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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.




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.

2 Magazines, 2 Eggspressos

April 27, 2015
Digital Silver Image Gallery

Glenn Ruga, founder of ZEKE Magazine, speaks with photojournalist Scott Brauer at the Magazine launch party outside Boston.

Thursday April 23rd was the launch for ZEKE: The Magazine of Global Awareness, the new semi-annual digital and print publication from Social Documentary Network. Subscriptions are available HERE.

Digital Silver Imaging Gallery

Social Documentary Network founder and publisher of ZEKE Magazine, Glenn Ruga, speaks  at the Digital Silver Imaging Gallery in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Here I am holding the first issue of ZEKE. It is available in print and digital form.

Frank Ward photo by Lomanno

The Boston portrait photographer Lomanno photographed me with ZEKE and my new old camera.

I’m holding an Olympus Pen E-P2. I just found it at the dump last week. It needed a new battery. I love the dump.

I’m on the advisory board of Social Documentary Network, but I am not in the magazine. I am in the second issue of Holyoke Transfer Magazine.

Depot Hill, Holyoke

Holyoke Transfer 2 is a 169 page magazine of art. I have three 2 page spreads covering recent and older pictures from Holyoke.

Torsten Zenas Burns is the creative juggernaut behind Holyoke Transfer 2.


Discarded remotes found in and around the drained Holyoke canals last year.

I love Holyoke. If it was in Italy, it could be Venice. It is one of just a few US canal cities. With some scrubbing and several million dollars, it could be the paradise of the Connecticut River Valley.

Holyoke Canals

Holyoke’s canals get drained once or twice a year. I try to schedule a class field trip to coincide with the process.

You can get a copy of Holyoke Transfer Magazine HERE.

Now, I want to talk about eggspresso.

Now, I want to talk about eggspresso.

Yes, my home rebuilt espresso machine is doing dual duty as an egg maker.

Poached eggs

Thanks to The Daily Coffee News, I’ve discovered two great methods for cooking eggs with a steam wand.

First, is the 3 minute poached egg. I set up a mug with a small stainless bowl for the egg. Add a little oil so the egg doesn’t stick in the bowl.

When everything is aligned, I cover the mug and steam wand tip with tinfoil plus several towels to keep the steam in.

When everything is aligned, I cover the mug and steam wand tip with tinfoil plus several towels over the tinfoil to keep the steam in.

Three minutes is a lot of steam and a consumer espresso machine may not be able to produce that much heat. Make sure you blow out the extra water from the wand before you start steaming or scrambling your eggs.

Poached egg

Voila! Poached egg in a bowl in a mug.

Flip the little fellow over into a small plate and add salt, pepper and olive oil (or butter). Enjoy.


Now, we’ll get fancy. Scrambled eggs, parmesan cheese and prosciutto on toast.

Scrambled eggs are easy. All you need is a porcelain pitcher to mix 2 or 3 eggs with a spoonful of oil and some salt.

Steam the eggs

Whip the ingredients with a fork , purge the water out of your steam wand, insert it into the eggs and turn it on. 30 seconds (or less) later you have the lightest, fluffiest scrambled eggs you can imagine.

I like quality olive oil drizzled on my toast and on my eggs. You may prefer butter.

Pictures from Home/ The Harvest and the Coffee

August 28, 2014
Back porch harvest

Tomato and garlic harvest.

I’ve been spending time in Ashfield getting ready for the coming semester. Vivian is hard at work with the garden. We lined our blighted tomatoes along the porch screens to save what we could (which was about 10%). Garlic is on the floor on the sleds.

Onions drying

Our yellow and red onions almost covered the porch floor.

One favorite aspect of the harvest is the fermentation. So far this year’s highlight is our first batch of kimchee made from garden fresh Chinese cabbage. Better than the local stuff from the Korean market. 

This big green head is bound for our first batch of sauerkraut.

This big green head is bound for our first batch of sauerkraut.

I just realized that I don’t have a picture of our pickles. My first choice are the half sour brine pickles that ferment for about a week. We’ve got a batch in the fridge now with a couple of more crocks still fermenting. Vivian also makes jars of dill pickles. Below is one of her pictures.

Pickles on the woodstove

Waiting for the dill jars to seal.

She sure makes a good picture of pickles. I should get her an iPhone tripod for the indoor shots. Although it is just fuzzy on one side. Fixing it looks like a job for Instagram.  

Machine apart

My Espresso passion, in pieces.

