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The Drunken Bicycle opens tonight and other more important news.

November 2, 2012

The Vermont Center for Photography
Friday, Nov. 2, 5:30-8:30, 49 Flat St., Brattleboro

The Gate of Hell, Turkmenistan, 2011, Frank Ward

Above is a picture of Vivian and a friend from the US Embassy in the desert looking at a Soviet mining accident from the early 1970s.

This week, all hell broke loose in New Jersey, New York and elsewhere in the devastating wake of Superstorm Sandy. Time Magazine called on 5 photographers to use Instagram to document the storm and its aftermath.

Time Magazine’s photo editor Kira Pollack says that using Instagram was an experiment born out of necessity. Read the Forbes article here.

Today from Time’s LightBox comes a portfolio and short interview with Joel Meyerowitz. I first fell under the spell of his 8X10 view camera work from Cape Cod. He is best known for his work at “Ground Zero”. Some of both portfolios are in this slideshow.

Meyerowitz says, “I’m really out there to feel what it feels like to be alive and conscious in that moment. In a sense, the record of my photographs is a record of moments of consciousness and awareness that have come to me in my life.” Read more:

I second Meyeowitz’s quote. The camera keeps me aware. Carrying a camera helps to wake me up. I hope my students figure that out.

The Drunken Bicycle in Brattleboro

October 22, 2012

The Drunken Bicycle—Travels in the Former Soviet Union

An Exhibition by Frank Ward

Presented by the Vermont Center for Photography

At 49 Flat Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

From November 2 – December 2

Opening Friday Evening November 2 , 5-9pm for the monthly Brattleboro Gallery Walk. Please check for the VCP’s daily schedule.


Kiosk, Karakul Animal Market, Kyrgyzstan, 2012, All photos by Frank Ward

The above picture is the only image in this post that will be in the show. Below are pictures that didn’t fit.


Lenin, Irkutsk, 2008

I first came upon a drunken bicycle in Irkutsk, Siberia. I didn’t get a good picture of it. There was a crowd and a lot of drinking, neither of which is uncommon in Siberian city parks on the weekend.


Dance party in the park, Astana, Kazakhstan, 2012

A drunken bicycle is a conventional bike outfitted with a reverse steering gear. The owner/ operator demonstrates how easy it is to ride and awards a beer if one can travel a few meters without falling. This entertainment always attracts a crowd but, I have never seen a customer navigate the counter-intuitive bicycle successfully.


Twins, Irkutsk, Siberia, 2010

The drunken bicycle is an apt metaphor for life in the Former Soviet Union.  The bureaucrats appear to sway on a drunken bicycle; the hapless traveler spends his days confused by the swing of it; and this photographer is continually influenced by its contradictions.


Destruction of the Angara River waterfront, Irkutsk, Siberia, 2010

Curious pleasures accompany my confounded expectations. The security guard repeating, “I love you,” as he gestures for me to delete pictures of a destroyed habitat (above). Or the policemen who accuse me of stealing strategic military secrets because I photographed a World War II tank on display in a city park. Or the graffiti scribbled on a high school desk: “Stalin is gay.”


Marilyn Monroe, Vladivostok, Russian Far East, 2008

The publicly dour Russians think we Americans always have a foolish grin pasted on our faces. Well, I do, but I am not laughing at the former Soviets. It is the joy of seeing a painted wall mural of Lenin blowing a kiss to Marilyn Monroe (above), or my surprise at a grandmother asking me to photograph her in a bikini at the beach (below). The FSU is a paradise of paradox, where the landscapes are limitless and the people are full of passion and pain.


 Babushka at the beach, Odessa, Ukraine, 2005

I don’t think I’ll have room for any pictures from my trips to Ukraine in 2001 and 2005.

All readers are invited to the opening so please come if you can.

Otherwise, the VCP Gallery is only open on Fridays and Saturdays 1-6 and Sundays 11-3.

Exhibitions in Vermont and at the Victory Theater in Holyoke

October 13, 2012

This November, the Vermont Center for Photography is hosting The Drunken Bicycle, Travels in the Former Soviet Union. 

I finished doing the selection and framing of my upcoming one person show in Brattleboro. I printed the pictures at 24X30 or 24X36 inches on fiber and baryta papers. Half the show is from my work in Central Asia this past spring and summer. In all, three quarters of the pictures have never been previously exhibited. I have published some, but only one of the 2012 pictures has appeared in this blog. I’ll blog later with more information about the location and opening (evening of Nov. 2nd) of the exhibition.

A floor to ceiling sculpture by Chris Nelson at the Victory Theater in Holyoke.

To celebrate the labor intensive end to producing my show, I went to the unrenovated Victory Theater in Holyoke, Massachusetts to see the wonderful installations offered by our areas remarkable artists.

A detail of Amy Johnquest’s installation in the Powder Room.

Blue light seems to be a recurring motif in the dimly lit Victory Theater.

Angry Frank (self-portrait) with a detail of Kari Gatzke’s projection/installation.

Detail from Olivia Bernard’s sculpture/installation.

I hope artists don’t get mad about my detail pictures. Plus, I left several artists out because I didn’t get a picture of their work. This is a blog about photography so I hope Chris Willingham, Angela Zammarelli, Joshua Vrysen and Torsten Zenas Burns understand.

Detail of Taiga Ermansons’ installation.

The exhibiting artists were quite sensitive to the beautiful decay inside the Victory. Their work often incorporated the tattered surroundings as if a wand was waved to let something glorious rise from the rubble. The Victory is due for renovation this June. I hope to photograph there with my classes before the reconstruction begins.

