Virginia Reath by Maia Kaufman

I met with Virginia Reath, women's health advocate and physician's assistant, yesterday. She is awesome. She was very energetic and made me think of Jane Fonda.  She has been working in women's health since the 1970's, and has seen every route this uphill climb has taken. 

I asked about her thoughts on the need for a space like this, and she got very excited. She believes that the main issue facing women today is a lack of knowledge and understanding of their bodies. There are 1000+ types of oral contraceptives but no one understands what ovulating is.

"Clinicians don't have time to inform women anymore; the people you do ask are uninformed, and the people online are crazy."

She's very excited about my idea and gave me some great advice, as well as offering to help me with products when the time comes to stock the store. 

A few things she mentioned that I want to consider:

  • Offering natural (herbal) options in addition to pharmaceutical ones
  • STD Testing/ Treatments
  • Diaphragm/ Sexual Health Workshops a la 70's/80's sexual revolution
  • Staffing the store with women's and public health students or health education students
  • Stylish but medical uniforms for workers (clinical but also beautiful and comforting design theme)
  • Incorporating conceptual art into the store- trying to get across how poor access to items and education is, but how this idea can help ameliorate that

Her assistant wasn't there, but Virginia told me she's very interested in the project and may be calling me to discuss. In the meantime, I'm going to continue thinking about the design of the concept- how much of it is an art piece vs. actual working store- and about how to get more involved with people in the health care fields.



Babeland 2nd Visit by Maia Kaufman

I decided to try Babeland again, and had a much better experience than the first one. The design of the store was more more thoughtful and fun. 

There were books and DVDs, many more products, and a wall about the history of vibrators which was fascinating- complete with old replicas and antiques.

The staff was extremely helpful and knowledgable. They also gave my friends and I free mini-vibrators. 

I still think I'm going to have to go for a different style and feel- not just because I want to differentiate myself from a sex shop, but because I want to make sure whatever I come up with is translatable to the rest of the country- not just a very accepting and liberal city.

Next, I want to try out some of their lectures and workshops, and also talk to a manager about staffing and training. I wonder for the future of my store how much of an obstacle it is to hire people with a passion for these topics, and to keep them all up to date with relevant information and science.

Agnes by Maia Kaufman

I had a coffee date today with Agnes Fischer, who blogged about her egg freezing process on Frozen Please. Agnes is awesome and I met her at Rachel Abrams' panel for her "Let's Get to Work" video screening.

Agnes is in her late 30s and is very open about the fact that she wants to have children of her own someday. Her blog has a mix of personal stories as well as a call-to-action of sorts for the way we talk about reproduction. 

She came up with the brilliant concept of Birth Control 2.0. Birth Control 1.0 is contraception- what we all think of when we hear about birth control. 2.0 is about what happens when you do want to get pregnant. Most women won't know they have a fertility problem until they try and fail to conceive. Sex ed in school only ever talks about preventing teen pregnancy, and doesn't cover the biological aspects of getting pregnant- how hard it may be, the costs, the emotional tolls. That's all left as a surprise to women in their 20s and 30s.  On the flip side- women in their 20s are being put on birth control without even knowing if it's necessary, since there are no fertility tests done prior.

Her point is that we're preventative in many areas of healthcare- dentistry, skincare, even in terms of women's health (yearly pap smears and breast exams)- so why doesn't this factor into fertility? There need to be better conversations with women to understand their bodies and their reproductive system to better equip them for making these hard decisions.

She also echoed the feelings I was having about the telemedicine aspect, which was good to have that confirmed. I asked her about going through the egg freezing/ infertility issue and whether being in a place that caters to those trying to conceive, those trying not to, and those who are already pregnant might cause any emotional issues. She said that she didn't feel that would be a problem- where she picked up her drugs for the egg freezing was a normal pharmacy that also sold birth control. Her thought about the issues of having a clinic/telemedicine was more about the fact that a woman going through this would carefully research her doctor, would have to go often, and is usually going to a place specifically for fertility issues.