If Vivian’s passion is the garden, mine is the coffee, specifically espresso.

Broken espresso

The Nouva Simonelli Premier S in non-working order.

Actually, my be-at-home passion is wrapped up in the totality of espresso– from bean to cup. Above is a 20 year old machine that I got from Melissa, the professional coffee roaster and barista at The Elbow Room in beautiful downtown Williamsburg. I got it out of her cellar in March and I dismantled it in April.

Dismantled Espresso Machine

The Premier apart and mostly in labelled bags on the porch.

I was a complete novice to espresso machine restoration. I always like to take things apart, though.

Pipes and things.

I needed to make order out of chaos.

The Premier sat around in pieces for a month while I descaled it and decided which parts needed replacing.

Espresso mandala

Patterns emerged as I familiarized myself with the complexity of my previously 80 pound machine.

When May came I began to think that I wasn’t going to get it back together again. There was one ace-in-the-hole. I had meticulously photographed every step of the take-down with my iPhone. I just had to follow the pictures in reverse.

Coming together

The copper and chrome skeleton begins to reassemble itself with the help of many wrenches and lots of teflon tape.

Next, the testing came. My mass of pipes and gaskets was not making coffee, or pumping water. The machine sat there for another month.

The Cafe

The coffee room.

It became an 80 pound conversation piece. Meanwhile, I had my coffee scene together– Hottop coffee roaster on the left, Pharos hand grinder to its right, next the Mazzer Mini electric grinder and then the LaPavoni Professional lever machine. I was making great espresso, but there was an elephant…

Coffee Corner

Overview of Frank’s Cafe

No matter how I looked at the Premier, it didn’t make me feel like a successful barista. It needed a rebuilt water pump and who knew what else. 

Espresso machine rebuilt

Success! The NS Premier S rises to pour another espresso, and steam some latte.

I extracted my first espresso from the Premier on July 4th. The rebuild took me almost 4 months. I still only have one brew group working, but I needed to pause and enjoy some great coffee. You can see the rubber band on the left brew group. I use that to hold a thermometer to take its temperature. Coffee likes to be brewed a bit below boiling.

So now you know what I do when I am not teaching or running around the world making pictures., Kickstarter, and a Life in Photography

August 8, 2014

Installing plate glass in Siberia, 2010

I thought my construction picture from Siberia would be a good lead for my friend and colleague Glenn Ruga, who is reworking with fresh ideas and a fresh design. Saturday, August 9, 2014 is the last day of the SDN Kickstarter campaign. There is still time to jump on board. A pledge of $100 or more will even get you a print by Frank Ward (me). Check out SDN on Kickstarter and help us out. I say “us” because I have the pleasure of being on the SDN board. Your pledge doesn’t support anyone on the board. It will help support documentary photography and photographers worldwide.

Isfara, Tajikistan classroom

My photo class in Isfara, Tajikistan, 2012

Every day that I teach photography I realize that documentary work, and all creative photography, needs our support. I look into the faces of my students knowing that traditional careers in photography are few.  A successful life in photography is now more likely to be marked by a strong web presence than a portfolio of tearsheets from magazines and newspapers.

Khorog, Tajikistan

Classroom, Pamirs, Tajikistan, 2009

The old saying that a photographer is best served by a good pair of shoes still holds true. I will also add that some alchemical combination of ego and personality will serve you better than the best combination of camera and lens. An easily bruised ego and an introverted personality won’t get you far in the photo world. But, a delicate ego or an introverted nature is no problem on their own. Richard Avedon used to sit in disguise where he was having an exhibit primarily to satisfy his ego. Introverts make great photographers, but you have to make the outside contact to get the assignment or sell the picture.

Swimmer, Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal, Siberia, 2008

So it comes down to a willingness to bare your soul. I’ve had projects that have left me in tears (Bosnian refugee camps), or swearing that I’d never go back (New England Barrooms). And that brings me to the primary requirement for a life in photography. You have to do it because it is what you are driven to do. You keep on going back no matter how miserable it makes you feel or how broke you are. A job on the side may help if you are too broke, but a photographer is never too broke-down to make the picture.

Pictures from the Former Soviet Union

January 26, 2014

Cafe, Vladivostok, Russian Far East

During the month of February, I will be exhibiting pictures from The Drunken Bicycle- Travels in the Former Soviet Union at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA. On February 19th at 7:00, I will do a presentation with Vivian Leskes, author of Lost in Siberia.