Posts Tagged ‘boston’


We’re ready for every possible scenario, even if they start firing at us. Nowadays, to be a Palestinian is to be an almost dead person. Palestinians die every day and we know that’s part of our reality. I was at the Erez checkpoint back in 2011 [during the last return march]; I’ve seen the full force of Israel’s cruelty.

The whole idea is based on UN Security Council Resolution 194 (the right of return) and the current unbearable living conditions in Gaza. It is actually a peaceful act. We want to ask the Israelis to welcome as if we were visitors from another country, the same way they welcome refugees in certain countries in Europe — though we’re not actually visitors here.

—Hasan al-Kurd (one of the March organizers)

I have been many times to Gaza since my first trip in 2004. Mainly to support the young adults programs of the American Friends Service Committee, but also to photograph what I observe within the locked box of the Gaza Strip. Some call it the largest open air prison on earth. During my first visit, now 14 years ago, I asked a friend there if he’d concur: no, he said, worse, the largest grave yard on earth. His observation then was up to date and prescient. He’d declared this before the major Israeli attacks of Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Operation Protective Edge (2014). Death by Israeli live ammunition, rockets, bombs, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium warheads against Palestinians, usually young adults, usually civilians, some perhaps who’ve I’ve taught photography to or photographed, and death by illness, despair, suicide, resistance, and the myriad of other Israeli violence over the years.

…an illegality that pains the eye and outrages the heart, if the eye be not blind and the heart be not callous or corrupt.

—B’Tselem, referring to Israeli soldiers accepting orders to shoot unarmed, nonviolent protesters in Gaza

First some relatively positive news, an instance of revived international attention on Gaza, I hope one among many: the demonstration and die-in last week in front of the Israeli Consulate in Boston. Here are some photos:

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And a video showing one of the organizers, Nancy Murray, speaking about Gaza.

Then news from the front: The Great Return March,
dated perhaps because this report is from the first week of a strategic 45 day nonviolent expression of frustration and hope.

Palestinians participate in a tent city protest commemorating Land Day, with Israeli soldiers seen below in the foreground on-March 30-Photographer- Jack Guez:AFP via Getty ImagesSM2

Palestinians at the Israeli border, Gaza Strip, March 30, 2018

Friday’s protests [March 30, 2018], which Israel estimated drew 40,000 people, were the first of six weeks of planned anti-Israel actions meant to dramatize the Palestinians’ plight as refugees. Israel said Sunday that Gaza militants used civilian demonstrators as cover as they fired at soldiers and tried to lay explosives near the border fence. Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the militant Hamas group that rules Gaza and sponsored the protests, called the killings a “massacre.”

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A young Palestinian looks at a poster listing the villages that demonstrators at the Great March of Return plan to return to once the Palestinian right of return is honored. (Photo- Moha

A young Palestinian looks at a poster listing the villages that demonstrators at the Great March of Return plan to return to once the Palestinian right of return is honored. (Photo- Mohammed Asad)


Gaza Martyrs

Martyrs, killed on March 30, 2018


We’re a group of 20 organizers, only two of whom are affiliated with Hamas. Actually, most of us, including myself, are leftists. All the political parties in Palestine are behind us and supporting us, and Hamas — being an elected party — is one of those parties.

If we’d felt that [Hamas], or any other party for that matter, tried to control the protest and make it about them, we wouldn’t let them. Hamas is actually very understanding on that point.

—Hasan al-Kurd

ProtectiveEdge-Breaking Silence-map only

Thanks to Breaking the Silence

Recent comments from some of my friends in Gaza:

Great efforts dear.. keep supporting us to end the siege and live a human life like all others in the world
—Montaser Abu Kmeil



Thank you Skip for sharing with such a good material. Gaza is bleeding these day although the protesters are peacefully demonstrating without any violence. Many people killed and hundreds were wounded. We anticipate a real action from your side to raise American awareness on the Palestinian rights to live in peace and security side by side with Israel.
In justice and peace in the holy land,

—Mustafa ElHawi

Al Hawi.jpg


Thank you so much dear Skip, your solidarity and support highly appreciated, for sure your video and photos will encourage us to end the Israeli occupation. 
Be well, and please keep in touch. 