I talked to her about the fertility drugs she took during the egg retrieval process. She mentioned there are only 2 pharmacies in Manhattan that stock them, they were extremely expensive, and you (obviously) can't return what wasn't used. She has over $2000 of drugs that she may never need that were left over. 

Lots more to think about...

Maven by Maia Kaufman

I'm trying to keep up with at least one thesis activity a week. Today I talked to Rafi Syed, COO of Maven Clinic, a telemedicine company focusing on women's health. I learned some very interesting things from him.

  • First, my initial thought that someone practicing telemedicine in New York to a woman in Texas was wrong- even in telemedicine, you can only work with a patient in the state you are based in.
  • Second, there are still limitations to how far telemedicine can go with lack of available diagnostic tools (such as the forthcoming Apple Healthkit App).
  • Third, the whole point of telemedicine is for women who don't have time to go to a specific place or set up an appointment, which if I offer a clinic with telemedicine capabilities in this store, might have just the same issues as a normal clinic.

The good news came from when I asked him about why they focused on women's health. He said that there's both a lot of good things going on right now in regards to women's health, but also a bit of a lack in terms of what's available for customers. Maven was recently awarded $2.2M in seed money, so there is definite interest to see more products designed around women's health. 

This all lead me to the realization that I don't think telemedicine is right for this particular idea. I think it would be great down the line to potentially partner with a company like Maven. The idea is to give women the most access and correct information as possible. 

I asked Rafi about how their plan for "Red States" where women's health is being highly regulated. They are passionate about providing quality care to women but still have to work within the states' laws. He mentioned that many states don't recognize telemedicine or even necessarily nurse practitioners for legal healthcare.

I heard this last part as an opportunity. If the laws are targeting women and women's health clinics, then perhaps if I have a for-profit model with only pharmacists and registered nurses, then I would be able to get around some of these laws. The store wouldn't be a place where any procedures can take place, but women can get accurate information before going to doctors who may be legally required to tell patients things that are not scientifically proven and can be dangerous.

So, taking a step back, and thinking of this as more of a communication device and how I can use that to my advantage.

Babeland 1st Visit by Maia Kaufman

On Friday, I had my first visit to Babeland. There were some great things about the store, and some less great things about the store, but I have definitely confirmed that this is a far stretch from the route I am planning to go with my thesis.

First reactions:

  • The store itself was very bare besides the products- little design and decor, no information about the products or sexual health.
  • The staff was hit or miss; one was very helpful and welcoming, two others were kind of short and less helpful. 
  • The tester products that were out all looked very used and worn.
  • At the counter was a pamphlet with events and workshops, which sounded great, but there was only one so I couldn't take it with me.

The lack of design and written information were probably the biggest issues I noticed. I understand the idea of not wanting to make it look like a sex shop- they don't want it to feel too gendered or "sexy" (think: Victoria's Secret), or too "dirty" (think: every sex shop on Christopher Street). I feel like it rejecting all of that though, they were left with a bland and not very inviting store. I am going to go to a few more to see if this is cross the board or just this one.  

As for the lack of info, I'm not sure if that was to encourage customers to speak to the staff, but it was frustrating looking at a plethora of oddly shaped objects and not being able to figure out what they were, or how they might be the right or wrong product for me.

It's a good start for me to be able to see what I do want to pursue, and what I don't like that I can learn from. The array of products was amazing, and the designs of the products themselves were unique and often well thought out. It was very non-judgmental and it didn't feel seedy, which has been the norm in other sex shops, and is definitely something I need to strive for.

Video Reflections by Maia Kaufman

I was really overwhelmed by the positive response I got from my video. I feel like I'm heading down the right path, both for me and my audience. I absolutely agree that I need to work a little on my central argument. It doesn't need to be a "this or that" structure, and I should look at it more as a way to sway those on the fence towards seeing this as a positive change, rather than a defensive act. 

I received great suggestions from my class about both the video content/voice and about the product itself. The idea of having lectures and workshops at the store was not something I had thought about previously, but would be very helpful in 'changing the conversation' which is my main goal. 

