Friday, April 26, 2019

Look Directly

Look Directly. See.
See myself. See the other.
Open. Vulnerable. Revealed. Unveiled.
Look into my eyes. Looking into your eyes.

A breath in the moment. A moment beyond time.
Open eyes. Open mouth. Open body. Open soul.
Radiant light.

A great sun in the glint in an eye.
A wink. A nod.
A moment of being brought in on the joke.
A moment of wholeness.

We are inside the embrace of love.
We are inside an embrace of safety.
We are inside the fiery furnace of birth and death.

Heartbreak is the route to compassion.
Heartbreak is the route to healing.
Healing is the route to living fully alive.


One breath.
One glance.
Holding the moment.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Keep Going

Wed, Apr 24, , 2019, 4:19 PM


Beautifully written. This is raw truth. Honest, passionate and sensitive. You're exposing yourself fully and I thank you for trusting us.

The idea of kissing with eyes open stirs up many feelings.

The image with your eyes open drags me into your very personal view. I don't feel like just an observer.  Tied together with the story of your lover and friend who tragically lost his life  I was moved to tears.

I'm currently sitting in a doctors office and you moved me to tears!


Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 7:12 PM

Larry,  this project is very thought provoking.  Rather like looking at a photo album, I suppose.  Thanks for sharing it ahead of the program.  M

Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 8:28 PM

Hi Larry,

Thanks so much for posting this, it was lovely to read.  I commend you for being so open and vulnerable.  One piece of feedback I would give you is to really investigate what you're interested in saying about your life.  How do your past experiences inform how you live today and how you see the world?  How can the be captured through a photograph or self-portrait?  Your images still feel very safe, I want you to try changing the environment, lighting, use the tools and knowledge I know you have to create something really unique to you.  I love the idea of creating a memoir and this long form dialogue works well, feel free to continue doing it. Don't worry too much about creating a statement to be 200 words, focus more on writing one or two sentences that encapsulate what you are trying to say to the world.

Here are a few artists to check out:

Keep going,

Sat, Apr 27, 2019, 8:07 PM

I meant to reply to this before, but I like the writing with the images - it gives them more context for me, makes them more powerful. Personal favorite is the first 😁


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Kissing with Open Eyes

A Photographic Project

I am using photography and narrative writing to take a look at myself, to make sense of my life. I am looking backward and looking forward into my present experience. I am crafting, in this project, one chapter in a larger story.

My life today. A married gay man in his late sixties. A male body, healthy and aging. Looking closely. Studying my reflections. Observing light and shadow. Skin, body parts, eyes, mouth, ears, nose, and so on. In motion and in stillness. With humor and seriousness. A wealth of emotions. Of containment and stretching.

Edge. Center.

Queer. Ordinary.

A photographic journey as well. Picking up my camera with intention for the first time in decades. Learning how to use the created image as a tool of personal exploration. Noticing my own response to my images and those of others. Noticing the response of family, friends and strangers to what I show and what I say.

Present moments that are poignant with emotion and pregnant with possibilities. That grab attention and hold attention. Where something emerges that touches the mystery of life.

This Project: Kissing With Open Eyes

I was experimenting, making photographs with a small round mirror. A shaving mirror? A makeup mirror?

Exploring ways of relating to the mirror, to my reflected self, to the double presented to the camera or only seen in reflection. Trying different distances, in close, further away.

Bringing my face close to the mirror. The impulse to kiss the mirror. To kiss the man in the mirror. To kiss a man. To kiss myself. To kiss my other. Letting the homo out. To flirt. To be passionate. To be intimate. To be a lover. To be loved.

Larry Wolf, Kiss, 2019
In one of the images, my eyes were closed. It was an intimate moment, like an actual kiss. I was surprised by how natural it seemed, even with the artificiality of holding the mirror, kissing myself, kissing the mirror, with a camera looking on.

The camera, a voyeur and an extension of myself. Looking in the mirror. Looking at the camera.

Posed. Artificial. Candid. Natural.

Other images with eyes open. The two personas looking into each other's eyes. The moment shifts deeper. Like an actual kiss when two people open to each other.

There is a homoeroticism here - a man kissing a man. In the images where the frame of the mirror isn't seen, and even when it is, the first impression is of two men.
Larry Wolf, Kiss, 2019

The images felt compelling and filled with love, gentle, kind.

