Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit


April 6, 2014, Sunday, Detroit

Cool, low 30s, clear, calm.

Leaving early from my meeting at the Boggs Center I drove to Birmingham [on April 5, 2014] , a wealthy suburb north of Detroit, to join a rally and march organized by various United Church of Christ congregations shouting out for proper treatment of pensioners, home owners, people of color, etc. Make the banks pay!


Quotes from Cornell West and Martin Luther King Jr.


This group was slow to form. Nearly 1 hour after what I thought was the declared start time of 2:15, at Shain Park in the center of Birmingham, speeches began, many of them moving, as was true of Rev. Rowe from the Central Methodist church who led with a joke about Methodists always being late, and a young Black minister who rapped his sermon. A former police officer, female, spoke to us about integrating the force. She now advocates for retirement rights for city workers like herself. The last speaker, a woman, Mamie Chalmers, was from Birmingham, Alabama, the real Birmingham, the illustrious, Birmingham, the Birmingham famous for its role during the Freedom Movement. At some length she informed us about the reality of Jim Crow, including how she was forced to order thru a window and move aside to wait for the food, and—a fact I was not aware of—to buy clothes, to be fitted for clothes, one would be measured and was prohibited from trying on the clothing. Wearing the jacket, trying on the shoes, both prohibited.


“Mamie Chalmers personifies the Birmingham, Mich. to Birmingham, Ala. connection in the struggle for human dignity. At age 20, the Alabama native joined the movement and in 1963 was among the demonstrators attacked by police dogs, and eventually losing part of her hearing from the water hose blasts. She was arrested and spent five days in the Birmingham County jail. Yet, she attended the historic March on Washington that year.”

I made a point of standing with Black people, talking with them, gaining trust so I could photograph them, with each other and with White people. It was a hearty mixture of human beings, friendly and welcoming.




Finally, finally, the march. Thru the downtown section of this rich suburb. Many noticed. I tried to show them noticing. To the Chase Bank, one of the many banks seemingly profiting from Detroit’s poor conditions and the bankruptcy. We chanted and sang one song. I wished there were more in the style of the Freedom Movement. As someone noticed later, resurrecting Detroit is good for the burbs, for the state, and probably for the nation. Renewal is in all of our best interests.





April 7, 2014, Monday, east of Erie Pennsylvania, on the train

Cool, low 30s, partly cloudy, calm—all without feeling the weather, merely sensing it thru a train window as I cruise home to Cambridge.

A few stories from last night’s [April 6, 2014] dinner conversation at the Covintrees’s.

Bill Wylie-Kellerman and Denise, recently married, Denise also a minister, were in a serious auto accident, but unharmed. I believe an oncoming car leapt the barrier causing Bill’s car to veer into an embankment. The first driver sped off. This is on Bill’s Facebook page if I can remember to check it later for details. He and Denise had intended to a participate in the Birmingham march and may have been on their way there when the accident occurred. Several at the march wondered where they were, since they were expected. And it was Bill, I believe, who told me about the march.

George and Winkie related a contrasting story about a White man, Steve Utash, who accidentally struck a young Black boy at night with virtually no street lights functioning. A crowd of neighbors, led apparently by 2 young Black men, assaulted the driver who’d stopped to assist the boy he’d struck. They beat him savagely and crushed his head. He may not recover. The driver had done the right thing, the neighborhood was shocked and disagreed with the beating. George and Winkie bemoaned how this incident will cause more Whites to not enter Detroit, an escalation of the great divide. The problem of the Color Line, as described astutely by W.E.B. Du Bois, remains with us.

My comment on the lack of street lighting may have elicited this story. Lights off—crime on. This story directly affects me because of my night travels, either in car or on bike [I later learned the assault occurred not during the night, but at 4 pm.]. Also my willingness to frequent and even live in Black neighborhoods. We agreed that the Dalai Lama’s injunction to carefully consider the consequences of one’s actions before acting is wise. Also using language rather than fists, rocks, and guns to communicate.



