Ann Brooks Photography

Photojournalism, art photography, studio happenings & resources

More Art on a Marin Organic Farm

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Cow Track Ranch gate



July 29th, once again I joined the artists from Art on The Farm at one of Marin Count’s organic farms.

Cow Track Ranch, is nestled in Nicasio’s rolling hills in the center of Marin. Owner, Liz Daniels had put out the welcome mat for artists to come do what they do! As a photographer with a bent toward travel and photojournalism, I found some wonderful subjects, not only the ranch the artists, themselves!

As I drove through the gate and and up the dirt road toward the ranch house and out buildings, I found several artists who had set up and were painting scenes from the many vistas along the road.


Artist Sharon Skolnik-Bagnoli at work

Sharon Skolnik-Bagnoli of West Marin was working on two watercolor sketches.

Down the road Deepa Jayanth was painting barefooted with a friend nearby.

Painter Deepa Jayanth at work with barefoot detail below!

Deppa Jayanth painting from a grounded stance!

Not far away Larkspur artist, Ann Switzer was painting a scenic pond.

Ann Switzer painting at Cow Track Ranch

When I got to the many ranch buildings . . .

I found Deborah Cushman painting a still life she had found in a scenic little greenhouse.

The night before they had opened Cow Track for a wedding reception which had been set up in the old barn. There were still paper lanterns floating above the floor which had been specially covered with straw for the previous night’s festivities.

Wedding decorations at Cow Track Ranch

To my delight I found an old boat residing at the far end of the barn … and right outside were several longhorns!

boat in Cow Track Ranch barnCow Track Ranch longhorns

Around the corner was the green modern greenhouse, though at this time of the year all the seedlings had gone to new homes to set their roots down. Loved the group of odds and ends at the other end of the greenhouse and the “Farm Fresh” image.

Cow Track Ranch greenhouse

"Farm Fresh" at Cow Track Ranch

Cow Track Ranch buildings

As the shadows were growing long I left the ranch enclave and headed back down the road. Along the way and just up the hill was Colleen Proppé, Art on the Farm coordinator, catching the rich light at the end of the day.

Colleen Proppé's work in progress

Current Myanmar-Burma news inspires me to bring photos into the light.

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With the momentous election of Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi to the Myanmar  parliament this week, I have been inspired to finally share a group of photos I made there a few years ago.

In March of 2006 I spent a few weeks in Thailand. One day, from Chiang Rai, we dipped across the border into Burma for just two and a half hours in the market town of Tachileik. So visually rich in such a short time and space!

I was absolutely beguiled by the Burmese people! So open and friendly! As Robert H. Lieberman, director of the new documentary, They Call It Myanmar said in a recent radio interview, in a country in with so much poverty, one sees a lot of smiles. That was certainly my experience six years ago.

. . .

A short walk from the entry was the beginning of the market area.

It seemed I saw Buddhist monks everywhere.



Around the corner from the market, a game

Smiling children, looked after by by auntie, by grandpa and at play.






Just folks and some young monks at the public shower!


Trishaw’s and their drivers — though mine thought I was a little strange when I just wanted to take a picture of his bicycle, he was most happy with the tip!




Here’s a photo of a typical trishaw, then my trishaw driver’s bicycle – which I thought was worth being a photo on a notecard in my studio.



With this last view out over the market street, as I was leaving I thought, “I just have to come back and see more of this compelling country” Sadly, it hasn’t happened and for me, it probably won’t, even though the country is opening up far move than it has been in decades!

Making Art on the Farm

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Last Sunday I drove out to West Marin – a beautiful, sunny, spring day. Traveling with my Canon 40D, my destination was the Cerini Ranch just north of the town of Marshall off of California Highway One. The Doughty family had opened their ranch to artists to come paint, sketch, photograph, or just be inspired, all under the auspices of Art On The Farm – every few weeks a different farm opens it’s gates for North Bay artists to come and practice their art.

There had been recent rains and the hills were green. As I arrived, I was easily overwhelmed by the beauty of the ranch, it’s classic old buildings, decaying machinery and green rolling hills. I was challenged to decide what, in all this, would be my subjects. In the long run, the day turned out to be an important reminder to me that what I am drawn to photograph is people living their lives, objects relevant to human activities. Not just beautiful scenery. I’m a photojournalist at heart. Ultimately, only the three photos below made the cut.

