March 29, 2014

Black HIV/AIDS Awareness - Community and Connection - A Photojournalist's Heart Touched

Scrolling through radio stations on my way to teach art, video and photography at American International College, I landed at community radio station 90.7 WTCC and learned about an upcoming National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day event organized by The New North Citizens' Council, Inc. (NNCC).  The next day I headed over to the Mason Square Library in Springfield, Mass., to document the activities for The Image Works.

Welcome! - NNCC Program Director Richard Johnson
The event featured free HIV testing and flu shots, educational materials regarding HIV/AIDS, along with free hot meals.

Part of the photojournalist's job is to make connections and to develop a network of sources and ideas.  Fairly new to teaching and photographing in Springfield, I was encouraged by a warm welcome.

Bay State Community Health Centers Table
I asked NNCC Program Director Richard Johnson if the free food was an incentive to draw individuals to the event.  I learned that it was not an incentive.  "As a community, we tend to gather around food," he replied. "Not all folks have the opportunity to have a warm meal, so we wanted the opportunity to provide something."

Volunteer Food Servers
The volunteer food servers alternated between urging me to have a meal and to take pictures of them.  I declined a meal, as my belly was full.  I also questioned the appropriateness of taking food since warm meals are the norm for me.  I was especially aware of privilege after recently reading Mia MacKenzie's essay: 4 Ways to Push Back Against Your Privilege.

One ebullient volunteer kept after me to eat something.  Not wanting to be rude in refusing an offering of food, I said that upon completing my photography, I would have a small cupcake. 

Just Wear It - Free Condoms for Prevention
Work done, I took a cupcake and sat down near the particularly friendly volunteer.  However, her lightness was gone.  She barely acknowledged me.  I then saw she was looking at a projected slideshow of pictures of individuals who have died from AIDS.  She murmured that someone had said that an image of her sister was in the show.

This personal revelation suddenly jolted me from my detached photojournalistic outsider stance.  I began to feel deeply the meaning of music playing, Sarah McLachlan's I Will Remember You.

I Will Remember You
Feeling sad, I took this last shot on my way out:  Less photojournalistic precision, more emotional abstraction.  The strains of the haunting song lingered in my being.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was started 14 years ago to focus attention on HIV in blacks and African Americans, the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV in the United States. Blacks make up only 12% of the U.S. population but had nearly half (44%) of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2010."

February 28, 2014

Pencil Eyes - - Seeing with Art Tools

Midday:  Teaching drawing at American International College.  Cultivating creativity.  Readying students for next week's visit to the Springfield Museums.

Early Evening:  Attending art gallery event at UMass, Ahmerst.  Artist Kim Carlino and Curator Eva Fierst.  Seeing beauty and question marks.  Inspiring art and dialogue.  Listening.  Thinking of students at museum.  Compelled to draw. 

Artist, wearing Glasses
Night: Dining at Sakura in Northampton, Mass.  Buffet.  Man talking into cell phone earpiece cramming plate with sushi.

Man Lifting Himself Up
Eating and drawing.  Waitresses texting in Chinese.

Texting Waitresses
Noticing sketching, waitress saying, "Beautiful."

Pointing, saying, "This is you two texting."  Language barrier to communicating sucessfully.

Pointing, again, hoping: "Those are your ponytails."  Comprehending.  Calling friend over.  Laughing.

Screen Culture
Returning to texting.  Returning to drawing.

January 30, 2014

On the Advantages of Photographing in your Backyard

I am thrilled to be part of a group photo show!  The theme of this second annual juried art exhibition organized by the Greenfield Cultural Council is photographs of the town of Greenfield. Opening reception:  2/6/14, 5-7 p.m., Greenfield Community College Downtown Center, 270 Main Street.  These images of mine will be on display:

Sunrise from the Ridge - 2007
I moved to Greenfield in 2006.

Church and State - 2008

Photographing where you live means you can come back when the light is right.

Bricks and Windows - 2009

You can document change.  (This building at 30 Olive Street is now a net-zero apartment/office complex.)

Intimations - 2013

And gain hope for the future.

Bricks and Windows and Intimations are in-camera multiple exposures from my Reality-Based Abstraction series.  Click to see how I create images like these.

The show will remain at the Greenfield Community College Downtown Center, 270 Main Street, Greenfield, MA, through March and the building is open M-F, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.  It is also open at night when classes are being held.

P.S.  I also teach the relaxing and easy to learn Zentangle® method of drawing at Base Camp Photo, located in... Greenfield.

January 10, 2014

Happy New... Day! (Applying Photographic Compositional Principles to Reducing Home Clutter)

Instituting a new routine or making a change for a whole year sounds daunting.

