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HeyLook, HoLyoke

February 1, 2016



Zoning Map of Holyoke, Massachusetts

HeyLook, HoLyoke is the working title for my most recent pictures from the “Pulp City”. HeyLook is an anagram for Holyoke. The map on my workroom wall is inspiring me to consider all the possibilities of Holyoke.

I began photographing “the jewel of the Connecticut River Valley” in the early 1970’s while I was a student at UMass. I also made a series of Black and White 8X10 inch view camera portraits there in the late 80’s and early 90s.


Fernando Gonzales, The Salvation Army, 1989

My wife, Vivian Leskes, conducted and transcribed interviews in Spanish and English with the people I photographed. Here are a couple of my favorites.


I was concerned about Paco (Luis). He was the guy who helped me to not get ripped off or not have my car stolen. He was a youth at risk. I ran into him several years after this picture was created and he had turned his life around. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up going to Holyoke Community College.


Jenny was only 13 or 14 when this picture was made. I love the interview she gave Vivian. She said, “I’d like to live in Detroit. I’ve heard about it and it seems nice. They have a curfew and if they catch you outside, they bring you home. That would be good for my kids.” She didn’t want another boyfriend until she turned 17. “I don’t want to marry anybody from Holyoke. I want to marry somebody who’s built, has a good job, and he better buy me the furniture before we get married.” I asked about her several years later. The block of Center St. where Paco and Jenny lived was demolished, she had moved out, had a child, and was living in Springfield.


I photographed this guy in the Center St. neighborhood. We couldn’t find him again to do an interview.

I did rephotograph a few of the people from this original Holyoke Project in 2005. I had donated the original 40X60 inch mounted prints with text to the Holyoke Library. They didn’t have room for them anymore and gave some pictures to a woman I had photographed. She also acquired my huge photograph of her husband. She was now divorced and took great pleasure in destroying the life-sized portrait of her ex with a wrecking hammer.

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