Photos by Frank Ward, Thomas Laird and Bill Hamilton (We worked as Research Group Triangle and I don’t recall which pictures are whose).
My first direct experience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism came in January 1974 at the Kalachakra Initiation in Bodh Gaya, India. This was the third Kalachakra given outside of Tibet and the first that matched the crowds of the first Kalachakra empowerment given by the 14th Dalai Lama in Tibet in 1954. Over 100,000 practitioners converged to experience this tantric initiation next to the tree descended from the original Bodhi tree- the tree under which Siddartha Gautama first became Buddha, the enlightened one. That was around the year 589 BCE.
The Bodhi tree is at the top of this picture, thousands of monks are seated before His Holiness.
On January 3rd to 14th, 2017, the 34th Kalachakra Initiation will take place in Bodh Gaya. This time they expect well over 200,000 attendees. The teachings are free and open to everyone. Register at the website so they know you are coming.
The Mahabodhi Temple adjacent to the Bodhi Tree.
Kalachakra, 43 years ago, represented the beginning of a major shift for me. This initiation became an experience of consummate clarity. I did my first vipassana meditation retreat a week or so later, and a couple of months after that Tom, Billy and I were in residence at Takshindu Monastery in the Himalayas, renting a house for $4.00 a month.
During Kalachakra, evenings are a time for lighting candles, lots of them.
Tonight, New Year’s Eve, is an appropriate time for candles to illuminate the consummate clarity we all need to make our way through 2017.
In the 1990s, I took three trips to Tibet. Above- Man in a Basket, 1994.
Chinese military at the Lhasa Airport, 1992.
Man at the Latrine in the Lhasa Ghetto, 1992
Girl with His Holiness the Dalai Lama Photo, 1992
I gave the picture to her in exchange for her portrait. This photo and most of the following pictures were made with my 8X10 inch view camera (70 pounds of equipment). Below, Tibetans taking a look through my dark cloth, 1992.
West Gate, Lhasa, 1994.
This was the celebrated entry point leading into the heart of Lhasa. When the Chinese invaded in the 1950s, they blew up the ancient gate allowing their tanks into Tibet’s largest city . In the 90s, the former gate was still a flashpoint. Tibetans would string prayer flags across the road almost every night. The Chinese soldiers would tear them down during the day.
Rambo guards the door to a Lhasa tea house, 1994
Pool Players with the Potala in the Background, 1994.
Monks in the Gyantse Kumbum, 1992
Lama Gyurme at Dreprung Monastery outside of Lhasa. 1992.
Girl from Amdo near the Lukhang Temple behind the Potala, 1992.
Mother and Child on the Ferry to Samye Monastery, 1994.
More of my pictures from Tibet:
It is time for Social Documentary Network’s Call for Entries. This is an opportunity to have your photo work reviewed by some of the world’s top practitioners, photo editors and all around humanitarians. Show us pictures that matter.
Nuns in their temple in Lhasa, 1998.
Monk, Ladakh, India, 1974
Back in the ’70s, Thomas Laird, Bill Hamilton and I formed Research Group Triangle. We were supported in part by an Italian philanthropist in Geneva, Switzerland. Our mandate was to document Buddhist culture in India and Nepal. Over a period of several months, we photographed, filmed and recorded audio in Buddhist temples, hermitages and monasteries.
Listening to the ting-shah, Bodhanath, Nepal, 1979
Five years later, in 1978, I returned to Asia with my wife, Vivian Leskes and spent several more months with the Sherpas and Tibetans.
Group Portrait, Junbesi Temple, Solu, Nepal, 1974
I’m the guy with the beard and Tom is standing behind me.
Funeral, Junbesi, 1979
A sick woman arrived in Junbesi one evening trying to get to her Buddhist teacher, Tulshig Rimpoche, before dying. She didn’t make it. She is on the right tied to heavy stones for a river burial. She did not have the money for a traditional sky burial. The ritual was performed by a village lama, with chendar drum in the foreground, and Nyingma Dzogchenpa Lhakpa Drolma, the funeral shaman, reciting prayers to the left. Vivian is sitting on a rock in the background.
Nyingma Dzogchenpa Lhakpa Drolma at the Dumji Festival, Junbesi, Nepal, 1979
Takshindu Lama Leshe in his Monastery apartment, Solu Region, Nepal, 1974
A puja in a village home, Solu Region, Nepal, 1974
The monks and lamas often supported themselves by performing ceremonies for villagers.