The Photographer’s First Challenge

September 9, 2012

Digital Billboard, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2012, all photos by Frank Ward

I saw this billboard outside our hotel in Tashkent. It reminded me of our digital  lab at Holyoke Community College. The good news is that our digital photo lab is running with the fewest problems of its short history.

Hip Hop at Lenin’s Statue, Osh, Kyrgyzstan, 2012

My students are the best part of the new semester. I am teaching two small Digital Fine Art classes and a huge Basic Photography class. Students love working with classic black and white film. The joy of seeing one’s picture appearing on the surface of a previously white piece of paper still cannot be matched. Well, actually, iPhones are amazing too.

Smart Phone Action, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 2012

I’m sure my digital/film students will rise to the challenge of making fresh pictures in a world where millions of pictures are made every day.

Light and Shadow, Khiva, Uzbekistan, 2012

There is a good reason to pick up a camera and point it at the world. We do it to as a response to all that is happening around us and inside us.  A photograph is a personal  gesture that tells others about our world view. A photograph is the dance of light and shadow frozen in time and space. I don’t think any other art can stop the world so we can contemplate it for as long as our heart desires.

Water Park, Osh, Kyrgyzstan, 2012

The photographer’s first challenge is to find the light.

Restaurant Kitchen, Ghonchi, Tajikistan, 2012

Of course, photography isn’t just about sunlight and windows.

Waiting out the Rain, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 2012

A rainy day is a great time to make pictures. Both light and shadow are soft and beautiful. If you like people pictures, soft light is often the best. It’s true for landscapes too.

After the Rain, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 2012

Our first assignment in Basic Photography is to photograph light, form and texture. Once you find the right light, form and texture usually takes care of itself. Well, you do have to have interesting forms. Fortunately, the world is full of them.

The Back to Photo School Post

August 25, 2012

Photo Class in Isfara, Tajikistan

It has been a 5 month hiatus for The Coruscating Camera. Most of the photographers and students that I worked with this summer in Central Asia had active FB accounts, but my WordPress and Blogspot blogs were blocked in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

We met a group of party people on the high pastures of Kyrgyzstan. They had a great accordion and lots of vodka. We joined them for some dancing.

I was travelling throughout the ‘stans with the support of the US Department of State. My wife Vivian works as an English Language Specialist and I was a Cultural Envoy presenting workshops on photography.

Inside the Isfara classroom in Tajikistan.

I’ve been editing the pictures for a one person show at the Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro this November. This selection probably won’t be included. These pictures are more about teaching and traveling for 7 weeks.

We met this family on the road to Panjikent, Tajikistan.

Teaching in a well equipped studio in Urgench, Uzbekistan. Photo by Muhayo Aliyeva

Dancers, Urgench, Uzbekistan.

The above is part of a performance welcoming me to the Urgench State College of Arts. What a talented group of students and faculty.

Inside the 4 mile long tunnel under a mountain in Northern Tajikistan.

Our Department of State team, who often travelled with us, described this as the “Tunnel of Doom”.

Below are a few more pictures from teaching and hanging out with students.

Preparing for a workshop in Panjikent, Tajikistan.

With students on a fieldtrip in Sukok, Uzbekistan.

Eating grapes in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

At the American Corner in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Khiva may be my favorite place in Uzbekistan. It has a quiet beauty and stimulates a sense of wonder. Wonder is one of my favorite feelings.

I didn’t include any pictures from Kazakhstan because I posted a couple of times from Almaty at the beginning of our program. If you didn’t see those posts, go to Asia Central. There is also more about Urgench, Uzbekistan there.

And check out for more from Astana, Kazakhstan, one of the world’s weirdest cities.

Gregory Thorp: Visiting Artist at HCC

March 12, 2012
All pictures are from "the school bus series" by Gregory Thorp

from winter, to spring, to summer from "the school bus series" by Gregory Thorp

To celebrate the glorious transition of winter to spring, the Holyoke Community College Photography Department has invited Gregory Thorp to be a visiting artist on Wed. March 21st at 11:00 in the Media Arts Center in the HCC Campus Center Building. Gregory will give a presentation and critique students’ work.

Gregory Thorp is described in his most recent book, Rivers Run Past, as “America’s premier photographer of our inland waterways”. I don’t think Gregory will be showing his water work, but I did give him the go ahead to present whatever he wants. I am hoping that he will talk about the process of making great pictures while creating his many remarkable portfolios.

Here is a scan of Gregory’s artist statement for his most recent “school bus series”.

Foundations of Photographic Excellence

February 19, 2012

NASA Photo of South and North America

What makes a good photograph? The above NASA photo could qualify as a great photograph, but I’m thinking of a good picture made by a human being with photographically based tools, but not necessarily a satellite or a space shuttle. Megan Junell Riepenhoff comes to mind. She photographs the cosmos with barely a camera. In fact, her pictures are photograms created with the help of light sensitive materials, commonly found objects, a light source and only an occasional negative. For the picture below she used hair gel, sand, a balloon and a flashlight.

From the series Instar by Meghann Junell Riepenhoff

My first point is that a great picture should at least be as good as what is photographed. It could be better than being there. And it would most likely be a perspective that the viewer would not have conceived. In the case of Ms. Riepenhoff, being there may have inspired only questions from a casual observer.

See Meghann’s studio and read what she has to say here. Checkout her website here.

World Press Photo of the Year, 2011.

Samuel Aranda’s World Press Photo of the Year, 2011, does not need a caption to portray its power. That is because this image from Yemen relies on two millenia of Christian iconography to set the stage for interpretation. Joerg Colberg, over at Conscientious, has eloquently detailed his response to using a Christian symbol to illustrate Muslim suffering. That said, it is still a good picture and will most likely join the pantheon of historic depictions of “the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus”. I just Googled “The Pieta” and Aranda’s photograph came up after the first page of paintings and sculpture.