As I looked at the above scene, I made many photos of the old backhoe and the beautifully weathered barn. None really “spoke to me” until I got up close and personal, a reminder that I’m inclined to the more intimate approach, thistles, cobwebs, muck, and all!

Late in the day, I couldn’t resist an artist painting the trees and hills beyond, which are so typical of this part of West Marin.

Back down the hill at the gate, as I was heading home, the cows were heading home as well.

Art on the Farm is a community-based, volunteer run partnership between artists and Marin Organic farmers. Art on the Farm was the vision of Bolinas farmer and artist, Alan Mart. It’s history goes back to 1998.

iPhone 4s has an amazing camera!

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Down the hall on the right you can see the “Ann Brooks” shingle hanging over my studio door. Hope you’ll come visit.

I just posted a story about Art Works Downtown’s Dia de los Muertos gallery exhibition. I took all the photos with my new iPhone 4S camera. Absolutely amazing camera – though also a phone. In any case I’m loving having it with me everywhere I go. It’s gotten me back into photography.

You can see the story and all the iPhone 4S photos on my other blog, Ann Brooks Studio which I’ve usually thought of as my jewelry blog.








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December 4, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Old and New India

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In Jodhpur, India in 2006 I was in my favorite market street with my Canon dSLR. Among the many images recorded that day was this one.

I was taken by the fact that this single image seemed to symbolize where India was (and still is, I’d venture) – between two views of itself, between two worlds. Traditional India in a purple turban, looking back through millennia and India in a red motorcycle helmet, rushing into the 21st-Century.

Because the image was made in haste, the focus is on the middle and distance and not on the men, as it should have been. As it is far from technically perfect, I’ve never made it available in my studio. The other day, in the middle of a major cleaning project in my home office/studio, I came across it.

Darn, I still like it and so, decided share it with you here and now.

You can see more images from my Indian trips here on my website, or in my studio at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael, California.

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September 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm

A Manhattan week in early April

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Here’s a photo blog from my early April week in New York City, specifically, Manhattan. In years past, I had spent little time on the Upper East Side. I used to find a great place to stay, which turned out to be on the Columbia campus! Great new New York experience.

Here’s the typical scene, the Columbia University Library as I walked to the 116th Street subway station. I added the second photo because I loved the history written on the Library’s frieze. Early American history.

Our near neighbors were Morningside Park and The Cathedral of Saint John the Devine.With a nursery school on the first floor of our building, the children played below my window.

During our stay, we payed homage to some of the city’s architectural wonders including a door in The Village! The cat in the doors window? — actually the reflection from the side of a pet food delivery truck. When photographing windows, reflections can be a problem. This one was a gift!

Strolled Fifth Avenue’s extravagant windows, Tiffany’s wall art and Harry’s emeralds. And a touching homage to Japan’s nuclear disaster.

Watched shoes lining up at Daffy’s on 57th and strolling the Apple Store.

On the fifth floor of the Modern Museum of Art I could see three seminal, turn into the 20th Century paintings as I stood in one spot and turned in three directions.





One day during the week, as I returned ‘home’, coming up out of the Columbia subway station,  I found revolutionaries from the ’60s at the gates, working on today’s conversions!

First early spring, sunny Sunday in Central Park!

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Arrived in NYC Saturday night. Awoke to the first sunny Sunday in early spring. Just after noon I headed to Central Park with my camera and was not disappointed! Seemed the city had turned out to enjoy!

1950s North African market influenced my future travels, photography, jewelry

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The North African souq which was to influence my travels, my photography and my jewelry for years to come. Taken with a Kodak Baby Brownie.

I was a very impressionable teenager in the 1950s, when I first set eyes on a North African souq.

My grandmother and I had been traveling independently in Europe, from Ireland and Scotland, south through England, France and Spain. It was not all that long after World War II and Europe, itself seemed very “different” to this American teenager.

But I was in no way prepared for what I would see across the Straights of Gibraltar in Morocco, in Tangiers. The French were still present there and it was not unusual to see a European woman pushing a stroller on the same sidewalk with an Arab woman, covered from head to toe, with a toddler in hand. And Coca-Cola signs in both French and Arabic — on the same sign! The snake charmer! I found it all quite amazing.

But it was the sight of the the Arabs gathered in a souq, that North African market, that sunk deeply into my psyche. That view would influence where I chose to travel in future decades and even the jewelry I make today, a half century later!