Annual Dumji Festival, Junbesi, Nepal, 1979
Monk and Chung-Chung at the Kalachakra Empowerment, Bodhgaya, India, 1974
My first meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and my first experience with Tibetan Buddhism happened at this Kalachakra Tantra ceremony soon after I first arrived in India.
This initiation took place in a field beside the Bodhi Tree. The original place of the Buddha’s enlightenment 2500 years ago.
I will continue this series of my early photography of Tibetan culture with a posting about three trips I made to Tibet in the 1990s. Thanks for looking.
THE MAGAZINE OF GLOBAL DOCUMENTARY
My HeyLook HoLyoke show is now off of the gallery walls. If you want to see an article about it, and me, look here.
ZEKE has just released their fall issue in digital and print. I am on the ZEKE Advisory Board and I say, we need more subscribers to help keep documentary growing. Check it out here. In the most recent issue, I review two books about two cultures. Here is the first review.
Once in awhile a book comes along that is so beautiful to look at and so painful to contemplate that the mind gets entangled somewhere between the art of seeing and the subject matter being seen. In Paula Bronstein’s devastating Afghanistan Between Hope and Fear, what is seen is not all about beauty. It is often shameful, criminal, repellent, and it is mesmerizing.
Afghanistan, with its open deserts and looming mountains, is stunning. The population, comprising about 14 ethnic groups, would offer a dream casting call for any Hollywood movie. Afghanistan’s recent history, beginning with the Russian invasion of 1978 and continuing through the regime of the Taliban and into an unclear future, presents an endless unraveling of despicable events. Both Kim Barker’s Foreword and the Introduction, “Afghan Women,” by Christina Lamb provide some much needed comprehension of Bronstein’s heart piercing photographs.
Kim Barker describes the pictures as “arresting,” “inspiring,” “contradictory,” “compelling,” and “complicated.” Barker also says of Afghanistan that, “Photographs are almost the only way to prove the reality of life there.” Rather than “reality,” Bronstein’s pictures seem more like a fine art re-enactment of an Old Testament fable during the aftermath of World War III. That is not a criticism. Bronstein’s visual effort is the most successful illumination of Afghanistan’s ongoing circumstances yet published. To quote Bronstein’s question from her Afterword, “If conflict is all you ever experience, can happiness ever be defined without it?” Under such circumstances, one could also ask, can beauty ever be defined without it?
Waiting in line, Coppelia, Havana, 2002. Possibly the largest ice cream parlor in the world.
All Cuba photos by Frank Ward
There is a great portfolio about Cuba by several artists in the new ZEKE. The above picture is not included, but there are wonderful, more recent pictures that you should check out. I have not shown my Cuba panoramas in decades. Now’s the time.
Spandex, Havana, 2002
Vegetable Market, Havana, 2002
Pio Lindo, Havana, 2002
Cafe, Havana, 2002
Cigar Factory, Cuba, 2002. Cuban cigar factories are places of higher learning. During work someone is assigned to read one of the great books of literature. Anna Karenina anyone?
Trinidad de Cuba, 2002
Visiting the Pinar Family, Cuba, 2002
Playing Ball, Trinidad de Cuba, 2002
Photographer taking our portrait, Havana, 2002
Here is the photographer’s portrait of Vivian and me with several friends. We sat on the stairs of the Capitolio, and because the photographer couldn’t get the dome in his picture he added the capital’s dome in-camera. I also have the paper negative which was developed inside his box camera.
The HeyLook HoLyoke show is open as of Sept 6. There will be 2 receptions. First, on Wednesday, Sept 14th from 11-1:00 with an artist’s talk at noon. And then, Thursday evening, Sept. 15th, from 5:30-7:30 for those who have jobs during the day.
Two pictures (not in the show) from the Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2006.
HeyLook HoLyoke is not the Ultimate Holyoke, that is Holyoke itself. These pictures represent what I love about photography- the medium’s ability to create a 2 dimensional rendering that looks like something in our world. In this case Holyoke. This Holyoke of photographs is no ordinary Holyoke. The distortion of optics and camera really contribute to making these pictures my fragile Holyoke. And it is true that parts of habitat Holyoke are crumbling before my eyes.
Holyoke Community College is a Holyoke on the hill. It is a great place that has similar issues to the old Pulp City. Primarily, the infrastructure is crumbling. In January 2017, we will close our black and white and color chemical darkrooms for 2 years of renovations to our large Campus Center. And that’s just one piece of a complicated network of issues.