The Sodoma Pieta, 1533

Back to my second point. A great picture will hold up without a caption or label. Without words, pictures become adventures in form and space. They are viewed purely on visual terms, even if those terms refer to 2000 years of art history.

Photojournalism and Conceptual Art may take exception to my no caption theory and I agree.

Untitled by Cindy Sherman, 2011

Next on my list for photographic excellence is to avoid gimmicky tools — make that “extremely” gimmicky tools.

Photoshop manipulation is getting more common in the art world. In Cindy Sherman’s newest work, at the Museum of Modern Art, she has digitally altered her face and placed her body in an Icelandic landscape. I’m not complaining. I like the picture.

Let us, at least, consider avoiding  gimmicky “no-nos” as in fisheye lenses and starburst filters. There are so many tools available to photographers, use what works to fulfill your personal vision.

From Photographs of America by James Fee

Technical skills can be an indicator of excellence, but it is only one ingredient. James Fee had technical chops and he knew what to do with them. He would use vintage cameras and lenses and he did not hesitate to mutilate his film or stain his prints. He would work his images until his technical knowledge meshed with his creative intentions.

Mitch Dobrowner is more traditionally technical in his expression of  excellence.

Rope Out: Regan, North Dakota by Mitch Dobrowner, 2011

Finally, I want to discuss the lottery factor. In the digital age, quality is, at times, thwarted by quantity. It is OK to shoot thousands of pictures, but make those attempts with vision in mind.

Contact Sheet from The Americans by Robert Frank

Robert Frank created one of the most influential photography books of the 20th century. The Americans, published in America in 1959, included 83 pictures edited from 27,000 negatives.

Below is the chosen picture from the above contact. See the recently published book of his contacts here.

From The Americans by Robert Frank

When Garry Winogrand died in 1984 he left behind almost 300,000 unedited images, including 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film, 6500 rolls of developed but not proofed film, plus about 3,000 additional contact sheets of unedited rolls of negatives. Winogrand did not like to edit his pictures while he could still remember taking them. He felt his personal memory of the experience could bias his choices.

Untitled (Fish), by Garry Winogrand, 1967

Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand were great practitioners of the 35mm camera. Winogrand would certainly be shooting digital if he was still around today. I’ll leave you with a Winogrand quote that wonderfully contradicts this post’s intention to outline some of the indicators for photographic excellence.

“I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph. I have no preconceptions.”

Peer Group Show

January 29, 2012


PEER GROUP: 5 photographers who inspire each other

February 2-29, 2012


20 West St, Northampton, MA

Opening reception Saturday, Feb. 4th. 2-4:30

We are having this exhibition because we want to illustrate what happens when visually oriented people make the time to get together and let our pictures do the communicating. We have been doing just that for two years now, meeting about once a month to enjoy each others company and to think with our eyes. The selections from five individual portfolios on display in the Hosmer Gallery represent five facets of our group expression.

Who are we? First, the very innovative artist/photographer Peter Kitchell is the prime instigator for us getting together along with Sarah Holbrook. Sarah has a decades long career making great art from whatever photographic medium inspires her. Ellen Augarten, appreciated for her professional portrait, as well as fine art photography, brings her talent and good sense to the group. Seasoned professional photographer and artist, Gregory Thorp, was an early influence in my photography career. He continues to inspire us all. I am Frank Ward and I’ve been a picture professional, teaching and making photos, for about as long as everyone else in the group.

Here are bios and pictures from everyone in the group.

From the series, "Doubles" by Ellen Augarten

Ellen Augarten

I have been picking up my camera for thirty years now in a professional capacity, but the last two years I have had the wonderful association with four other photographers in a peer photo group, and I credit them for helping me to see outside of my comfortable photo box. When your vision needs expanding, refinement, discussion, a fresh look and encouragement, there is nothing like sharing new work with colleagues.

The work in this exhibit is a large departure from the black and white portrait work I started my career doing. The images were taken with a Hasselblad XPAN in panoramic mode. I scan the slide film to create high resolution digital files which I use to make ink-jet prints. All of the images are double exposures made in the camera, which gives them some additional depth, interest, and confusion.

My latest accomplishment is getting Psalms in Ordinary Voices published with the Rev. Andrea Ayvazian.

Many thanks to the many photographers who have generously donated their old slide film to me. It has made this project affordable, possible and fun.

Ellen Augarten

Northampton, MA


From the "School Bus" series by Gregory Thorp

Gregory Thorp

Gregory Thorp, 65, is a photographer of musicians, the botany of corn, and the Mississippi River, but when he wants to experience trial and error and hope on a daily basis, he photographs the Ashfield school bus.

Gregory Thorp

Ashfield, MA


Corn, Wine, Husks by Sara Holbrook

Sarah Holbrook   

After receiving a BA in Philosophy, I moved to New York City where I worked in photography and film production. In the late ‘90’s I began to build my own cameras and worked exclusively with pinhole negatives for several years.

There is a different look to pinhole photographs due to the length of exposure time, the way light moves inside the hand-built camera and due also to the invitation to fate to enter in. I find, even with my digital cameras, I am now searching for a more expressionistic look, and realize all my work has become influenced by the pinholes.

Sarah Holbrook

Ashfield, MA


"Palmetto and Pine" by Peter Kitchell

Peter Kitchell

More than 40 years of bouncing back and forth between painting, sculpture, design and photography have defined the kind of work I do more than anything else. It is the combination of these skills that has suggested the materials and scale of my work.

