February 17, 2008

My friendship with Deb

I have been struggling with my thoughts about Deb for a few months now. The fact of her loss fluctuates between seeming real and totally confusing because of my lack of knowledge about what happened. And then as I have been far away for 8+ years, sometimes it seems very unreal and impossible. I heard the news about Deb @ 3 weeks late, so I was unable to attend the memorial, which I heard was wonderful. Not having that sense of coming together with others who love her, which lends to a semblance of closure, has left me floundering a bit with putting it all together in my head.

My time with Debra living in the same city was short - only @ 2 years. I had the fortune to meet her in 1997 when we both were working for Stephanie in Berkeley. I was in graduate school for art photography and was not a very good assistant, and Debra really helped to coach me thru some tough days. She and I were instantly drawn to one and other, each one of us more curious about the other. We bonded away from work days over long chats and looking at pictures/artwork. We had a similar sensibility and were drawn to similar things. I was also drawn to her work, in part, because of her exquisite technical skills and I think she was drawn to my work, in part, because of the conceptual investment it had (allowed by time in graduate school). Together we were excited by the idea of having a collaborative photography exhibition, one day. Even after moving to LA from SF, I believed there would be a time when that show would happen. I would be honored to share the walls of a gallery with Debra. I looked forward to making it happen....

Debra was the only person who ever officially photographed me and I am thankful that I was able to be a part of her creative process and see her magic at work. The images she made of me are incredible. As someone who is more comfortable behind the lens, I remember feeling at ease with Debra- I felt lucky she was looking at me. I trusted (and still do) her vision more than most. One of the pictures we did was in Golden Gate park and in between shots she let me wear that black north face jacket and her bathrobe to cover my freezing toosh! After we were done we went to Cliff House for tea and talked and talked. I will never forget that day because I felt like our connection grew deeper. The strangest thing for me is after learning she was gone I madly searched for pictures of her. I had her pictures of me, but I wracked my brain to think of where a picture OF her could be. I am a photographer and I have pictures of all those I love, but I was at a loss for where an image of her was. Feeling distraught and frenzied, I plowed thru the boxes and envelopes only to come up with one image of her from Stephanie's wedding. One picture only. But I am so thankful I have that one.

My friendship with Deb was one that did not require a lot of upkeep and consistency. When we would see each other it was as if no time had passed and we'd dive into the topics, big and small, instantly. I know she was this way with many friends she loved. After I left SF we fell out of regular touch, but she remained in my mind one of my most dear friends and inspirations. Someone I always wished and believed I would have more time with. The last time we saw each other we had a visit at her house and it was a few weeks after her sister passed away. That was the only time I met Frankie Ray. We sat there for hours catching up on everything, as it had been a few years since we had seen each other. I remember leaving that afternoon and wishing so much that I could stay and just spend more time. And I thought that for sure I'd see her again sooner than later, now that we had reconnected. Then time just flew by.

I want to share two stories with you guys- because for me they were so bizarre, and leading up to the day I found out she was gone.

Last May I was home late at night- distracted by matters of the heart. I flipped on the TV to HBO and a show about LOVE came on and of course I was sucked in. As I watched and listened to interviews about desire and love, a beautiful black and white image emerged on the screen- and suddenly I was struck in my tracks because this beautiful image was of me. An image Debra had taken of me. I was floored and freaked out - wondering what are the odds that I'd be up late watching a weird love show only to see Debra's image of me on TV.... The image is on the cover of a book, so I knew it was out there in the world, but to see it on TV was too much. I had not been in touch with her for probably @ 2 years (I think) at this point and instantly emailed her and in the mail I said - 'maybe this coincidence happened at the very least to put us back in touch.' The next day we spoke briefly and then had a series of emails where she filled me in on some major changes she was going though. She said she had taken a sabbatical from work and life sort of, but that she was really happy. I was startled by some of the changes she mentioned, and her being happy about them was a little unexpected, but I was pleased to hear it. I wanted to talk more, to hear about it all. To no avail. I tried to see her in September when i was in SF for a concert, and she only sent me back a short (non Debra-like in tone) email saying she could not. I didn't think much of it. I next emailed her about another visit on November 26th, and was not surprised, but was disappointed I never heard back from her at all. I had no idea-- she was gone already. The next strange thing happened December 5th. I had a meeting with a photography consultant and in the meeting some advice that Debra had given me came up and I asked the woman if she knew her (she did not). I showed her the book cover with that same Debra image on it and was going on and on about who Deb was and her work and the coincidence of seeing that picture on TV etc. etc. Literally an hour and a half later, after that meeting, I got the phone call from a friend in SF who had just heard about Debra. The wind was knocked out of me. I had just been talking about how we had gotten back in touch. A week prior I had emailed her hoping to see her on Dec 1st..... how could this be that she was gone?

