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Return of the Drunken Bicycle

July 8, 2018

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Green Moskvich (almost as good as a Lada) in Odessa, Ukraine, All photos 2018, ©Frank Ward

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In June, I had my first visit to the former Soviet Union since 2015. It was a joy to return to the land of the Drunken Bicycle (pictured above in Kiev, Ukraine), and wonderful to revisit Ukraine where my Drunken Bicycle photo project began in 2001. The drunken bicycle is my name for a bicycle geared to turn the front wheel in the opposite direction from the direction the driver turns the handlebars. It is confusing by design. For a small fee bystanders are offered a big award to navigate the bicycle for a short distance. See more about the bicycle and my show on the bottom of this page.

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Back Alley, Kiev, Ukraine.

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On a Walking Street in Brest, Belarus.

Belarus is a country known for its adherence to Soviet era values and culture. Like Ukraine, it is changing fast. Above, the joy of young lovers is interrupted by a call on the smartphone, and the distraction by this uninvited photographer sticking his wide angle lens in their faces.

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Applying Lipstick, Odessa, Ukraine.

I was so happy to see this woman not talking on a smartphone. I seem unable to make a picture on the street without photographing a cellphone interaction. Look in the background of the bicycle picture and you see 2 people on their phones. The woman in pink on the left of the couple above is also operating a phone.

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Soviet Television from 1952, Odessa, Ukraine.

I shouldn’t complain about advancing technology as it allows us all to wander the streets with handheld cameras. I wish I photographed more people on the streets in the 1980s with their boom boxes. I was a wannabe teenager in the early 60s with a transistor radio bigger than an iPhone Plus in my ear, with a single earplug.

The above TV stimulated memories of my family’s first television with its 8 inch black and white screen isolated within a huge standing console. I won’t complain about smartphones, just my pictures of smartphones. I embrace the fact that I live in the age of communications technology. Bring on the EyeCamera.

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There are still a few days left to participate in the  SocialDocumentaty.net Call for Entries. The deadline is July 13th. I am on the SDN Advisory Board and will see if I can get that deadline extended a bit. If you don’t have a portfolio, but you have an interest, visit this link to join SDN at no charge.

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Egyptography II

April 1, 2018

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All photographs 2018 ©Frank Ward.

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We found these 2 carpenters in a Cairo mother of pearl workshop. Actually, they found us. The first gentleman came calling after us as we passed his very dusty alleyway adjacent to the dusty alleyway we were already enjoying.

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What a great country Egypt is. In every village, town and city, engaging alleyways lead to more alleyways and most alleyways eventually connect to  market streets.  Above is a market in Aswan and below is a shop in Cairo.

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I appreciate Egypt’s multi-leveled environment. Egyptians naturally layer their surroundings so all surfaces and spaces are in use. Many of the resulting stacks remind me of Renaissance art. I recall the Italian paintings where angels are flying above the legendary events happening below. When I make pictures I always look for something of interest to place within the top area of the frame.

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I like the “Tourism and Antiquities Police Investigation Unit” sign above.

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Photographed from upstairs in an Aswan antique shop.

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The view from our hotel balcony in Luxor. The top restaurant is called Punt Land, a wonderful football reference.

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Cairo curio shop.

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A souvenir mummy at the Cairo Museum shop with a man sleeping out the window.

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A walk along the Nile

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Inside a tomb, Aswan

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The tail of the Sphinx, Giza

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Waiting for the fashion show to begin.

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Fashion show and audience on my last night in Cairo.

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Throughout our time in Egypt, I observed cultural and social behaviors, such as what people wore and what they drank, that seem to be all of the following: celebrated, discouraged, protected, illegal, enjoyed and tabu. What is troubling Egypt is complicated and, like most countries, growing out of a need to improve the quality of life for all.

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Fayum portrait circa 100 A.D.

One thing that we can actively engage in to increase parity amongst the people of the world is to support women on every front. A small step toward that end, in photography, is to support the Women’s Issue of ZEKE Magazine.

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The Women’s Issue is now available, presenting feature articles by women photographers and writers on sexual violence, women & work, climate change, and more. Available at www.zekemagazine.com/womens-issue .

Disclosure: I am on the Advising Board of SocialDocumentary.net and write for ZEKE Magazine, I am not in the Women’s Issue.

Egyptography

February 20, 2018

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Sphinx, Giza, all photos © Frank Ward, 2018

I enjoyed my first trip to Egypt this past January with my wife, Vivian Leskes. She was invited by the US Embassy in Egypt to give English language workshops in Cairo. I gave a photography presentation for the public at the American Center.

