Senior Love Triangle

Jeanie, age 81; Will, 84; and Adina, 90 are bound by their relationship. “Senior Love Triangle” is a long-term photo documentary that shadows three aged individuals in a romantic conflict. They view their connection as a shield from the loneliness of aging. Even though Jeanie, Will and Adina’s relationship began at a senior care facility in Los Angeles, California, the outside world is more like home. For them, the care center is a reminder of solitude. Attempting to find solace within themselves, they seek escape with each other. In describing their bond, Will shares, “We live above the law. Not outside the law, but above the law. We are not outlaws.”

Through their relationship, Jean, Will and Adina challenge socio-cultural norms projected about the elderly. Jeanie, reflecting on her life, confides, “I do not wish to assume all the garments of maturity.” Jeanie seeks empowerment, reiterating, “I want to be free.” For these individuals, aging is paradoxically a form of both loss and liberation. Attempting to find solace within themselves, they seek escape with each other. When I am part of the lives of Jeanie, Will and Adina, I feel I am engaging in questionable activity, in something different. Each day we searched for a new “adventure,” a purpose. I felt the comfort of being part of the group. But the thrill revealed sadness. I, too, experienced the remoteness that one can feel even when part of the group, or pair. I felt the ache that dwelled just below the surface of their romanticism.

I met Jeanie, Will and Adina at a retirement home in East Hollywood where I was documenting a woman who lived on the 4th floor. One night, I watched Jeanie, Will and Adina walk through the gates; Will had his arm around Adina as Jeanie walked behind them. I related to Jeanie’s separation from them. I identified with the sense that the balance between them could not be achieved. As Jeanie used to say, “To share Will is a thorn in your side. A relationship between a man and a woman is private. It is a couple. Not a trio.”

  • Jeanie, age 81, and Will, age 84, kiss on the street in Los Angeles.
  • With Adina to the left, Jeanie talks to Will as they sit on a bus bench.
  • Will looks at Jeanie who looks at Adina during lunch at a coffee shop. Jeanie struggles with memory loss and is surprised to hear that Will is living at a veteran's shelter.
  • Jeanie gets ready in her apartment to meet Will.
  • William and Jeanie embrace in the street as Adina waits inside the gates.
  • Adina talks to Will during lunch at the coffee shop.
  • Jeanie kisses Will on the bed.
  • Adina, age 90, holds Jeanie's hand as Jeanie interacts with Will.
  • Jeanie sits separate from Will and Adina at the ice cream shop.
  • Jeanie, Will, and Adina walk through the park on a Sunday.
  • Will and Adina approach an apartment door while Jeanie walks behind them up the stairs.
  • Jeanie places her head on Will's crotch as they recline on his bed.
  • During a conflict, Jeanie tells Will that she thinks their relationship should end.
  • Will grips his face in frustration as Jeanie and Adina stare at him.
  • Jeanie lies on the floor of Will's studio apartment while holding onto his thigh.
  • Standing behind a glass door, Jeanie and Adina discuss Will's distance from them.
  • Jeanie walks alone in the street after a fight with Will.
  • Jeanie, Will and Adina at the coffee shop.
  • Will screams at Jeanie inside his apartment.
  • After a fight, Will looks down at Jeanie as she decides whether she will return to the retirement home where she resides.
  • Will drops Adina off at the retirement home where she resides.
  • Jeanie puts her head on the wall of the retirement home hallway when she realizes that Will has moved from the retirement home and she does not know where he went.
  • With Jeanie in the foreground, Will, who bruised his face upon a fall, lies down on the floor of his studio apartment.
  • Jeanie and Will stare at each other while they meet outside her retirement home at night.
  • Adina stands with Will on the street as Jeanie stands beside them.
  • Will reclines on the floor of his apartment and Jeanie sits beside him at night.
  • Jeanie looks up at Will, as Adina stands to the left.

Vinny and David

“Vinny and David” begins with Vinny, then 13, when he was incarcerated for stabbing his mother’s assailant, and shadows him and his older brother, David, age 19; the long-term photo essay focuses on the brothers’ lives in their family, community and respective incarcerations over five years in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The photo reportage also shadows their mother, Eve; her two younger children, Elysia and Michael; David’s girlfriend, Felicia, and their two children.