—Ibrahem ElShatali
Ibrahem ElShatali SM

Palestine en vue


With the Great Return March, Palestinians Are Demanding a Life of Dignity

“Israeli snipers open fire on Gaza protests second week in a row”

“Gaza ‘Return March’ organizer: ‘We’ll ensure it doesn’t escalate to violence — on our end'”

“Palestinian Journalist Yaser Murtaja Killed by Israel Sniper on Gaza Border”

Reading Maimonides in Gaza, by Marilyn Garson (2018)
From 2011 to 2015, experience in Gaza’s economic sector

This is How We Fought in Gaza, Soldiers׳ testimonies and photographs from “Operation Protective Edge,” by Breaking the Silence (2014)

Book suggestion: Night in Gaza, by Mads Gilbert (2015)
A participant’s view by a Norwegian medical doctor in hospitals during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014, Operation Protective Edge, with excellent photographs by the author. Israel has now banned him from entering the region for life.

Night in Gaza 2

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We can do it, you know. We can get there. We can have it all. The Third Millennium AD can be the green millennium, the time in which we learn to live as responsible human beings at last. There is no law, natural or divine, which demands that the world we live in become poorer, harsher, and more dangerous. If it continues to become that way, it is only because we do it ourselves.

—Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl


I’ve long wished to join the series of actions at the West Roxbury lateral pipeline in Boston, which often includes civil disobedience. The actions attempt to stop a pipeline being laid thru land taken by eminent domain. The 5-mile pipeline is part of a 1,100-mile pipeline being built by Spectra Energy of Houston, Texas, and its subsidiary, Algonquin Gas Transmission in Waltham, Massachusetts, to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania. Some claim it will transport gas extracted by hydraulic fracking further south in the States for sale in Canada. This presents a multiple whammy.

  • The process of fracking pollutes water and releases methane, making it allegedly more destructive to the earth than coal.
  • While much of the pipe is under roads, causing little inconvenience except during construction, some pipe I suspect is under useful land snatched by the law, such as home and school lands.
  • The gas in this high pressure line could explode and destroy buildings and lives along the route. In addition, as a final seal of potential doom, one stretch is next to a quarry where explosives are used to mine the rock.
  • It increases the potential for gas leaks, already a major problem not only in Boston but widespread in the nation.
  • It encourages more use of fossil fuel rather than emphasizing renewable energy.

To be convincing in this article, I would need to research and corroborate all these claims. This would include reading counter claims about the economic benefits and safety of the project. Sufficient for now, I reference this article about the debate:

“Debate about the pipeline heats up” (September 2015)

The action itself on Saturday, June 25, 2016, billed as running from 10 to noon, lasted until about 3 pm. It consisted of a rally along the pipeline route, opposite the quarry and the compressor station also under construction; a march of about 1/2 mile to the pipe laying site, blocked by a police line; another march of about the same length to the other end of the police cordon with a short vigil along a main road, Washington Street; and then some unscripted but highly anticipated activity.

Compressor construction site

Metering and Regulating construction site


During all this, a smaller group of about 10 people who were prepared for arrest with their support people sniffed their way thru the warren of small country-like roads to the mid-point of the project. Searching for a way past the police who otherwise would block them, suddenly 3 men from this contingent who expected to be arrested, darted down the road past the police, onto the site, and soon were in the 10 ft deep ditch dug by a huge Caterpillar hydraulic mining shovel preparing to lay the pipe.

Police hurried into the ditch, extracted and arrested the three young men, handcuffed them, and brought them to a curb where they sat awaiting the police van to be delivered to the West Roxbury police station.

Arrest of Jay O'Hara and two others

Arrest of Shea Riester and two others

Where was I in all this, I the ever-seeing, or hoped to be the ever-seeing photographer, trying to be in all places at all times, hovering over the action, omniscient, omnipresent, a form of photographer god or angel, free to pass thru police lines with my magical fantastic credentials? I had been at the far end of the construction site, unable to see much about what happened at the site, casually photographing police juxtaposed with cranes and trucks behind them, when I noticed a flurry of activity. This included the only person with a large video camera and tripod. He must know something that I don’t; why else would he race away with all that heavy gear? I thought. So I followed, wondering whether I was about to photograph something important, or just go for a futile self-tour of West Roxbury.


