for digital copies of their images. If you are in the Kissimmee/Orlando area and want to know more about this opportunity, please contact me via the form below ASAP. Serious inquiries only, please.

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Living Through Death

At 7:15 AM on Thursday morning, 12 September 2013, the love of my life closed his eyes and won his 5-year battle with cancer. He will no longer play host to this hellish disease. No more will it eat away and destroy his body. No more hospice workers, medications, blood draws, infusions, scans and probes. Because cancer rendered him incapable of swallowing, no more must he agonize from going over 40 days without nutrition, save small amounts of water misted into his mouth with a squirt bottle so he could just let moisture trickle down his throat. No more will it cause him to worry about those he leaves behind. Yes, James won his fight with cancer, despite the fact it claimed his life.

To know James was to know a man of great faith. He had no fear of death and no fear of dying. He only feared what his death would do to those cherished loved ones he would leave behind. I believe that James won his battle, despite the fact cancer took him from us.  I believe this because, while it took his body, it did not take our love. It did not take our hope. It did not take our memories. It did not take the warmth that stirs in the heart when we think of James. It didn’t erase the impact he had on so many lives nor what he meant to so many people. It didn’t destroy friendships. It didn’t erase the innumerable acts of kindness and charity that James performed throughout his life. It didn’t unrescue all the animals he so compassionately rescued nor his ability to always put others before himself. It didn’t undo the joy that I learned comes from serving the one you love; from giving of yourself completely in order to care for their every need in any way you can.

In October, James and I would have celebrated 22 years together. During the course of these years, James taught me what it truly meant to love others. He provided a daily example of the life and vitality that comes from having a relationship with God – even if you’re gay. Prior to getting too sick to do so, each morning as James would get out of bed, he would walk straight to our bedroom window, raise the blinds, look outside and thank God for another day of life — another day for us to be together and another day to be with Him. By his examples, he taught me so many lessons with no awareness that he was doing so.

iPhone selfie moments after we were married in D.C.

iPhone selfie caught moments after we were married in D.C.

On June 26, when we first heard the news on MSNBC that the Supreme Court had struck down DOMA, James – not feeling too great after a chemo treatment – looked at me from his bed. With tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, he asked me to marry him. It is one of two moments I shall forever cherish. The second was July 29th, when – despite being weak and unusually sick from chemo, James insisted we stick to our plans to fly to Washington D.C. to be married, returning home the same day. Those few minutes it took for Rev. Cedric Harmon to officiate as we exchanged our vows in the shade of a tree on the courthouse lawn are among the best minutes of my life; I have never been so proud. That the events around DOMA unfolded in such a way and a time that James and I could realize our long-held dream of getting married was a blessing and a gift.

The photo of James below was taken in June, when his sister and childhood friend TC were down for a visit. We drove over to Canaveral Seashore, and I managed to capture this shot of James looking out at the water from the safety of the wooden steps leading from the parking lot to the sand. I was pleased because James hated having his photo taken and seldom would let me do it. I think he probably knew it would be one of the last times I’d ask.

As I heal from my grief and begin to refocus my energies back toward photography and building my business here in Central Florida, posts on I Shutter at the Thought! will resume and eventually take on some regularity again. Thank you for your support during what has been a consuming and stressful time. So many of you have reached out to me and offered me words of much needed encouragement, support and prayers. Please know your efforts have sustained me.

"James" [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/2.0 at 1/5000 sec., 50 mm

“James” [Click the image to enlarge/reduce its size.] Nikon D800, ISO 100, f/2.0 at 1/5000 sec., 50 mm

In closing, I include this video from Carly Simon, which I was thrilled to find on YouTube. It is my favorite version of a song I often sang to myself and subjected James to as I cared for him over the last year, when things got so bad. It’s a song about light, for a person who was a light and a beacon for so many.

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Find me on Instagram at @EarlHarrisPhoto, where I am posting photos captured and edited solely on my iPhone. If you like cats, I seem to be posting a lot of photos of them there… #instagramcats