What HCC does have are truly worthy students and top flight faculty. Above is a photo of Art Professor Frank Cressotti’s office in 2014.
This is a life-sized, printed exposure of students lying on sheets of photo paper in the HCC darkroom in 2005. Basically, this photogram and Cressotti’s office above and the prison cell below represent a Giraffe’s eye, a perpendicular, view of the world.
This cell is at the old Holyoke Jail that has miraculously avoided demolition over the past 30 plus years. My camera eye is attracted to what a majority of people would consider detritus, eyesores to be demolished. There are those of us who relish how the camera sees old paint, pocked sheet metal and other unpleasant textures. This is the opposite of flesh and fur, and equally beautiful in a photograph.
Please come to the exhibition. It is at 303 Homestead Ave. which is on a stretch of Rte 202 west of Rte 91 in Western Massachusetts. HCC is around a mile from 91. Drive into the campus, turn left at the “T” and keep driving to the top of the hill where there is the main campus entrance. There is a visitor’s parking lot just beyond the rotary. Donahue Building is a few steps down from the main rotary. It’s the building to your right. Enter Donahue and the Library is immediately on your right. Enter that lobby and you will see the Taber Gallery. Welcome.
Gloria in her kitchen at my first portrait session for El Proyecto Holyoke. Her three daughters, Mary, Jenny and Angie, are pictured below. While editing for my HeyLook HoLyoke show at Holyoke Community College, I discovered that my vintage 40X60 inch mounted print of Gloria also exhibited a big ugly stain. That means it doesn’t make the cut.
I do have some 8X10 contact proofs of Mary and Jenny and Angie, but they are on RC glossy paper, not exhibition quality.
The above three view camera pictures were never exhibited. I do have work prints that have taken on more power over time. All our pictures become personal history after awhile. The good ones represent our literary output, visual poems so to speak.
These portraits will not make the cut, even though the big 8X10 inch negatives have become like my children. I love them now more then when they were born in the developing tray. The appearance of an image on a piece of photo sensitive film or paper in a developing tray feels almost as magical as doing almost anything with a smart phone.
These film based pictures are from 17 years ago. HCC has recently paved a road from campus to the Ashley Reservoir. We will be field tripping there this fall.
I am looking forward to teaching Basic and Advanced black and white film classes. Film photography may not be as easy as tickling a smart phone. Using a film camera involves a hands-on experience in creative energy and good fortune. With a classic film camera, there is no app to make your pictures look like a “classic camera” shot. It needs your input to make “classic camera” photos as good as, or better than,your digital camera and an app. Success takes trial and error, and you can use your smart phone to make test shots. You can also use a light meter app to properly expose your film. Don’t leave your smart phones home. Photo students will be carrying two cameras this fall.
This is a picture from the first day I used a camera. I loaded my only roll of film into my new used Nikon three times to make triple exposures. There is an app for that.
Last weekend was the 2016 Hispanic Family Festival and Western Mass Puerto Rican Parade in Holyoke. This is a great annual celebration that gave me the opportunity to photograph for my September exhibition at the Taber Art Gallery at HCC.
You can barely see the Festival stage in the background of this photograph in the beer tent. The Festival offered 6 hours of joyous Latin music every day for 3 days. Regrettably, I wasn’t recording sound. Fortunately, the weekend was a visual festival of gesture and expression.
At the Parade, I was intrigued by this street musician.
I had lunch on the first day with Mari and Rene. I asked Mari what was the best on their extensive menu. She recommended the Kielbasa. Delicious.
I disavow any relationship to lunch and this picture (above), but I was fascinated that the Porta-Pottys were so far away from the action.
As usual, I am attracted to the beauty of quality footware.
A favorite moment during the Parade was this dueling portrait session. I’d like to see what his pictures look like. Maybe I can find them on Instagram.
Below is the picture on the gallery announcement for the exhibition. All photographs ©Frank Ward
HeyLook HoLyoke: 46 years of witnessing Holyoke through a camera runs from Sept. 6th to Sept. 30th, 2016. Gallery talk and reception Wed. Sept. 14th, 11 am to 1 pm– talk begins at noon. There will be an evening reception Thurs. Sept. 15th from 5:30-7:30 pm.
The Taber Gallery at Holyoke Community College is easily accessed through the HCC Library lobby in the Donahue Building and is open to all during regular school sessions. Please call for current gallery hours: 413 552 2614.