Cities

The Smith Baker Center “Before” Photographs

Almost a year ago, the Lowell, MA, city council approved the sale of the iconic, but unused Smith Baker Center, a former church at the corner of Merrimack Street and Cardinal O’Connell Parkway, to the Coalition for a Better Acre. The CBA's plan is a little more complicated than simply purchasing it, so please check the article at the link here for the whole scoop. The former church has been vacant for a number of years, and the Coalition had come forward last year with a plan to change that. I had photographed inside the Smith Baker several years ago when I did a portrait of Suzzanne Cromwell, but the space itself was just a prop for that shoot. So I thought I would ask the Coalition for permission and access to do some “before” shots, hopeful that there would someday be an opportunity for some “after” ones. If you haven’t had a chance to see the interior, I hope this will give you a hint of it’s potential.

A special thank you to the CBA, and especially to Julia Gavin for a guided tour of the building.

There is more information about the CBA's plan and the building here.

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The Lowell Folk Festival 2016

This is the 30th year that the city of Lowell, Massachusetts has held it's summer Folk Festival. It really does get larger every year. And it's free. It's a real success story for one of Massachusetts' "Gateway Cities". And since it is outside my window, I usually spend the weekend walking, looking and making pictures. There are thousands of photos on Facebook to check out by lots of great shooters, but here is my contribution. Enjoy!

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Another Autumn, Another Blog

It has been far too long since my last blog post, although I think I say that every time I blog. That has to change! I have quite a backlog, so I will start with this month’s Merrimack Valley Magazine, the September/October 2015 issue.

Probably the biggest production shoot that I worked on for this issue was the fashion shoot, Enduring Essentials. This was shot, on location, on Jackson Street in Lowell, Massachusetts, where there are all sorts of great things happening, not the least of which are Mill No. 5, Appleton Mills and the Lowell Community Health Center. This two page spread was shot in the doorway of Rosie's Cafe, which is just around the corner.

There’s also a feature about fashion designer Darby Scott, who worked on the fashion shoot. We did these shots in her beautiful North Andover Studio.

I also accompanied writer Will Courtney as he tried out Chuck Raffoni’s Broga class. As an aside, my wife Amy and I had an excellent yoga experience with Chuck just last evening, in the same yoga studio in Tyngsboro. I am a total newbie, but Amy is a yoga practitioner and commented on what an excellent teacher Chuck is!

Next up was an interview with the Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s new Artistic Director, Sean Daniels, conducted by the inimitable Dean Johnson. Amy and I are regulars at the MRT and it is off to an amazing start this year with Benjamin Scheuer's show, The Lion, that we were able to catch just before its run ended.

And finally, we have the higher-ed leadership scene in Lowell pretty much covered with my photos accompanying articles by Will Courtney and Emilie-Noelle Provost.

Film, Digital, Color, Black&White, What now?

Two months between blog posts. Not good. I have been busy (lame excuse), but also have been shooting quite a bit that cannot be shown here until it is published elsewhere (better excuse). I have been doing a little traveling in the way-back machine lately though, having purchased a scanner and some film. I hadn't shot film in several years and it is definitely a reality check. I am hoping that, like a painter's medium, it will have me think a little differently, both when I am shooting and in preparation for a shoot. I know, blah blah blah..show me the pictures.

I resurrected my 35mm camera and took a couple field trips...So here is a bench, some grapes, and a couple of guys on bikes. Did I mention that I am not a street photographer?

With a little help from eBay, I made some new friends in Japan and Korea. In the process, I bought a monster of a medium format camera. It creates negatives that are 6x7 centimeters. Here is my photography colleague Jack Holmes; world traveller, great photographer and all around nice guy!

 Jack Holmes

Jack Holmes

Ok, one last gear-head thing... I bought a mono-rail 4x5 view camera recently too. I am headed off to a workshop next week, but I hope to start, or restart, a series of portraits of local artists when I return, and use both medium and large format. So watch this space.