A Tale of a Kiss 

That was the Night that Larry Kramer Kissed Me
That was the Night that Larry Killian kissed me
That was the day that I took a mirror and kissed myself

That was the day I brought the images to class and our discussion about kissing, eyes open, eyes closed. That was the day I realized there was something here to explore and to share.
Larry Wolf, Kiss, 2019

The social convention of eyes closed is more intimate. The experience of eyes open, looking into the eyes of the other. Opened. Closed. Fluttering. Holding the gaze. Opening self to other.

C. P. Cavafy; Body, Remember....

Body, remember not only how much you were loved,
not only the beds you lay on,
but also those desires that glowed openly
in eyes that looked at you,
trembled for you in the voices—
only some chance obstacle frustrated them.
Now that it’s all finally in the past,
it seems almost as if you gave yourself
to those desires too—how they glowed,
remember, in eyes that looked at you,
remember, body, how they trembled for you in those voices. 
translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

The Man Who Kissed With Open Eyes

Larry Wolf,
Portrait of Larry Killian, 1978
I was passionately involved with this man for a few years, starting in 1976. For a short while, a few months, were were lovers. Our friendship and shared love of books lasted much longer.

He was one of the founders of Bookstacks, a book lover's book store in Burlington Vermont. We shared an intense relationship with books, with the written word and with photography books. It was not uncommon for me to walk into the bookstore and be handed a book that had been ordered for me, speculatively, without asking, because they knew my tastes in books. Often they were right. This is where I discovered Michel Foucault, where I picked up my monthly issue of Christopher Street, where I hung out with friends. This is also where I had a solo photography exhibit.

Larry Killian was a wonderful lover. Passionate. Playful. Curious about our bodies and our emotions. Willing to dive in. Larry was the person who asked me to open my eyes when we kissed. Where I discovered the depths and intensity and, yes, love, that's communicated when two people open and experience each other. See each other. Naked. Exposed. Present.

Larry eventually left Burlington, moved to Boston, took a job he loved with MIT Press. Larry Killian died from complications of AIDS in the early 1990s.

A Larger Context

There is a larger story here, perhaps a memoir. For now. a focus on this one small aspect. A moment. A series of images that hang together and tell a story, open up a part of my life, sufficient onto itself.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Why I want to work for Pete Buttigieg's Presidential Campaign - Pete for America 2020

I applied for a job with Pete for America as the Director of Data Strategy and Analytics. Here is some of what I said.

Why do I want to join Pete for America?

The future is now - it’s Pete Buttigieg and the campaign he’s building.

Pete is inspiring me to live my values, more clearly, more boldly, more publicly, to bring all of me to the table, the data geek, the policy wonk, the Buddhist, the married gay man, the son, the brother, the uncle, the friend, the citizen.

Pete first hit my news feeds when he came out during his reelection for mayor, again when he ran for DNC Chair, and again when he launched his 2020 Presidential Exploratory Committee. I missed the NYTimes piece on his wedding, which makes clear, in retrospect, how Pete has been working toward a presidential run for a long time. [The wedding article notes that Pete's book publisher is there... a year before the book, Shortest Way Home, was released.]

Pete is both bold and nuanced, understands the importance of starting with principles first and then getting the details right. Those are attributes I value and I want to help promote.

Pete  knows he is standing on the shoulders of giants. Each of us can name the traumas and opportunities that define our generation. In calling for generational justice, there is a recognition that we all have a stake in this.

Pete appears both open and unshakable, that he knows some things are urgent and important. They need clear actions: the environment, the economy, fairness, equity. We are part of a global community. The problems and the solutions are interdependent and must be addressed. There is no going back.

Pete is a leader for our times, is prepared and is ready to act. He is changing the conversation. I am on-board.

Please explain how your past experience will make you successful in this role

I bring a depth and breadth of experience, a mix of human and technical skills. Let me tell you some of how I see the world.

Life is personal and political. We each bring a combination of competencies and commitments. We have our own journeys that temper us. I am about to be sixty eight. I am a married gay man in a 20-year love affair. I am a white cisgender male. I graduated from high school the year that Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The year that students shut down Columbia University in protest of the Vietnam War and of the riots at the Democratic presidential convention in Chicago. I came out during the enthusiasm of Gay Liberation in the early 70’s. I survived the AIDS crisis of the 80’s and 90’s. I sat in a Buddhist meditation hall forty years ago and felt an immediate, strong resonance with this ancient human tradition.

