Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jersey Shore:Scenes from my chair!

Children jumping into the waves... grown men riding them and families flying above them... normal beach photography. Then. the variation on a theme...a family burying a member in the sand. Not only was his body down under, but his friends then placed food all over the sacrificial mound. Strategic planning going into the placement of the potato chip on his head. It didn't take long for all the sea gulls to zoom in and try to go for the fodder. Luckily, their take out was limited to Lays!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brooklyn According to "Big Rich"

According to TripAdvisor, (May 2010) "A Tour Grows in Brooklyn is the #1 attraction." After a two hour drive, I can honestly say that "Big Rich" did not disappoint! He is a survivor. After being laid off from Wall Street, within a day, he was planning his tours. Living all of his 45 years in Brooklyn, he knows it all so well. He is a master of the small, behind the scenes details which I really enjoyed hearing about. He must have read every book published on the history of Brooklyn! We walked past Al Capone's homes, heard about the public bath house of the early 1900's which now is the Brooklyn Lyceum, home to artists and musicians. This three hour tour takes the visitor to the Arch of Grand Army Plaza, resembling the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. This iconic monument serves as the entrance to Prospect Park, which features the oldest bridge in Brooklyn as well as the longest meadow of any park in America. Our walk took us past beautiful and unusual architecture, the brownstone homes and gentrified neighborhoods. The tour ended on a high note over a slice of pizza! We then took refuge from the rain in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Japanese Garden was such a peace-filled sanctuary on this 52 acre haven. We continued our on foot exploration and ended up in the Hasidic neighborhood of Crown Heights, the home of the worldwide Lubavitch movement. For dinner, we could not pass up the wonderful array of restaurants on 5th Ave. in the Park Slope neighborhood and landed at Moutarde, the popular French bistro featured in the movie, Julie & Julia. A perfect way to end the day...wonderful conversation and delicious food to accompany, "A Votre Sante'"!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Influence of a Father

I spent most of the day painting my porch. Each step of the way, I was remembering all my father did when he was to prepare, how to clean the top of the paint can and brushes, etc. and how often through the years, I did the same things without even thinking twice.

My father was the strong and silent type. I used to love it when I could make him laugh! I was fortunate to grow up in a family of storytellers so I was able to know my father's heart as a young man on.
My grandfather died suddently when my dad was 14 so he had to leave school and help run the family butcher shop at the Reading Terminal Market. My grandmother had no money to pay for the funeral because it was during the depression but all the vendors at the Market took up a collection for the family. This had a very long lasting effect on my father. I grew up watching this man sharing so generously...time, money...whatever was needed, he was there.

He enlisted in the army during WWII and was stationed in California. At the age of 21, my mother travelled cross country to marry him. I have the letters he wrote to her every day until she was able to go to him..reading them is a sacred glimpse into a young man who was so in love and concerned about the world. I would read them on the same day and month, just 68 years later and felt like the time traveller...I knew the answers to all of his questions...I knew he would have the children he hoped for, I knew my mother would get there and I knew he would never be sent to Normandy.

My father was always there for me. He enveloped me with his hugs. When I turned 16 and started driving, he woke me up one night and took me outside to change a tire...mind you it didn't need it, he just wanted me to be prepared day and night in case I ever found myself with a flat. (It took me a few years to fully appreciate that one!). He loved to fish very late at night and would talk about how much he enjoyed just being still and listening to the sounds of nature. When my mother became very ill, he kept us all going, putting aside his worries and grief. After she died, his heart was literally broken. He died soon after from a heart attack on what would have been their 39th wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to my brothers and sisters and I, he had written us a letter to be read right before his funeral. As a father, he was still sending us his deep love and guidance and wanted us to know he would always be with us. I had him for a brief 25 years and yet, his influence is still keenly felt. Fatherhood was his highest calling and he so honored it. I was blessed with this incredible man's unconditonal love and I will forever be grateful.

Happy Father's Day!

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Weekend of Dualities: Freedom and a Free Spirit

This weekend, a duality exists. We remember those who have given the most precious gift, their own life, so that we may know the greatness of freedom. At the same time, we revel in the glories of a free spirit that summer evokes. So, I began to think of those places where we gravitate to freely connect, rest and renew - those spaces/experiences which ground and enliven us.

