My Ann Arbor; A Recent Visit to My Parents' Alma Mater, U of M

This entry is a bit of a personal one mashed up with professional. I spent all of last week at a symposium for the University Photographers Association of America (UPAA) of which I am a member as a staff photographer for Boston University. Every year the symposium is hosted by a different university, and this year was a special one for me because it was at the University of Michigan, which is where my parents went.

The conference was great. I relearned a lot of things I forgot about, made some new friends, had some interesting conversations about our field and the challenges within it.

Simultaneously, I got to know the place where my parents met. During the spare time we had between lectures and clinics and shooting competitions (photography, not skeet) I wandered the campus and found the places my parents lived when they were here in the early sixties. I experienced something I have never experienced before; sentimentality on someone else's behalf. I felt an emotional pull to Ann Arbor somehow. The campus was beautiful and it's downtown alive and peaceful at the same time (of course it is summer time and the student population is down, so there's that!).  I visited the sorority house my mom lived in and could see her in my mind, walking out the door with her books in her arms, heading up the walkway to class, many years younger than I am now. 

One of may favorite pictures of my parents is from their time together at UofM. It's black and white and dreamy and they lounge on a lawn together, my mom in her sixties bob hair style and my dad laying in the grass looking cool holding a cigarette. It was taken by my uncle Billy when he was visiting them from Switzerland as a teenager. 

I told anyone at the conference who would listen about the picture and how I wanted to try and have my photo taken in the same spot. Anyone Who Would Listen was very nice about me going on and on about Mom and Dad, and one shooter even joined me wandering the main campus trying to find where, exactly, photo was taken (thanks again, Peter!). We even tried asking at the grad student library but no one was sure where it was taken. So, no reinactment took place (being a photographer and not a model, I was OK with that).

Before I left for this trip, I also asked my dad where he lived, and so I headed to Mary Court where I introduced myself and told the young woman sitting on the porch "My dad lived here in the sixties!"  She thought this was very cool. Since spring semester was done, I asked her if she was in a summer session. No, she told me, and continued on about how she was soon leaving to teach english in South America, and her roommate, who was just inside, would be leaving that afternoon herself. "It's sort of a sad day for us" she shared "we've lived together since freshman year."  I told her that if she'd like I would take their portrait. She beamed and went inside to collect her roommate and I photographed them together on this porch where I could see my dad sitting playing his guitar.

The other thing I did was visit my mom's childhood home in Detroit. I was relieved to find her neighborhood in good shape, and sad to see so many other surrounding neighborhoods not doing too well. I approached the house, nervous, thinking about all the stories Mom's told me about growing up on this street so long ago; the field at one end where the kids played all sorts of games, and about the one mean kid who taped his guinea pig to his train set, how many great memories she had of her dad who died too young and so on. It was a modest home, and when I approached, the owner was very skeptical. I had a photo of mom in my hand which I'd brought along, and I explained what I was doing there and asked if I could take a few photos. She smiled at my story and my picture of my mom with her birthday cake and two dolls, one in each hand, and said of course I could. 

So, below is a collection of my favorites from my trip. To learn about what's going on in the photo, just scroll your cursor over the picture and a cutline will come up. 


BU Fall in Review {Boston Photographer}

Since I'm on a roll. Well, definitely not on a roll, but posting, I'll share images from the fall on the BU campus. I think the highlight was seeing and photographing Will Lautzenheiser  with his new arms. Amazing!

CASE Award

I was excited and surprised to get a message from my friend Shannon on my FB page earlier in the week, "Sooooo...I understand BU did damn good in CASE. How about that?" It took me a while to track down the results of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education's 2013 Circle of Excellence results, and I was confused when I found them, actually. It took me a moment to realize how well I'd done, and I'm really grateful for that. Also very cool? My coworker Vernon came in second!

Here are the images I entered.

All are copyrighted Boston University.

Day in the City

*** This blog entry is a little different than usual. Yesterday, I went into Boston to see my city and how it has been effected in the aftermath of the Patriot's Day bombing.The following is my take on the day, as well as some of the images I shot.

On Tuesday I felt like a failure for not photographing BU students in their dorms and apartments glued to their TVs, watching events unfold after the Boston marathon bombings on Patriot's Day. Granted, this was something that would have taken place on Monday when they were in lock-down, and to be kinder to myself, travelling into and around campus would not have been very easy. But when I woke Saturday morning to find images on the university's website from Friday night's  celebrating, I literally cried a bit. Just a little. It wasn't a lot. I swear.

I felt defeated. And the worst part was I had defeated myself with stupidity by considering going in after Suspect #2 was captured and the lock-down was lifted but second-guessing myself.

I went to the gym hoping that some physical exertion would help my mood. I was on the elliptical about six minutes before I accepted that the gym was not where I needed to be, got off the machine of torture, went home, showered and hauled it into the city to see what's what.  I knew there was a slim chance of much going on. The city would surely be back to normal by now and people would be getting on with things; going shopping on Newbury Street, attending this afternoon's Red Sox game.