A few times a year I travel to photograph, and put together an in depth meditation on a place that has had a romantic draw for me. I have focused on architecturally specific commissions since the beginning. I love how this has allowed me to pursue larger and more complex jobs, often bringing in other craftspeople and designers with complimentary skills.

Peter Kitchell

Ashfield, MA


Dacha, Siberia, 2010, Frank Ward

Frank Ward

Forty two years ago my video professor at the University of Massachusetts offered me a summer job making slide shows. I asked for an advance to buy a camera and became a professional.  Soon after that I met an Italian philanthropist who sponsored me for a year while I created slide shows in Asia. My mother is still amazed that I am a successful photographer and professor. In 2011, after about a dozen years of applications, I received the prestigious Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship. This grant is a demonstration that achievement is not just a matter of luck; it takes persistence too. Most recently, my photography and travels have developed into a Cultural Envoy position with the US Department of State. This summer, I will be leading photography programs through our embassies in Central Asia

Frank Ward,

Ashfield, MA


Expanding Visions

December 11, 2011

Jericha plus plexiglass. All pictures Frank Ward 2011.

All three of my classes worked with the talented and skillful Jericha this week. She has a strong background in art making, art history and dance. Check out her thoughtful blog, Splitting the Light.

After Julia Margaret Cameron.

I’m uploading my pictures from the sessions because next week is the last week of classes and I probably will not have a chance to feature student work. I’m hoping their work will be ready for the final crit. I spend most of the studio session adjusting  cameras, lights and action. The studio is a new environment for most students and it takes awhile for them to get their settings tweaked.

Cynthia's rabbit mask.

I ask students to bring their own props. That is a big part of the fun.

Slide projection.

Jericha works with us doing portrait, fashion and figure. My favorite work is with projections. We take either a digital or slide projector and have the very improvisational Jericha interact with the screen.

The combination of studio and model is key to transitioning students from taking pictures to making pictures. I like it when their “directorial” mode kicks in and they see the potential in adjusting the situation rather than simply recording what is offered.

Photography School Why?

November 23, 2011

by Michael Lafleur

Last week, I read a Duckrabbit blog post called “Are Photography Degrees the Joker in the Pack?” It got me thinking about the art career conundrum. A joker is a valuable card if all the players agree that it is the “wild card”. Otherwise, it simply isn’t dealt. It seems that the art world is stacked with jokers with art degrees. Every artist needs something on a resume. What is often overlooked in the art school scramble is the real reason to go. Sure, a degree helps you get a job teaching and may get your foot in the door of some classy gallery, but the real motivation has to come from within.

by Joe Bordeau

Joe Bordeau just became a photography major. He has a visceral approach to making photographs, and he has a great feeling for what his visual universe looks like. He hasn’t made a great picture as much as he has made several strong groups of pictures. I think that portfolio consistency easily outweighs a couple of great photos in a mixed bag of snaps.

What art school really offers is the opportunity to make art, to show art, to eat art, and so on. It can be total immersion. I’m thinking about Michael Lafleur, top. He is currently one of HCC’s promising fine art photography students. And he is doing what everyone should be doing in art school– making art, showing art, eating art…

by Patrick Harris

Patrick Harris is also making art like an obsessed art student.  He throws all kinds of pictures at the wall and a lot of them stick. The pictures say something.

by Gretchen Drane

by Ciera Bilodeau-Cox

Gretchen Drane and Ciera Bilodeau-Cox approach art-making as a by-product of life-living. Their work comes right out of the Nan Goldin school of photography although I don’t remember if I showed them Nan Goldin’s work.

by Corrin Halford

During the first week of classes I usually ask students to talk about influences or photographers that inspire them. Ciera cited her friend, Corrin Halford, from a different section of my digital photography classes. Corrin is versatile and talented. That is a great combination for success for the working photographer.

I started this post thinking about why students should go to photography school. I think that every photography student should take a few courses. If fine art is what you want to make, then stay in art school. That is the place to get your vision together. If you are oriented toward photojournalism or some area of commercial photography, and those fields need vision too, you have to consider how much self-confidence you have. You need a lot of energy and stamina to make it on your own. Stay in school to build your portfolio, but jump into any photography situation you can find. The real learning takes place in the field or studio. Photography school is like a trampoline. Use it to bounce higher and higher until you can touch your dream.

Modes of Expression

October 31, 2011

Cherry Blue Ice by Hannah Macpherson

We are just about finished with mid-terms in my two classes of Introduction to Digital Fine Art Photography.  There are stacks of beautiful pictures. The above image is from Hannah Macpherson’s series of multiple exposures. When we critiqued her project we talked about Lorie Novak who makes similar work. Hannah was unaware of her.

From the series-Thin Skinned, 2004-2006 by Lorie Novak

Back to student portfolios, Corrin Halford’s Trisha (below) indulges my love of people pictures.

Trisha by Corrin Halford

I encourage students to photograph indoors. From my perspective interior pictures can be more revealing of the photographer, as well as what or who is photographed. The incursion into the subject’s private space is part of getting personal about picture making.

by Cynthia Consentino

Cynthia Consentino is an accomplished sculptor. It is a pleasure to have her expressive and woozy work as part of the class.

by Michael Lafleur

Michael Lafleur is influenced by William Eggleston. I like that Mike acknowledges his influence without actually taking pictures like Eggleston. See Eggleston via Google for an incredible array of pictures that look as fresh today as they did 30 years ago.

by Gary Thibault

Gary Thibault photographs friends in their rooms and Gretchen Drane photographs friends in their cars.

by Gretchen Drane

The following three pictures illustrate the more theatrical side of expression.

by Leah Avalos

Photo by Christine McCarron

Glow by Patrick Harris

Just so you don’t think all my students make portraits, below is a striking non-portrait from Texas by Ashley Graziadei.

by Ashley Graziadei

What got me thinking about modes of expression is a quote from Denis Donoghue’s review of The Letters of Samuel Beckett Volume II: 1941-1956 that was in the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

(Beckett) claimed to favor “the expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express.”