Interfaith March for Justice: From Birmingham to Birmingham

Five Plead Guilty to Beating a Motorist in Detroit,”  19, 2014

Reading Rivera, Resurrection and Remembering in Post Industrial Detroit by Bill Wylie-Kellerman

“Resurrection City” by Bill Wylie-Kellerman

Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit

Hart Plaza

Hart Plaza

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.

―Ernest Hemingway


March 29, 2014, Saturday, Detroit

Cooler, high 30s, overcast, still

Yesterday [March 28, 2014] mainly a 16 mile group bike ride organized by Farmada with the North American Bicycle Week, one of the week’s 5 or so group rides. The westerly wind was strong, tiny water droplets periodically fell on us, the temperature was not too cold, in the 50s. Possibly this curtailed participation because only about 50 at most rode, all but a few young, most seemingly from Detroit or nearby, I might have been the only one from a distance. An array of bikes, some fancy, some plain, mine the only folding. One young Black man asked me, what do they call that type of bike? Suggesting the paucity of folding bikes in Detroit on bike rides.

Our route began at Hart Plaza, progressed to the river, along the river walk, up “the cut” (an old rail line made into a linear park, S would love this) and then circuitously thru an old cemetery where many brewery magnates are buried, across a bridge to Belle Isle Park, to the statue (organizers shortened the route because of the strong winds on the island, blowing down the river), a break for photos and snacks (I peed in the fountain—scandalous!), and reverse the route, stopping at Andrew’s for lunch.


Dequindre Cut, once a rail line


Belle Isle Park

There, eating Cajun fried fish with fries and coleslaw, I sat with a Black man, the one I thought had been with a very attractive young Black woman. I sat with him partly expecting she would join us—she never did. This guy, missing a number of upper front teeth, spoke incessantly about the many rides he’d made in North Carolina up and down mountains, his strategies for winning races, all the while gesticulating wildly with his hands and arms. When I told him about Mt. Washington (in the White Mountains), he exclaimed, jubilantly, I want to climb that mountain! Later I realized this was not the Black man I thought, with the handsome partner, but more a loner. I positively identified the 2 when I examined my video footage.



I made numerous photos, most of them lame, and about 5 video clips, some perhaps useable. I suspect 2 guys I spotted with single lens reflex cameras, able to turn around and photo people from the front rather than the back as I mostly did, produced better results. One guy, dark black, used a Nikon D700, full frame camera. As we rode, we discussed the relative advantages of the D600 which I usually use (not on this bike ride) and the D700. He told me, I no longer worry about high ISO, at 3200 there is no noise. I felt, zooming around Detroit by bike, I’d made a photo buddy. I only wish we could join together later and compare photos—maybe online later [never happened that I found, except for the stupendous one below].


Courtesy of Farmada Free Ride


Indian Village


Leaving the restaurant early, believing the ride effectively over, I pedaled as much as possible along the river back downtown to retrieve my car. I’d parked it in a lot with other cars opposite the Motor City Casino, near the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) headquarters. I worried. Ah, happily, it was still there and intact.

I have to wonder about Detroit as Motor City. Maybe Detroit has lost its earlier distinction and now, with the times, found or is discovering a new one: Detroit as Bicycle City.


At Eastern Market where I expected more bike week activities I found only a group of men huddled beneath large blue blankets conversing. Asking where the bike week activities are, they told me many had been canceled because presenters had cut out, numbers were definitely down, they suspected because of the weather. I thought, what a bunch of wimps.

So I wandered the Market alone, not looking for bike events, but searching for a fine cup of coffee and something sweet. I found precisely what I needed in the large Gratiot Central Market amidst its myriad meat, poultry and fish—a heavily sugared cruller and a large cup of cheap black coffee. After depositing 2 quarters in the hands of “my brother” waiting by the main door for likely benefactors, I sat outside because there was no seating inside. I sat opposite a series of graffiti on a hardware store that might be abandoned. Poor sign.




Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. 

—H. G. Wells




The Wind Blew With Us/Against Us (video)

Farmada Freeride

North American Bicycle Week

Bike Detroit

Detroit Women Bike





The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?

—Dorothy Day

Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit

Yesterday marks another major step in my Detroit experience: sitting with, listening to, learning from, and photographing many of the individuals and groups associated with Detroit renewal. The setting was Cobo Hall, the event an all day conference called the Equity Action Summit, organized by the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. The theme was Voices of Healing. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor from Chicago’s South Side, keynoted over lunch. Grace Lee Boggs opened the day. I met her, finally, after several tries over several Detroit trips.



Grace Lee Boggs with Native American drummer and singer

March 30, 2014, Sunday, Detroit

Cool, low 30s, clear, mild northwest breeze.

In a powerful dream this morning [March 30, 2014] I observed the aftermath of a martyrdom operation/suicide bombing in downtown Jerusalem, I may have been partially responsible for it. By the time I appeared on the scene, everything had been cleaned up. The site was outdoors and formed a circle. I may have photographed it.

Grace Lee Boggs, activist and theoretician, raised on Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and Marxism, nearing her 100th birthday, sat glumly in a wheelchair, her signature mouth down-turned, sometimes gazing out into the audience. As part of the introduction to her organizers played the trailer for American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, a recently released movie heralding her. I felt I was on a mission sent by S to meet and photograph and learn from her. I recall also that L first told me about Grace by alerting me to her importance, and I must remember to thank Louise.


Ron Scott, another familiar name, former Black Panther, spoke repeatedly. Probably in his 60s, he looks young, vibrant and powerful.


Ron Scott, member of the Boggs Center Board and other activist organizations, former Black Panther Party member

As I wrote S last evening from my office (at the local McDonalds where I use the free internet and drink discounted senior coffee):

today i finally met grace lee boggs, thanked her for her work, told her how much she inspires me. i heard her begin her address to the michigan equity round table with the words, “i am an old woman.” but she spoke as one with a strong young spirit. she turns 100 in june.

i believe you would have been as excited as i was at the roundtable today. many of detroit’s key players were there, like her and ron scott, former black panther, now an effective community activist. i attended the criminal (in)justice breakout session which was loaded with formerly incarcerated black men and still grieving black women who’d lost family and friends to the violence and the dirty rotten system of incarceration. many referred to michelle alexander’s book, the new jim crow. to top it all, rev jeremiah wright, obama’s former minister, offered the keynote, one of the most powerful speeches i’ve heard in years.

In a subsequent phone call to sort out when we’d Skype I elaborated on the theme of discharge, a concept from Reevaluation Counseling which she practices. She asked me if anyone wept. I said yes, and told her about Brenda, the mother of a recently killed young man. Brenda told us about the organization she founded for grieving families.


Brenda Hill

Rev Wright stayed with the theme of voice of healing by elaborating on the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa (correctly pronouncing apartheid, apart-hate). He lauded the various leaders, not only Mandela, with the message that a unified struggle is vital. He segued into his own story, how his great-grandfather was, I believe, enslaved and freed, had little money, but sent his son, Jeremiah’s grandfather, to college with all the money he could spare, 25 cents. The family is loaded with academic degrees and Wright pointedly claimed his doctorate was earned, as were several others in his family. As contrasted with the DD, deacon-declared. (Now I believe I understand the source of so many black ministers’ doctorates, which might also be named FD, fake doctorate.)

Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, "The Power of Story for Social Change"

Reverend Dr Jeremiah Wright

Deficit was another of his themes, often generating ooh’s and ah’s of appreciation. We are not people in deficit, deficient; the system is deficient.