It has been a great experience to sort of 'try-on' different ideas throughout the semester and see what felt right and what didn't. This is definitely starting to feel right, and I am confident that I can make the video in a way that it will be less defensive, more informative about the idea, and a way to grab those who may not have been interested in the topic initially.

Thesis Video Draft #1 by Maia Kaufman

Above is my first draft of my thesis video. I have finally zero'ed in on a single idea, which I will spend the summer researching and exploring to see how viable an option it is, and how this idea could genuinely help to change the landscape of the women's rights conversation.

Keeps Changing by Maia Kaufman

After I narrowed down my ideas earlier this week, I started to feel stuck again. I think I may have tried to focus in too quickly, without thinking about the long term goals.

I met with Rachel Abrams today, who amazingly has done a lot of research in really similar fields as I have- new fertility technologies and reproductive issues (social, technological and emotional). I have kind of a whole new direction, by which I mean none at all, but in the best possible way.

I'm taking a step back and keeping all doors open. I'm going to think about all the different areas I'm interested in- not just reproductive rights or ob/gyn offices. I want to see if climate change has a place in here as well.  Every topic I have thought about recently has left in the back of my head a nagging thought- 'none of this will matter if the world doesn't exist for the next generation.' 

I feel like before we can think about procreating, we need to get it right here and now. It may be about education, health care, child/day care, etc. I'm trying to look at the whole picture (yay systems thinking!), and envisage the world I want to see in a year from now, and then think backwards as to how we're going to get there, and what my part of that will be.

First Impressions by Maia Kaufman

Two articles have greatly aligned my thinking today: this & this.

I thought about the research interviews I had (I have yet to physically review the tapes or my notes, which is why this is "first impressions") and felt a more interesting thread around women coming together and sharing information.

Many women, some I knew and some I didn't, had no problem talking frankly about these issues, but there was still a lot of misinformation being thrown around. Most women don't have in depth conversations with their doctors about contraception or sexual health- they have them with their friends and sisters and mothers.  It kind of reminded me of old knitting circles.  

I started thinking that maybe there's something here- a way to infuse correct, expert information into these kinds of personal conversations. Or the reverse- make the doctor's office (or Planned Parenthood, or maybe even some third party organization) a warm, welcoming, fun place to hang out and get vital and correct information about these issues.

My mom suggested I start by reading "Our Bodies, Ourselves." Apparently when this came out, it was a way for women to get information about their bodies that they weren't getting anywhere else. I've heard of the book, but was unfamiliar with the implications or impact.

So that's where I am right now. Still huge and broad and vague, but in a slightly better place than I was about a week ago.

Interview Process Started! by Maia Kaufman

I had a very fruitful weekend. I conducted 1 expert interview and about 6 subject interviews. I framed those as around the ideas of contraception and pregnancy tests, but left it very open to see where the conversations went.

It was fascinating to see how open women (some of whom I'd just met) were to talking about these very personal issues with me. There were some interesting threads, but even more differences than I would have thought going in.

I am hoping to spend some time today and tomorrow listening to the interviews again and starting to make some connections for a consistent pain point or leverage area. 

All of my subjects were between the ages of 23 and 28 and single. In my next set of interviews I'm hoping to get a wider range of ages, as well as talking to people who are in long term relationships.


Reproductive Anxiety by Maia Kaufman

In last week's session I had a breakthrough. When going over my nuggets with Allison, I wasn't feeling confident. She even said it felt like I was forcing something. I went back to my group and shared some of them. I off-handedly told them about my first idea- the one I keep coming back to and is the reason I am in DSI at all- and they all jumped on it.

This was the original nugget:

I want to invent a pregnancy/ovulation/testicular cancer test that would check your status daily & automatically.  Most people are not aware that pregnancy tests also indicate testicular cancer in men. This is a product for both genders that would relieve anxiety, allow someone to know their health status earlier than they otherwise would, and for women, possibly help prevent unwanted pregnancies all together....