The above quote makes a lot of sense coming from the author of Waiting for Godot. It also has a superficial kinship with Buddhism’s Heart Sutra:

“form does not differ from emptiness

emptiness does not differ from form

that which is form is emptiness, that which

is emptiness form, these same is true of

feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness…”

by Will Brock

I just wrote a long paragraph about Beckett’s “nothing” of expression and the unconditioned, choiceless awareness that is the heart of The Heart Sutra. Then I deleted it. As students of visual art our mode of expression is through pictures not words. Our obligation is to express. Our freedom is to embrace the known and the unknown. I told my students last week that when the shit hits the fan, see the beauty in the flying debris. As in the minimalist works of Samuel Beckett, the simplest pieces add up to an all encompassing whole.

Brussels Sprouts by Ahmad Taheri

I like Ahmad Taheri’s picture of Brussels sprouts. Our crop of sprouts failed this year so Ahmad’s photograph is a stand-in for what has been my favorite vegetable. It could be said that making art is like making food. Make what you enjoy and consume what you enjoy.

Photo Presentations in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

August 15, 2011

I am so pleased to be able to upload pictures from Central Asia after three weeks of blocked blogs. It is now my final week in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. It is amazing here, although I’m not sure I’ve been able to catch my amazement photographically. I will say that the cliches seem appropriate. For example, Ashgabat as a cross between Las Vegas, Nevada and Pyongyang, North Korea. Or, from my more optimistic perspective, Disney World and the Washington, DC Mall. Regardless of first impressions, I’ve learned from three consecutive years of visiting Tashkent, Uzbekistan that Central Asian cities get better as I get beyond their curiously inhospitable architectural posturing and get to know the people who breathe life into their vast expanses of concrete and marble.

Jerome Liebling: 1924-2011

July 28, 2011

Stan Sherer sent me this obituary of Jerry Liebling. We consider him the man responsible for creating a photography community here in the Western Mass. hills.

Jerry was my bucket of cold water. I would show him my newest work and, if there was the slightest lack in my pictures, he would throw that bucket of water in my face. He was my wake-up call. You didn’t get a pulled punch from Jerry.

I am posting from abroad and the server won’t let me upload any pictures. I’ll work on improving this situation later.

Below is an excerpt of the Hampshire College obituary.

In Memoriam: Jerome Liebling

April 16, 1924 – July 27, 2011

The Hampshire College community mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus Jerome Liebling, who died Wednesday at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Professor Leibling founded Hampshire College’s film, photography, and video program. He was already a photographer and filmmaker of international renown when he came to Hampshire from the University of Minnesota in 1969, before the College had even opened its doors.

He remained at Hampshire until his retirement in 1990, with a leave in academic year 1976-77 to serve as Yale University’s First Walker Evans Visiting Professor of Photography.

Images by Jerome Liebling tell a distinctly American story. He created intimate and deeply honest portraits, capturing the dignity of ordinary people living their lives. He documented both the urban and the rural landscape, remaining true both to the subject and to his artistic vision.

His former students, many of whom have gone on to be among the nation’s leading filmmakers and photographers, have praised Liebling for his humanity, intelligence, and perception as well as the power of his influence on their work. Ken Burns has said that his mentor’s “thumbprint is suffused on every frame” of his films.

“With Jerry’s death, the world has lost a gifted photographer and filmmaker, and Hampshire College has lost a beloved teacher, mentor, friend, and colleague,” said Sigmund Roos, chair of the College’s board of trustees. “He had a profound impact on Hampshire, and on the education of a whole generation of filmmakers. This is a personal loss for me and many others at the College. I will miss him dearly.”

“Jerome Liebling and his camera saw into the souls of America. He is irreplaceable. We all mourn his personal and professional loss,” said Alan Goodman, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty.

Leibling’s work is in the permanent collections of major museums throughout the world. His photographs have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and many other museums and galleries. He received two Guggenheim Fellowships and had many monographs of his work published. Among his many awards and honors was first prize in the 1993 New England Film Festival for Fast Eddie and the Boys, a film he produced with two former students, Hampshire graduates Roger Sherman and Buddy Squires.


A Luce Scholarship Winner and a 2011 MCC Artist Fellow

June 11, 2011

Bessie Young photographs the lives of senior citizens.

Bessie Young is a 2011 graduate of Amherst College. Beginning with a course on The Psychology of Aging her freshman year, Bessie has been working with the “old people” of Amherst, MA. When I saw Bessie’s pictures, first online and later in exhibition, I was wowed by her fresh view. Almost every semester at HCC, I have a student who works with old people, or photographs a grandparent, or simply does portraits of elderly friends. My students have often made beautiful renderings and heart wrenching illustrations of the world of the elderly. Bessie’s pictures see that world through the eyes of the aged.

Bessie Young brings her camera and her heart into the world of the elderly.

I want to congratulate Bessie for getting a Henry Luce Foundation Scholarship Award to continue her work in Japan for the 2011-2012 school year.

