Last year I asked a former neighbor of mine at Lowell's Western Avenue Studios, Sergio Vélazquez, if I could photograph him, partly because he is an interesting guy, who also happens to be a photographer, but also because he sometimes lets his hair get pretty interesting. While I missed that window, Sergio having cut his hair before we could schedule the shoot, I ran into him again recently and we finally made it happen. Since the first proposed shoot, he and his wife Kerri, who together run Sweet Pig Press with their amazing antique letterpress printer, moved their studio and shop to Mill No. 5, on Jackson Street in Lowell. I thought that their shop, and that amazing printer, would make a great location with the evening available light.
I usually do an end-of-year retrospective of my work, but this year I am running a little late. But it's not really TOO late, is it? So here, without any excessive wordiness, are some of the things that I was involved with in 2017. I hope it is fun to skim through!
Virginia Prak came by the studio the other evening for a very informal photo shoot. Virginia is a college student, pageant winner, as well as a dancer, instructor and board member of the Angkor Dance Troupe here in Lowell, Massachusetts. This year is the 30th anniversary of the Troupe. Click here for more about this great organization.
I hesitate to feature just one of the Angkor dancers over the other, very talented dancers. To be honest, I'd love to photograph many of them! So maybe this is a start. As it happens though, she and I had a little conversation starter as my wife, Amy, was Virginia's 2nd grade teacher :-).
Please enjoy the pictures!
I was asked to photograph a bowling alley for the last issue of the Merrimack Valley Magazine. As a kid, I used to walk to the candlepin bowling alley in the town where I grew up after school and play in an after-school league. It wasn’t much of a league, but I learned to play and remember having a good time. That could have been because I was doing it in lieu of going home to do homework. The lanes that the magazine had sent me to were not candlepin, which, if you are not familiar with it, is a New England thing, nor were they the more standard 10-pin lanes. North Chelmsford Duckpin Bowling Lanes is one of only a couple of Duckpin lanes that is still in operation. Coincidently, my late cousin, Richard Bisson, used to own and operate the T-Bowl duckpin lanes in Newington, Connecticuit. His daughter, Amy Sykes is a champion duckpin bowler, acquiring the title of “world’s best female duckpin bowler”. There is a really good article about Amy, and duckpin bowling from the NY Times here.
But what I encountered in North Chelmsford was something that was truly from another era. This issue of the magazine may still be in the stores, in which case you should grab a copy, but here is the opening spread as well as several more shots from my visit. Thanks very much to the lanes’ owner John DePalma too! It was a really interesting and fun experience.
About a year ago I had asked Marc Clermont to be a subject for my artist portrait series. He is the Facilities Manager at Western Avenue Studios, in Lowell, MA, and the founder and President of the Board of Directors of The Miracle Providers NorthEast, a non-profit organization that helps raise money for children and their families impacted by HIV/AIDS. Among their many fund-raising events, they regularly produce musical extravaganzas at the Onyx Room, also at Western Avenue.
I really didn’t realize what kind of preparation was involved for Marc to get into character, which was of course how I wanted to photograph him. I thought, a little mascara, a wig and a dress… what’s the problem? Well a couple of weeks ago Marc asked if I could show up at the Onyx Room for the next Miracle Provider’s show, at which time he could sit for my photographs before the show. I think it took Marc about an hour and a half to get ready. It was worth the wait! I hope you enjoy my take.
Please go to the Miracle Provider’s web page, or Facebook page to see what incredible work they do! They also have shots on the Facebook page from that, and other shows, expertly done by other photographers.
A couple of weeks ago Sarah, whose acquaintance I had made at a corporate shoot last year, and who has since transitioned to a creative career, came to the studio for one of my shoots. Clearly a very beautiful woman, I was intent on getting beyond the obvious and on trying to reveal a more serious side, and one that hopefully would show a presence… something serious, something more. Here is a loosely curated set of those images. I have a favorite, and that one will likely end up in one of my more select portfolios, but I will let you decide. I will be happy to hear your thoughts!
Masada Jones is one of a number of young people whom I know in this town who make it a good place to live, by simply doing her part. Formerly the Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator for the Lowell Community Health Center, she has recently moved across the street to become the Assistant Directory of Extended Day at the Lowell Community Charter Public School. She is also, or maybe foremost, a poet and has recently published a book of her work called "Becoming Broken".
Masada and I had met several years ago for a project that I was working on that really never got off the ground, but I had never photographed her until she and her Mom came to my studio about a month ago. A little snafu with the film processing, and paid shoots, got in my way in completing this collection, but here is the work - finally.
I got a mini-education in the art of crafting wood, or maybe just in the kinds of woods that are used. John Welch, of John Francis Designs allowed me into his studio a couple of weeks ago to photograph him and he enthusiastically explained to me, the clean slate, about some of the exotic hard-woods that he uses. I had no idea that some trees have a dark part and a very light part in the trunk!
Ok, back to talking about John. He recently moved into a larger space. It is flooded with great light from the huge Western Avenue Studios windows that face onto the Pawtucket canal. But let’s go directly to the photos! These are a mix of digital, medium format color film (Portra 160) and black & white film (Ilford HP5), all with window light.
You can visit John on Western Avenue’s First Saturday Open Studios, or you can go Like his Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/johnfrancisdesigns
Jeweler Robert Williams was kind enough to let me photograph him a few Saturdays ago in his Lowell studio, for my artist series. I learned that day too that he also makes high-end flutes - I think he said he is a master silver caster - in Boston, which he told me is where the best flutes are made. What I do know is that he makes amazing jewelry and is a super-nice guy. You can see a few of his pieces on his web site (http://www.rawjewelers.com), as well as on a video done by Howl Magazine here: https://youtu.be/_HfMrKg2FD4
His studio is at Western Avenue Studios, in Lowell, Massachusetts - Studio 208.