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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

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Photo: Michał Iwanowski
Michał Iwanowski came across graffiti in Wales that said: ‘Go home, Polish.’ Eventually he did. The
Guardian writes that his 105-day slog restored his faith in the people of a volatile, fractured Europe.

Today’s divisiveness is exaggerated. There are certainly times I chide myself for naïveté, for believing that divisiveness is exaggerated only because I want to. Maybe it isn’t true. Then I read an article like this one about a photographer in Wales who, buffeted by Brexit xenophobia, decided on an experiment.

Sean O’Hagan writes at the Guardian. “On 27 April this year, Michał Iwanowski left his house in Cardiff to walk to his home village of Mokrzeszów in Poland. Carrying British and Polish passports and wearing a T-shirt bearing the word ‘Polska,’ he began his 1,200-mile journey east, sticking as closely as possible to a straight line he had drawn on a map. Over 105 days, it would take him through Wales, England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic. Along the way, Iwanowski posted a [diary] on Instagram,. …

“ ‘I saw the project as a way of thinking about the idea of home,’ he says, ‘not least because it would take me from the place I have lived in for 18 years to the place I come from. And I would be doing it at a time when Brexit had made the idea of home, identity and belonging a very politicised subject.’

“Iwanowski had been thinking about walking to Poland for several years, after being confronted in 2008 by graffiti scrawled on a wall in the Roath area of Cardiff, where he lives. ‘Go Home, Polish,’ it read. …

“He often appears in the images, sometimes as himself, sometimes as a generic wanderer lost in an unfamiliar landscape. In one self-portrait, he clings to a tree as if in danger from a threat just out of the frame. In another, he tries in vain to squeeze between two concrete posts – the immigrant’s experience distilled.

“Central to the project was his desire to meet people. It was not always easy. In France, he did not really connect with anyone. In Germany, an enraged local chased him off an allotment he had wandered on to to ask for directions.

“Most of the time, though, it was the sheer energy-sapping doggedness of the undertaking – ‘the drudgery and sweat’ – that tested him as he trudged wearily through often empty, unchanging landscapes. On 8 July, his Instagram post read: ‘On Wednesday I crashed and decided to throw in the towel.’ For a few hours, he sat at the side of a road, dehydrated and exhausted, having thrown his rucksack into the bushes in a tantrum. ‘It lasted a few hours,’ he wrote. ‘I got back up.’ …

“Iwanowski’s long walk ultimately proved both cathartic and life-affirming. … ‘I had become more cynical of late. The experience has banished that cynicism. People are OK. In fact, they are often gloriously generous.’ …

“ ‘Look, I know I am a white male and that I passed quickly through towns and villages, where I was not perceived as a threat. But my experience was so overwhelmingly positive that it has made me question everything I read in the media about the hardening of attitudes that Brexit has supposedly provoked.

I think that a few loud, extreme voices dominate the debate, but ordinary people are stoical or confused – and perhaps a little angry. But they are also decent.’ …

“Has this odyssey changed his way of thinking about home? ‘It confirmed something. I feel utterly at home walking in the landscape, wherever that landscape is. I don’t need to be told by a government, “This is your home.” The ground beneath my feet sanctifies my belonging in this world – not the passport given to me by a country.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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If you live anywhere near Worcester, Mass., try to get to a unique photography exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum by February 25.

Asakiyume and I meet up about once a year, often in a museum, and we saw three interesting shows at the Worcester Art Museum over the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.

First, we checked out a small exhibit on antique Japanese metalwork from the Higgins Armory collection. I thought Asakiyume would be interested because of her many ties to Japan. We especially liked a tiny metal dragon and a lifelike lobster — beautiful.

We appreciated the museum’s main event, too, a show featuring art Winslow Homer created while living in England. Related work by J.M.W. Turner and other artists who influenced Homer filled out the exhibit, here.

But it was the collection of William Bullard‘s recently discovered photos of an early 20th century mixed-race Worcester community that had us riveted. Asakiyume wrote about it on her own blog, here.

What was the most remarkable aspect? That there was a mixed-race community at all in Massachusetts at that time? That the photographer whose photos were mostly of African Americans was white? That his subjects looked so relaxed, as opposed to the stiff people seen in most portrait photography of the time? That the works were lost for decades? That they were recovered in the form of glass slides and were printed for the first time for the show?

No, I think what touched us the most were quotations in certain wall texts. Amazingly, the photographer kept detailed notes on who everyone was, so stunned descendants of many subjects got to see their ancestors for the first time or to learn that a family legend was true.

The photographer was poor and couldn’t afford handsome settings. Some subjects had to pose in front of a worn sheet. Bullard lived with his mother and earned little money or recognition from his avocation. He died by his own hand.

How I wish he could have seen what his art meant to people! It wasn’t until the purchaser of the slides remembered he had also bought Bullard’s logs that two and two made four.

Reports the Daily Mail, “In January 2014 [purchaser Frank J. Morrill] and Clark University history professor Janette Thomas Greenwood and her class began researching the stories behind Bullard’s subjects, constructing rich individual narratives and community history. ” (Asakiyume found the Daily Mail article. Read it here and enjoy the array of pictures.)

The Worcester Art Museum adds, “A comprehensive website hosted by Clark University (www.bullardphotos.org) offers teaching resources for educators, all of the photographs and sitters featured in Rediscovering an American Community of Color, a map of the Beaver Brook neighborhood (circa 1911), and additional research written by the Clark students who participated in a seminar related to the exhibition.”

Asakiyume took this photo of Bullard’s photo because she loved sweet-faced Luvenia Ward (right), shown here with her sisters. The photo was printed in 2016 from recently discovered glass slides of Worcester, Mass., photographer William Bullard (1876-1918).