Now, in no particular order, here are a couple of publication tear sheets, some shots from UTEC's Sweet 16 event, the Summer Kickoff of the Lowell National Park, the Grand Opening of Ani's boutique, Humanity, and an actress headshot that I did for another all around great person, Christa Brown.

 Humanity Lowell

Humanity Lowell

 UTEC - Sweet 16

UTEC - Sweet 16

 Christa

Christa

 Lowell National Park

Lowell National Park

 UTEC Sweet 16

UTEC Sweet 16

 Barron's - Fidelity's Steve Buller

Barron's - Fidelity's Steve Buller

 Merrimack Valley Magazine

Merrimack Valley Magazine

Perseverance and Faith

So what do you say when another photographer who you respect asks you to create their portrait? You do it, of course! Thaddeus Miles, who happens to live in the next building, asked me to do just that. I was incredibly flattered, and immediately asked if, rather than a fee, I could be paid with a print of one of his photographs, and if I could make some photos of him that were beyond what he was looking for.

Thaddeus is an amazing photographer. Quite a while ago he began one of those 365 projects that some photographers embark on (note that I said “some”… I have never had the discipline...) in which they shoot something every day for a year. Well the last photo in his blog is day number 977! See his work here : http://thaddeusmiles365.wordpress.com

A couple of his other passions are his Hood Fit initiative and his Men of Color Photoshoot, the first phase of which took place last week. Check out both on his blog, and here as well: http://hoodfit.org

Thaddeus was actually trying to get a new photo of himself for “an award”, as he phrased it. That award, which is no small thing, and which will be presented to him today, October 28, 2014, is called the Lilla G. Frederick award, named for Mrs. Frederick, who helped found and then served as the President and Chair of Project RIGHT, Inc. (Rebuild and Improve Grove Hall Together), which presents this award. Congratulations Thaddeus!

Thaddeus emailed the press release the other day, which appears below, after the photos.

I am just privileged to know him and extremely happy to have had the opportunity to photograph him for this blog.

 Thaddeus Miles

Thaddeus Miles

Subject: FW: Thaddeus Miles will be presented the Lilla Frederick award on October 28, 2014
 
(please distribute to the appropriate contacts and have those interested in coming, to contact me regarding tickets at 617.541.5451.x102)
 
You are invited to join Project RIGHT at its annual dinner and celebration on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 from 6 PM – 9 PM at Russell Memorial Auditorium (70 Talbot Ave, Dorchester).  Project RIGHT was formed in 1991 and organizes residents and young people on addressing public safety and quality of life issues while improving access to resources and positive opportunities in the Grove Hall neighborhood.
  

This year, PRI is presenting Thaddeus Miles, MassHousing’s Director of Public Safety with its Lilla Frederick award.  Mr. Miles has been responsible for launching several innovative violence prevention initiatives and partnerships that has made a significant difference in the Grove Hall neighborhood, the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a whole.  

 

Mr. Miles launched the Grove Hall Multi Unit Housing Initiative that comprised of tenant associations, Boston Police, property owners, management companies, security companies, MassHousing and community organizations that has successfully addressed public safety issues in these apartment buildings.  Mr. Miles helped to found the Grove Hall Youth Outreach Connection comprised of Project RIGHT, several Grove Hall Tenant Associations, MassHousing, Boston Police and Lilla Frederick Pilot Middle School which has received significant funding by the Charles Hayden Foundation to increase the youth outreach worker and prevention capacity in the Grove Hall neighborhood.  Mr. Miles has also provided ongoing training for a variety of Grove Hall representatives to understand both the community impact of violence and the toll of trauma, but also to address the personal toll that occurs upon us.

 

Being an innovator in challenging the barriers and disparities facing Grove Hall and other neighborhoods, Mr. Miles launched HoodFit, a community led movement which focuses on bringing out the most positive attributes of community building, health and wellness highlighting the mind, body and soul that shows us day by day on how to overcome issues such as trauma.  Mr. Miles also founded “Think Big Dream Big”, a youth driven initiative to jumpstart young people on the journey to a positive future, the fulfillment of their goals and dreams.  

