"Speak not to me of the sweetness of revenge! Of all unhappy mortals the vengeful man must be the most wretched." - Jacob Riis, reformer, news reporter, and photographer who lived from 1849 to 1914
The Two Thieves LiveJournal shop was inspired by an event that happened recently to my family. The loft my husband, our two cats and I lived in from 2007 to April 2008 was broken into; and most of our electronic equipment was stolen, including my much loved, "my precious", Canon Rebel XT digital SLR camera.
The camera was a 2006 Christmas gift from my husband. I have a great passion for photography that started when I was a little kid. My mom gave me her Kodak Disc camera when my dad upgraded her to another camera. I had "photo shoots" in my bedroom featuring my friends as 1980's supermodels. I always seemed to have a camera on hand - at school, at home, just hanging out with friends. I've used everything from 35mm film to 110 film and cameras that were brand name like my first ever Olympus point and shoot my dad gave me as my high school graduation gift to my day-glo orange Le Clic 110 camera. My mom's older sister even got into the "Support Wendi's Photography" line of work by loaning me $30 to buy my very first SLR, and by far the best camera I have ever owned - a Pentax K1000. It came with three lenses and a bag. I had that camera for several years until a 10 year old killed it by dragging it across a parking lot. By Christmas of 2006 I had had enough with film cameras - nothing matched the superior quality of my Pentax. Finally my husband encouraged me to do research on digital cameras and when I found my favorite, he would get it as my Christmas gift. When the Canon arrived at our door, I was in seventh heaven. So happy to have it, but terrified to use it. I was terrified I would break it and be camera-less again.
Imagine my heartbreak the night of the break-in when I followed a trail of camera bag inserts to my bedroom only to find that one camera bag was stolen and the other left empty. My Canon Rebel XT was gone, as was my Holga medium format camera. During a phone conversation with my mom that night, she said that me without a camera is like me missing an appendage.
Soon depression and anger settled into my heart and mind. I was plagued by heaviness of both emotions. I felt as if I were Atlas carrying all my grief tight inside a huge boulder, shouldering it up a hill only to have it roll down again. Over and over I dragged, pulled, pushed that rock of raw emotions to the top of that hill. But never did it just stop and rest. Finally, I simply could not bear it any longer. I begged God to help me, to relieve me of my emotions, to give me strength, to help me forgive. I spoke with friends who encouraged me to pray to Saints - St. Nicholas and St. Jude and ask them to intercede on my behalf.
Slowly the pain edged away. In my heart a seed began to grow. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and depression and anger over what had been done to my little family, I was inspired to start my little shop to sell my jewelry, photography, and other art projects that I continuously work on. I named the shop "The Two Thieves" not as a reminder of that hateful event, but as an inspiration to turn something ugly into something beautiful. To turn my anger and depression into creativity and joy. And through it, find peace again in my home and my heart.
The Two Thieves shop icon is a sample of a Jacob Riis photograph "The Bandits' Roost" (1888). Riis spent most of his life photographing the dark and shady aspects of living in New York city. Jacob had a sense that one's own hardship should be used to be kind. When he was 12, Riis received a received a Christmas gift of money--so precious and scant--he gave it to a poor family living in a tenement. It is one of several acts of kindness Riis is known for throughout his life - fighting injustice through kindness and the offer of hope. I found this particular photo through an essay written by Len Bernstein, an American photographer who has studied the history of photography for over 25 years, using Aesthetic Realism (a philosophy of Eli Siegel) as his critical basis. Mr. Bernstein uses Mr. Siegel's philosphy to critique Riis' work.
Eli Siegel, poet and critic, founded the philosophy Aesthetic Realism in 1941. He writes in his essay, "Art As Ethics": "The artist...abandons his acquisitive, protective, grudging self to see reality more courageously, generously, fully than usual. Art is an original way of doing justice to things. The artist then wants to see sincerely, as something deserves."