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Photo: Chuck Wolfe
Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood. Photographic urban diaries can help residents absorb what there are seeing and can ultimately influence city planning.

Cities are organic, changing, blossoming, decaying amalgams of individuals, buildings, dumps, businesses, trees, animals — so many elements that it is impossible to put your finger on what makes a great city great. It is even hard to get agreement on whether or not a particular city is great.

Seattle is a city that is very conscious of its idealistic character. And it’s one that keeps reaching higher.

Knute Berger at Crosscut writes, “No one wants a ‘better city’ more than Seattleites. … If anything is in our civic DNA, it is the drive of commerce and the determination to build not just a better city, but the ideal one: prosperous, just, beautiful.

“Tall order, and one around which there is much dispute. Charles Wolfe, a local land-use lawyer, author and urban observer has a suggestion to help us sort through some of our conflicts. He touts the personal documentation of the city we live in, urging us to create urban ‘diaries.’

“This isn’t self-indulgent ‘journaling’ but a thoughtful process of observing and recording a city — what works, where human activities thrive and what evokes our emotional responses.

“Wolfe’s latest book is Seeing the Better City (Island Press, $30), which is described as a tool kit for ‘how to explore, observe, and improve urban space.’ Wolfe — who has written for Crosscut and who is a friend — says the answer to a better city doesn’t start with a white board, an attitude or a bushel of land-use ordinances; it begins at the level of human experience and how we train ourselves to see it and understand it.

“Wolfe’s main medium is photography, aided by technology — geo-mapping, social media — to record his impressions and observations, which might range from how bikes, trains and pedestrians share space in Nice, France, to a homeless person’s tent with a grand view of Elliott Bay. …

“Why is keeping an urban diary worthwhile? Wolfe argues that it trains us to be better citizens, to care more and understand more about where we live. Therefore, we might be more motivated to attend meetings or offer insights and solutions into the planning process. …

“Wolfe’s book tells us urban diarists can also be useful to planners and policymakers. An urban diary ‘walk and talk’ workshop in Redmond created diaries of the town’s historic core — and that then informed the planning process. … When we all act like flâneurs, ‘trickle up’ urban planning can result. …

We don’t need to travel the world to be an urban diarist. Our own stomping grounds offer an infinite opportunity to feel and observe.”

More here.

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Back in the day, a regular on the kids’ television show Howdy Doody was a putative Indian called Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring. The last two seasons in her name were run together as if they were one word.

Lately, “WinterSpring” seems to be the right name for what we’re experiencing in New England. Here are a few pictures from my confused season.

There are four photos of the beautiful Boston Public Library. The hardest shot to get was a lion not surrounded by photographers and visitors posing for their picture. While I was at the library, I was delighted to hear the retired Massachusetts chief justice being interviewed by Boston Public Radio, which sometimes broadcasts from there. Margaret Marshall is perhaps best known for her reasoning in the case to make gay marriage legal in Massachusetts. My photo of her friendly wave did not come out.

The ornate clock suddenly appeared on Washington Street. I don’t recall seeing it in all the years I took walks in that neighborhood.

The 5-lb coffee bag will get us through any kind of WinterSpring.

Finally, I include a couple indoor shots of my living room in a welcome shower of sunlight and a couple pictures of grandchildren managing just fine in WinterSpring.

Caroline is fine and let me know what flavor you want there is vanilla, chocolate, coffee, pineapple, and I expect your response many thanks Caroline

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Pat Zacks at the Camera Werks in Providence feels compassion for inner-city kids whose schools can’t offer many enrichment activities. That’s why she volunteers every year to mount and hang 500+ juried photos by Pawtucket, Rhode Island, fifth graders (and a few grownups).

On Wednesday I stopped off at the gallery where the “Calling All Cameras” photos are on display until the end of September. The theme this year,  submitted by Linda C. Dugas, is “Pawtucket’s Color Palette.” Winners of this, the 18th, annual photo contest also get their work featured in the city calendar.

An impressive slate of judges are responsible for choosing this year’s winning photos (Butch Adams, Richard Benjamin, Christy Christopoulos, Jesse Nemerofsky, and Aaron Usher). Winners will be announced September 25.

I wish my photo of a child’s box turtle entry had turned out well enough to post, but I’m sharing a couple other favorites here.

Stop by the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor visitor center, just off Interstate 95 in downtown Pawtucket, to find the box turtle. The visitor center is opposite the historic Slater Mill, birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution.

And if you are ever in Providence, please check out the Camera Werks on Hope Street. Pat’s Facebook page, here, has more information on the photo exhibit.

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In order to get down to the beach for a good shot of the structures I’ll call “War of the Worlds,” I had to negotiate a very steep, very slippery path that reminded me of my age at every step.

 

You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head —
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.” …

I thought of The War of the Worlds when I took the photo of this, the first, deep-water windmill in America and its giant parent, which is assembling the next four windmills.

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The beach on the south side of the island is beautiful, and since I don’t often scramble down there, I took photos of the tide pools and one of the many towers people build with smooth beach stones.

Moving right along, there’s a mobile of sea creatures that I made in an art class with my oldest grandchild. He made one, too: a jellyfish, a shark, a whale (he chose to make an orca) and a sea turtle.

I also have shots of a quiet “tug hole” (a peat bog), reflections of houses on the far side of Fresh Pond, a lotus, flowers against a stone wall, a box of pink impatiens by the outdoor shower, a monster crane getting delivered to Paradise, and magnificent city shadows.

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There’s just one thing you probably can’t figure out from this picture story: what the guys are singing …

“All my exes live in Texas/ It’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee.”

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