Tultsi, Siberia, 2010, by Frank Ward

Last week I was selected as a 2011 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow. I have applied a dozen times over the years for this $7500 award bestowed upon Massachusetts photographers biannually. It is one of the few awards that have no entry fee and no strings attached. It is simply a recognition of work that the artist has created. I applied two years ago with work from the same series, my ongoing project photographing in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). I believe my good fortune this time round was in the editing. Applicants submit 5 numbered image files that are shown to the judges side-by-side on one screen. For years, I had sent what I thought were my five best pictures from whatever project I was working on at the time. This year I decided to consider my submission as one picture composed of 5 independent photographs from the past 3 years. I spent a lot of time comparing and contrasting hundreds of files deciding which combination adds up to more than the 5 chosen photographs.

Previously, I would compose a picture based on several compositional highlights. This is something I picked up from the work of Garry Winogrand, and the Italian Renaissance (where Garry’s influences originated).

Central Park, 1970 by Garry Winogrand

Giotto, 14 Century, Early Renaissance

You can see in the composition of both Winogrand’s 20th century and Giotto’s 14th century art that the structure is basically the same. Both present an assembly of people in the foreground that can be divided into smaller groupings of individual compositional importance, and a secondary ensemble in the background, or sky, that represent angels or other bystanders. The above two pictures illustrate the additive way that I have often structured photographs since Ben Lifson opened my eyes to the Renaissance and street photography during the MFA program at Bard College. Here is an example that can be viewed as a homage to Lifson and Winogrand .

Students, Tajikistan, 2009, by Frank Ward

In the past few years, I have been working with a subtractive approach to making pictures. See Tultsi above and Ice Fishing below.

Ice Fishing, Siberia, 2008, by Frank Ward

So much for Renaissance influence. The Renaissance is not known for its minimalism. It is known for filling the potential spaciousness of sky with as many angels as possible. For the MCC Artist Fellowship application, I incorporated emptiness, color, composition and line to suggest one panoramic composition balanced by a fulcrum.

Five pictures from the FSU by Frank Ward


May 9, 2011

The Social, 2011, by Gabriela Herman

I got blogged-out last month and skipped a post for April. There is so much blogging, tweeting and Facebooking going on that I just couldn’t bring myself to add to the torrent. Gabriela Herman just uploaded a portfolio of blogger portraits to PhotoEye Galleries. These computer lit views represent the reality of internet life. Social networking as contemporary contact.

I’ve been sitting around reading The New Yorker, roasting coffee beans and renovating the apartment in our house. I’m not really doing much work. I watch Rigden and Janelle sand and paint.

Rigden and Janelle, May 4, 2011

Janelle has made better pictures on  her cell phone than my portrait of them (above). More about cell phone cameras below.

Portrait by Gustavo Romero, 2011

This is also the last week of classes. My student Gustavo is legally blind and makes the most powerful portraits of his friends and family.

From Family Portraits by Gustavo Romero, 2011

I did want to remind people about the approaching deadline for the Call for Entries.

The life after 9/11 subject matter is both challenging and inherent in every picture we now make.

by Hin Chua

A good example of the all-pervasiveness of our post 9/11 world are the pictures in Hin Chua’s series After the Fall. This is a link from the NYT Lens blog. It’s funny that they make a fuss about how the photographs were made on a medium format camera. Photography is changing, but it is still true that much of the world’s “fine art” photography is being done on film with cameras bigger than 35mm. The reality of this is that the rest of us are using digital. My student Gustavo uses a small point and shoot. I’m using my iPhone.

Fuzzy-eyed river view by Frank Ward, 2011

Much to my personal embarrassment, I seem to be influenced by the romantic grip of my iPhone camera. There are about 1000 apps that make one’s photography look like it was made a century ago. Here is a recent NYT report on the best camera apps for iPhone.

After two and a half years of participating in the blogosphere, bloggo-fear is striking me. I’m not clear about whether it has something to do with the “it’s all about me” blogging process or if it is about something bigger. To paraphrase a concept from John Szarkowski‘s days as Photography Curator at the Museum of Modern Art, a photograph is either a mirror or a window. This is an idea he put forth in support of a 1978 show called Mirrors and Windows. The concept seems insufficient for the current century. I’m going to think about it in relationship to digital practice and get back to you.

Bad Photography Student

March 19, 2011


Casta Diva by Emanuele Cremaschi-Beauty Pageants in Italy, 2010

If anyone is feeling like a bad photo student, I thought I’d make some suggestions for becoming better. I want my photo students, even the currently and previously questionable ones, to become photographers. There are lots of historically sound suggestions for improving your photography, such as, “F-8 and be there” and “get a good pair of shoes.” Yet, before you even adjust your F-stop, you have to have an impulse.  The attraction toward photography does not have to be a clear “why, what and where.” It just has to be a feeling beyond thinking that photography is easy and fun.


Kirkpinar by Pari Dukovic


Kirkpinar, in Turkey, is the longest sanctioned sporting event in the world.

Successful students have a more subtle intention than simply declaring, “I wanna be a photographer.” If you feel the pull or push to make pictures, or even just like to walk with your camera, that’s a start. There is another aspect, which is based on your interest in pictures that are not yours. Do you take the time to look at portfolios on line, other than Facebook? I’m talking about an interest in art in general, not simply photographs of fashion, friends and rock and roll.

Now for the question your family asks. “What are potential careers in photography?” I found a website that lists job postings for photographers. At present it seems to be mostly New York area opportunities, but I did not check listings prior to this week.



#1 from What Remains by Justine Reyes

Recently, PDN released its selection of 30 under 30; their choice of new and emerging photographers. Both Justine Reyes (above) and Pari Dukovic (further above and below) are on the list. Justine has some clear writing on her site about her motivations for making pictures.