I call myself (usually not openly) an “opportunistic photographer,” that is, I often exploit opportunities presented to me rather than plan my work. Entering Gaza in 2003 for the first time is one example. I failed twice to gain entrance and then happened upon an international NGO thru a friend and slipped in with them. Or, also in Gaza, I was working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) when they told me they planned a trip to one of the most heavily destroyed parts of the Strip, called Zeitoun (the Arabic word for olive tree) to deliver donated winter clothing. I accompanied them and made nearly a day’s worth of photos. Waking up that morning I doubt I knew where I’d be later in the day. That is “opportunistic photography.” Or maybe a better word is “spontaneous,” guided by my muses which I pray to and thank every day.

So I found myself virtually the only photographer at the most appropriate location to show the three young men, later a fourth, questioned by the police, searched, and stuffed into the police van. All close up. I did however miss their drop in visit to the ditch, trying to block construction, and the police response. This for other photographers, other opportunistic or simply lucky human beings with cameras. I do not work alone.

The action continued. By the same backwoods route used by my predecessors who were arrested and their supporters,the group and I found a way to join others prepared for arrest. This included an older woman in a wheelchair, waiting for a long period under hot sun. Altho our numbers had shrunk, from about 90, we 30 or so constituted an ongoing vigil, observing the ditch making and pipe laying, pieces of an evolving national labyrinth which could contribute to disaster not only of this neighborhood but of the planet itself.

The long road around the two police barricades

The long road around the two police barricades


As I write this, today (June 28, 2016) on Democracy Now a few minutes ago Amy Goodman broadcast a troubling report about extreme weather in the United States.

From Aravinda Ananda, arrested with her husband Joseph at the demonstration on June 28, 2016:

Joseph and I did our business owners’ action earlier in the morning. They arrested Joseph immediately after crossing the police tape. I sat by the trench for maybe 3 minutes before they had me cuffed and taken away. No construction stopped.

30-40 people had come from western MA to risk arrest, but the police liaison made a deal with the police – protestors would approach the police line and construction would stop for an hour or something and there would be no arrests. I think they only ended up stopping construction for 40 minutes, but there were no other arrests.

We were in custody from about 9:30 until perhaps 3:00. They brought us to precinct 5 and we were in a holding cell for about 4 hours while they booked us. Then they brought us to lockup/the courthouse, and two holding cells later we went before a judge who offered us the same deal all other pipeline protesters have been offered thus far: to convert the charges from criminal to civil ones so long as we are not arrested again in this same protest in the next 6 months. So our journey through the court system may or may not be over. 

…I offered some Work That Reconnects practices including “bowing to our adversaries” at a conference two weekends ago at Pendle Hill on “Powerful Faith-Based Organizing for Climate Justice.” I have been feeling that piece a lot recently. Before the action yesterday, I had to pass through the construction site twice in search of a bathroom. I made a point of saying good morning to all of the construction workers and police officers. On the way back from the bathroom the sidewalk was closed, but an officer escorted me through and we chatted about the rain – I told him how much I appreciated it for gardening. I said “wow, this is a big project” (about the construction). He said “yea, some protesters are not happy about it.” I didn’t tell him I was one of them… Maybe next time. 

…We were singing kirtan chants in the police transport vehicle, and when I was in the holding cell alone for four hours whenever I would get restless I would quietly chant. I ended up sending a lot of loving kindness to the police officers in the precinct. It was so helpful to have had these spiritual tools (bowing to the adversaries, chanting, etc.) to steady me through this. All in all, the police were really kind to me. The arresting officer asked me if I had any medical conditions or arthritis before cuffing me. Joseph didn’t get the same courtesy (knee on his back!) [He’d not cooperated during the arrest, going limp.]. The officers who booked me asked me three times if I needed to use the bathroom, which is good because there were no facilities in my first holding cell. They also brought me my jacket which they had previously taken from me saying they thought I might be cold. It wasn’t too difficult to send them loving kindness. I wonder if I could have done it so well if they had been violent to me as I know people caught up in that system often can be…


Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline

Resist the Pipeline

“Should Massachusetts Oppose Further Natural Gas Pipeline Construction In The State? Boston Globe South” by Scott Gustafson, organizer, Laborers International Union of North America (May 2016)

“Unitarian Universalists fight to stop Boston-area gas pipeline” by Elaine McArdle, March 14, 2016