Thank you so much for letting me get all this out. I am sorry for the long windedness. Debra has held a very special place in my heart since we met years ago. Her photography and vision are profoundly inspirational to me. The legacy she left us with in her photographs has to be cherished and protected. As a human being, she touched with such grace, so many people. Deb's generosity, compassion and authenticity are unlike most. She left her mark on us in our hearts and in pictures. Hopefully that mark will continue to inspire each of us. To be more open, to listen better, to wonder more, to really try to see. Somehow I don't worry about her now. I believe she is OK and onto the next adventure- she transcended to another level. It was just a little too soon for all of us still here. The loss for us is enormous. But let's allow our memories and love for her, the funny tales, visions of her smile and boots and her spirit, to be a guiding light.

Wishes of peace and healing to Deb's family who I did not have the chance to meet, and to all her other friends who love her dearly.

All my best,

Lacey Terrell

February 4, 2008

A Few Memories to Share


What a smile!

Tabby, Kristi & Deb at our Christmas Celebration

Mere minutes before the now infamous Duck Hunt -1984ish

Deb & Frankie Ray

Deb & Frankie Ray - January 2007

Deb & Miah - January 2007

Asheville Celebrates Deb

The Asheville Memorial Service - Allen Sisters

Well, I guess it's time to get this posted. It's not easy you know. It means you have to sit down and re-read your notes. Which of course will remind you of all of the thoughts that went into making your part of the memorial REAL for the people that were there. Our job was to tell Deb's story...to tell everyone who she was so that they, too, could share in our celebration of her life. And also so they could share in our unfathomable sadness. This was a dreaded, tearful task. But what's a few more tears in this bucket that has grown into a leaky barrel?

Maybe..as time passes & the rest of our little Asheville memorial group makes it's way through life, you might see their words here too. (just ask MMS!)

There were so many people at the Memorial Celebration, which was held at the NC Arboretum. A peaceful place cradled in the Blue Ridge mountains that Debbie loved so much. Standing room only. 150 seats. People were lining every wall and were spilling out into the hallway by the handfuls. It was said that more of Deb's high school class attended this service than attended their last reunion. That's really no surprise. She had a following before she was born and she probably has one now. Knowing Deb, she's probably teaching Jesus how to catch the best shots in ambient light. Of course, that would only be after she had learned EXACTLY, and on the most profound of levels, just what he thought about the world today.

So here are the notes my sister and I used for Deb's service. My sister's are first. Mine are next. Please understand that we were given one very clear rule, "keep it light".

Kristin's Notes:
The Allens and McClintons first met when Deb and I were in the 5th grade. She and her family had just moved to Fairview from Buffalo.

At first I was not really that fond of Debbie. She was the new kid on the block and everyone seemed drawn to her…imagine that !!! It wasn’t that I was all that popular prior to her arrival but this was Fairview and here is this cute bouncy new girl telling stories about bagels and cream cheese and hoagies made with turkey and provolone. Who had ever heard of such things. Well, I obviously got sucked into this cult and so did Tabby Taylor.