It was my first view of how other people in the world lived that seemed in no way connected to the life I had known growing up in California. It stirred my my curiosity, my passion. I knew I wanted to see, learn more about other people, far away lands.

But then, time out to marry, raise a family and I was pretty tied down for two decades. I did manage to take my own children to Europe in 1973.

The yearning did not go away. Mexico was near and satisfied some of that need. Finally, in 1989 I saw India for the first time, but it was not till 2005 that I was able to return to India and made contacts with a Muslim family in Rajasthan that I would end up doing a photo documentary about their teenage daughter the following year.

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March 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm

“Rajasthani Hanki” – 100 layers in Photoshop

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One of my images, “Rajasthani Hanki” was juried into the current exhibition in the Art Works Downtown gallery, “New Avenues: digitally influenced art”. Yes, I know, I don’t usually photoshop my photography, but I sure had fun with this one.

From my notes about the image: “Rajasthani Hanki” was created in Photoshop using over 100 layers of carefully  chosen details from digital images I made in the cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur in India’s state of Rajasthan.

Rajasthan is in northwest India which abuts Pakistan on it’s western border. Historically the state has been composed of a number smaller principalities which were united into what became the largest of India’s states at the time of Independence in 1947.

Prior to statehood, the major principality in Rajasthan was the city of Jaipur (2.3 million population today) , which became the state’s capital. Another, smaller, sister principality was the city of Jodhpur, population close to one million today.

In this piece, the central image is that of a young woman selling posters of sacred Hindu imagery along a major market street in Jodhpur. This is surrounded by lacy balcony details from City Palace in Jaipur. Next are a series of women in the picturesque, walled Old Market in central Jodhpur. The remaining, lacy effects which complete the ‘hanki”, are of a variety of architectural details from various palaces in “Pink City” of Jaipur.

To summarize, photos of the women are all from Jodhpur. All architectural details are form royal palaces in Jaipur.

Cultural note: Marin County and internationally acclaimed Indian musician, the late Ali Akbar Kahn was court musician to the palace in Jodhpur for several years prior to Indian Independence.

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October 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Future Odalisque Café at Art Works Downtown

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Finally, looks like almost all the building permits are in and construction of Odalisque Café is about to get underway. This is how it looked when the Chinese restaurant that had been there for years, left and the space was gutted to the bare brick walls. I’ve always loved this picture, so untypical of my work.

Look for the opening of Odalisque Café, in the Art Works Downtown building on Fourth Street, San Rafael early in 2011. It will be a wonderful addition to the arts community and to all of Marin. More info on the Odalisque Café website.

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September 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Jodhpur photo honors and signs of rapid change in India.

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Over the Fourth of July weekend Marin County, California holds it’s annual County Fair, reputed to be one of the best in the country for it’s Fine Arts exhibitions. So, this year you can imagine how pleased I was when one of my images was chosen “Best in Class” for Monochromatic Photography.

Recently, over several years, I had spent about two weeks each in Jodhpur, in the state of Rajasthan in India. I was doing a still photography documentary about a Muslim girl who wanted to become a doctor and had great support from her family.

The other thing I always looked forward to in Jodhpur, was photographing in the vibrant streets, and markets in this small, ancient Indian city. I had found that about 5 p.m. each afternoon the light came streaming through the city’s major market street and was often magnificent.

It was in this street, at that hour that I took the three black and white photos in this post. The one to the right has been an award winner several times, including this year’s county fair.

Below are two others in that series. The year after I took the one with the man and the cows, I marveled that the same small street was a totally different scene – lots of motorcycles and motor scooters and no cows in site – signs of very recent prosperity!

On the right below, is a woman carrying her groceries in that 5-gallon can on her head, something else that was nowhere to be seen as prosperity took over in subsequent years.

Yes, prosperity is bringing large, rapid changes to many parts of India. It is growing harder to find “the old India”.

Technical notes: Photos were taken with my first digital SLR, a Canon Rebel XT, and the 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS lens that I still use on my Canon 40D today. The images were then converted from color to black & white in Photoshop.

[Addendum: The Indian photos were taken in October 2005]

Italian Street Painting Festival in San Rafael

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Last Saturday afternoon I had a great time checking out the street painters in downtown San Rafael just off Fourth Street, only two blocks from the art center where I have my studio.
This year’s festival theme was “Bella Terra” and was the 17th annual Italian Street Painting Festival. It is a fund raising event for Youth in Arts, an organization which, among other things, funds extra art teachers and art experiences in the schools here in Marin County.