Watch out for those Quakers! 20 arrested blocking construction of Boston #fracked gas pipeline #StopSpectra #350mass  (by Bill McKibbon, June 2016)

QuakersPipelineJune 23, 2016

From Friends Meeting at Cambridge, at a recent pipeline action

“Following on weeks of actions at the Spectra West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline construction site, a Quaker-led group placed themselves in the way of construction….” (May 2016)

“Vice President’s Daughter Karenna Gore Arrested in the Trenches of a Climate Protest” Democracy Now

“Tim DeChristopher Arrested Again in the “Age of Anticipatory Mass Graves” for Climate Victims” Democracy Now

2016-01-04-wrl_gasleaks-Image of gas leaks in West Roxbury- Gas Safety USA. Courtesy BU professor Nathan Phillips

Gas leaks in West Roxbury, April 2016, Gas Safety USA, courtesy of Boston University professor Nathan Phillips



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Woman shell GazaSM

Gaza, mortar fired by Israeli army into a farming area, 2009


In a Gaza hospital recovering from an Israeli sniper attack, 2004


Boston Marathon bomb explodes, April 2013 (Courtesy Boston.com)


Boston Marathon bombing, April 2013 (AP Photo/The Daily Free Press, Kenshin Okubo)

Excerpts from my journal and letters as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel (originally written on April 18, 2013)


Residing in Gaza, 7 times zones from Boston, I first learned about the Marathon bombings from my friend, S in Boston, whose friend was caught between both explosions. Her friend was certain she would die. I heard more from other friends in Boston and then when I arrived at the American Friends Service Committee office where I volunteer as a photographer and teacher of photography on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, one day after the bombing, I discovered most staff had heard about it, usually from news feeds on their smart phones. Apparently it is worldwide news.



American Friends Service Committee office, Gaza, April 2013


Gaza, March 2013

The AFSC staff here has been supportive of me—asking how I am, what I know, how I feel, etc. Never comparing it to violence here. But saying in effect, an injury to one is an injury to all. I do believe that suffering can enable compassion. The bombing reminds me of the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in the late 1800s. As some may recall, it led to a wave of arrests and several executions despite the lack of evidence. Yesterday’s anarchists, today’s terrorists.


I remain deeply troubled. I weep and feel anger at the same moment. Especially troubling is the cruel irony of so many legs lost at a marathon. Imagine: one moment, as you stand in the crowd marveling at how human beings can use their legs, perhaps feeling fatigued from standing so long waiting for friends to cross the finish line, thinking, how can I stand for one more moment—and then boom, no legs. Or feet or ankles.


(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


(Courtesy dailymail.co.uk)

Now we might expect another round of fear-base hysteria with its consequent tightening of security.

Already a report in The Jewish Press, “Gaza Arabs Celebrate Boston Marathon Attack with Dance, Candies:” Shortly after the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, the Arabs of Gaza danced in the streets, handing out candies to passersby, Israel News Agency reported….

Perhaps, but I witnessed or heard nothing like this. And among my friends and colleagues the precise opposite.

pic-gaza copy


Gaza, the aftermath of various Israeli attacks, including white phosphorus (photos from the Internet)

From the director of the AFSC program in Gaza, Amal Sabawi:

Dear friends and colleagues in US,  

We think of you and feel your pain , and think about the innocents people who are the victims of violence and unlawfully murder . We hope that you, your families ,  your children and friends be safe and secured , we pray that peace would prevail in this world and end the suffering of millions of innocents on this earth

You are in our hearts and  thoughts

Love and peace is stronger than wars , on this earth what makes life worth living

Gaza with love


Amal Sabawai

Teaching photography in Gaza, May 2003

Skip Schiel teaching photography in Gaza, 2005 c (photo by Ibrahem Khadra)


Gaza, 2010



Haymarket Affair

Roseann Sdoia, Boston Marathon Bombing Amputee, Strides Forward” (PHOTOS) By Bridget Murphy, June 6, 2013

“Boston Marathon Terror Attack Fast Facts,” By CNN Library, June 9, 2013

Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza, December 2008-January 2009 (Institute for Middle East Understanding)

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Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen.

—Woody Guthrie

Excerpts from my journal


May 2 and 4, 2011, Cambridge Massachusetts

Clear, chilly, low 40s, still, lilac buds appeared.