I was surprised to observe that Wright barely looked up from his text, reading it, but was somehow able to convey deep emotion. I’d love a copy of his text or better, a video of his talk, a model of good preaching.

He is light-skinned, possibly explained when he recounted that a white slave owner impregnated a black enslaved woman, I believe in the great grandparent category. He is handsome as well, with a wispy goatee. Many greeted him later, surrounded him, and asked to be photographed with him. I snuck in for a few images.


Panel moderator, City Council Member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez

Moderated by Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, Detroit City Council member

The earlier panel I attended was equally informative and exciting, 2 women and 2 men including Ron Scott and a white minister who, altho speaking strongly, constantly looked to one side of the audience, as if gazing into the distance. Moderated by the first Latina city council member, Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, the theme was state of the city regarding racism. 85% black, ruled by a largely white, right winged state government thru the emergency manager, I do believe racism is a well-established fact.

Desiree Cooper, columnist for the Detroit Free Press

Desiree Cooper, columnist for the Detroit Free Press

Sarida Scott Montgomery, executive director of Community Development Associates

Sarida Scott Montgomery, executive director of Community Development Associates


Rev Ed Rowe, senior pastor to Central United Methodist Church

Following the panel we could choose between transit, housing, and the prison system. I chose the latter. In it, near the end of an impassioned presentation and discussion, one woman raised the question, what exactly does “criminal justice” mean, i.e., where is the justice in the criminal system? I heard a collective sigh, all acknowledging that to combine the 2 words is absurd. So I now use the term “criminal (in)justice” which is a major part of the “dirty rotten system” Dorothy Day often spoke of—“our problems stem from our acceptance of this dirty, rotten system.”


Yusef “Bunchy” Shakur, community activist, former incarcerated gang leader and member


IMG_4397Oh, I wish S had been with me, I’m confident she would have been equally moved. L also, and JB, and M, my honchos from back home and in Oakland, Dan also if he were not so diminished, and George Wald, desperately wishing to “get back in it,” meaning, heed the calls to action. I participated for all of them, and report photographically for all of them—and many others.


This conference was not all of yesterday. Cobo Hall is huge, holds many types. On the floor below, as I searched for the bike expo, loud rock music drew me to a sneakers’ expo, in strong distinction with the Equity Action Summit. Many youth, most male, half and half black and white, amid a myriad of sneakers, all probably selling for astronomical prices. These shoes some would fight over. I made a video.

Sneakers, $100 and up

On the floor below that, the bike expo, each floor with a different population, each a different theme, each a different message. On the top floor: people suffer, the city has big problems, let’s fix them. On the mid floor, look at these cool sneakers, buy them. And on the ground floor, the bikes, here’s an alternate form of transport, have fun, play and ride.





North American Bicycle Week

(more photos of the expo)



Equity Action Summit Images & Media Coverage

Brenda Hill, Detroit Coalition Against Violence

Yusef B. Shakur

Monica Lewis Patrick on the spiritual element in the struggle for justice

Boondoggle in the Motor City: Detroit’s Train to Nowhere

North American Bicycle Week

Detroit Bike City (video)


Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit

Touring Detroit with Colin Connaire, a police officer formerly stationed in Detroit, we visited three police stations—one abandoned and vandalized, the second renovated into a nonprofit arts center and farm and garden supply company, the third still an active police station.





PHOTOS (in two parts)

March 27, 2014, Thursday, Detroit    

Warmer, low 30s, overcast, mild southerly breeze, rain-snow showers forecast, bike week begins today.

today [March 26, 2014] was another huge day photographing detroit. the police officer i wrote about earlier, colin connaire, is a special sort of guy—compassionate, committed to helping others, humane, and very knowledgeable about detroit, crime, and of course policing here. we visited 3 precinct stations, one abandoned and decrepit, another abandoned and converted into a for profit garden and farm supply center along with a non profit art gallery, the third a functioning station. he will contact the captain and request permission to photograph inside. this is more than i ever expected.