In summary: I want to create an intervention that relieves some of the anxiety around both planned and unplanned pregnancies and may serve as an early warning for testicular cancer patients.

There are a lot of questions and issues around this, but the support from my cohort has given me the confidence not to abandon it.

I spent a lot of this week thinking about the logistics, and that I need to step back a little and find out if this is even feasible. I am going to tailor my research for now around this issue which I am calling "reproductive anxiety."

This includes the stress around getting pregnant and not wanting to get pregnant, around getting and taking birth control, and getting and taking pregnancy tests. I am going to interview men and women about their experiences and find the 'pain points' and 'leverage points.' It may be that my original idea would only create more anxiety, or physically isn't possible. If I do the research around this whole issue though, I am confident I will find other areas where there could be an intervention.

Thesis Nuggets #3, 4, & 5 by Maia Kaufman

Article: Block That Sperm

Possible thesis topic: Male birth control

The community would be heterosexual men ages 18-40 of various socio-economic backgrounds, races, and relationship statuses. The research would be around what barriers there are to men embracing this technology, and what possible leverage points there are to this idea becoming more mainstream.

Possible Intervention: Start campaign to inform men about current and future options for male birth control and what the benefits are to themselves and women.

Article: Pregnant Worker's Rights

Possible Thesis Topic: Pregnant women in the workplace

This is one of the issues that I believe can narrow the gap around reproductive rights issues. Women need to be aware of their rights as workers- around maternity leave, lactation rooms, and light accommodations, and be able to exercise those rights without repercussions from their employers. Research would revolve around past and present litigation around this issue, as well as talking to current pregnant employees.

Possible Intervention: A third party, non-legal representative to facilitate the dialogue between pregnant workers and their employers.

(This one's a little out of left field)
Inspiration: I was on 5 flights in the last week, and started to pay a lot of attention to the in-flight videos.

Possible thesis topic: Airplane safety information

The research around this would involve learning about the origins of the safety procedures, as well as applicable data from airplane incidents. I would imagine the community might be hard to access- airline management- but flight attendants and frequent fliers might be a good place to start.

Possible inventions: Airline safety stations in airports, shorter videos, better graphics.


Thesis Nuggets #1 & 2 by Maia Kaufman


Identify a possible thesis topic.
Briefly describe an article or observation it came from.

Answer the following questions:

  1. Is the community accessible?
  2. Is there research to be done?
  3. Can you imagine the possible interventions?

"Create an intervention that _______________"

Idea #1

Possible thesis topic: Emphasize the bridge issues between pro-life and pro-choice groups to create less divide and more collaboration.

This comes from personal experience with close friends and family (and LOTS of research into reproductive rights- I have a list of websites). To many, there is no gray area around abortion rights. However, there are many women's rights issues that the pro-life (to use their terminology) and pro-choice organizations could work together on, such as maternity leave, child care, fertility treatment coverage With their combined influence and power, could have a positive effect for women in this country.

1. The community is very accessible. There are organized groups of both viewpoints in this city. I think it would also be key to talk to women who may not fully identify with either camp.

2. There is a lot of research to be done. I have no idea if anyone has ever tried to bridge these two groups, but I would want to find similar case studies of polarizing issues becoming less of a controversy by collaboration.

3. I would see the intervention as bringing together men and women on both sides, and focusing on a new topic. By showing that the sides don't have to be enemies, and can have impact when working together, it will hopefully start the conversation that these issues are not black and white.

"Create an intervention that bridges the gap between pro-life and pro-choice groups."

Idea #2

This is an idea I've had for a very long time, and I'm not quite ready to abandon it, even though I'm not sure that a) it's viable, or b) this would be the best use of my thesis time.

I want to invent a pregnancy/ovulation/testicular cancer test that would check your status daily & automatically.  Most people are not aware that pregnancy tests also indicate testicular cancer in men. This is a product for both genders that would relieve anxiety, allow someone to know their health status earlier than they otherwise would, and for women, possibly help prevent unwanted pregnancies all together.