Last weekend, I photographed at a Bar mitzvah. Not being Jewish, this was a completely new experience for me. As we were doing the portraits, the Rabbi brought out the Torah (the five book os Moses). He held it to his heart, laid it out and unrolled the sacred parchment scrolls. One is not permitted to touch the scrolls in reverence for the word of God, a pointer, called a "yad" (meaning "hand" in Hebrew) is used. There are those spaces where we go to drink in the stillness, to follow rituals of reverence and tradition. We have the freedom to be able to choose different paths, enter different thresholds to connect with something larger than ourselves.

This weekend, I was out on the water kayaking with good friends...laughing, relaxing and doing that universal "Summer is finally here" dance! The freedom to sleep in and stay up late. The freedom to come and go and happily this weekend, it was under sunshine!

For others, they felt drawn to connect with a father, mother, sister or brother to place a flag on the sacred ground and reach down to touch the dirt in order to get as close as possible. Wondering at times if their loss was worth it...for all our freedoms, I join my voice with so many others giving heartfelt thanks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Amish Mud Sale, Lancaster County, PA

Each spring in Lancaster County, PA, the Amish hold auctions/sales to support the local fire companies. Delicious food, buggies, farm equipment, antiques, and hand made quilts are all for sale. Since this occurs on weekends during the spring, the grounds are usually very muddy...hence the name.

Video can be viewed on Vimeo . Just click on the link to see it in full screen. Thank you.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Cow As A Sacred Animal

While in India, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Daivisakti, a woman who is my age and who grew up in Cheltenham Township right outside of Philadelphia. Almost 40 years ago, she made the decision to travel to Vrindavan, India to become a member of the Hare Krishna community there. I was the total stranger and she welcomed me with open arms ( and a sari ). She was so very gracious and generous in sharing her time and allowing me to observe and film daily life there. Daivisakti first took me on a walk around the temple grounds. Here there were many people tending to the cows in a gentle way. In Hindu scripture, the cow is held as sacred. Slaughter is prohibited. At one point, she asked me for a few dollars to buy honey treats...being my first time there, I thought this was for us. She came back with a huge bucket filled with a dough in the shape of a balls. The bucket had definitely been through better times and in an instant I was having that age old conversation - do I eat this or how do I not without offending the other???? I was so relieved when she then told me to put it in the palm of my hand for the cows to come and eat!!!! As we walked, we saw women in beautiful silk saris carrying cow dung on their heads while other women were sitting forming patties. I came to learn that cow dung is used as a low cost, effective means of heat. It dries very hard and can be formed into bricks to build small homes. It is burned during religious rituals and used in skin care products and in Ayurvedic medicine. speaks about the many research projects being done focusing on the medicinal properties of both dung and urine. I was then taken into a building where many products made with cow urine were for sale. Eye drops, shampoo, lotions were just some of the offerings. Being given the glimpse into this community and culture which is far different from my own, was an honor and I found it fascinating. In India, the greeting is, "Namaste" which means the god in me greets the god in you. There are many different paths and many different beliefs to explore that is why travel is so broadening... but in the end, it simply seems to come down to being open to the other, of honoring, respecting and learning each other's ways. A smile and a bow are known the world over.

Cow Dung: Sacred and Medicinal from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Photographer of India

I am presently in the process of creating a new web site focusing only on the stories and photographs I have taken during my travels. As I was going through tape after tape of footage, I just wanted to share a simple and special story. While in India, I was so fortunate enough to walk beside Amit Chadha who opened amazing doors of adventure for me. One day, he told me he had something planned that he thought I would love and sure enough, he was right! He took me to meet Mr. Chand who was taking black and white portraits of people using the same camera and process his grandfather used. Generation after generation passed down this love and talent, passed down this wooden camera weighing 50 pounds and dating back 150 years. While I was walking/rushing around carrying an assortment of cameras and lenses, here was Mr. Chand with such a peaceful presence... focus, put care and attention into each step and let it all emerge in its own time. He recreated for me that magic that drew me in years ago when I first started with a darkroom in my basement. Photography has come such a long way but for one moment of time, I was privileged to slow down, remember and honor all that came before.

The Photographer of Jaipur, India from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.