Vinny, age 13, shares his thoughts sitting in a juvenile detention center in New Mexico. Vinny confides, “When my mom was being beat up, I was so scared. I wanted to defend my mom. I’m tired of seeing my mom get hurt.” While in juvenile detention, Vinny’s older brother, David, age 19, is incarcerated in the adult county jail for the first time in 2012. He has since been incarcerated eight times for aggravated assault, for which he was deemed not guilty; distribution of marijuana; and car theft. David, who was introduced to drug dealing at age ten by his father, has been in and out of juvenile and adult correctional settings. Since 2012, David has been under government surveillance programs, including the pretrial system and probation. Since addiction is criminalized in the U.S., and drug possession charges are harshly treated in conservative states like New Mexico, his addiction, as well as his mother’s, kept them in a cycle of imprisonment. After being separated from his family by the courts from 2012 through 2014, Vinny left his aunt’s home and moved in with David. Vinny, now 18, has a 15-month-old daughter named Jordyn.

Vinny and David have grown up in an environment of loss and yet yearn for love and a restored family. In the midst of turmoil, Vinny and David try to embrace their youth. Vinny describes David as a father figure, and David views Vinny as the only person who appreciates him.

  • Vinny, age 15, and David, age 21, before a summer storm.
  • Vinny cries after sitting down in the unit at the juvenile detention center in Albuquerque, NM.
  • Vinny eats his first meal in the detention center cafeteria.
  • With David standing to her right and Elycia standing to her left, Eve cries after learning that the court will not allow Vinny to live with her.
  • Vinny prays inside his cell at the juvenile detention center.
  • Vinny, age 13, cries during a visit with his mom, Eve, at the juvenile detention center. Vinny says,
  • Eve puts clothes on hangers, as Mark sits behind her.
  • Vinny, age 13, punches trashcans behind his aunt's home.
  • David shaves his father Dave's head before his trial.
  • Vinny carries his sister, Elycia, and his youngest brother, Michael, on his back as they play during an organized family visit at his aunt’s house.
  • Vinny reclines with his mom, Eve, on a blanket during a family visit at his aunt's house.
  • Vinny, age 15, squints as David, age 21, aims a BB gun at a pigeon during target practice on the side of Eve’s boyfriend’s apartment.
  • Vinny and David run at the foot of the mountains in Albuquerque.
  • David, age 19, cries in fear that the police will find him because of a warrant for his arrest.
  • David, age 19, sits in the recreation yard at the county jail in Albuquerque,
  • Felicia, age 20, and Lily, age 10 months, visit David, age 20, in jail.
  • David, Eve and Vinny huddle together in the parking lot of the Bernalillo County Court house after David is adjudicated not guilty of aggravated assault.
  • Felicia and David on the bed at the motel.
  • David kisses his daughter, Lilly, as Felicia straddles him at the park.
  • Eve lies next to her son, David, as he draws a clown in his notebook while he is hiding from the police because of a warrant.
  • Vinny and David tease each other as Vinny laughs.
  • Elycia, age 7, and Vinny, age 16, watch the sunset over Highway I-40.
  • Michael punches Elycia's cheek.
  • Elycia is breastfed by Eve.
  • Vinny, age 14, looks at David, age 20, and Lily at the end of their family visit.
  • David, age 21, looks at Vinny, age 15, as he smokes a cigarette on the bed. 

  • Eve holds Michael, age 8, in the motel's pool.
  • Eve, Elycia, Michael, Krystle, and Vinny, age 16, during a family visit at the motel room where Elycia and Michael reside with their father.
  • Vinny, age 18.
  • Vinny, age 18, and Krystle, age 32, kiss as a family member, Debbie, smokes pot next to them.
  • David, age 23, smokes a cigarette after a drug deal, as Vinny looks at him from inside the car.
  • Vinny, age 18, and David, age 24.
  • David, age 24.
  • David, age 21, comforts Vinny, age 16, after an item he made for his girlfriend is found broken.
  • Vinny, age 18, with his daughter Jordyn, age 15 months.
  • Felicia, age 21, laughs as David, age 21, holds her from behind.
  • Krystle, Felicia, Jordyn and Vinny gather outside where Krystle and Vinny reside with a friend.
  • Vinny, age 18, lies beside Jordyn, age 18 months, on the floor.

This Existence

“This Existence” shadows the relationship between Rosie and her husband, Adam, as she battles cirrhosis of the liver from 2011-2013. Rosie, married twenty years and is herself almost twenty years older than Adam, is dependent upon him for care. Adam is one of the few individuals who does not judge Rosie, yet he tells people who ask that she suffers from cancer to avoid the stigma attached to cirrhosis. Adam explains, “With cancer, it is nothing of your doing.” In spite of certain closeness between them, Rosie is often lonely. Rosie shares, “My anxiety comes back. I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’m sick. I think what will happen later. I am very scared of my life. I very soon [sic] call to Adam or somebody.”

Rosie passed away in 2013. In his poem “When You Are Old,” W.B. Yeats writes, “How many loved your moments of glad grace, And loved your beauty with love fall or true; But one…loved the pilgrim soul in you, And loved the sorrows of your changing face.”