1. The community of users is accessible- it's literally any woman of child-bearing age and any man. The community of say scientists and ob/gyns to help me develop this may be harder to access.

2. So much research to be done. That's the most daunting part. Both scientific (can this even exist) and personal (is this something people want and would use, and how to create the best user experience for it).

3. I have been imagining this for years, and while the item itself changes (I've imagined a color coding system, digital readouts, text alerts), but I am very excited about the possibility of this being a real product. 

"Create an intervention that relieves some of the anxiety around both planned and unplanned pregnancies and may serve as an early warning for testicular cancer patients."

What I'm Reading by Maia Kaufman


"Track all the articles you read for the next 3 weeks. Keep a list. Everything. Online and offline. Don't self censor. In the third week look at your list and see if you can identify the themes that run through these articles. What connects these stories."


So to begin, I made a pie chart. I looked at everything I read, categorized it by main issue or theme, and compared each category. I was dismayed to see that I apparently spend more time reading things like "Awkwardly Sitting Cats" as opposed to issues on gay rights or even art and design. Really though- how funny are those cats? (Answer: very.)

I also wanted to look at where I was getting my news and that too was enlightening. I really need to branch out! 

I work full time, and when I'm not at work I'm usually in class, a group meeting, or sleeping. I realize I have my go-to news sources because I don't have the time to sit down and let the internet take me where my unconscious may want me to go. That's a problem. Letting your mind wander if the best way to find stories and products you might never have thought to look for, and interests in things you never would have guessed.

I do tend to stay away from typical news sources, and prefer instead to stick to more removed, maybe more analytical sources. I have never enjoyed the news news. I find it alarmist, panic-inducing. I never know what's really relevant. I have always really liked Slate, because while it skews liberal, they often have headlines that first have me gasp a little (out of disagreement, not shock), and focus a lot on inequality in this country and abroad. I also like NY Mag as my 2nd main source, since it's local and can be as serious or as fun as I'm in the mood for, with the consistency of the brand. Here is the list of news (a term being used broadly- I'm looking at you Buzzfeed!) sources in order of most to least amount of traffic from me:

NY Mag
The New Yorker
Raw Story 
Fast Coexist

There are a handful more. Many of these were from Facebook posts, so I was paying more attention to the headline than the source. 

To take this deeper, I wanted to see if there were threads among the articles in the different categories. That's a lot harder to spot.

Inequality is the obvious big one. Issues about people being discriminated based on gender or sexual orientation. I usually read a lot of race related articles but apparently not so much these past three weeks. 

I think I get a fairly good sense of myself from this list. I do have a varied range of interests, but mostly I am more likely to click on a link involving issues around "women's" issues. I do hate that term, because any "women's" issue can in one second be linked intrinsically with "men's" issues, economics, employment, race, religion, etc. I like learning about new technologies, although I know when I read them, I'm usually skeptical about how well they actually work. I also really like stupid, silly, pointless articles. I loved seeing the smug runner fall in the snow and I won't apologize for that. 

Moon Film & Book by Maia Kaufman


"You are going to the moon never to come back to earth. You can take one book and one film with you. Choose a fiction or non-fiction book and a fiction or non-fiction movie for your trip. Write a report/review about each."

If I could only bring one movie and one book with me to read forever, I would want something that is enjoyable, layered and fascinating, but not frustratingly dense. Sometimes I think that scenario is the only way I’ll ever get through Crime and Punishment, a book I’ve picked up and stopped reading at the same point 4 different times in my life. I wouldn’t want it to be so easy or mindless that I bore of it easily. 

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges would be the perfect book for just such an adventure. Ficciones is a collection of short stories, but each one feels like a novel. In a good way! They’re very dense, and take a long time to read. They’re wordy, and descriptive, and at times mind-boggling. They’re also amusing, fascinating, and beautiful.