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Cairo shopping district photographed from the window of my passing vehicle. Egypt has an ancient history of hording. Five thousand years ago the pharaohs believed that you could take your wealth with you. They entombed their possessions along with their mummified bodies for future transport to an afterlife filled with stuff. Much of that stuff is with us today because of the early Egyptian desire for all embracing preservation. Egypt itself provided the perfect conditions for long term storage.

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Tourists at Karnak, Luxor

Before doing our stint as lecturers, Vivian and I flew south to Luxor and then journeyed to Aswan by dahabiya. The trip encompassed five nights on the Nile on two boats, six passengers per boat. I think Luxor is the root of the word “luxurious.”

Sails6931 Sailing on the Malouka up the Nile.

In addition to cruising the Nile, we spent most days visiting temples, tombs, villages, farms and families. From my perspective, Egypt generates total visual immersion.

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A village tea and shisha (waterpipe) shop. Boat-mate Jonathan is on the right.

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In Islamic Cairo, a man is sanding inlaid mother of pearl game boards to sell to tourists. Tourism is down by more than half since the 2011 Arab Spring and the 2013 military takeover.

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In Aswan, a man does ironing in his shop.

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A merchant is set-up on a street corner in Islamic Cairo.

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Young man near Tahrir Square, Cairo.

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Man enjoying a pipe in a village cafe.

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Tea and shisha in a cafe in Islamic Cairo.

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In a village along the Nile.

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On my last night in Cairo, Vivian and I went to a fashion show. I told the organizers that I was going to blog about it. So here is the picture. It fits poorly into the rest of my posting. The poor fit is somehow appropriate considering Egypt and its many issues and contrasts.

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Egypt is still discovering the history of its ancient civilization. Above is a Fayum mummy from the Cairo Museum. The portrait, from the Coptic Christian period, is on a wood panel that is encased in mummy’s wrappings.

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The ancient Egyptians disliked leaving any surface undecorated. I recall that I saw these painted mummy’s feet in the Cairo Textile Museum. I’ll add more pictures as I sort out my feelings about Egypt’s ancient legacy and present circumstance.

 

Weekend in Iceland

December 3, 2017

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Flying WOW Airlines through the northern lights to Iceland, all pictures 2017, all photos ©Frank Ward.

It has been months since my last post. Several other photography blogs are also publishing less. Like letter writing, blogging seems to be near extinction. Remember writing letters? If you were born after 1999 you probably never had a chance to write a letter.

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Walking the steamy streets of Geyser.

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Reykjavik Harbor.

I know many photographers who are regularly Instagram-ing their picture output. I don’t like uploading through the iPhone as required by Instagram. I don’t even like photographing with the iPhone. It’s too easy. I like a camera that needs to be told what I want it to do, I don’t want an app pre-set to give me an Instagram picture formula.

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Mural in Reykjavik

In November, Reykjavik had six hours of light per day. Three for sunrise and three for sunset. Jay Maisel taught me to avoid photographing between the hours of 10am to 4 pm because that is theoretically the least interesting light of the day.

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In Iceland, dawn at 10:00 and sunset at 4:00 creates an experience of low sweeping light all 6 hours of the day.

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As I stood appreciating the above scene, there were about 20 photographers with cameras on tripods around me. I am accustomed to being where dozens of photographers are not, like in Central Asia or Siberia. Who knew that Iceland in November was the place to be?

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The geyser in Geyser erupted every few minutes. The experience is incredible, and so were the crowds. I liked photographing the crowd through the steam.

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There are around 350 thousand residents on an Island and about 1.8 million tourists visiting per year. I know that isn’t a great ratio, but the island has miles of beautiful, forbidding, solitary landscapes. You could head out with a 4 wheel drive vehicle and be alone for as long as you can stand it.

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Possibly a geyser from a distance, or someone smoking up a lot of fish.

Speaking of fish, my major issue with Iceland is the price of food and drink. Everything is at least two times what you might expect to pay.  I can understand that most edibles need to be flown in, but fish is plentiful and it is still very expensive. That said, fish soup is the culinary highlight of the island. Pay-up and enjoy.

Cultural Visions Part Eight: My Massachusetts

July 7, 2017

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Logan Airport, Boston, 1979.   All photos by Frank Ward

This collection of Massachusetts found moments were made between late-1970 and mid-1990. The newspaper on the chair above references the Iran hostage crisis. The headline reads, “All hostages must die.”

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Ashfield Lake, 1982

I moved to Ashfield in 1980. The local news was that sewerage was seeping into the town’s recreational lake. It took years to resolve. The glow in the picture is from my infra-red film, not from the pollution.

The 2 pictures (below) are part of the series Pleasant and Main.

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Pleasant Street, Northampton, 1985

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Intersection of Pleasant, Main and King Streets, Northampton, 1985

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Detention, Smith Vocational High School, Northampton, 1986

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Senior Prom, Hotel Northampton, 1986

The above 2 photographs are from the series Smith Voke.