—To two friends

The tour with Colin was not what I expected, less in some respects, much more in others. I visualized we’d stroll around his old beat, his region in northeast Detroit, he’d tell me stories, I’d photograph as he did, him and the environment. Much as I did with Ibrahim in Gaza recounting his tale of near death between Hamas and Fatah. We might even meet some people he’d known on the beat, some stories of recovery or deterioration. This might itself be a major study. Instead we mostly drove, and often to sites I’ve observed and sometimes photographed myself, like the Cass Corridor. Not much juice here.


Colin Connaire

What I did not expect was the sequence of police stations. The vandalized and scrapped station was first. We explored it thoroughly, cells, intake, holding, garage, offices, etc. Lots of graffiti and vandalism, mostly from recovering materials for resale, like copper. Little that suggested anger at the police, which surprised both of us. Equally surprising was the second site, purchased, owned, managed, and maintained by Southwest Solutions, apparently a non-profit developer. A for-profit garden and farm supply firm inhabited the former police station garage, owned by 2 men, 1 of whom stood behind the counter and explained everything. (He is the strapping young man, well muscled, bare-chested that I photographed last fall.) Colin and I had noticed mounds of earth on the roof. The fellow explained, yes, a green roof. Because it’s not fully visible we plan to plant a tree.


Detroit Farm and Garden Supply

The rest of the building is devoted to a non-profit arts center—studios (some of them in the jail cells), exhibits, workshops, and a small café. The gallery is available for rental for weddings, receptions, parties, and the like. Listening to the vivacious, street talking, curly white-haired, goateed, dark-skinned Norm Kobylarz, himself an artist (sculpture, but his studio is not in the arts center), I sensed much vibrancy in the place, some traffic, a growing enterprise. I dropped in on a young woman, Ellen Coons, who explained to me when questioned, that yes, I am a hipster, maybe a new hipster. She is an artist and— self-admitted—apathetic. She graduated from the College of Creative Studies, and showed me some of her art, including animation. Her boyfriend, Joshua Mulligan is half Diné (Navajo) and himself a talented animator. She showed me an array of hers and his on video. Norm showed us a Banksy mural done originally on a wall at the abandoned Packard Auto Plant, but removed and fought for in court. The arts center now owns it and could sell it. Media are fascinated by it, as am I.


Norm Kobylarz, artist in the arts center, with Colin


Ellen Coons

The facility is officially named 555 Creative Community, and sits at 2801 W Vernor, Detroit 48216. This happens to be across from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Detroit Mexicantown International Welcome Center 14 (contradictory facilities?), which itself are near the Canada Bridge. Easy to find, near a well-traveled route.

Map 2801 W Vernor


Norm with Banksy street art retrieved from the abandoned Packard Plant

All this of course excited me tremendously: conversion, renewal, arts, agriculture, youth, many of my main themes coalescing in this one facility, or rather, the 3 buildings compared.

The 3rd was a functioning station, Precinct 11, which we visited last. The captain was not in so we couldn’t receive an answer to our request to photograph inside. But Colin promised to check today and call me [no luck, no access—yet]. I hope to at least photograph the interior of this working station, especially the jail cells, a central theme, if not some of the personnel.


Detroit police station

I explained to Colin the concept of “synecdoche,” the part standing for the whole, which is related to the question of the derivation of the word “cop”. He believed it derives from “Constable On Patrol,” I parried with “cop” from “copper” from the badges worn earlier. As usual, Colin said, oh my, I never thought of that, could be. One of his unique features is openness to new ideas, active interest, a flourishing mind. Same as his mom, the venerable dramatist, Chris Connaire, my friend from the Cambridge Quaker community and my link to Colin. I applied the notion to our station exploration: this small story of three police stations could stand for the larger story of Detroit.