Borges is the most visual writer I’ve ever encountered. Even though the idea of filming any of his stories would be impossible, he paints vivid pictures. He leaves out most of the descriptive words and phrases that authors use. He rarely describes what someone looks like, what colors you see, or even where we are in time or space. He gives us these worlds though that only exist in his head but are immediately familiar. They're our thoughts and dreams. They're every weird thought you ever had fleshed out and given meaning.

I believe Borges may have invented the twist ending. Maybe it technically existed before he did, no one could have done it better than he. In ‘The Lottery of Babylon,' he writes a story about the beginnings of a lottery in a community. It starts off as a normal lottery would, where people participate and one person wins money. It goes on to include punishments for non-winners, mandatory drawings for all community members, separate rules for the elite. Ultimately you realize he’s describing the  meaning of life- the hand we’re all dealt at birth. The slow reveal and unusual way of looking at this issue is amazing. I admire any writer who attempts to tackle this issue- Vonnegut being another favorite of mine. What Vonnegut does in a novel though, Borges does in about 5 pages. Those 5 pages though, take you about a week to fully comprehend.

Borges, who wrote these stories in the 1930’s and 40’s, was also somewhat prescient. Many believe that his story “The Garden of Forking Paths” to be a precursor to hyperlinks on web pages, he describes going down the rabbit hole of the internet decades before the internet existed.

The most amazing story in the book to me, is “The Library of Babel.” In this, Borges describes a library that contains every book there ever was and ever will be. Each book in this infinite library consists of 410 pages. Every combination of letters and spacing is represented, so at some point, every book ever written would be in this library. It seems incomprehensible at first, but even now as I write, I think- this would be in that library. There’s no combination of words or sentences that couldn’t exist there.

He creates entire universes in stories that are a few pages long. He has made false histories of the world, his own languages and countries. The theme of questioning the world around me has come up a lot recently. I’m not one to take anything at face value, and I have always believed that there are things in the world beyond any human’s capability to understand it. Borges takes this same feeling and does something about it. He makes up his own answers to these questions.

Film is a little trickier. I love movies. I was a film major because I wanted to make them. The movies I watch over and over again though, are not necessarily the one I want to be stuck with for all time. I can watch Mean Girls or The Devil Wears Prada anytime I’m bored at home or sick or cleaning.  However, I would have to go with a movie that also made it into my Top Ten list- It’s A Disaster.

I believe this movie was made for me, and I don’t expect anyone else to enjoy it as much as I do, nor understand why I love it so much. I’ve watched it over and over again, but I don’t put it on as a distraction. I’ve put it on for a new person each time, hoping they’ll have the same reaction I do. They never really do. They like it, but they don’t love it. Love it.

This movie starts off at a ‘friends brunch.’ A ritual gathering of 3 couples and one single woman who seems to have an ever changing roster of boyfriends to join her. It quickly takes a turn into sci fi when they discover that a bomb has gone off, and they will most likely all be dead in a very short amount of time. Some react with shock, some go a little crazy, some start spouting conspiracy theories. It felt like exactly what would happen if I was trapped with my friends facing the apocalypse.

No one has a plan, no one knows what to do.  I have a go bag, but no plan. I don’t even know what’s in or where the go bag is- I had nothing to do with it. For someone extremely worried and frequently thinking about the end of the world, I am NOT prepared for it in any way emotionally or physically.

The characters in It’s A Disaster are still bickering and harping on petty issues right up to the end. They're arguing about what to do and who to listen to. One couple breaks up with about an hour left to live. It shows a strange combination of survival instinct and total resignation that must live within all of us.

I’ve recently been dealing with a strange and unexpected death in my extended family, and I’ve never been more confused in my life. I don’t want to talk about it, but then I can’t shut up. I want to know more about the accident, but then I can’t read more than an article or two about it. I went to their house to sit shiva and would go from laughing to near tears from second to second. Everyone else was exactly the same way.

