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The Last Cut and the First Roll

August 9, 2016

Gloria Rosa at Home, 1990

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.


Mary Garcia, Jenny Rosa and Children, 1990


Angie, Gloria’s Middle Daughter, 1990

I do have some 8X10 contact proofs of Mary and Jenny and Angie, but they are on RC glossy paper, not exhibition quality.


Man, Baby and Boy, 1990

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.



Ashley Reservoir Student Fieldtrip, 1999

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.

First Role

The First Roll, 1969-70

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.




La Familia Hispana

July 24, 2016


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.

Wake Up and Be Awesome

June 5, 2016


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.  





In Search of Holyoke

April 14, 2016

JenRosa-041.jpgJenny 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.

BayWindow_014.jpgI 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.

stereoman-042.jpgA friend pointed out how the absence of people holding smart phones and portable digital screens makes these scenes from 1990 more poignant and intimate.  ManRing-044sm.jpgEven 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.

AntoniaAlvarezSm-045 copy.jpgAntoniaAlvarezTxt-046.jpg

Stuff Happens

March 21, 2016

SPDP052.jpgIt 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 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.

GirlsBishkek.jpgI 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.

The art of the field trip.

March 10, 2016

01Quantum10FT7613.jpgField trip with my students, Holyoke, MA, 2010

I am amazed at some of the crazy places where I have brought my students. This is Quantum Properties along the 3rd Level canal. Quantum had us all sign legal waivers before they would let us wander around.


Thea modeling for my class in the old factory next to the building above, 2010.  This interior picture was made about a week after the above field trip. One of my students returned alone the following week to photograph more. National Geographics (TV) was there making a documentary and they recruited him on the spot to take pictures for them.

03shoetree15-2902.jpgFor almost a decade I have brought students to this large “shoe tree” in Holyoke. Last winter there was so much snow from plowing the adjacent parking lot that a student and I crawled up the icy snow pile to get an elevated view of the tree.

04ShoeTree15-2869.jpgAs I was photographing I heard a yelp. My student slipped, flew off the snow mound and landed, head first, 15 feet below me. No one was injured in the making of this picture.

05Warehouse2010_4977.jpgThe Wherehouse, along the 1st level canal, is another favorite Holyoke destination. This is an area with odd and interesting stuff displayed everywhere. A student became fascinated with an old fire alarm box and pulled the lever to see if it worked. It did. All we could do was wait while the fire trucks arrived.

06AlarmBox2014-00035.jpgFire alarm box, corner of Dwight and Main streets, 2014.  This box is a couple of blocks away from the alarm my student set-off. These things look non-functional, don’t be fooled.


I photographed this dilapidated building in 2008. That is my student walking across the nail and needle scattered floor in her sneakers. Others were wearing sandals.

At times I feel the need to return to the relatively safe environment of the studio.

07Studio2008-1662.jpg I like to engage with all the studio has to offer. This picture from 2008 incorporates photograms, mannikins, a student and a projected slide.

08Studio0288.jpgThis session with a hired model in 2013 was going really well, then one of my students undressed and joined in the activities. This usually doesn’t happen.  All I could do was run and get her to sign a model release.

The train next time/To walk or to ride?

February 17, 2016

This overview from Depot Hill in Holyoke, photographed in 2016, is of the Amtrak platform built in 2015.

Holyokedepot150 sm.jpg

January 2015, the day a worker first  marked construction plans in the snow. Depot Hill is in the background.


In 2014, the view from Depot Hill could benefit from a train depot in the foreground.

Walkway06sm1654.jpgTen years ago, there was an old walkway from Bowers Street on Depot Hill (left off camera) to the intersection of Main Street and Dwight Street. If the walkway existed today, it would be next to the new Amtrak train platform. In my mind that generates the question,  to walk or to ride?

DepotHillSnow100.jpgAccording to my picture from winter 2015, the walkway is closed. Based on what the picture sees, the walkway is more than closed, it has disappeared. Setting time aside, Pulp City is entering the realm of “magical realism”.

nil I photographed standing in the walkway in 2006, near the “walkway closed” sign pictured above.

OldTrainStat00200sm.jpgIn 2014, I photographed the Historic Register worthy train station located several hundred yards north of the new Amtrak cement platform. Renovating this station would have cost the big bucks. That’s not happening soon, considering there is only one train daily. For a lot less money, Holyoke could purchase a few hundred tons of cement and make another elevated walkway. It could also be a community skateboard track. Now that’s something that enhances the question, to walk or to ride?.


While I was working on this post I came across this wonderful picture by Dorothea Lange from 1937. Over 80 years ago, to walk or to ride was the question. Now, the answer is still based on the same reality. If you want the answer, simply check the price of an Amtrak ticket.