Yesterday Bread and Puppet theater assembled at the Paul Revere mall in Boston’s North End, providentially under his statue, so as I sat resting from the previous 3 hours of intense photography with my Spring Light Charles River workshop I finally realized I can show the Haymarket Martyr puppets standing close to the statue’s base. (I’d snacked on a small chocolate mint cupcake with coffee and peed at Mike’s Bakery—effectively embedding in the largely Italian district—and felt the tourist in me merge with the artist.) Another episode in a splendid spontaneous day.

All but one of the paraders was easily under 30 years. They wore the colors of revolution and anarchism, red and black. Some wore IWW insignia, International Workers of the World—An Injury to One is an Injury to All. I recognized a few from the Bread and Puppet cast which I’d seen perform recently at the Boston Center for the Arts in the Cyclorama. They brought instruments, gradually more and more filled in the ranks to form a march that processed thru the North End, stunning residents and visitors with their grand music and the somber martyr puppets.

(The death of someone many would term a martyr was announced this morning, NPR is devoting its entire morning broadcast to the event—Osama Bin Laden is dead. Martyr only meaning martyr to some, evil man to others. As some—many long ago during the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago—would have called the Haymarket Martyrs evil or murderers or terrorists, when in fact they were organizing for the 8 hour day and other workers’ rights.)

I tracked the parade, anticipated it, and caught up with it, happy, as I was earlier in my solitude and with the earth as I led the photography workshop, to now be with a multitude and with the politics of May Day. More and more often and with more and more people International Workers’ Day returns to Boston. The issues of immigration rights, worker rights, and revolution generally seam together in this popular movement. The march ended in the Rose Kennedy Greenway, met by others who’d assembled previously. More youth, more people of color, more good energy: May Day in Boston. (I noticed that none of my current photo students showed up, despite an invitation from me, nor did I see any I recognized from my Boston email contact list, nor anyone from the local Palestine rights movement. Very curious, the lack of awareness about May Day and is significance.)

In viewing and photographing the May Day parade thru the North End I observed that the music and festive nature of the paraders—the geniality and joy—alerts the audience to politics rather than educates or exhorts them. A good lesson for my own work. I am too much the educator, the exhorter, the preacher, the pontificator, and not enough the inspirer, the pinpricker that simply alerts others to an issue or cause or need or topic: set the stage, plant a seed, prod a weary soul, content oneself with that, and keep on parading, blowing my horn, beating my drum.


The Brief Origins of May Day (aka International Workers’ Day)

Bread & Puppet Theater

Earlier photos of Bread & Puppet Theater in Boston

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World War II destroyer


Charlestown Navy Yard

From a workshop series exploring the photography of spring light, thru the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, May 16, 2009


To return to reality: yesterday’s Spring Light Photographic Workshop explored the waterfront from the Charlestown Navy Yard to the mouth of the Charles River, the last part of the  journey at night. A ferry from Long Wharf at 4:30 PM, 10 minutes later we’re at the Navy Yard (this a suggestion from Frank). Wander around there for one hour, with the idea of the old esthetics—frame, detail, thing, time, vantage point—as given by John Szarkowski. Walk together toward the river, the Zakim bridge (how is Zakim pronounced?). First stop at the rotten dock behind the once sugar warehouse maybe to be an expanded USS Constitution Museum and all photograph the same thing, more or less. This group loves having fun together, all were game to hop the fence and possibly commit trespass.


Walk under the Charlestown bridge on our way to the Charlestown locks and dam over the Charles river, first pausing at a large marina that neither Frank nor I had anticipated. I remember photographing here years ago before the renovations, the new constructions. (I wonder if I can ever find those photos.) Now my eyesight began to deteriorate: a migraine, or is it merely the aura? We performed the 4 directions awareness exercise, a creation of mine as far as I’m aware—face one of the cardinal directions, west, the sun setting, and gaze from ground to zenith, carefully, noting light, shapes, movement, objects, shadows, etc. Then rotate 90 degrees to do this again, south, east, north. And finally, based on those observations, find something to photograph. I forgot to add here, and try to use a method of strategy, how will you make the photo? Use the steps I’d suggested if you wish, but use some steps. Think about what you’re doing.


Zakim bridge

Let’s meet at the other side of the locks, walking across them, meeting at the now abandoned ferry terminal. On this leg of the junket let’s work on meta photography: symbol, metaphor, synecdoche, and subliminal suggestion (as in phallic symbol). I know this will be hard, but it is vital to understand for good photos.



