July 28, 2014

Artistic Process - On Making a Chili Pepper for a Parade

Get Inspired : Make a Plan

Wire Armature
Exacting Experiment: Glue Stick and Paper - Must Be an Easier Way!
Paint Prep
Fun Times

May 24, 2014

From Making Civil War Swords to Protesting Monsanto GMOs: What These Old Trees Have Seen

On this international day of protest against the Monsanto corporation's production of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and chemical farming products, activists gathered in front of Chicopee (Mass.) City Hall to voice their opposition to Monsanto.

Bee Against Monsanto
The protestors claim that Monsanto products release neonicontinoids and other chemicals into the environment that are reportedly toxic to bees.

Across the street from the event stand the Cabotville Sycamores (one shown here, big white trunk).  During their close to 200 year tenure, they have seen a canal dug, a rail line laid, a city developed and industrial factories built.  Swords for Lincoln's troops, doors for the Capital in Washington, D.C. and Spaulding basketballs have all been made here in the Ames complex, the brick of which you can glimpse through the trees.

Despierta!    Dile "No" a Monsanto    Coma Organico
Patricia Sanchez lives in the former mill complex, now converted to apartments.  She holds the sign written in Spanish that reads in English "Wake up! Say No to Monsanto. Eat Organic."

Thinking about all that these trees have seen, from making swords to protesting GMOs, I felt kinship with my writer and photographer friend Benjamin Swett and his book:  New York City of Trees.  Swett writes in the introduction:

"Just as trees remove carbon from the atmosphere and hold it for many years in their woody tissue, so do they sequester the shared experiences of the people who live alongside them. The growth rings of trees contain, in organized fashion, physical manifestations of the world and of the human presence in it at different times in a tree’s history."

GMOs Have Got to Go

Several families came to protest.  Here, Kayden Beaulieu holds a Caique Parrot (the pet of another protestor) as her grandmother Nina Renshaw looks on.  Later, young Kayden walked to her car chanting, "Hey Hey Ho Ho, GMOs Have Got to Go", evidence that she had done some sequestering of her own during the event.

Jessiem, sporting a sign emblazoned with "Reality = Illusion", took a moment to commune with his smart phone.  I asked him about the mask.  "The government is hiding stuff from us, why not hide our identity?"


The group was mixed, likely brought together by a Facebook event.  While the Massachusetts legislature is contemplating passing a GMO labeling law, one protestor's sign read:  "Don't label GMOs.  Ban Them!"
Beekeeper says, "Monsanto is a Buzz Kill"
Linda Buckburn's bees have not been affected by Colony Collapse Disorder that some attribute to pesticides, but she advocates natural rather than chemical farming methods.

A plaque near the Cabotville Sycamores states, "The sycamores have survived hurricanes, floods, an industrial revolution and the onslaught of modern urbanization."  The protestors prod us to wonder if the venerable trees can survive the environmental impact of modern farming methods.

April 29, 2014

Skiing on a Frozen River :: Living Life to the Fullest

I sometimes join the excursions of the Putney, VT chapter of the Bill Koch League.  In this league, aspiring grade school Nordic skiers practice and race.

At the season's end in early March, I received the following email (italics, below) from coach Eric Aho.  (I subsequently joined the expedition and took these photographs.  Click images to enlarge.)

Hello Skiers:

For the first time in about 10 years the Connecticut River between Charlestown, NH and Herrick's Cove north of Bellows Falls, VT is frozen to a thickness of about 24 inches and is covered with a skiable crust of snow.

It is a rare New England winter experience to be out in the middle of the white expanse of the river.

We can ski north from Herrick's Cove a few minutes and find an eagle's nest.

Come along and ride on New England's very first highway!

I shot these images using a plastic no settings film camera.  Not sure what happened with the processing and scanning at CVS to produce the blue tinge.  However, I love the rough texture of these film images.  The look matches the blustery elements and exhilarating spirit of the life-affirming outing.

Coach Aho is also a superb landscape painter.

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!