Deep in south Texas, my camera was trained on the installation art of Coke O’Neal, documenting his frame within a frame photography. Outside the town of San Isidro, ranch hands constructed a 22-foot three-sided wooden box, based on O’Neal’s blueprints. Residents and ranch hands climbed into this frame within a frame where O’Neal photographed them with a large format 8x10 film camera. Striping away the elements of geographic location, much like Richard Avedon did with white seamless paper in his seminal American West series, O’Neal captured the imagination and personalities of everyone who stepped into this behemoth sculpture.
The Somerville Boxing Club is a haven for many. Kids coming daily from local towns like Lynn are joined by retired boxes, retired referees, ex-military, and myself, a photographer looking for an incredibly rich thicket of stories being told and played out.
That flying fish didn’t as much speak to me; that wicked metallic tuna up and gaffed my psyche.
I’d never been to Gloucester. Not until an iron-cold January afternoon last year. Nor had I heard of artist Jon Sarkin.
Yet here I was, on Gloucester’s sinewy Main Street: The aforementioned brutalist sculpture, poised above Sarkin’s Fish City Studio had pulled me in as if it wielded some preternatural force.
Inasmuch, Jon Sarkin wasn’t making himself, or his art particularly accessible. The picture window that fronted Sarkin’s studio was all but hermetically veiled by Boston Globe pages: 30-year old broadsheets turned yellow-brown that straight-armed the casual observer, or mildly curious.
But that wouldn’t be my fate.
Craning my neck drastically to the right, I found a maybe two-inch gap in the window covering. Reposed against what appeared to be the rear of the narrow, hard-edged workspace, I could discern a hooded figure. The latter seemed more Unabomber than Hopper or Homer.
Before I knew it, some synchronous gyre, some unforeseen vortex had lifted me up the cement stoop. Pushing my way in the door, a debris field that spoke to an explosion of mad genius spread before me.
All over the wooden floor, on nine foot lengths of canvas stretched across facing walls, stacked haphazardly into every dusty corner lay Sarkin’s oeuvre: a distilling of Basquiat meets Steadman meets Fluxist-influenced paintings and sketches. Save for a few, all were stippled in bursts of verse, as though Sarkin sampled fellow Nor’easters Jack Kerouac and Jonathan Richman.
Noticing big dollops of bright paint on his sweatshirt, I knew this was Sarkin. Yet rather than introduce himself, he asked in a tone equally deadpan as it was bemused, “What took you so long?”
I’ve been in the thrall of Gloucester’s magus-conjurer ever since. —Michael DiGregorio
THE BACKSIDE OF A RACETRACK
They are a family, forged together with the common goal of taking care of the Thoroughbreds entrusted to their care.
Yet life on the “backside” of Suffolk Downs is a dirty, dangerous and hardscrabble one for the trainers, assistant trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, hotwalkers, blacksmiths, outriders, and other workers who put their hands on these hot-blooded horses every day of the racing season.
Here the purses are the at the bottom of the barrel for the east coast while the level of uncertainty about the future of their livelihood is sky-high because of the lingering question of a casino license.
Still, the backside, replete with its own language, culture and community of fascinating characters, comes to life every morning before dawn, every racing season. —Lynne Snierson
"As a young boy of color growing up in Boston, wrestling helped founder José Valenzuela navigate one of the most critical transitions of his life: middle school. He had low self-esteem, he was angry, and he was on the wrong path: underachieving in school with too many D's and F's on his report card and multiple discipline referrals to his name. Wrestling provided him with an outlet. Like many of the students he works with today as an educator and coach in the Boston Public Schools (BPS), he learned to wrestle with his circumstances. He became confident in himself, and his coaches and teammates mentored him to strive for greater goals on and off the mat. After finishing his wrestling career at Williams College (MA), he returned to Boston to begin a career teaching history in the BPS, He founded TechBoston Academy’s first wrestling program in 2009. The first middle school wrestlers of the program are now freshmen in college, and they have all made great strides to develop their path to a successful life in college and beyond. This impact inspired José to found Boston Youth Wrestling."
For a recent "A Day in the Life Of" project I documented Congressman Seth Moulton as he weaved his way through the streets of Gloucester, MA. My ideas of how best to photograph and document this piece shifted as quickly as a dream skittering through a mirrored hall of collective consciousness. Faces of adults and children lit in excitement as they watched the Fishtown Horribles Parade and rushed eagerly to meet and shake hands with the Congressman. I raced to record the beauty and strangely harmonious cacophony of so many individuals and families, reflected in the fading light of a parade winding through the streets on a summer night.
A 4x5 film camera is a literal window to view the world; a world that is upside down and reversed on the ground glass used to focus and compose. A novelty in today’s age of digital cameras, taking portraits with a 4x5 piques people's natural curiosity and relaxes them, they’ve never been photographed in this way. Due to the size and lack of mobility the camera slows me down considerably. While the subject ponders his or her own thoughts about a black box on a tripod, I go under the dark cloth to block errant light, and step back in photographic time and history, part of a long a continuum.
Some men and women ignore history. According to common wisdom, they are bound to repeat it. And then, some men and women consciously repeat history with great passion and purpose.
Inspired by General John Glover and his regiment's Atlantic encampment during the Revolutionary War, members of General John Glover's Regiment relive every detail of revolutionary life, bringing the past alive and into the future.
“The Point, the section of the city that is squeezed between Lafayette Street and Salem Harbor and was once the domain of French-Canadian millworkers, is now home to a new generation of immigrants, mostly from the Dominican Republic. For this Spanishspeaking population, which calls the neighborhood El Punto, the murals communicate in a universal language. "We use art to break the invisible barriers between El Punto and the rest of the city," says David Valecillos, senior project manager at NSCDC, which has a 40-year history on the North Shore.” JoeAnn Hart, Walls of Hope