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February 20, 2018


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


In Aswan, a man does ironing in his shop.


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


Young man near Tahrir Square, Cairo.


Man enjoying a pipe in a village cafe.


Tea and shisha in a cafe in Islamic Cairo.


In a village along the Nile.


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.


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.


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


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.


Walking the steamy streets of Geyser.


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.


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.


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


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?


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.


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.


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


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.”


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.


Pleasant Street, Northampton, 1985


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


Detention, Smith Vocational High School, Northampton, 1986


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.


Dog Show Winner, Amherst, 1995


Man at McDonald’s, Hadley, 1995

Cultural Visions Part Seven: India Time

June 9, 2017


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.


Varanasi, India, 1973


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.


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.


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


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


School teacher, Karnataka, India, 1999


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


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


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:  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 . 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.


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


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.


Odessa, Ukraine, 2005

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


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.


Grass Beach, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2008


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.


Moscow Fountain, Russia, 2008


Lake Baikal, Siberia, 2010


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.


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

Cultural Visions Part Five: Bosnia, Kosovo

March 14, 2017


Boy on the road watching our Humvee, Kosovo, 2000, Frank Ward photos

Twenty years ago I traveled with Glenn Ruga, founder of Friends of Bosnia, to Sarajevo and surrounding areas. A peace accord had recently been signed to curtail the three-way conflict between Bosnians, Serbs and Croats. The country was in ruins and I would often end the day in tears after interviewing refugees and photographing bombed out towns.


Celma, Bosnia, 1997

I am showing the portraits that compelled me through the intensity of the situation. The Roma, pictured below, had a camp by the river in Mostar. They were trapped between and within conflicting nations. They were the survivors who were not named.


Roma Leader, Bosnia, 1997


Roma Boys, Bosnia, 1997

These pictures were made on my second trip, in the summer, with Glenn Ruga and Barbara Ayotte from Physicians for Human Rights. The situation was still horrible, but the Bosnians were slowly rebuilding their lives after years of terror. I volunteered at Mladi Most, Youth Bridge. It was more than a youth center it was a place for the war children to eat, sleep and be teenagers.


Bart’s Draft Party, Bosnia, 1997


Roki Sings, Bosnia, 1997


Bump, US Army Humvee, Kosovo, 2000

The following year, 1998, nearby Kosovo suffered attacks from Serbia. Glenn and I went to Kosovo in January 2000 and were imbedded with American forces; they drove us around Kosovo by day. At night we often ate at an Italian restaurant frequented by journalists and spies. I say that because the place seemed like Rick’s Place in the Bogart movie Casablanca. Instead of Sam, the piano player in the film, we had the Eagles. About once an hour Hotel California came over the speaker system. It seemed so appropriate.


Cafe, Bosnia, 1997


Stari Most, Mostar, Bosnia, 1997

It took almost 20 years and an international court of law before the Serb fanatics in Bosnia were found guilty of genocide . The Serbs responsible for the atrocities in Kosovo are just now going on trial in the Hague. These were awful times. I selected a few pictures that I feel good about from those tense trips to the Balkan war zones. I’m not much of a war photographer. For example, an American military patrol, driving a version of a half-track tank, drove up to me as I was photographing with my 8X10 inch view camera on the Bosnia/Croatia border. One shouted, “What are you doing? I know you’re not a photojournalist because you are carrying a camera that is too big to run with.” That is still a good question.

For more of my Balkan pictures look here.

Cultural Visions Part Four: Cuba Rising

February 5, 2017

I am seeing so many beautiful portfolios from Cuba these days, especially on and their magazine, ZEKE. All these pictures got me inspired to scan some more negatives from my time in Cuba 15 years ago. All photos ©Frank Ward, except the last one ©Susan S. Bank. Previously, I published pictures about Cuba here.havanaskylinesm

View of Havana from El Morro, 2002.


A hitchhiker along the Malecon.


Gas station, Havana.


Solitude and Havana fit together like the pages of a great novel.





The above b/w photos are from Trinidad de Cuba, a few hours drive from Havana.


A welder taking a break from his work. Below, the bust of Cuban poet Jose Marti.


My Cuba work was done over a three week period in 2002. Susan S. Bank has been photographing Cuba for decades. I recently wrote a review of her book, Piercing the Darkness, picturing her output from 1999 to 2010.


Bank’s Cover photo for Piercing the Darkness.

My review for ZEKE Magazine:

A photo book is such a precious object in this age of picture-saturated cyberspace. At its best, the photo book stands as an artist’s statement in dialog with history. In the case of Susan S. Bank’s Piercing the Darkness, not only is the book a beautifully designed and sequenced telling of the first ten years of the 21st century in Cuba, it is a highly personalized view created with 20th century intent, style and processes. Bank’s Leica, her black and white film and her choice of lenses create a world apart from her contemporaries’ colorful Cuba travelogues. I have never seen Havana with so few old cars. Bank also skirts the seductive pleasure of the elegant, decayed architecture. The Malecón, Havana’s boulevard along the bay, is in only a few compositions. Her camera prefers to look down at the pavement and into the buildings. Fortunately, Bank does acknowledge the thousands of dogs to whom Cuba has granted the freedom to roam.

Piercing the Darkness begins in shadow. We see slumped workers with backs turned in chiaroscuro. Faces are hidden or masked. Bank masterfully photographs arms and hands, letting them direct the viewer’s eye across the frame. Many pictures are about Cubans in contact, sizzling with gesticulation and assertion. Bank is present when they argue or embrace, and often, these vignettes reveal the scars of Cuba’s crimes committed in the name of ideology.

I found myself viewing each page like a detective at a crime scene. The details unfold slowly, and the most telling evidence lies in the shadows. She certainly named her collection wisely. Like Robert Frank’s Americans, Bank’s Cubans are people with a shared mythology best expressed through their sense of solitude. We are viewing the work of an artist who knows her subject well and refuses to make simple pictures about complex lives. Bank is not telling the story of Cuba; she is telling the story of humanity through pictures of Cuba.