The below 2 pictures were made during the 38th Wally Byam Caravan Club International Rally held at the University of Massachusetts.

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Dog Show Winner, Amherst, 1995

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Man at McDonald’s, Hadley, 1995

Cultural Visions Part Seven: India Time

June 9, 2017

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Cricket, Juhu Beach, Mumbai, India, 1999 (All photos by Frank Ward)

I first traveled to India in 1973 as part of Research Group Triangle. Three of us proposed a yearlong expedition to photograph paranormal activities in India and Nepal. The trip was supported by IAA Anstalt, a Swiss-based philanthropy headed by a charismatic and mysterious Italian. He had recently published the Open Index, a catalog of paranormal behavior in India. That first edition mostly contained addresses of yoga ashrams and organizations related to occult studies.

In 1973, as an inexperienced youth of 24, even cricket seemed unusual enough to appear “paranormal”. I finally had the opportunity to play cricket in 1999. It still feels like an activity outside of the normal.

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Varanasi, India, 1973

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Dance Studio, Karnataka, India, 1999

Once I traveled to India, my life changed. I met my future wife, Vivian, in Geneva, Switzerland when we returned and exhibited our pictures. Five years later, Vivian and I were off to Asia for a yearlong honeymoon.

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Elephant bathing, Karnataka, India, 1999

On the 1999 trip, our Rotary Foundation group received a privileged view of South India. We lived in Rotarian’s homes throughout Karnataka State and photographed where they worked and volunteered. One morning, we administered polio vaccines to children, dedicated a Rotary donated public toilet, and had lunch at a school for the blind. Later in the day, we were special guests at a brewery and had dinner at a festival. My love of Indian food was nurtured by having 4 or 5 meals a day for a month.

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Blind Dancers, Swami Vivikananda School for the Blind, Karnataka, India, 1999

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Carnival, Juhu Beach, Mumbai, India, 1999

The Ferris wheel above was powered by a man who continually climbed to turn the wheel round and round.

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Tile Factory, Mangalore, India, 1999

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School teacher, Karnataka, India, 1999

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At the feet of Gomateshwara, the 58 foot tall monolithic Jain statue from the 10th century AD, Hassan, India, 1999

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The author sitting at the feet of the Teaching Buddha in Cave #10, sculpture circa 700 CE, Ellora, India, 1978

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I want to pass this on from SocialDocumentary.Net . Our most recent Call for Entries has a June 30th deadline.  Click this link to get all the info: Www.socialdocumentary.net/competition.php  Sarah Blesener, who is our most recent winner, is doing work very close to my interests–Nationalism in Russia. Her pictures are in the latest ZEKE Magazine www.zekemagazine.com . Not only did she win SDN’s $1000 prize, she won an additional $50,000 from the Alexia Foundation and the Catchlight Fellowship. That Call for Entries certainly provided some auspicious seed money. I’ll add one of my Russia pictures to this promotion in hopes that Sarah’s good fortune might rub off on me. Give your pictures a chance, too. You can’t get known without being shown.

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Four Soldiers, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2008

Cultural Visions Part Six: Summertime in the FSU

April 30, 2017
Swimmer, Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal, Siberia, 2008

Photographs © Frank Ward

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Former torpedo testing range, Lake Issykul, Kyrgyzstan, 2012

On my March blog, my favorite pictures were from the beach. So, I have posted more warm weather pictures for April.

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Odessa, Ukraine, 2005

The lady above just stared as I took her picture. A woman behind me asked to have her picture made, also.

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Lake Baikal, Siberia, 2008

The above women were busy cleaning carpets. The men below seemed to be showing off for the otherwise occupied ladies on the grassy knoll.

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Grass Beach, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2008

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Black Sea, Ukraine, 2005

As expressed in the above and below pictures, almost everywhere I travel in Russia and Ukraine has courting going on. Everyone seems to know that a public place is a space of potential romance. I guess it is true almost anywhere. In these countries, affection is not necessarily reserved for private moments. Maybe there is a greater sense of anonymity in a public place compared to a small, soviet-style, apartment with your family looking on.

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Moscow Fountain, Russia, 2008

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Lake Baikal, Siberia, 2010

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Lake Baikal, Siberia, 2010

The two fishmongers above were photographed in May proving that Siberia can be warm in spring.

I am naturally attuned to photographing gestures. The secondary details of the above picture, the wrapped plastic bags around the kiosk frame, attract me after the fact. I know I saw them when I framed the picture, but I didn’t know if they would support the overall composition or take away from the portrait of a woman and her smoked fish.

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Portrait of the artist and his smoked fish (omul), Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, 2008, by Vivian Leskes.