Our tiny human brains are not able to hold onto too many thoughts at once. When faced with something bigger than us, an innumerable amount of ideas just ping pong around in our brains. Occasionally one hits the vocal center and we say it out loud, but that doesn't mean that’s the right one or even the one we really feel at that moment. It's just what makes it way out.

Looking at both together, a normal person probably wouldn't see much overlap. One is kind of a goofy comedy while the other is a renowned piece of literature. The connections are there though. Themes about life and death, mysteries of the world, the human capacity to feel and understand are present in both. They take issues bigger than any one person, but make them accessible and understandable on a small scale. They're both thoughtful and well done, every detail paid attention to. I would be happy to be stuck with either of them for the rest of my life. 

Timeline - Josef Sudek's "Sad Landscape" Panorama Series by Maia Kaufman


Choose one of your 10 "things" you wish you authored and create a historical timeline around it. What are some of the key moments in its path to creation and then after? Use books, articles, movies, reference materials. Include at least 8 "dates/moments." Be creative. If you wanted to do Uber you could include the birth of taxi cabs. For each date/moment try to articulate a problem in the world they were solving for at the time. Educated guesses are fine and encouraged. The idea is to start getting some practice identifying problems.

300 B.C. First pinhole camera (camera obscura) created.
The camera obscura was just a darkroom with a small opening at one end. It showed whatever was on the outside projected against the far wall, but upside down. It was often used for drawing/ rendering purposes.

1827 First photographic image produced (heliograph).
Since the discovery of the camera obscura, people seemed to want to be able to capture events and images. Painting and drawing took time and skill. Photographs were going to be a way for everyone to keep their memories.

1841 First negative to positive image produced.
The negative process allowed for multiple images to be produced from one moment, and eliminated the need for long exposures (several minutes of sitting still for portraits).

1896 Josef Sudek born in Bohemia.
The impetus to have offspring is one of the more profound instincts in life. Without this, plant and animal life would cease to exist.

1914 WWI Breaks Out.
An entire continent is thrown into a war that changes borders and national allegiances forever.

1915 Sudek is drafted, and subsequently loses arm in battle. He is given a camera to photograph the front lines.
This is an amazing example of not letting obstacles ruin your life. Something traumatic can end up being the most important experience that shapes your future.

1920s Sudek studies photography under Jaromir Funke.
Being exposed to other creative and like-minded people has a great influence. 

1939-1945 WWII. German Occupation of Bohemia and Moravia.  Czech rebels executed.
WWII ravaged Europe and destroyed families and identities. The effects of this war can still be seen and felt. 

c. 1940 Sudek has made a changing bag that fits over his torso for film loading in the field.
This allowed him to work with larger negatives (12"x16") to produce his contact print panoramas. The creation of the specialized equipment allowed Sudek to overcome obstacles from his disability.

1945 Germans expelled from region. Area becomes several de-populated.
While the expulsion freed the Czech people from the reign of the Germans, the sudden disappearance of a large amount of the population was jarring and left them vulnerable to other political threats.

1946 Bohemia placed under Communist Occupation backed by the Soviet Union.
The Soviets' goal was not about repairing damage done by the Nazi's, but to take what they could from the land and people now in their control. 

1949-1989 Czechoslovakia becomes Soviet satellite.  
Destruction of natural landscape due to over-mining and abandoned machinery.

1957-1962 Panorama Series "Sad Landscape" created. 
A series of photographs in Bohemia showing the beauty of the land, and the destruction from the communist exploitation of mineral rich earth.

10 Things I Wish I Had Made... by Maia Kaufman


10 “Things” you wish you authored/created - for each one tell us WHY you wish you created it. What is it about the artifact/program/work that you find intriguing and inspiring. Publish your list of 10 things AND YOUR EXPLANATIONS FOR WHY.


1. Any Giacometti Sculpture
    I am a blacksmith and welder, so I have an immense appreciation for metalwork. Alberto Giacometti's people sculptures have drawn me in since I was little and first saw them at the Met. This was the very first thing that popped in my head when I heard the assignment. There's something so beautiful but kind of bleak about them. I have thought so many times to myself that if I could have made anything in my life, I would have made these sculptures.