And we concluded, after watching numerous boats pass thru the locks, the light waning, with nearly 1 hour of free time, meeting at the McDonalds inside North Station. When I found them, slumped against the wall, cheerily chatting together, looking extremely fatigued (I could have collapsed, my legs so weary), some of them munching on burgers or dogs, I had to chuckle, bring out my camera on a tripod (I’d been happily and crazily photographing in the dark),and make a group portrait. As I’d done at the Navy Yard, surprising them from behind after I’d photographed the Commandant’s House (where I’d discovered a robin’s nest with two pink eggs, mother flying off at my approach), to make the first group portrait of the season.

This is a jolly group, very talented, committed, one of the best. As always it will be hard to say goodbye.


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For the Spring Light Workshop, Photographing Cemeteries

The air and the earth interpenetrated in the warm gusts of spring; the soil was full of sunlight, and the sunlight full of red dust. The air one breathed was saturated with earthy smells, and the grass under foot had a reflection of the blue sky in it.

—Willa Cather

Not exactly a description of our first photo workshop field trip to Mt Auburn Cemetery in early April.

For a change I read the weather correctly. After several days of rain, with a forecast that suggested rain abating, maybe ending, by noon, I delayed the start time of our workshop for 2 hours until 11 am. No rain, clouds were breaking as we ended our romp at about 3 pm. Sun emerged. And as expected, the next morning was again drizzly.


Spring light is variable—are all seasons’ lights variable? Is light itself never permanent, never constant? Is it, as Buddhism teaches about life itself, impermanent, not to be attached to or trusted?

Spring light weaves winter light and summer light together. Spring marks the turning of seasons, one of two big yearly swings, from a pattern that funnels frigid dry air into our region to a new atmospheric pattern that sucks in hot moist air from the south. One day to the next in spring: a sky crystalline, sharply defined, one can imagine stars nearly visible during the day. To hazy puffy indistinct clouds leaning toward the voluminous anvil-headed thunder clouds of summer. With this, the light shifting from blue to warmish red, from perfectly articulated shadows to fuzzy blots.

Tomb of Mary Baker Eddy, found of the Christian Science Church

Or is this only an approximation of pinpointing spring light? What would forever define it—is it definable?

—Journal of April 6, 2008

What is to give light must endure burning.

—Victor Frankl

Witch hazel



The cemetery journey yesterday to Copp’s Hill, Kings Chapel, and Old Granary burial grounds, beginning at 6 am, went well enough, not spectacularly, too much the same. Same style of stone, same style of layout, same dour appearance. I quipped that maybe the garden cemetery movement sprang from a desire to abandon the colonial approach with its dull gray demeanor. That speculation raises a question: are there periods in USA cemeteries, fashions, styles, approaches, goals, consistencies, as there are in most any art and culture form? One new style might be using the cemetery as a site of events, pagents, outdoor art fairs, picnics, nature walks, as Forest Hills cemetery seems to excel in.

Copp’s Hill burial yard

I arrived about 5:45 am, just as the sun was rising, the moon had set about one hour earlier, it was not quite full. Climbing the fence I tried to show the tranquil quality of the place, the serenity, the age, the enormous trees, the bland stones, the outlook on the harbor, while imagining the tumult, the despair and sense of loss that was also present there. Unlike Mt Auburn cemetery I had few memories anchored in this place, just one—when making my Boston harbor series, coming here to include it since it was adjacent to the harbor. I wonder what I did then, around 1987. Would I surprise myself if I ever found that photo? Have I progressed in any way as a photographer?

Gradually all the others except for Miriam appeared, some shocked they’d have to climb a fence to enter. After free time, each getting a sense of the place, doing our own independent mindfulness, I called them together. We did an elongated version of the four directions awareness exercise, looking in each of the cardinal directions, gazing from the ground up, marking the differences in light, shadow, color, etc as we swiveled. A reminder of the steps for making a decent photos—aware, light, position, etc—and the main exercise was look around again, choose something, strategize, make just one photo (ala One Shot Harris, who, working with a 4 by 5 Speed Graphic, could encapsulate a complex scene in one shot) and surprise yourself. I chose a last year’s dead plant poking thru a walkway.