I still had to go see. I still had to document for myself, even if it wasn't at the height of the excitement or during the thrill of the victory.

I started in Kenmore Square where the T stop was burping-up droves of people on their way to Fenway for the game. There was a substantial Boston police and military police presence and they all had a real openness and friendliness about them. One of them took one look at my camera gear and told me "That's quite a rig!"  This surprised me; hadn't they been seeing nothing but big rigs all week?  "Did you guys get any sleep at all last night?" I asked them.

"A few hours last night" they moaned.

I heard compliments to the police ringing out from the passing crowd, "Thanks guys!" and "Well done guys!"

It was pretty cool. The sense I got that the police were holding their heads a little higher than typical likely comes from this feeling that people have a new-found respect for them. Today they do not have the reputation so often placed on them by the public. Today, they are heroes who got the job done in a really big way.

On the streets leading to Fenway, vendors were on fire "Get a free 'Believe in Boston' flag when you buy a program!"  they rang out "Programs! Get yah programs hee-ah!"

In the T to head over to Copley, I saw a runner (or at least she was dressed like one) sitting across from me, wearing a marathon jacket and holding a bouquet of of small orange and yellow roses. To my left was a couple in regular clothes, the girl also carrying a bouquet. I saw a lot of this. Wherever I was within the city.

I exited at Hynes and walked with the crowds to the corner of Boylston and Hereford Streets. Up to that location, it was busy city business as usual. As I approached the gated area where many flowers, notes, signs and photos were placed, it got quiet. Like, funeral viewing quiet.

In the middle of the city, in this one spot, you could have heard a pin drop.  I thought for sure as I was on my way in that it would be a bit of a circus; people clamoring to get photos to show off to their friends. That wasn't the case. It was as if we were all on hallowed ground. People did take pictures, but it wasn't in a sensationalistic kind of way. People were there to pay their respects. And they did that.  The woman in the marathon jacket approached with her flowers and laid them down as she quietly wept.

Looking down Boylston Street beyond the barricade was eerie. Something out of an apocalyptic movie. I've never seen Boylston Street so deserted. I'm not sure anyone ever has.

I walked on, taking Newbury Street. It was a typical Saturday on Newbury; lots of people walking around, talking, smiling, eating lunch al fresco. Until you came to another spot where a side street had been barricaded. At the corner of Newbury and Dartmouth, there were military police on hand who kindly accepted praise whenever it was offered. Which was often. From this vantage point, you could see the beautiful Boston Public Library, her flags still at half-mast.  On the other side of the barricade, a select few in marathon jackets were being handed and getting into white bodysuits. The ones we've seen evidence collectors wear on the news.

As I walked on, there were occasional memorials. A seemingly random light pole near a restaurant was covered with flowers. It was near this corner where I saw a woman approch a trio of police and go down the line, shaking each of their hands, "Thank you...Thank you...Thank you." she praised them quietly. Outside one business there was a huge area where people had written down their thoughts with sidewalk chalk. There was a bucket of chalk in the middle of it all for anyone to add to it if they wished. And in this spot too, where there was only chalk drawing, there was silence and reverence.

It was incredible. Every last person wandering the streets and coming across these sights knew what it was about. I don't mean to state the obvious. What I mean is, everyone felt effected by this. No one was out of the loop or outside it's effects.

Taking a right on Berkeley Street, I was lead back to Boylston, which is where the more substantial memorial had grown by the barricades blocking off the other end of the street. There were police and Red Cross volunteers (not sure why. Perhaps to answer questions?), therapy dogs hanging out, and more and more people. The crowd was large, but with the exception of one girl talking loudly on her phone, it was a respectful crowd.

In the outer rim of the crowd, there was friendly talking, people petting dogs and chatting with their owners, but as I made my way to the front of the crowd closest to the memorial, the sound dimmed again. No one was pushing or shoving to view, they would peacefully get out of each others' way when someone was trying to take a photo. With exception to one couple who, judging from their outfits had been in the marathon themselves, I didn't see one person photograph themselves with the scene behind them.  One man approached and tied a pair of shoes to the barricade. Periodically, another person would approach, crouch down and lay flowers with the others.  People held each other and read all the words on the notes and signs, taking it all in.

I don't know what I thought I might see going into the city that day. Large crowds of gawkers, maybe. I was pleased and impressed to see what I did; People being human. Being kind and friendly, compassionate.

It definitely made me proud to be a Bostonian.

BU Update

I have nothing to say here except that I am a slacker and have fallen way behind in my BU work updates. Here's a glance at the last five months or so.  

March and April at Boston University

for more, visit www.bu.edu/today

January and February

Here are some images I shot which ran in various BU publications and websites in the months of January and February.  

October

Yes this is, in fact, from LAST YEAR!  But, better late than never, I suppose. Here are some images that were published for BU in the month of October 2011.