From Venues of Immortality by Pari Dukovic

I am primarily interested in Dukovic’s work because of his use of grain and high contrast. The above picture, photographed in New York City, has the gritty, in-your-face realism of riding a NYC subway. Both Dukovic and Reyes have a personal vision and the ability to translate that into coherent personal projects.


Nicole, Brooklyn, NY, 2010 by Wenjie Yang

Over at the Verve Photo blog, Geoffrey Hiller introduces us to a “New Breed of Documentary Photographer” via a couple of posts a week. Wenjie Yang was featured a couple of weeks ago. I am really impressed by Hiller and other bloggers who have the energy to blog regularly. You may have noticed that I am sinking down to about one posting a month.



Via Pan Am by Kadir van Lohuizen offers photojournalists the opportunity to “crowd fund” their documentary projects through viewer support. Yes, the online viewer decides what s/he wants to support by sending in as little as $10 toward a project’s realization. If a project gets enough backing, the photographer is off and making it work. For instance, Kadir van Lohuizen’s Via Pan Am is a 40 week journey from the southern tip of South America to Alaska documenting migration in the 15 countries of the Americas. So far, he has raised over $2000 toward that goal.


Photograph by Leah Mae Dyjak

Anyway, back to the “Bad Student” concept. Leah Dyjak reintroduced herself to me a couple of years ago saying she was one of my “bad students” from a few years before, but she finally “got it” and now is an exhibiting photographer. I saw her work and it is fabulous.  She and a few other “bad students” taught me that planting the photography seed is enough. So, if you don’t feel the “fire in the belly” for photography, just wait a minute, or a year, or until you are ready. Photography, or any art, can be a tool for resurrection and affirmation. Whatever you learn and create in your early years of photography will get deposited in the library of your personal creative output to become a positive part of the story of your life.






The Drunken Bicycle

February 18, 2011

Preparation for the toast, Siberia, 2010, all photos Frank Ward

My portfolio of travels in the Former Soviet Union from 2005 to 2010 has just opened at the Photo Eye Gallery and at

Some of the pictures in this post aren’t actually in either show. These first five didn’t make the final cut, but I like them anyway.

Fishmonger, Lake Baikal, 2010

The following statement from The Drunken Bicycle on Photo Eye is interspersed with my comments in parenthesis.

Occasionally, in the town squares of many cities in Siberia there is a man selling rides on a bicycle, a drunken bicycle. A conventional two-wheeled bike has been outfitted with a reverse steering gear. If one turns the handlebars right, the front wheel turns left. Of course, the operator demonstrates how easy it is to ride and offers bottles of beer if one can simply travel a few meters without falling. Crowds circle the action, and there is never a shortage of brave young men who attempt the traverse. That said, I have not yet seen a customer navigate the bike successfully.

Beach Bubbles, Vladivostok, 2008

The drunken bicycle is an apt metaphor for life in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). The bureaucrats appear to be swaying on a drunken bicycle; the hapless traveler spends his days confused by the swing of it, and this photographer is continually under its influence.

"I love you, I love you," the armed guard said as he threatened me, Siberia, 2010

My confounded expectations while photographing can be accompanied by some curious pleasures.  The security guard repeating, “I love you, I love you,” as he gestures for me to delete my pictures of a waterfront habitat destroyed by land moving equipment. Or the policemen who accused me of stealing strategic military secrets because I was photographing a World War II tank cemented into a pedestal in a city park.

Caught photographing military secrets, 2009

Or the graffiti scribbled in large block letters on a desk in a high school hallway: “Stalin is gay.”

Desk and chairs, Elista, Russia, 2009

It is difficult not to telegraph my bemusement of these incidences with my smile. The publicly dour Russians think we Americans have a foolish grin continually pasted on our faces. Well, I do, but it is not the former Soviets I am laughing at. It is the joy of seeing Marilyn Monroe represented in a wall-sized painting with Lenin looking up at her,

Marilyn Monroe lovingly observed by Lenin, Vladivostok, 2008

or my surprise at a grandmother who asks me to take her picture in a bikini at the beach.  The FSU is a paradise of paradox, where the landscapes are limitless and the people are full of passion and pain.

Babushka in a bikini, Odessa, 2005

The closing picture, illustrating an ancient mosque in Khiva, is actually a photograph of a soccer game where all but one of the participants have blurred into invisibility during the long night exposure.

Night soccer in front of a mosque in Khiva, Uzbekistan, 2010

The exhibit on is called The Great Game after the 19th century conflict between Russia and Britain over domination in Central Asia. I haven’t included any pictures from SDN in this post. Please take a look if you want to see more.

Ossabaw Island

January 22, 2011

Gateway, Ossabaw Island, Georgia, 2011, All photos by Frank Ward.

I don’t know what to say about Ossabaw. It is a magical Georgia Sea Island where HCC professor Justin West grew up. For many decades it was an artist’s retreat where writers, painters and photographers, such as Sally Mann, went for inspiration. In fact, Sally photographed the Main House Gate several years ago. I tried to find the picture online just to make sure my version (above) wasn’t too derivative. Somebody let me know if you find a link to it.

View from the front of the Main House.

I willingly fell into photographing the mind-easing beauty of the island.

The Ossabaw dump

Fortunately, the first place that Justin brought me when he and his wife, Eileen, picked me up at the dock was the dump. He knows what I like.

Outdoor kitchen

At the Main House, I only had to walk around the grounds to find lots of “my kind of” pictures. Some may remember a picture I took similar to the “Outdoor kitchen” last year in Siberia. For some reason I am not attracted to the abundant greens of nature, but I am fascinated with man-made greens.