  • Rosie, age 62, sits in her hospital room in Los Angeles.
  • A portrait of Rosie in the hallway of the convalescent hospital.
  • Rosie motions to Adam that she does not want him to leave during his visit to the convalescent hospital, where she was placed after the hospital.
  • Adam's hand on Rosie's leg.
  • Rosie in bed.
  • Adam signs
  • Rosie sits in her wheelchair as Adam stands behind her in a motel room during a vacation.
  • Adam helps Rosie walk to his van.
  • Rosie examines her face before leaving the house.
  • Rosie cries because of anxiety about being judged us unattractive in public.
  • Rosie and Adam look at each other during dinner at a coffee shop.
  • Rosie approaches the van as Adam sits in it.
  • Rosie cries as Adam dabs her face with a tissue paper.
  • Rosie sits in her room before Adam goes to work; Adam drives a bus for a living.
  • Rosie looks up at Adam as she sits in her bed.
  • Rosie and Adam look at each other while standing on the beach.
  • Rosie approaches Adam as she walks down the hallway of a motel in Palm Springs, CA.
  • Rosie
  • Adam leans in to be intimate with Rosie, but she grimaces.
  • Rosie and Adam sit in her room.
  • Adam holds Rosie's hand at the hospital during the final hours of her life.
  • Adam caresses Rosie's head after her passing at the hospital.
  • Adam cries at Rosie's gravesite.
  • A shadow behind a privacy drape at the nursing home where Rosie resided for several months.

Love the One You're With

Outside of Los Angeles, at the foot of the Saugus Mountains, is the Los Angeles Residential Community (LARC) Ranch of adjacent group homes for developmentally disabled adults. Debbie, age 51; Barry, age 59; Krysta, age 24; and Nathanial, age 28 live in private rooms in communal homes. During the day, Debbie, Barry, Krysta and Nathaniel work together doing manual tasks designed to keep them mentally engaged. Many times a week, the staff takes Debbie, Barry, Krysta and Nathaniel to restaurants, stores and parks. Out of 100 participants, some have formed relationships and sit with their partner every day. A few are married couples, while others are in long-term commitments like Debbie and Barry. Some have lost love. Some struggle with accepting that a relationship is over and wait, hoping for reconciliation, while others find new partners.

Debbie and Barry are sometimes in conflict over misunderstandings and distractions. Barry expresses feeling powerless when Debbie becomes emotional and he is unable to fix the situation. He describes, “I want to do something for her when she’s upset, but I can’t.” Sometimes when one might want to be alone, the other wishes for closeness. Nevertheless, regardless of the circumstance, the day ends with Debbie tapping Barry on the arm and saying, “I love you,” and Barry confirming that Debbie is “the only one for me.” Debbie and Barry formed their relationship thirty-one years ago at a daycare program for developmentally disabled adults in the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles. In hindsight, Debbie describes, “I had nobody. He had nobody.” Twenty-one years later, when Barry’s mother decided to place him at LARC Ranch, Debbie asked her family to let her live there in order to be with Barry.

Krysta and Nathaniel met when they moved to LARC Ranch. They met at a workshop and fell in love, and Nathaniel proposed to Krysta and hoped that, with her family’s permission, they would marry. After three years, the relationship ended and they are now friends. These relationships question the nature of romantic ideals as social construct and raise the question of how these individuals form their ideas about love and attachment. I am drawn to document intimate relationships within marginal communities. I was in search of subjects who readily showed vulnerability and embraced their emotions. Debbie, Barry, Krysta and Nathaniel hold no artifice. I wanted to observe what it looks like for people who display authentic selves to interact romantically. Romance is tainted with both personal desire and altruism; I endeavored to see if these couples mastered the balance or if this balance is a struggle.