That is when the 3 of us began a journey that still continues today. As Dad and Mr. McClinton always jokingly say, “Those girls grew up in the same bed together”. We were inseparable in those days. Always at one of our “three homes” baking cookies or making fudge or something.

One of our first serious tests of a friendship was in the 6th grade when we decided to enter a talent show at Fairview Elementary. We somehow choreographed a dance number to Michael Jackson’s “Rock with Me”. Tabby helped me to piece the details together the best we could. I knew that at some point… in addition to what we called dancing, Tabby and I did cartwheels but I couldn’t remember what Debbie was doing at that same time. We both concluded that it had to be some sort of back flip or round off or something fancy like that because of course Debbie was the cheerleader of the group. The final piece that I could not remember and maybe for good reason was not that we did not win but what we wore. Remember, this was the late 70’s…We wore white satin shorts with red trim and matching satin shirts. Pretty.

Tabby and I talked and laughed about how we can’t believe we actually had the nerve to do that. I decided it had to be because we were just too young back then to know any better.

The next great measurement of my friendship with Deb was when her on again off again boyfriend at the time, Ronnie Fisher, asked me to the 6th grade dance instead of her. During one of their off again times of course. Deb and I never skipped a beat. We were fine and eventually she and Ronnie were “on again”. And in hind sight….Debbie really didn’t have a thing to worry about. Maybe somehow she already knew that.

Then we moved on into middle and high school. Always riding around town in the finest of luxury vehicles. The 3 of us could often be seen in the Hay wagon. This lovely station wagon was used primarily to transport us and often hay and feed for Rusty and Flicka, the family horses that Debbie insisted on riding despite her severe asthma. Then there was Dad’s, eventually to be mine, Carolina Blue Ford Pinto… with a luxury rack. Another fine ride. Somewhere in there was what would later become affectionately known as the grocery-go-getter and many other impressive generations of automobiles. Until finally…the Red Rabbit !!!! Salvation had arrived .. that is until Jana burned out the clutch one night as we all drove home from a Reynolds Football game. She was supposed to be the responsible adult taking care of us.. Yea right….

Which brings me to my final story….We call it…”The Duck Hunt” It was 10th grade. Deb and I planned a weekend trip to Appalachian State University to visit Jana. My first college life experience. Can’t be certain it was Deb’s. First order of business when we arrived was to “fill the cooler” so to speak. Well, the University is in Watauga county..which at that time was a dry county. So the three of us and Jana’s roommate jump into her Sunshine yellow VW bug. She had obviously moved up in the car food chain at that point. We drove one county over to Blowing Rock, bought some beverages and promptly returned to campus. Jana’s dorm was situated around a pond. On this pond there were reported to be ducks…Debbie in all her wisdom and several wine coolers later, not necessarily in that order, decided that we should go in search of these ducks. The 4 of us bundled up as it was the winter and cold. Like a fine tuned military reconnaissance team we cautiously and quietly approached the pond. We did not want to startle the ducks or Campus police. As we moved around the pond it became clear that one of our team was missing. We quickly retraced our steps and followed the cackling to find Deb literally stuck up in a tree draped over a limb like a proud leopard with her prized gazelle. We managed to coax Debbie out of that tree and somehow found our way back to the dorm. But…we never did find those ducks……

I don’t really know how to close this little mini tribute cleanly. And maybe that is because it doesn’t need closing. When I first got the news about Debbie I immediately went to the Internet to see if I could find out anything mostly because there was no way I could have had an actual conversation with anyone at that point. What I found amazed me. Google Debra McClinton and see what you find. Her name is all over the Web. She touched so many lives in so many ways. The tribute to Deb will live on forever. Deb was and still is the brightest ray of light that I have ever encountered aside from my own mother. Her boundless joy and spirit will live on in me forever. I have been blessed to have had her in my life. I love you Deb.

In Loving Memory

Kristin (Kristi) Allen

Jana Allen Childress's Notes:

Deb hated mayonnaise

She hated corned beef hash.

