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Courtney Utt, Self Portrait circa 1998

This is Courtney Utt, a self-portrait circa 1998. She and I went to photography school together. We nerded out about film processing and cameras, co-managed the really special little darkroom we had at Porter College, spent many late nights printing with the record player blaring. She got me into Fotolog, introduced me to good people, pushed and prodded me, and gave me advice (much of it unsolicited!). San Francisco turned into her home base and New York mine. We visited each other over the years and did a little traveling together. She was a nuanced photographer using all kinds of odd-ball film cameras, a prolific and talented designer and an all around workhorse. She was loving, yet opinionated--flexible, yet picky.




On April 08 2014 at Jersey City, New Jersey, United States 481 Views



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Dogseat On 08/04/2014

Around September 2011, she had a seizure and was soon diagnosed with a grade II benign tumor called an astrocytoma…brain cancer. It was terrible news but she faced it head-on. She started a vigilant and detailed text document named "brain notes.rtf" and collected updated MRI scans in a shared Dropbox folder about the state of her brain. Around 70 people subscribed, so could keep tabs on her from wherever they were. Early on, she described the tumor in an MRI scan as "slowly growing across the left side of my brain like stars in the night sky." She had surgeries and chemo treatments and all sorts of top-notch care from UCSF (thank you MediCal!). She updated us on her platelet counts and her weight and the possibility of taking part in new drug trials and the possible efficacy of various components of marijuana and lots and lots of etc. She did lots of research and talked to lots of medical people and reached out across the mighty internets to find people with similar brain conditions around the world. I'm sure she did this to improve her knowledge, but also to share with her loved ones and anyone else with similar brains.


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Dogseat On 08/04/2014

For the past several months she and I have been planning a trip to Myanmar, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore during a stable time between her treatments and when I had the time to take off work. Her friend Robin shared a photo he took in Myanmar of two native women with the neck coils that stretched their necks out real far, and they were flipping off the camera! We were sold! Or rather--I was sold--Courtney had wanted to go to Myanmar for some time. With our April 21st departure date nearing, we were picking up the pace in arranging flights, hotel reservations, visas and general research.


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Dogseat On 08/04/2014

On March 21, Courtney updated her brain notes saying that a new MRI scan showed some new growths that had moved closer to the center of her brain, pushing her from stage II to stage IV. We spoke on the phone and she said that she was still gung-ho to go traveling! After speaking with some of her friends and care-takers over the past couple days, I now think she wasn’t doing as well as she was letting on--in the hopes that she could get in some adventure and fun…possibly seeing this trip as one last hurrah.

She passed away last Monday at the age of 36.

There was a memorial service Friday in a community garden near her home where she had a tiny jungle of very vivacious plants. There was intermittent, slight rain and even a small rainbow during the informal memorial where people were invited to say whatever they wanted to say from wherever they stood. Lots of people from different parts of her life were in attendance. We were invited to take snippings or whole plants from her part of the garden. We were invited to take fun pictures of themselves on a goat statue like Courtney had done many times over the years.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/courtneyutt/sets/72157627433561346


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On Saturday, some of us joined her family in going through her things and packing them up for their move to San Diego. And holy cow did she have A LOT OF STUFF. She was a collector of various types of beautiful and interesting books, cameras, strange plants, and various ephemera (not to mention the massive collection of her own negatives which may be further archived in the future). When we'd happen upon a cache of printed photographs we'd go through them and remember.

She had a group of friends in San Francisco that helped her in all kinds of ways big and small over the past years, and to those people I send a huge and joyously-tearful THANK YOU! To those of you farther away who helped in any way I also send a huge and joyously-tearful THANK YOU!

I will be going on the trip in Courtney's absence and with the family's blessing I may find a partner. I will bring the film I took from Courtney's refrigerator and use that as a medium to create images with.

It's ok to cry, yell and scream!
Hug your liked- or loved-ones, just get it out!
Then go for a walk outside, it's Spring for many of us.
Life goes on.
Courtney would have wanted it that way, and so do I.




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