  

Much like the late Ms. Lilla Frederick (Devon Street resident and Project RIGHT’s Board President), Mr. Miles goes block by block, identifies problems, takes actions, doesn’t take no for an answer and achieves results.  They both go out of their way to avoid publicity or self promotion, but they rather just do the work to make changes that systematically improve the lives of residents and young people. 

 

If you have any questions, or wish to come to Project RIGHT’s annual dinner and celebration, please contact Michael Kozu, Community Coordinator (m_kozu@hotmail.com and 617.541.5451.x102).

What I Did on My Vacation

I have lived in the North East of the US my entire life. I have done some traveling, although never outside of North America and Europe. Neither Amy nor I had ever visited the South West, so we decided to see what Santa Fe had in store. I don’t think either of us had thought that Santa Fe itself was as small as it is. It’s a sleepy little place in the off-season, although the locals say that it’s pretty crazy in the summer. In April anyway, the pace is slow, especially compared to us here in the Boston area. It seems like an excellent place to unwind.

I usually try to ‘vacate’ on vacation, so I don’t normally shoot a lot of photos, which I guess is a shame. This vacation though featured a frantic couple of days as we participated in a multi-way negotiation to sell our home, all via cell, email, text and fax. Very relaxing. HA! In any event, I did shoot some pictures, and here are a few. It’s either this or I come to your house and show you the hour-long slide show. Kidding!

Oh, and I only brought my 35mm prime lens with me on the trip.

A Growing Business

Two of the nicest people you could ever meet also happen to be two of the smartest and innovative entrepreneurs in the area. Lydia and Francey are the force behind Mill City Grows, the Lowell, Massachusetts-based enterprise that is bringing community gardening and urban food production to the city and surrounding area. Their mission: “Mill City Grows fosters food justice by improving physical health, economic independence and environmental sustainability in Lowell through increased access to land, locally-grown food and education.” Please visit their web site: http://www.millcitygrows.org

Back to Francey and Lydia though, both of whom, along with their husbands, are thoroughly invested in the community and its success. I have had the opportunity to follow them around to a few of their projects for the Merrimack Valley Magazine and the Local Farming photo essay that I did last year. Yesterday afternoon they dropped by my studio to pose for some shots at The Big Doors. Please do visit their web site to see what’s growing!

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 Francey Slater and Lydia Sisson of Mill City Grows

Francey Slater and Lydia Sisson of Mill City Grows

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Sheila Harrity on the Cover of Principal Leadership Magazine

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Principal Leadership Magazine asked me to go to Worcester Technical High School, in Worcester, Massachusetts, to photograph Principal Sheila Harrity, the 2014 MetLife/NASSP National High Principal of the Year for their cover story. Such an amazing place and such an amazingly charismatic and engaging person. Walking through the halls as she guided our tour of the impressive facility, Sheila engages with every student that she can in these brief encounters. They seem to really respect and appreciate her dedication as well as the resources that are made available to them in such an impressive school. Some of the story is on-line here.

Look Around and See the Good

I met Geoff Foster at Lowell’s United Teen Equity Center (UTEC) in 2012 while documenting the important work that the dedicated personal at UTEC does. Geoff, a youth organizer, is UTEC’s Associate Director of Political Action and is well known in the community for championing the Vote 17 initiative, and state-wide for overseeing the Teens Leading the Way coalition, among other things.

What is striking about Geoff is his unrestrained enthusiasm for what he does. To see him in action with a group of young people is truly inspiring. So as I have invited different personalities for the area to allow me photograph them, several of them insisted that I should extend the invitation to Geoff as well. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule yesterday afternoon to come by. It was incredibly interesting and uplifting to talk with him and experience his contagious enthusiasm, but I got to photograph him too!

 Geoff Foster

Geoff Foster

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 Geoff Foster, United Teen Equality Center, Lowell, Massachusetts

Geoff Foster, United Teen Equality Center, Lowell, Massachusetts