A Beautiful Evening

May 7th, 2014


Thanks to everyone who attended the opening on Friday. It was a beautiful evening. I’m sure Andrea loved that amazing people: friends, family, and strangers got together to cry and laugh in her honor.

For those who could not make it, you can check out this website that I put together to augment the gallery show via QR code. It contains the 12 images from the show and their accompanying quotes…there is also audio connected to some too.


The exhibit will be up for the month of May. Gallery hours are Sundays from 2pm – 4pm.

The City Paper also published an article about the event: http://citypaper.net/article.php?Punk-Rock-Mommy-exhibition-casts-cancer-journey-in-a-unique-light-20298

Gallery Opening – May 2 – Digital to Analogue

April 17th, 2014



Hi Punk Rock Mommy readers. It’s been a few years since anything has been posted to this site. I know that some of you still find your way back here to reread Andrea’s words. Apologies for times that the site has been down. I try to keep tabs on it, but things happen: spam, hacks, server issues. I plan to keep it around, but there are other ways to honor her memory.

For those who may have stumbled upon here due to art show promotion. This site was created a few days after Andrea Collins Smith was diagnosed with cancer. She wrote eloquently and intimately as she strove to fully live while her body was dying. This blog went viral for awhile and had an international readership. To read the entirety of her posts go here. To start from the beginning go here.

I want to let everyone know that there will be a gallery opening on May 2 that will feature photos I took with Andrea and the family in 2007-2008, some of which have never been seen before. I shot over 1200 images and I worked with a photo editor to determine ones that best tell the story. The images will be paired with Andrea’s writing. The photos are all printed by myself in a darkroom on fine art, archival paper. There will also be a new video and a video installation.

Here’s the details…

Punk Rock Mommy Gallery Opening
Friday May 2, 2014
6 – 9pm
F&N Gallery
2007 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia PA 19144

In addition to the gallery show a book is in the works that will combine Andrea’s writing with my photography. Andrea’s final request to me was to complete the book project and try to get it published. I’m finally pulling it together. Some layouts will be revealed at the gallery show. Stay tuned for more details on how you can help make this happen. I’m excited to translate the story from pixels to a format that is tactile. Andrea was a tactile person. She would touch you. I think the book will its textures and weight will convey Andrea’s personality more effectively than the glowing pixels of the blog. I have been working with editors and designers for the past few months. It’s going to be good. More about the book project soon…

I hope to see you on May 2. Please spread the word!



here’s a teaser image from the darkroom…


The exhibit represents a transition from the digital to the analogue; from the ephemeral to the fixed. I printed this new set in a darkroom on fine art, archival paper from 35mm film negatives that were struck by light reflecting off of Andrea and the family. Each frame bears a physical imprint of a moment in time. There is a physical connection between Andrea and these prints.

Despite the blog being digital, Andrea was an analogue person, she was complex and her personality was nuanced. She was also tactile. The analogue process of rendering these physical objects exemplifies her vibrancy, warmth, and life. The chemical process also mirrors the chemical process her body endured during her treatment. As Andrea touched her family, friends, and community the hope is that this tangible exhibit will extend her touch and her legacy.


Shout out to Rowan University and photography Professor Keith Adams for generously allowing me access to the darkroom!

Memories – A New Project – You are invited to participate

February 27th, 2009

Punk Rock Mommy Memories…
Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 4.55.01 PM


Not long after Andrea died, I had a dream. I was at a sparely populated party and Andrea appeared in the room. No one else seemed to notice. She came up to me and said that she wanted to say goodbye and to acknowledge how awkward our last interaction was. We talked about how awkward death can be and how no one really knows what to do. She told me that she didn’t have much time, because she needed to get back to her grave before her body started to fall apart. I said that I thought she had been cremated. She told me that she only wanted people to think that because she wanted to avoid a big dramatic episode at the site. I laughed. She gave me a big hug and then she went away.

I often dream of Andrea. I think of her when I am alone printing in the darkroom at three in the morning and other random times. I didn’t know what we were getting into when we first started this project. I thought this was going to be a weird chapter in our lives that we would move on from and think back on. Even now my rib cage feels like it is shrinking.

I am working on a project that started out as a pretty personal project using images and sounds that I gathered over the last two years, a mingling of images, voices and stories. I am realizing that the story is much more than just me, but that it involves an entire community. I would like to incorporate other voices and memories into the project as well.

Here is a link to a rough prototype of the project just to give you an idea: http://punkrockmommy/blog.org/memories/ The reason for all of the layers is that I want to create sense of something that is there, but it is fluid, something you can’t quite grasp. Maybe a piece like this will have value to others – maybe not. Just to explain the interface…you click on the stars to move through the piece…the mouse controls the audio levels (there is sound!) and the star at the top left will make the piece go into fullscreen.