Copp’s Hill burial yard

A long walk thru the North End, past a bakery Kara told us was good (I left my bike at Copps, returned for it, stopped in the bakery for a Congo bar, fig bar, another fruit bar), discovered the newly opened Big Dig park connecting Haymarket with the North End (returning here also to try to photograph it, failing), and thru Government Center on our way to Kings Chapel. Here the exercise was juxtaposition, this with that, and immediately I noticed that the shape of many stones resembled the shape of windows in an adjoining building. Which in turn reminded me of Arabic architecture, the arches. The light was dull, especially compared with Copps where light had begun streaming in, yet from time to time light bounced off windows in tall buildings and streaked across Kings Chapel burial yard. I emphasized the theme of over and under, the history under, the reality over. How to deal with this photographically is a perplexing problem.

Kings Chapel burial yard

I discovered the tombs around the side of the church, that this also made a good pee stop for me. (If I were totally honest in my highs and lows, I’d mention as a low my continual need to pee, a need seemingly unshared by others, unless they, like me, find secret spots to relieve themselves at.) And the fire escape stairs provided elevation. I also found a tomb buried deep down, after sliding my camera with flash up to photograph wild mindedly down the shaft, unsure what I’d reveal.

The last stop, at the Granary burial yard, next to Park St Church, was slowly filing with people, tourists. So here I asked them to include people, outlining the various ways to photograph people in the streets, and then asked them to work with time, holding one frame and making multi exposures.

—Journal of April 20, 2008 Sunday, Cambridge, Passover and Earth Day

Old Granary burial yard



Every arrival foretells a leave-taking, every birth a death. Yet each death and departure comes to us as a surprise, a sorrow never anticipated. Life is a long series of farewells; only the circumstances should surprise us.

—Jessamyn West

So our Spring Light outing to Forest Hills was damp. It rained, lightly, more a mist, just enough to prompt me to use my umbrella and most of the others to put on rain gear and protect their equipment. We noticed that the weather had not changed significantly since the first trip to Mt Auburn—one month earlier.

In discussing themes before we set out I mentioned the rain itself, its effects: rain drops, puddles, shiny surfaces, the rain falling, and the spirit rain creates in the photograph, even if this cannot be immediately shown.

The rain stopped about half way thru. In the rain we first stopped at the big mausoleum or “receiving tomb” to the left of the main gate (that gate registers strongly in my memory: it’s where I photoed Ben Tousley for his CD jacket). The activity here was to photograph interior and exterior, from under the roof to the building in its context. I discovered, as did Chuck, the turrets behind and on top of the gothic granite structure. They contained broken windowpanes, rusted frames, chipped bricks, and the roof, we could see from the backside, had some of its slate tiles replaced by cheaper asphalt shingles.

Second stop was a magnificent huge spreading weeping beech, some of its gargantuan branches rooting in the soil. Same exercise: interior and exterior. The third stop was much the same, this time on or about 3 metal and fabric pylons, part of the outdoor sculpture exhibit.

Then awareness exercises, two of them—walk backwards, noticing how different the world appears when seen from this unusual vantage point, and the blind faith walk, forming a single file line, me leading with eyes open, all others blind, each with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front. Later people spoke of how sensitive their feet felt, how they could sense changes in the terrain by the way the person in front held shoulders, and the acute awareness of sound.

We headed for the pond, called Lake Hibiscus, in the center of the cemetery. Folks were on their own for this leg, searching for synecdoche, the part standing for the whole, meeting at the southern shore. I was enthralled by the tiny droplets on the water, and here tried my polarizer. It was useless. Up to this point I’d used only my wide-angle lens, but shifted to the normal so I could fit the filter on.

At the pond I strongly recalled the several times I’d been here for the lantern ceremonies, sometimes with Boston Light groups [former students of the seasonal Light series], sometimes with Louise, sometimes alone. Each occasion was momentous, gathering with others who were grieving, some from losses long ago, like mine, mother and father, others nearer. On one of these occasions, coming thru another portion of the cemetery, I happened on a woman weeping at a gravestone, what looked like a new gravestone. Did she later join the lantern ceremony and float a boat to remember her loved one?

People like Julie and Jay and others are a huge part of what keeps me interested in teaching. Am I at all useful to them in my attempts to teach?