She was a school bus driver when she was in high school
…so were her friend Stacy & I.
Can you believe that our fine state let 16 year old high school students drive our children around?

Deb was a cheerleader for the Reynolds Rockets…
And she was their 1986 Homecoming Queen

She earned a degree from UNC Chapel Hill. Go Tarheels!!!

However, I am sorry to report…
she never graduated to a B-cup bra.

These are just a few of the things that made Debbie grow into an amusing, kindhearted & creative adult. These very traits, combined with what Kristi and Holly just said, made her a successful photographer, not for its technical aspects but because she brought an element of humanness to her work that was so real.

She had the ability to wrangle Charlie Sheen’s wedding party into playful photographs…

His new bride should’ve seen the writing on the wall that very day though...because Charlie was cutting a rug with his photographer by the end of the evening. Who could resist our Deb?

She had the sheer…iron…will to turn down Robert Redford when he needed a photographer…no time in her schedule?

And it was just another day for her when she photographed Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House and again with Alice Walker, author of the Color Purple

She compassionately captured images of a woman that had suffered the ravages of chemotherapy. And her finesse made this frail, delicate woman feel beautiful again

Deb photographed billionaires & the homeless,
top models AND the delightfully rotund
all with her signature style and grace

It seemed that every time I visited Debbie in San Fran, she felt it was her duty to remind me that I loved to be behind the lens of a camera too and that I shouldn’t let that that passion fade. She made a point to include me on photo shoots almost every time I visited.

And so it was with Amy Tan. Author of The Joy Luck Club and several other books.

This shoot lasted about 4 hours….that’s with Deb & two assistants schlepping tons of photo equipment up the 67 steps to Amy Tan’s home, finding a suitable location, setting up each shot, checking lighting, taking polaroids,

But I need to tell you. Deb was amazing with the Chinese-born Ms. Tan. She was unassuming and modest….and wasn’t even going to mention her own months in China until I said something about it.

She was content to compliment her on her exquisite silk outfit and talk to her about her little Yorkie that would race around the room searching every crevice if you yelled “go find Bin Laden!”

Deb’s style was unobtrusive & endearing….she had no need to speak of her own life….she wanted to learn Ms. Tan’s stories rather than tell her own…

This was Debbie’s way with everyone….always….

SO, after 100’s of shots of this woman inside her home, Ms. Tan was accompanying us as we loaded the equipment when Debbie said “let’s do a few more on the steps”.

Ms. Tan sat down, elbow on knee and chin in hand.

I held the reflector & Deb shot away. It was one of these pure, simple, uncontrived shots that People Magazine chose to run.

Just like our Deb.

Pure. Simple. Uncontrived.

One more story…

Every Christmas Eve since the early 80s, my family (the Allens) and the McClintons, have shared a traditional family celebration together. We never quite knew what to expect from Deb as far as what she would wear, you know……she was our “chic friend from San Francisco” and up on all the newest styles and such.

I don’t think she was quite the fashion barometer most years in her two-days-worn jeans and her 10-year-old North Face down jacket with duct tape holding it together, but she always made a fashion statement with her feet.

Now it is no secret that Debbie loved boots. Any kind of boots. All kinds of boots. Danny said that one time he counted over 20 pairs.

Last Christmas, Debbie confidently walked in wearing leather knee high boots

Normal right? Well, these were quite something because they were silver metallic.

Now these boots were an easy $600 dollars from a shee shee San Francisco boutique
……or were they actually $15 dollars from a second hand store? I don’t think we’ll ever know……..

But they were just like our Deb.

Unique. Out of the ordinary. And Sparkling.

February 3, 2008

Deb and Frankie on stage

I just came across this video. I made it with my digicam, so the quality isn't so hot. We were at Stern grove, I believe it was Sat Oct 6, 2007. We had a lovely few hours fooling around. Watching this makes me really sad.