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.
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.
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.
Well that title was a stretch. I was just looking for some words to wrap around some photos. I had been looking through some shoots and trips that I had done recently to see what else was there. Someone whose opinion I value said to me that he wanted to see what else there was, beyond my “picks”; those shots that I would select on the first or second edit of the “contact sheets”. He also wanted me to think beyond “quality”… It’s essential to think in terms of quality and delivering excellent work when doing commercial photography, but it tends to stifle artistic inclinations. Obviously, it’s important to bring your artistry to the commercial work, and I hope that looking beyond that quality thing will help me make that work better, but that’s not really the goal for these shots. Creating good work for the work’s sake is.
So here are some recent one-offs, not necessarily rejects, but shots that didn’t make the cut, at least for what was in my mind at the time, in no particular order and with no particular story in mind.
Let me know what you think!
I have been making portraits of artists for several years now. I find artists to be the least self-conscious of subjects. I’m not sure why, although maybe it has to do with their understanding of the process. It’s very freeing in one way, but it also comes with the responsibility of “portraying” a person in an honest way. It’s well understood that photographic gear has nothing to do with making images that work, aside from the more mundane technical qualities of images. It’s also true though that a photographer brings feelings, perceptions and interpretations to a photo shoot such that the portrait is as much about the photographer as it is about the subject.
Last week I had an amazing time visiting the Western Avenue studio of Roneld Lores and Angela Alés, and photographing Roneld. I haven't mentioned it to Angela, but I am hoping that I can photograph her as well sometime in the future. Angela, by the way, has a show now at the Galatea Fine Art gallery on Harrison Avenue in Boston. The opening reception is this Friday, January 8th, 2016. Here is more information: http://galateafineart.com
Click here for a look at Roneld’s web site, and here are my images of him.
Last week Diana Jaye Coluntino stopped by my studio for a photo shoot. Diana, who studied fashion, metalsmithing and sculpture at Mount Ida and MassArt, ultimately teaching at MassArt, spent a decade designing in Venezuela and ended up in Lowell, Massachusetts as the Artistic Director of the Revolving Museum. A number of years ago, Diana founded New Vestures, where she is the Creative Director.
New Vestures provides “support, space, resources and classes related to the creation of fashion and textile projects”. Located in Lowell, New Vestures recently moved out of their Merrimack Street location into a temporary one in the beautifully renovated 110 Canal Street building, which houses the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub. What a cool location!
I visited Diana yesterday to get a tour of that space, where she is working while waiting for the buildout of New Vestures’ new location to be completed. That new home will be just up the hill, still in the growing Hamilton Canal District, at Mill No. 5. That space, on the building’s 5th floor, just above the city’s cool new retail space on the 4th, will give New Vestures 3000 square feet of work space, not to mention a bunch of big windows overlooking the district.
So here are some of the shots during my tour and the portraits we did in my studio. Thank you Diana and best of luck in your new location!
I recently did a profile/photo-essay on Aron Leaman of Mill City Glass Works in Lowell for the Merrimack Valley Magazine (November/December 2015). Aron is incredibly passionate about his art, creating beautiful work as well as sharing his skills in classes that he holds at his studio at Western Avenue Studios. The magazine piece has a number of photos, with text by Emilie-Noelle Provost, so please check it out. Space can be limiting though, so here are several outtakes from my shoots that took place over several days. Visit Aron’s web site at MillCityGlassWorks.com.
Photographers, or maybe just this one, have trouble talking about their work. So today, I am instituting a series of no-comment blog posts because I am not sure that I need to say anything about specific photographs. And yes, I know, these are words. So next time it will be wordless. Today I am presenting some images of several artist friends, Dug, Maxine and Barb & Samantha, the latter otherwise known as The Muddy Girls. As always, comments are very welcome!
Back in early August I had the opportunity to meet and photograph Natalia Wróbel, Polish-American artist, by way of California, in her Somerville studio. As you'll see from the photos, her large paintings only make her studio, the setting for her portraits, that much more beautiful. You can see more of her work at her web site here: http://nataliaswrobel.com/home.html