At the end of the tour Colin treated me to a local favorite—fast food hamburgers in the style of White Castle, Telway Hamburgers. On Michigan Ave, not far from the 555 Arts Center. Four burgers for $2.50. Coffee that Colin claims excels most others. We were together for more than 4 hours and bonded quickly. He told me how much he loves his work, his work pals, his life. In a nutshell: born and raised in the Boston area, with roots in Michigan thru his mom and her mom; from the age of 8 wished to be a cop; joined the Detroit force after college; studied and graduated from Wayne State in law while in the police; lived in the upscale Indian Village during this time; moved to Grosse Pointe Park and joined that force; now a sergeant; owns his house; divorced, remarried, kids by both marriages, an 18 month girl with epilepsy.



Telway Hamburgers (courtesy of the internet)

I told him, this is somewhat like my story: my early wish to be a photographer, practiced from an early age, changed genres, studied, married, divorced, etc. Both of us love our work. A key question: risk, injury, death? How do you feel about all this? I didn’t get a clear answer from Colin. Except maybe when he’d stated earlier that one reason he shifted from Detroit to Grosse Pointe Park was danger. Maybe the incident when he almost shot a man. He and his partner noticed a guy in a parked car, they approached the car. The guy folded his body over and leaned down, perhaps to grab or hide a weapon. Colin’s partner had slid his hand thru a partially open window, opened the door, and was trying to pull the man out when he bent down. Colin pointed his gun at the man who then slowly rose up, hands empty. Later they discovered a Glock automatic pistol with a 30 round clip hidden under the seat.

Colin wasn’t sure of the man’s intent. Perhaps to rise up shooting. That, Colin claimed, was the only time he came close to firing his weapon.

Are you trained to fire non-lethally?

Oh no, to the chest, maximum bulk, the legs are too small for a target, shoot to kill.

Are you trained in humane methods of crowd control and other intervention?

Not really, we can pick this up on the job.

How about SWAT operations?

Yes, we are prepared for that but the approach is always maximum force, intimidation. I told him about my political arrest on Cambridge Common.

Furthermore: Colin told me he reads bodies, uses proportional force, as when he ended a chase because of the danger to him and his men, compared with the seriousness of the crime. We discussed our short hair, a convenience for him, but I suggested subliminal associations, as with monks, military, and skinheads.

He provided a perfect companion on the tour because he engaged all parties in conversation, like Norm, while I concentrated on photography.

Norm with Colin

Leaving Colin after the tour I walked briefly around his neighborhood, the “Cabbage Patch” of Grosse Pointe Park (on the border of Detroit, not quite so exclusive as other suburbs, perhaps named Cabbage Patch because of the Irish immigrants once living there) to feel the neighborhood and town—lots of cafes, boutiques, health food stores, etc. But most specially, three boys, 2 of color, 1 white, looking suspiciously Jewish, in fact like a young Woody Allen.



Grosse Pointe Park


Excuse me, young men, I’m a photographer from Boston, could I please photograph you?

This might emerge as the hit photo of the day.

To a friend:

btw. about your question, whether i feel completeness in this recent detroit foray: hardly, partially. 

some disappointments like doing nothing more on the theme of greening detroit (mostly because of the season) and not gaining access to a functioning police station (we tried but the boss never responded, a frequent occurrence in my line of work). and some surprising achievements like the police officer, colin connaire, escorting me to 2 other stations in various conditions and him personally, what a fine man he is, and the enormous, busy bike shop i discovered and photographed a few days ago. on and on. down and up personally. as with my work in palestine-israel my disappointments generate a commitment to return and plumb more deeply. i hope my achievements never fully satisfy me. disappointments and achievements fuel my curiosity.

satisfying yes, satisfying no. i suspect you can relate with your drawing. could be more, thank god it’s not too less.

thanks for asking, you raised a key point.