Anyway, I’m open to any feedback you may have. I hope that this can be another way of honoring her. Even if you don’t want to record yourself talking feel free to comment on this post and write your memory there. And yes, a book based on the blog may be happen as well, but not just yet…

Peace to you,

A Kind Thank You

November 30th, 2008


Dear faithful readers of Punk Rock Mommy,

This post is to inform of the sad end of the Punkrockmommy blog. Due to some recent changes in the dynamics of the household, this blog will be discontinued. On behalf of my siblings, I need to say thank you all so much. You not only helped my siblings and I through your numerous donations and gifts, you also helped us with your kindness. You were all there to listen to us pour out our hearts to some of you. However, you helped someone much more than you helped us. You helped my Mother fight through her battle with Cancer every day. The blog was one of the few things she looked forward to every day. She was able to express her thoughts here that, frankly, she could not express to anyone. We were all privileged to my mother’s diary. She loved reading your comments and well-wishes and talking to those of you to whom she, sadly, never got to meet. I want to thank all of you who brought food, threw benefits, cleaned our house, bought clothes, or just came over and sat around with our family. I never knew people could be so genuinely good. You have all proven to me that there is still a glimmer of hope left in our world and you have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. I am happy to say that I am eternally indebted to you. Thank you all so much.

~Alec Collins (The one in college)

Happily ever after…

October 15th, 2008

Today was Andrea and my wedding anniversary. I wasn’t sure what the day would bring, sweet memories, tears of loss, or weather I would just be numb knowing that I had to work all day. I spent the morning first with my little man who makes me smile so much. He is one determined little guy and keeps me bonded to my late wife. I dropped him off with his nanny and spent the rest of the morning with a dear friend of Andrea and mine sipping tea and eating truffles. Spending time in silent prayer and reflection. I felt her spirit there and got a chance to thank her for all the love she has given me and all the love she has gracefully left behind for me. So my morning was actually beautiful and not sad. Our wedding was a lot like Andreas memorial, Simple, real, beautiful, and a little unorthodox. In the weeks after I heard many friends that where there that it was the most real wedding they had ever been to. I had always wanted to be married to someone I was truly in love with. I loved the experience. I loved my wife. I love the family she gave me. And when the time is right, with the right person, I would gladly and fearlessly forge down that path again keeping the lessons about love and partnership that Andrea and I taught each other close to my heart at all times.dsc00912.JPG

Barack The Vote

October 14th, 2008


One of the many things that I miss about Andrea were our endless conversations. We could cover child rearing, sushi, The Stooges, the many uses of duct tape and Politics all in a single evening. She never took social issues lightly because she truly loved this world and wanted us to make it a better place, for our children, for ourselves. She told me that she felt Obama was a true Christian and that it was so inspiring to see a real person running for office, someone who could really bring about change in a time when we need it the most.

Lets take our country back this year, vote for change, vote for Andrea.

The grind

October 4th, 2008

Howdy folks. Blogging is strange without Andrea around. It made more sense to me then. Writing love letters to her when she was medicated and a bit unreachable that I knew would reach her eventually made sense to me. I’m a pretty passionate guy like that. Now I guess its for her memory or for you guys maybe. Life has become sort of routine. I say sort of because every day with a toddler is an adventure. Grieving too has slowed to a slow ache rather than a sharp pain. I have a few dear friends who help me bear this and that keeps me going. I also really appreciate all the responses and those who are still reading. I love to think that our family is still in your prayers. Things are financially super tight but manageable (maybe). I am going to try to print some cool punk rock mommy t shirts and maybe even sweatshirts to sell for the Christmas season and hopefully that will help get us through the slow winter months. I am proud to announce that Jon and Holly Olshefski (Jon is the amazing photographer) are now the parents of a beautiful baby boy. In getting this news I felt Andreas loss the hardest that I have in a while. I told Jon that I knew she was smiling super big for them. Andrea taught me a lot and a love for babys is definitely one of those things. I am trying so very hard to be a good father to my own baby and kids right now. I feel like the other kids have a really good foundation but if clay is all screwed up well thats all me. Its hard being mommy and daddy all rolled up into one but that is my lot in life for right now & I love them all dearly. I hope they can see it shining through. Time to get a little sleep and start all over in the morning.

I’m not dead yet

September 16th, 2008

I’m not dead yet. This is what the T shirt Andrea picked out and I got for her when we took Jesse to go see Spamalot on Broadway. This is how she frequently approached her cancer. This is the Andrea we all felt some sense of awe about. Thisanything.jpg is also how I feel about this blog. So my sweeties (something else she might say) After a long wait with no internet connection, here we are again. I’m hoping that we can all come together on the idea that it is not yet time to let the memory of the beautiful person that Andrea was and the ideals she stood for slip away quietly. In fact not many were privy to much about this woman that she did quietly, I shall always consider myself fortunate for being one of the few.

The kids all seem to be doing well. There are a lot of ups and downs in this period of much adjustment but we are all pulling through. New house almost unpacked (thanks to many beautiful friends). My mom and step father (very much a father) have been here helping me with the baby and putting the finishing touches on everything. the kids are getting into the swing of things in new schools while Jesse kicks it old school. I am trying to get used to being a single parent and fall into a routine. I think thats gonna take a minute though.