A photography book by Justin West

I was poking around one of the many studios in the Main House and found this still life. The photo reminded me of pictures by Robert Frank from his The Americans. It turned out to be a book by Justin that he made in a high school photography class. It is called Leader Dog School and is about training seeing-eye dogs. The pictures inside are wonderful and remind me of contemporary German photography by students of the Dusseldorf School.

Lula Belle in the entry hall

HCC professor Robert Aller has also spent time at Ossabaw. We had a conversation about the ghosts of the island. In the 1800s, Ossabaw was the location of three plantations and over 2000 slaves. Inherent in the Gothic beauty of the “old” South is the pain and presence of the ‘haints’ of history. The “haints’ are the apparitions and emanations of those who have come before. As a reminder of their presence, Lula Belle, a wax figure with human hair, greeted arrivals at the Main House.

Main House hallway

There are 3 or 4 long hallways that lead off the entry room. Opposite Lula Belle, the above hall leads to the dining room and kitchen. The Main House is a treasure with 15 bedrooms and even more bathrooms (all with elaborate wicker chair toilet seats).

Moose has been a presence at Ossabaw since 1924

I arrived on the birthday of Justin’s 98 year old mother. I saw the house as a living museum and Justin’s mom, Moose, as the curator, director and resident spiritual adviser. Not only does she live in paradise, she has “paradise inside of her,” according to a checkout lady at Kroger’s Supermarket on the Mainland. Sitting and talking with Moose is a life affirming encounter of the best kind.

South End Beach

Moose lives alone on Ossabaw. There are two other residents that live 10-15 miles away on the other side of the island. The distance in between is comprised of dirt tracks with names like Hell Hole Road and Mule Run.

Ossabaw has lots of wildlife including six wild donkeys, wild hogs, horses, a goose, seals, deer and alligators. We saw a six footer on the causeway after Justin assured me that they were all hibernating.

Not a great picture, but I did not want to ask it to turn around

Luckily, we did not see any snakes although Ossabaw has every kind of poisonous snake known to North America. Did I call this place paradise? Well, even Adam and Eve’s paradise had a snake.

On the beach

I traveled to the Island with Porgy and Bess. Here they are enjoying nature.

Bess on the beach

Porgy at Middle Place

Access to Ossabaw is by invitation only. It is mostly owned by Georgia. Moose sold it to them back when Jimmy Carter was governor. Incidentally, I slept in Jimmy Carter’s bedroom. I would have rather slept in Margaret Atwood’s, Annie Dillard’s, Ralph Ellison’s or Aaron Copland’s room. Maybe they all slept in the Jimmy Carter bedroom.

The Jimmy Carter Bedroom

Thanks to Justin, Eileen and Moose for inviting me. I’ll end with a couple of more views of the Atlantic.

Justin at the beach

Coastal view

Lost in Siberia Exhibition and Booksigning

January 21, 2011

View from the train, 2005, by Frank Ward

There will be a reading by Vivian Leskes and a book signing by both of us at the closing reception of our Lost in Siberia photography show at the Taber Gallery at Holyoke Community College this Wednesday, Jan. 26th, 2011. The party is from 11:00 to 12:30 with the reading at 11:30.

To get to HCC, take Interstate 91 toward Holyoke and get off at Route 202 West. Follow 202W for less than a mile and HCC will be on your right. Follow the ring road around until you see Visitor’s Parking, at the top of the hill and near the small traffic circle at the main entrance. Go down the exterior steps of the main entry and the Taber Gallery is in Donahue Building on your right before the bottom of the staircase. The Taber Gallery is accessed through the Library immediately to your right upon entering Donahue.

Sailor on the Sea of Japan, Russian Far East, 2008

Hope to see you there.

Student work that works

December 22, 2010

Emily Yousfi and her Holga

It has been awhile since I last posted. Mostly, that’s because I’ve been involved in finishing off the semester, finishing a book, walking the dogs and generally feeling too mellow to post.

I thought I’d exhibit some of the work my Holyoke Community College students have created this past fall. Above is a double exposure using a plastic camera by Emily Yousfi. She was in both my Photojournalism and my Digital Fine Art classes. She mostly shot film and did not use Photoshop to manipulate her results. Nor did she let the concept of Photojournalism limit her ability to make pictures stemming from her personal vision.

Portrait by Jessica Smart

Digital Fine Art student Jessica Smart brings us from the joy of plastic to the pleasures of point-and-shoot. Her pictures are about the ongoing moment.

From the Big E by Manda Robillard

Photojournalism and Digital Fine Art student Manda Robillard created an “old school” photojournalists image. It almost makes me want a Bud.

Musicians by Roberto Deza

Rob Deza offers a very interesting example of the arc of an art student. Last spring he couldn’t make a successful picture for Advanced Photo. I knew he was a good photographer from his previous work in my Inside Post-Industrial Holyoke class, so I waited him out. This fall he was in Digital Fine Art and made a creative breakthrough that may lead to a successful career in photo and video. He was enlisted by National Geographics to work with them in Holyoke and he got a tempting job offer from a studio in LA, CA stemming from his fashion and glamor photography.

Kristin Hanley photo

After the roar of the classroom has subsided and the grading is completed, which pictures do I go back to just because I like them? Kristin Hanley was my Digital Fine Art hipster. She photographed her friends with generous cooperation from the photo gods. She photographed them simply hanging out, and simply partying their booties off.

Partying with Kristin Hanley

None of the above pictures are by my Basic Photo students. They worked in film which did not get transferred to my computer. Below is one picture of Basic student Digno Ortiz that I made in the studio. He is a boxer and offered to spar with our model, who also boxes. The students made many wonderful b/w film pictures during this studio session. This is just one that I happened to make on my DSLR.

Thea and Digno duke it out