I had my trusty Panasonic LX3 with me, it was late in the afternoon and the shadows were long. So at times I had fun playing with the long shadows in my images. Here are some of the photos, including one of a street painting being done by Erin Castelan for the main sponsor of the event, Youth In Arts.

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June 16, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Frogs or Fleas? Plazuela de los Sapos

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This February I timed my visit to Puebla, Mexico so that I would arrive in time for two days of sleuthing at an open air market. I was looking for unusual little goodies to add to yet to be designed jewelry for my collection.

Every weekend at Plazuela de los Sapos – little plaza of the toads (frogs) – vendors set up shop for a lively outdoor market. It’s often referred to as Mercado de Antigüedades or Antiques Market. To me it seemed more like a flea market, and I loved it!

Saturday I went looking for little charms and trinkets to hang on bracelets yet to be designed for my jewelry studio – both online and at Art Works Downtown. I did find some wonderful little charms and other goodies which, once affixed with a loop of one type or another, can be added to bracelets. I also found pieces that can be the center focus of necklaces.

Sunday I returned to the market, hoping for more jewelry goodies and found none. However, I did have my Canon 40D with me and came home with another type of gem — great photos for my notecard series, a selection of four follows at the bottom of this post.

One of the images for notecards is the one above, “San Miguel Arcangel”,  patron saint of Puebla. San Miguel and his niche is right in the middle of the little plaza where the weekend antiques market is held. The medium for the image is Talavera tile, for which Puebla is well known.

Here’s the plaza on the weekend …                               and then, during the week.

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March 11, 2010 at 2:18 am

Parisian déja vu in Puebla, Mexico!

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My second morning in Puebla, Mexico, I awoke with a strong feeling of déja vu. Actually a very comforting feeling. I had a sense of  being in a little hotel in Paris as a teenager, my grandmother nearby. How could it be? This is Mexico! My grandmother long gone!

Then I began reflecting on my hotel room’s high, double French doors with the solid inside shutters covering them, a protection from cold and light at night.

Yes! An intuitive sense that these doors were sisters to ones that had been in that small hotel in Paris so many years ago!

Then the suspicion, no I think I had heard that the French and other Europeans, had, indeed been here in Puebla. These immigrants, business men, bankers, industrialists had come in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, exactly the period of the building I was in now and that of others around the center of the city.

And so, that day and the next I went out with my camera on a detective hunt around the historic center of Puebla. Looking for more evidence of a European presence. More evidence that I wasn’t crazy, that my déja vu experience actually had a foundation. And here’s what I found!  — Art Nouveau is alive and well in Puebla, Mexico!

~ ~ ~

There is a little story and photo I took of my grandmother in Europe in when I was a teenager, elsewhere in this blog. You can find it here.

And on my website is a selection of photos I took on that European trip with a 1952 Kodak Baby Brownie.

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March 11, 2010 at 1:12 am

Fiesta of the Virgin of Candelaria in Oaxaca

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February 2nd is Fiesta of the Virgin of Candelaria here in Oaxaca, and I understand in all of Mexico. It is the special day when families dress up their baby Jesus figures and carry them to church to get blessed. Some dress them at home but, as it turns out, some go into the markets to have special vendors dress them.

… I discovered the Jesus dress vendors in Mercado Juarez quite by accident. Late in the afternoon I wandered down there because, though I had been in Oaxaca several times before, I had not visited that market in recent years. Much to my surprise, I saw several women with nearly naked Jesus dolls, waiting in line at two market shops where they were dressing the dolls in elaborate clothes, some regal, some quite sweet. I stayed, watched the process for some time taking pictures to record the event.

After taking a number of photos of the dolls being dressed, I decided I had to finish the story by following some of the dolls and their owners to church for the blessing. I loved the photo of the young woman in pink heading to church with her Jesus doll in a bag, peering out!

The last photo on the lower right is of the wife of the owner of La Olla Restaurant, newly back from church and the blessing of her baby Jesus which she is returning to the display case.


I am grateful to Carole Turkenik who, after more than thirty years living in and out of Oaxaca, has written “Oaxaca Tips“, a through and unique compendim of interesting places, happenings — including this event, shopping, restaurants in Oaxaca to share her insights.

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March 6, 2010 at 5:09 pm