555 Creative Community Arts Center

Gallery’s plan to sell Banksy’s Packard Plant mural sparks uproar

Detroit Farm and Garden Supply

Eighth / Sixteenth Precinct Police Station

Volunteers clean up abandoned Detroit police station in hopes of it reopening (May 2013)

Detroit officials break ground for new police precinct (May 2014)


42 Brattle Street Harvard Square Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
PO Box 9113 Cambridge, MA 02238-9113
Phone: 617-547-6789 Fax: 617-497-7532

Spring Light: Photographing Massachusetts Audubon Society wildlife sanctuaries
A field trip-based workshop for students beyond the basic level—how to work photographically with summer light.
Three Fridays, July 11, 12-3, July 18, 5:30 pm-8:30, and July 25, 5:30 am-8:30 with review sessions on three Thursdays, 6-8:30 pm at 56 Brattle St, Cambridge, July 17 and 24, and August 14. (Please save Sunday, July 13, 12-3, for a rain date.)

Street Photography
How to photograph people we meet on our explorations outside our private domains—field trips, lectures, demonstrations, and reviews.
Four Tuesdays, 3-6 pm. Begins July 1.

Night Photography
Explore the equipment and techniques of night photography thru lectures, demonstrations, and field trips.
Four Wednesdays, 7:45-9:45 pm. Begins July 2.

Summer Photography Intensive Retreat
Taught jointly by Melinda Bruno-Smith & Skip Schiel
Deep seeing, effective camera use, composition, visual literacy, and post production processes—to learn skills that express your vision, feelings, and thoughts.
Five days, July 28-August 1, 10 am-4 pm

Although I enjoy taking photographs on my own, Skip Schiel’s classes give structure and direction, which adds another dimension to the experience. He also does these wonderful awareness exercises that help me look at things differently. It’s an experience I take into other areas of my life. (Sy Friedland, Fall Light 2013)

I have owned a Lightroom tutorial video for 3 years—but the class was orders of magnitude more useful. (Adobe Lightroom Essentials, 2014)

Skip gave us ideas to think about while we were shooting. Shooting objects from different perspectives instead of just blasting away. One of the best things was that Skip was out there shooting with us. We could see after what he was looking at and what he was thinking. I have never had an instructor do that. (Winter Light, 2012)

Skip challenged us, gave thoughtful feedback and facilitated great discussions. The format of the class offered a mix of feedback, learning new techniques, seeing the work of other artists, and field trips to practice what we learned. The class flew by and I would have enjoyed a couple more sessions. (Night & Low Light Photography, summer 2011)

More testimonials

Photography workshop

Emerald Necklace, Boston, Winter Light, January 2014, photo by Skip Schiel

Photos from this workshop

Contact Skip Schiel

View his photographs

His teaching philosophy

Along the Mediterranean Coast: To learn photography (teaching in Gaza, Occupied Palestine)

If you reside in the Boston Metro area, I’d like to invite you to Cambridge Open Studios, a rich smorgasbord of art displayed in homes and public venues thruout the city of Cambridge Massachusetts. If not in the Boston area, you can find many of my photos on my website.





Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit


March 21, 2014, Friday

Cool, mid 20s, still, clear.



Yesterday [March 20, 2014] was a major day for photo achievement, the first of what I hope will be many. As I wrote at my office (in a neighborhood McDonalds with free wireless because my home does not have it) the phone rang: Bill Wylie Kellerman, the pastor of St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Corktown. He invited me to a tour he would give about the Rivera Ford Motor Company mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), same day, 1 pm. He’d written about the mural in the context of Detroit, “Reading Rivera, Resurrection and Remembering in Post Industrial Detroit,” a fine article. Perfect.



I struggled to arrive on time by car-bike. Having pioneered mall lot parking a few days earlier I didn’t bother searching for parking near the DIA but headed straight for the mall where I’d parked on another day, and used the same exact parking spot. On my folding bike I huffed to arrive at the DIA on time, 1 pm, to find no one there for the tour. Wrong day? Eventually Bill showed up, only Bill, no one else. He nervously fingered his beard. Where are the others? he rhetorically asked me, I would have canceled this if I’d known no one but you would show up. I need the time to rehearse a story I will tell at the African-American museum on Friday.