  • Krista and Nathaniel kiss as Rachelle tries to interact with Nathaniel during a dance party at the ranch where they reside in Santa Clarita, California.
  • LARC Ranch, a community for 100 developmentally disabled adults in Santa Clarita, California.
  • Krista looks at Nathaniel during an outside gathering at the ranch.
  • Krista's grips Nathaniel's back
  • Krista sets the table for dinner inside the group home she resides in at the ranch.
  • Krista rests her head on Nathaniel's chest.
  • Nathaniel plays with a puzzle as Krista wheels herself around the living room.
  • Krista and Nathaniel dance during the Halloween party at the ranch.
  • Krista sits in her room at the ranch.
  • Krista argues with Nathaniel, accusing him of flirting with another woman.
  • Krista shows off her engagement ring, which Nathaniel bought with his step-mother.
  • Krista and Nathaniel interact while having a snack in the afternoon at the ranch.
  • Krista helps Nathaniel with his socks during an outing to the beach.
  • Krista cries after a breakup with Nathaniel.
  • Krista sits in the daily workshop where residents perform manual tasks, complete jobs, use the computer and do arts and crafts.
  • Nathaniel walks with his new girlfriend, Ruthie.
  • Krista dances with a new love interest at a house party for Valentine's Day.
  • Debbie, age 58, and Barry, age 60, walk through the ranch where they reside.
  • A photo of Debbie, age 22, and Barry, age 30, when they first met at a workshop for disabled adults.
  • A certificate from the ranch, indicating Debbie and Barry as the longest standing couple.
  • Debbie's hand on Barry's leg.
  • Debbie looks at Barry.
  • Barry looks at Debbie as she reaches out to him.
  • Barry stands beside Debbie as she puts her clothes away in her room.
  • Debbie sits on the bus with other residents.
  • Debbie sits with Barry on her bed.

Alysia

“Alysia” is an ongoing, long-term photo essay that documents a young woman’s incarceration and life thereafter in New Mexico; the photo essay begins during Alysia’s incarceration at the age of 16 and shadows her until her present age of 20. Incarceration of young women is a visually underrepresented issue. Incarceration is often too through a male lens, overlooking a large population of girls and women who are affected by mass incarceration in the United States. I consider this series as another visual articulation of love-loss intersections.

When Alysia was sixteen, the police raided her aunt’s trailer and arrested Alysia for being under the influence of methamphetamine. Alysia was detained at the Juvenile Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we met. Alysia’s stepfather introduced her to meth when she was fourteen, after her mother was arrested and sentenced to three years in state prison for car theft. Alysia confides, “The day my mom got arrested, that’s when I started fucking up in school.” When Alysia was thirteen, her biological father died suddenly. She confides that she doesn’t remember much from that time period, as the meth “burned all the bad memories out of my brain.” After being arrested at sixteen and incarcerated in juvenile detention, Alysia ran away from her foster home.

Soon after, she met Emmanuel, who would become her husband a year later. Both dealing with addiction, they ended up in county jail on Alysia’s 18th birthday. After completing probation twice and becoming pregnant, Alysia married Emmanuel and gave birth to Leticia, who is now two years old. Alysia remarks, “The best part of my life was when I met my husband and we had our daughter.” Now age 20, Alysia has returned to school to finish her high school diploma. She hopes to become a nurse. Meanwhile, Emmanuel, who has been incarcerated 28 times, has secured a full-time job as a security guard. Right before Leticia’s birth, Emmanuel’s former gang affiliate threatened his life, causing Alysia and Emmanuel to go into hiding ever since. Alysia and Emmanuel spend most of their time in their apartment when not at school or work.

  • Alysia, age 16, stands in command call at the juvenile detention center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • Alysia stands in front of her cell door during command call.
  • Alysia, age 16, cries on the phone to her grandmother, attempting to get in touch with her mother.
  • Alysia, age 16, comforts her cellmate, Jasmine, age 15, who just found out that her grandfather passed away.
  • Alysia, age 16, reclines on her bed at the juvenile detention center.
  • Elisha, age 13, sits in front of her cell door as Alycia sits to the left.
  • Alysia looks back during a Catholic Mass in the cafeteria at the juvenile detention center.
  • With her mother, Anastasia to the right, Alysia cries as she embraces her cousin before getting into a van to be transported to a drug treatment facility in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
  • Alysia, age 19, looks at her husband, Emmanuel, while seated on the couch in their apartment in Albuquerque, NM.
  • Emmanuel and Alysia hold up their daughter, Leticia.
  • Alysia tickles her daughter, Leticia, as Emmanuel stands next to them.
  • A bouquet of dry roses, a bottle and a photograph of Alysia's mother and her brother, who is in foster care, on the dining room table
  • Alysia puts on makeup before going to school.
  • Portraits in Alysia and Emmanuel's bedroom.
  • Alysia rests her head against the door of the housing office. Alysia and Emmanuel hope to move to a safer neighborhood where their daughter can play in the street.
  • Alysia carries Leticia's car seat down the corridor, as Leticia walks behind her.
  • Alysia holds onto Leticia's hand as she rests on grass at the park.
  • Leticia in Alysia's arms because of the heat at the park.
  • Alysia, Emmanuel and Leticia in a photograph taken at the zoo.
  • Leticia holds onto two bears as she lies on the floor of the apartment.
  • Alysia holds Emmanuel from behind.
  • The window inside Leticia's room.
  • Emmanuel, wearing his security guard uniform, walks out of the apartment building before work.
  • Alysia and Emmanuel  move towards each other to kiss.