From Hibiscus Lake to the crematory, we investigated metaphor, one thing visualizable for another thing not. Examples: tree of life, water of purity, bird of spring, mud of despair, and the crematory. What does that word evoke of you? I asked.

For Jay, an early experience coming upon some burning object that might have been flesh. For Julie a trip to Germany she made with her father when she was a child, visiting a Nazi crematorium. Me also, the word is potent. I mentioned my trip to Auschwitz. Also Pearl, my mother, her cremation. How close could we come to the crematory? Could we see the actual fire?

It was closed, this was Saturday. The main gate was locked. But a nearby gate, with a sign saying, “Don’t use this gate, use the other one,” was open. Chuck persuaded us to try walking thru. We were not stopped as we wandered the crematory grounds, the building indeed closed but we could spy thru windows, photograph statutes outside. I discovered an eerie pinkish light coming thru a window hitting a carpet that I could photograph thru a glass windowed door. With my wide angle this might be the most powerful photo I made in the entire 4 hr session.

By now the rain had stopped. We lost Ellie who had to leave early. Then Chuck whose stomach hurt, leaving only Miriam the butcher, Kara the government agent, Julie the Air Force Lt Colonel, Jay, and me. Sandra has apparently dropped, saying nothing to me. There is always one such.

With one hour remaining, many of us tired and wet, we had free time. Jay told us about Fern Hill, I accompanied him, we discovered a sort of repository for cremated remains, a columbarium (the word derives from the Latin term for “pigeon house”—faux antiquity columns, cubicles for remains, pink granite doors, many of them off their hinges, trees with memorial plaques, sunken walkways, gravel. It reminded me of a good idea gone wrong, tried but abandoned. Many of the inscriptions were illegible, Jay thought because of vandalism.

Our closing highs and lows concentrated on weather, cold and wet, and light, whether a high or low, and the opposite to be so long in one place, stones, statutes, etc.

I biked home along the SW Corridor Park, looking forward to this all day, arriving at the closing of a street fair with Puerto Rican dancing, food, political persuasions, etc. Arriving home, I was exhausted, happy. Writing this, not yet viewing my photos, I see how rich the experience was.

—May 4, 2008 Sunday, Cambridge



You have delighted us long enough.

—Jane Austen

A long arduous fatiguing romp thru Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord yesterday with the Spring Light group—and the first definitively spring-like day of our 4 sessions. No rain. Much sun. Myriad birds. Rich vivid greens. Many flowers. Clouding later as the sun was setting around 8 pm, our end time for the 4-hour trip. A delightful day, heightened when we found the grave of Henry David Thoreau amid his family plot and near the large plot of the Emerson’s. For some reason in all my years in Boston—43—this was my first visit to the graves.

His stone is small and simple, only about 10 inches high, no graphics of any sort, just the word “Henry.” This befits the man, humble, unassuming, plain—in outward appearance. Inwardly a brilliant courageous astute determined soul who apparently by many was thought of as eccentric, the mild term, if not nutty.

We began at the western gate, headed east then north into the wilds nearest the Concord River (which probably is only a short hike from the cemetery along a path that is bordered by two concrete pillars), easterly to Authors’ Ridge and the Thoreau family site, then free time, me heading south and then west, nearly lost if not for my map.

Exercises included the usual walk meditatively, the four cardinal directions’ observations followed by selecting something to photograph and thinking about how to do it (I chose the massive tree). Then a review of meta photography including symbol (lots of American flags), synecdoche, and metaphor, along with suggestions thru resemblances like phallic and vulvic designs. A mention with illustrations from the Aperture periodical Beyond Wilderness of “the new topographics,” i.e., beyond pretty earth pictures of picturesque scenes with an exhortation to find examples of human presence and impact. I photographed people observing gravesites, plus one runner and his dog.

We reviewed the principles I’ve been suggesting for making decent photo: aware, light, position, time, design, multiple exposures changing something. I suggested they think about something they learned form the photos of others in the workshop and try it themselves. I continue to be inspired by Jay’s concentration on grave stone designs close up. Some of us exchanged cameras to try another piece of equipment; I borrowed Chuck’s fish eye macro on a Nikon d200, a very appealing camera body.

—May 18, 2008 Sunday, Cambridge

It is dry, hazy June weather. We are more of the earth, farther from heaven these days.

—Henry David Thoreau

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