As he made some phone calls, I looked at the suits of armor in the hall adjacent to the Rivera mural, thinking, this is a curious juxtaposition, men of war with a mural of relative peace.


Bill Wylie-Kellerman second from the right with out tour group

Eventually about 8 people showed up, mostly or all from Christ Episcopal Church. A range of people, ages, skin color, interest level. All seemed to have at least a modicum of knowledge about the mural, some much more.

Bill began by asking us to examine the mural and notice one thing, a technique I often use in my teaching. I observed bodies, the range of arms and faces. On the north panel men worked together, many with uplifted elbows, nearly all their faces were visible. On the south panel, the opposite—men did not labor with such obvious strain and Rivera had revealed few faces. Others in the group noticed colors, placement, symbolism, etc.


Bill suggested the layout of the main walls referred to the classic arrangement of cathedral walls: east as birth, west as judgment, and I’m not sure what if anything he said about the north and south walls. Using my big Nikon for the first time on this trip I photographed and videoed the tour, relatively happy with results. Surely I saw much more during and after the tour, thanks to Bill. I bought a second collection of mural postcards, this one to give to other friends helping me with this project.


Near the “birth” wall

Before we parted I raised the question of photographing the Rouge River as a way to depict Detroit. No one had heard of such a project. Most exclaimed surprise and confusion about the extent of the river, how widespread it was, where it might be actually red (rouge), if anywhere. I continue to believe this might be a useful approach to Detroit. Maybe today I’ll examine the Rouge where it enters the Detroit River.


Rouge River near the Henry Ford Estate (not the confluence with the Detroit River)



As Bill pointed out, the only completed automobile is at the vanishing point of this image, the little red object.

After the tour I lingered awhile longer in the museum, studying the rest of the armor exhibit, marveling at what humans will perpetuate to settle their differences, medieval Europe with its Christian iconography, a few other halls randomly selected, and the museum space itself that I find bewildering.


Then, related and in contrast, the Heidelberg Project, which has suffered something like 8 arsons since last spring. Bicycling up I noticed a man sitting in a pickup truck, then the same man raking debris from the roadside. This was Tyree Guyton, the founder and director of the project. Long suffering community and city resistance, his project is now at much greater risk. Who is destroying it and why? After photographing some of the wreckage—much remains and probably is not subject to fire, such as the installations not attached to houses—I approached him and asked, are you Tyree?


Tyree Guyton in the background raking

I am.

I am so sorry about what is happening here, I hope to show others thru my photography. I introduced myself after he’d asked who I was and then I stated, whoever is burning this project is probably insane.

I disagree, he said, not insane.

Do you mean strategic? I asked.

I refuse to speculate, he wisely replied, I will simply move on. This reminded me of the Leverett Peace Pagoda folks after their first temple burned.

May I photograph you?

No, sorry, no photos please.

Thanking him, wishing him and the art well, I bicycled further, to continue my photography and video from my bike—2 passes on Heidelberg St.  A carload of young women, perhaps university students, also photographed. One seemed to know Tyree.




 Hummer buried by Code Pink activists & others during the US Social Forum  in 2010

Between exploring the Rivera mural and the Heidelberg Project, in the midst of many vacant lots, old buildings, some of them elegant and well maintained, others crumbling, side-by-side—2 museums, 2 uses of art, sharing much—I photographed an elderly housing complex in the midst of vacant land. Name of the complex? Paradise Valley.



In the former neighborhood of Paradise Valley



Reading Rivera, Resurrection and Remembering in Post Industrial Detroit by Bill Wylie-Kellerman

“Resurrection City” by Bill Wylie-Kellerman

The Heidelberg Project




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