So I got tattooed last night. Its a pretty dead punk rock girl with her head on a leopard spot pillow with black roses in the background and ribbons reading anything for love. I asked one of my coworkers to draw it up right after Andrea passed. It is a great tattoo, though when I looked at it this morning I felt it was a bit more morbid than I had anticipated much in the vein of how I felt about Andreas death. The important part, what it stands for, is very relevant though. ANYTHING FOR LOVE. If I learned anything from the experience of loving and losing such a lovely human being it is what is actually important. Had I to do it all over again, I would still be right where I am today. I would still have a baby. I would still feel the loss of a dead wife. I would still be tattooing. I would still have amazing friends. The only thing I would have done differently would be to worry less about money and career, and maybe take that extra hour a day and love my wife even more (and I did love her well). I hope to take this lesson (and I can always just read my leg) with me and apply it well to the rest of my life. To all present and future relationships be they platonic, family, or well you know the other kind. These are the real investments to be made. So please go out and give someone worthy that extra hour soon. And when you are feeling blue, know that you are loved.

Home is where the fun is

September 4th, 2008


Hi everyone! Sorry that I haven’t updated you all in a little while. Classes started for me on Labor Day when most of you were out at barbecues. So Monday was first day of class, and it was really easy…I only have one class, Calculus, on Mondays…at 4pm. So basically, here’s my classes…

Electrical Engineering Practicum is where we get to practice and learn about the tools and some of the skills necessary in Electrical engineering. I also have Intro to Psychology, which so far in my favorite course. I mean, come on my mom graduated from Temple with a degree in Psychology…this is gonna be cake, I already know everything 😉

I’m also taking a First Year Enrichment course…meh and a college chemistry course (my professor is either from Australia or New Zealand) which I like. I was taking a History class on World War II, but I had to drop it. He wanted us to read a memoir on the beginning of WWII and write a 9-page critique of it by next Thursday…sorry, not right now. Instead I’m now taking Intro to Ethics, which is on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm, which sucks, but whatever. I’m having lots of fun, eating healthy, biking as much as possible (RIT has a road that goes all the way around it called “The Loop”. It’s approximately 3.14 miles long with one steep climb that goes uphill from either direction. It took me about 30 minutes to bike the whole thing…), and trying to make a lot of friends.

So before I go, let me tell you guys a little about where I’m living. I live in Engineering House (that’s it in the picture above), which last year won best house. It isn’t actually a house though. E-House actually is the top floor of Nathaniel Rochester Hall, and in order to become a member you need to fill out an application. This application is then reviewed by 7 members of the house that make up a committee. Everything about the house is democratic. Everyone has the right to vote and have input on things in the house. Everyone must participate in one committee on floor, and everyone has to sign the house constitution (yes, there is one…and it’s 20 pages long…I read it). In short, I love it here, I love everyone here. This is definitely one of the happier times in my life.

Hope to see everyone soon!


August 25th, 2008

UPDATE:My financial aid situation has been taken care of. I no longer owe $3200 and actually have extra money to help pay for my books, so my whole situation is taken care of.


Hi everybody! I just wanted to give you all an update on my first day at RIT. Move-In went fine, my dorm is on the 8th floor of my building, but there is an elevator. Unfortunately, they made it so that you had to go back down on the stairs. I got my stuff moved in and unpacked, anticipating my roommate wanting to change our room around (it’s pretty limited how much space you have when you leave the room the way it is set up) but he moved his stuff in without moving any furniture around, so we will see what happens. My roommate is kinda cool. He is really quiet (and i’m loud), and kind of meek (he didn’t give me a strong handshake when i first saw him). And he really is a computer whiz (read as almost as geeky as me), but we get along.

After I unloaded all my stuff and met my roommate, I headed to the Gordon Field House (It’s a big room that can fit A LOT of people) and got my ID and all my stuff for orientation. I also went over to the booth for financial aid and talked with them. I owe them $3200 and I won’t be getting any money from financial aid because of that. So I have to buy my books out of pocket, but luckily a family friend gave me a rather large amount of money that was supposed to be for living, but will now be for books and stuff for my classes. I have an appointment with them Wednesday so hopefully all of this will be worked out before classes start.

So, when I got back to my room I organized my desk area and put all my clothes away and put all my posters up on my side of the room and just kind of chilled out with my roommate. At 6, our entire house went to this place called the commons and got dinner and then proceeded to take up the entire back of the place. People argued over whether it’s soda or pop, and the second years attempted to remember all of our names. We then went back to the NRH Quad (it’s a courtyard out front of Nathaniel Rochester Hall…where my house is) and everyone stood in a circle and said their name, major and hometown. i decided to be funny when it was my turn and said, “Hi, my name is Alec and I’m an Alcoholic” which made everyone laugh. After everyone introduced themselves, we played Never Have I Ever. I got elbowed in the cheek bone by our house VP at one point running for a spot. It was fun. We then had about an hour and a half until our first house meeting, where we learned the rules and what is and not allowed in the rooms. I had to take down my christmas lights, because they’re not allowed to be on the underside of the bed because it’s a fire hazard…bull…

Afterwards I took a walk on campus and got a feel for it. I like it here, it feels sorta like camp, It’s really surreal. I still miss all my friends in Philadelphia though…well, I will see most of them in October when everyone comes up to visit.