That's why my greeting is:  Happy New... Day!

Hmm, reminds me of the Zentangle® drawing aphorism:  Anything is possible - one stroke at a time.

My intention (for today) is to reduce clutter.


Subject and light hunting near a mall in Hadley, MA, I captured this sunset a few days before the winter solstice.

Behind the Mall

I am not sure if I like this photograph.  However, I attempted framing the image and choosing elements in a manner new to me.  I invite you to try this approach someday.


Speaking of seeing differently:  How about getting low and tight to turn wintry car debris into something grand?


As the sun set on one of the year's shortest days, vivid colors drew me and others.  A mother and daughter toting iPhones snapped images.

"We need a camera like yours," said the older woman.  I doubt my photograph is what she might have expected, as I moved the camera during the long exposure (1/4 second) to intentionally blur the image.

Through my camera's lens, I look at the clutter of the world and endeavor to make clean and appealing compositions.

I intend to bring this artistry and care to reducing the clutter around my house!

December 3, 2013

-.-. --- -- -- ..- -. .. -.-. .- - .. -. --. / .-- .. - .... / ... -.-- -- -... --- .-.. ...

-.-. --- -- -- ..- -. .. -.-. .- - .. -. --. / .-- .. - .... / ... -.-- -- -... --- .-.. ...    ----------->   !!!!

November 13, 2013

Brought to the Moment - Shooting Film as Mindfuless Practice

While I love taking pictures, I do not always enjoy the bulk of my professional gear, especially when I am traveling and/or on vacation.

Central Park - New York City

In these instances, I often carry a pocket-sized plastic panoramic film camera that I bought at a thrift store for a dollar. (Click on an image to enlarge.)


I cannot make any exposure or focus adjustments.

Field Prepped for Corn Seeds - Hadley, MA

The constraints of technological simplicity breed freedom.

A Mall was Planted on the Adjacent Field - Hadley, MA
I recently had a few rolls of film developed and discovered these gems.

Old North Bridge - Concord, MA

Imagine waiting four months to see a picture you have taken.

Walden Pond - Concord, MA
Shooting film is a mindfulness practice that brings me into the moment:  each frame counts.  Absent is the aesthetic practice of digital splurge.  I am conscious of each shutter click, oftentimes removing my poised finger from the shutter button when unsure of an image's ultimate value.

August 15, 2013

Use Art Tools for Deep Engagement at Museums

For years I have used a camera as a tool to aid my absorption of art at museums, to make my seeing keener and to aid my retention of ideas and imagery.  A multiple exposure at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston:

Reconsidering Mount Rushmore

As my artistic path has become multidisciplinary, I now often bring a sketchbook along with my camera.  View a visit to the Guggenheim Museum in New York for the Picasso Black and White exhibition.

A couple of weeks ago, after spending the afternoon at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in North Adams, I sat at picnic table in front of the museum and carved and then block printed my interpretation of Bang on a Can composer David Lang's Revolutionary Etude #1.  An hour earlier, I had watched - heard - felt his piece performed by a saxophone quartet.

Carving Grooves at MASS MoCA

The other day, I visited the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass.  The gorgeous grounds are bejeweled with sculpture and the museum building is loaded with contemporary art.  To disrupt my normal practice, I brought neither camera nor sketchbook.  However, realizing my deep need to leave with inspirational mnemonic devices, I snagged two pine cones.

Pinconus deCordoveris
In a few weeks I will begin teaching a course on Cultivating Creativity at American International College in Springfield, Mass.  Aiming to refine exercises for my students that relate to viewing art and then creating interpretive responses using a variety of media, after my deCordova visit, I spent an evening experimenting with tools.

Aside from the paper work above, I photographed my productions a pine cone's throw from Walden Pond in Concord, Mass.  Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau's book Walden emerged from the journals he wrote while living in a small cabin near the pond in the mid-19th century.

Figure #1 - Imagined Scientific Drawing
I wanted my pieces to be displayed out of doors, like the sculptures at the deCordova.

Plucking a Pine Cone "Scale" Sounds Like an African Kalimba
In the midst of this project, Dennis Kois, director of the deCordova, published Song of Experience on Slate.  His carefully crafted essay combated assertions made by Judith Dobrzynski in her New York Times Opinion piece High Culture Goes Hands-On.

Clay Cone - All Arises from the Earth
As she prefers staid art viewing, Dobrzynski laments the trend of museums creating social, interactive experiences for visitors.  Kois contends that as the cultural world evolves, so does what goes in museums and how visitors interact with the works.

I think it is clear where I stand on this debate.

© 2013 John Nordell