2. Any Josef Sudek Photograph, especially ones like this and this (apologies for the size, I couldn't find a larger quality version, but I just love it so much). 
    When I was in undergrad in Boston, I had an assignment to see the Damien Hirst exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. I cared very little for his work. I was feeling grossed out and defeated, and I happened to walk into a side room with a Josef Sudek photography exhibit. I'd never heard of him before, but I was going to Prague a few months later, and the subtitle of the show was called "The Poet of Prague" so I went in. I was so blown away by his photographs that I remember literally hopping up and down. I had been striving for the same kind of richness and contrast and subtlety in my work and this was everything I've ever wanted a photograph to be. Today, looking at it now, I realize it's been a while since I spent time with his work, and I was surprised to put together that my most recent work shooting panoramas was influenced by his amazing series. I am very much inspired by his work and life, and wish I could be him sometimes.


3. "Kalki" by Gore Vidal
    I could talk forever about this book, but I will try to keep it condensed. This is my favorite book. I have read it 4 times, at different stages in my life, and each time it does something new for me. If we want to get into the idea of works I wish I had authored- I actually wrote an adapted screenplay of this book, and hope at some point to submit it somewhere. I just want everyone to know this story. It touches on all my main interests: feminism, religion, the apocalypse, among many other issues. It's just amazing.

4. "White Noise" by Don DeLillo
    This is the first book I ever read that I felt was a real adult book that I enjoyed reading beyond a school assignment; I was I think 14 or 15. Heinrich (the main character's son) was probably my first literary crush. This book was much smaller and more personal in theme than Kalki. The areas that resonated with me had to do with anxiety, fear of death, and the hypocrisies of the adult world. 

5. "The Edible Woman" by Margaret Atwood
    I read this book more recently- maybe a year or so ago. 4 years ago, I experienced exactly the same situation that the protagonist, Marian, went through. I kind of stopped eating, fearing all food was somehow poisoned or tainted. It was a fascinating and terrifying period where I felt a lack of control of my own brain. When I read this years later, I couldn't believe how perfectly my experience mirrored Marian's. I had even started to write about my experiences before having read the book, but then felt- "well it was already done perfectly- there's not much more I can add!"


6. "The Royal Tennenbaums" by Wes Anderson
     This is another one of those things that just popped immediately into my head when we were given the assignment. I just think of it as a perfect movie, that made familial craziness something to own and appreciate, and not just be mortified or frustrated by. 

7. "It's A Disaster" by Todd Berger
     If I ever made a feature film, this would have been it. I genuinely wish I had thought of this before so that I could have been the one to make it, although this is pretty close to perfect as it is. I love disaster movies and the idea of the apocalypse in art and literature (as mentioned before). This was just made so simply, and took a world ending event and made it so personal and funny. The relationships felt real and the reactions were exactly as I would imagine them. I'm insanely jealous of this movie, but I've still watched it 3 times in the last year.

8. "The Collected Shorts of Jan Svankmajer"
    I love animation, and it was hard narrowing this down from a few really amazing artists, but I went with Jan Svankmajer because the craft of the stop motion as well as the concepts in the shorts are unparallelled in my opinion. The amount of time and effort is apparent, but at the same time, the films are seamless and fun to watch. There's just nothing else like it, and I hope to produce something as original, and humorous, and well done as his films.


9. "Nantes" by Beirut
    I am extremely un-musically inclined. I am actually confirmed tone deaf, so music in general is a mystery to me. I couldn't even begin to imagine how to compose a song. When I first heard "Nantes," my thought was 'this sounds like a dream I had.' It felt like it was part of my brain before I ever heard it. I feel like a really good song sounds like it comes from the ether; that no one made it, but that it always existed.

10. "Perfidia" by Xavier Cugat
     This song gives me a very visceral reaction where I want to cry out of happiness when I hear it, but I don't know why. If I were ever to have been musically gifted, I would like to think I could have composed this song.