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.
I made the above picture last week on High Street in Holyoke (2016). On my first trip to Holyoke in 1970, I photographed the Holyoke Police Station (below).
I haven’t gone far in 46 years. The above 2 pictures were made a block apart from each other.
Children of the Wild performed Wastelands in Holyoke last month. Walken Schweigert directed and wrote the opera based on Dante’s Inferno, and they sang it in Italian. These thespians actually fit my blog theme of Wake Up and Be Awesome.
Also in the “awesome” category, I photographed Big Fish, Angie and Matt in 2006. My wife, Vivian Leskes, asked them what they thought they would be doing in 10 years. The text is enlarged below. If anyone knows them, help me get in touch for another picture.
Jenny Rosa was about 14 years old when I took this picture 26 years ago. Jenny, If you see this, send me a note. I would like to make your portrait at 40.
I spent a lot of time hanging out on Center St. with my 8X10 Deardorff camera in the 1990s. All the buildings are gone now; they were replaced with smaller houses. Below, Wanda is hanging out with her children.
I felt welcome in “the Flats” of Holyoke. Carrying around 70 pounds of view camera equipment made me part of the entertainment in the neighborhood. I always handed out pictures created from my earlier visits. I don’t think my little digital camera makes the same impact when I photograph now.
I tried to photograph inside as much as possible. I wish I could remember where this apartment was. I like the face in the lower right corner of the photo.
Below, a young man and his stereo.
A friend pointed out how the absence of people holding smart phones and portable digital screens makes these scenes from 1990 more poignant and intimate. Even while this gentleman, a well known personality from around Center Street, is posing for his formal portrait, I feel connected to him through my large box camera. And he is addressing the camera, not distracted with a digital device.
If I am remembering correctly, Vivian Leskes interviewed his grandmother Antonia.
It may be too late for the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (It happened yesterday as of this writing). But it is not too late to participate in several other events.
These two guys were waiting for the Holyoke Parade to begin on Sunday. I asked a nearby cop when he expected the Parade to arrive at this point along the route, he said, “in about two hours”. Here’s what to do while you are waiting for the next parade:
ZEKE Magazine is now available by subscription! Why am I telling you this? I am on the Advisory Committee of the Social Documentary Network (SDN). The organization that recently launched ZEKE. Check out www.zekemagazine.com and consider subscribing.
The next issue of ZEKE won’t be out until late April. If you want some photo action sooner than that, you can come to the Ashfield ArtSalon. It happens this Friday, March 25, 2016 at the Double Edge Theater in Ashfield on Route 116. The presentations start at 7. Admission is $5. Who are the artist’s showing their slides? I will be joined by my favorite expressionistic photographer Sarah Holbrook, premier ceramicist Mary Barringer, and New England’s number one artist, Jane Lund. Hayley Wood, the Managing Director of Double Edge , is also presenting. I suspect she is fantastic, too.
I will be showing slides from both Central Asia and Holyoke. The above picture is from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The picture below is from
The Puerto Rico Day Parade, Holyoke, MA.,2006.
Professor Robert Aller (Left) disguised as a professional at Deb and Chris Lizon’s wedding.
If you have read this far down the page, you are probably one of my past students or a friend. If you are also a friend or student of Bob Aller, please come to his retirement party to be held in conjunction with the Holyoke Community College Annual Student Art Show Thursday, April 14, 2016 from 7-9 pm at the Taber Gallery next to the HCC Library. There will also be festivities at the Media Arts Center in the HCC Campus Center.
All pictures Frank Ward© except for the ZEKE Magazine spread.