I am a health information technology professional who helped build an electronic health record system in the 1970’s, rolled out it, and other clinical technology, in the 80’s and 90’s.  (yes, EHRs are that old, and no, it is not the system you’re thinking of).
Larry Wolf,
IEEE Computer 1979

I was an active member of the HITECH FACAs, and co-chaired several workgroups. I often find myself on a soapbox about some insight coming from data analysis. I also get on soapboxes about cutting to the heart of the matter.

I have a personal passion for aligning individual fulfillment with organizational goals. I’ve learned that in every organization, each person is there to contribute to the mission in there own way.  It is vital that all organizational leaders, whether with volunteer or paid staff, recognize the brilliance of each person and tap into that for the common good.

This is a time of transformational change. When we’re aligned with change, it is energizing. The challenges may not always be pleasant, but they can bond a team, be insightful for the individual, and can result in contentment and joy. When the change is seen as  threatening, it becomes an enemy to be confronted and life becomes a battle.

Transformational change begins with knowing where we are. It is grounded in the present moment.  Data can be miraculous in helping understand the present, the specifics of where we are, and what is emerging. So can deep listening. In the words of William Gibson: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Let’s find it.

I help organizations embrace that present future, building on the resources and knowledge they
already have. As an executive for the software vendor MatrixCare, I helped customers move from fee-for-service to value-based-payment. As a long-term leader at Kindred Healthcare, I helped
shift the organization to data-driven performance improvement, building on its culture of hands-on quality care. As co-chair of Out in the Mountains, an all volunteer monthly news magazine, I helped move from a tiny burned out staff to a broad nurturing community doing rewarding work. I am currently an independent consultant, helping organizations adapt to major changes in healthcare delivery and payment.

None of these things were done in isolation. They were the result of working collaboratively with others, building on our strengths, developing the bonds of friendship, and  celebrating our differences.

Joining the campaign will be a pivot, the specific goals and data are different from what I have worked with in the past. I have a lifetime of bridging the big picture with the technical capabilities to run organizations, developing critical insights and delivering on the mission. The need to put actionable information in the hands of the people doing the work is as important in campaigns and government as it is in healthcare and corporations. Using insights, supported with and derived from data, is critical for making good use of resources,  learning from experience, addressing day-to-day operations and clarifying the broader vision.

I am energized by Pete’s vision, his campaign, and the opportunity to work toward our shared future. The promise of the future won’t happen unless we come together to address the challenges with all of our being - heart, mind and soul.  The insights provided through data can help light that future.

Anything else you want to share?

What is radical transparency and fairness?

It is a profound challenge. It is the challenge of our time.
Larry Wolf,
Layered Self-Portrait

Our future depends on transparency and enabling that with technology. It becomes the means for addressing the other pressing issues, from economic equity to climate change. If the solutions are delivered top-down, they will lack the resilience and flexibility we need. If the feedback loops are slow and obscure, we are trapped in the power politics of the moment. 

It is not enough to have understandable data use agreements and privacy statements. We must share the value generated from the data with the people it is about. The actions enabled by the data, put in the hands of those who have contributed it, is every bit as important as monetary value. Information is often treated as an asset to be hoarded or a limited resource to be mined. The insights that come from scale, from big data, are all the more important to put in the hands of the individuals, for us to enrich our own lives. This is not a zero-sum game. There can be many winners.

The tech giants, however, have demonstrated that they do not have answers to these large questions. They are creating serious challenges to our democracy and to our core values, as we discover the new ways our privacy is invaded and our communities are attacked.

The cyber genie cannot be put back into the bottle. We must address this through the culture we nurture, through the social structures we build, and through the technology we implement. Humans are tool makers and tool users. We co-evolve with our technology. It’s not new, but it is changing at an unprecedented rate. What is truth? Who can be trusted? Where is the boundary between mine and ours? How is my information used? How does it improve my life? How does its use undermine my life? How is it a new kind of resource? Where must we incorporate the millennia of human social wisdom?

There are implications for how Pete runs the campaign and will run the country. What examples are being set for fair and transparent use of data? For open government? For full engagement with the citizens of this country? With citizens of the world? How do we create digital freedom, democracy and protection? 

Our words and actions must align. There’s an opportunity to build on the best of what technology can offer, for privacy and for insights. For creating a broadly inclusive community. For creating a campaign and a presidency that sets the direction for the future.

Data strategy and analytics are not only a behind the scenes secret weapon. They are the leading edge of positive change.

Let’s get this right. Let’s do it with broad inclusion. Let’s do it as a team. Let’s do it as an example that can be replicated. Our nation, our future, our lives, depend on it. 

Pete for America Logo