Sunday, November 15, 2015

Profiles in Third Thirds: Cindy

I ran into Cindy at our college reunion while I was harassing everyone with my question, “What are you doing in your Third Third?” Cindy handed me her business card – for her photography. For more than 30 years, she’d been a lawyer.

Now she’s readying things for her first solo exhibition at the UCLA Fowler Museum. One of her photographs was also just selected for the Metro card when the Expo line opens in 2016 in Santa Monica! (My transit-lover side thrills at this!) You can see her incredible photos at

So I thought, great, I’ll have Cindy tell her story of switching from a legal career to photography. But it’s not like that at all. For one thing, it’s not like Cindy discovered photography in her Third Third. It’s not a New Thing at all.
“One of my most interesting photographs is of Mick Jagger – taken with my trusty Instamatic when I was 12 years old!” *
Cindy took photography classes in high school and college and later joined a local group of photographers, but while she was working as a lawyer, she did most of her photography when she traveled. (Her friends got to see the slide shows.) Digital photography meant learning a whole new, more technical world, so she’s still taking classes.

As Cindy puts it, she and I were “cause people” in college and in our jobs. So she’s still a “cause person” as a photographer. One section of her exhibition is called “Legalize L.A.” It’s “documentary photographs of immigrant rights/amnesty demonstrations in downtown L.A. with what will be a clear pro-legalization message in an election year.”
If she were just a lawyer and then just a photographer, this might be a story about switching careers. But it’s not. When Cindy tells you what else she’s been doing with her life, it’s almost overwhelming. A Santa Monica resident, she served on the Santa Monica Pier Board, and she worked with others to save the palm trees in her neighborhood and to save an anti-war political art sculpture from destruction. Now she’s hoping to shut down the hazardous Santa Monica Airport and convert that public land into a beautiful park.

Being involved in so many other causes not only made her life interesting, it left her standing on many legs. Thinking about it this way, Cindy readied herself for ultimately leaving her job by having so many other things going. One leg could be removed, and the table would still stand.

Despite that, there are still some things that go when the steady job ends. I, too, have had a lot of “gigs” going, but steadiness – and all the things that go with it – disappears when the one bigger job ends. For some, it’s the paycheck or health insurance, sometimes the access to a professional world. Cindy misses the staff camaraderie and her clients.
“I thought that my longstanding interests would sustain me, and to some extent that has been true, but there are times projects have ended, and I’ve needed to figure out what is next in order to find meaning in how I spend my time.”
As she puts it – talking about the Big Three – “While I don’t always have Structure, I do have Purpose and Community.”

Like the rest of us, she also has aging parents, house repair stuff, and errands. But she also loves to travel, and with many years of photographing cultures and festivals around the world, her destinations have become “more and more obscure.” But as she says,
“It is also possible to travel and experience vibrant cultures while at home in L.A. because of the extraordinary diversity of the people who live here. It’s just a matter of choosing to explore.”
“It’s just a matter of choosing to explore.” Yup.

* Cindy was on a boat to Copenhagen when she spotted Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and got their autographs. Her brother yelled “Mick,” he turned, and she snapped the photo. She was that close! Trust me, that photo would make any Third Third woman sigh….

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