Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Magic Garden

A t 1022 South Street, Isaiah Zagar began "what could be called a life's work, making the city of Philadelphia into a labyrinthine mosaic museum that incorporates my varied knowledge and skills."  When I recently walked through this "garden space", I was surrounded by an explosion of color and ideas which drew from Isaiah's time in South America with the Peace Corps and it was truly magical!  I spent hours exploring every ceiling, wall, floor and tucked away space went untouched by Isaiah's vision!  Dennis Harvey of the San Francisco Bay Guardian stated, "Because Isaiah's epic mosaics of tile, paint and embedded detritus are so remarkable, you'll want to book the next flight to Philly to see them."  I highly agree!  His son, Jeremiah, created a documentary on his father's work entitled, "In A Dream" which is now playing throughout the US.

Wildwood, NJ

Memorial Day is the official start of the summer and my memories drift back to all those summers when my parents would pack up all my brothers and sisters and I to go to Wildwood, N.J. for the day.  We would spend what seemed to be forever walking the longest beach around to get just that right spot within walking distance of the ocean, food and the bathrooms!  Not an easy task!  Then, we would spend the night on the boardwalk amusement piers.  Hunts Pier was always one of my favorites.  Who needed Disneyland when you have Wildwood!  

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

While at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, all visitors are asked to observe complete silence. Silence is such a powerful tool in that it asks one to draw the experience inward without trying to search for words to speak.  I was very grateful that was required because there were no words in my vocabulary that could ever convey the depth of that experience. I sit here in silence and remember my father, my uncle, my friends and all who put the freedom and safety of others before their own...there are no words.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mother's Day

On this very special day devoted to honoring our Mothers, I would like to take the time to do just that.  My Mother was truly my best friend...she was the woman I was named after (which is a lot of pressure but what a gift!)...she was the woman who watched me when I first saw the photography from a "real" camera and worked very hard so that I would have one as a Christmas present...and she was such great fun to be with!  My Mother was a gatherer.  She loved adventures and the more people who could be a part, the better.  She showed me by her example how to embrace it all, appreciating the good times and facing the most difficult challenges with true courage.

Tonight, the History Channel will be showing a film, "Angels and Demons Decoded"...Tom Hanks' character is based on a true genus of creativity here in Philadelphia, John Langdon.  I had the opportunity to spend time and photograph him at work.  My images will be in the feature tonight.  Since my Mother was the first one to place a camera in my hand, I hope on this day, I and my work will continue to honor her!

A Rainy Day in New York

I went to New York for the day with my camera.  Even though "it rained on my parade", I came home and worked with the images to further enhance the mood of the day.

Shaping and Capturing the Light

Several weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be in the presence of greatness.  I spent the day with David Tejada in one of Philadelphia's "must see" sites - The Eastern State Penitentiary.  David is truly a master of lighting and he developed a workshop entitled, "Small Strobes, Big Results".  Exploring spaces of muted peeling paint, texture and historical character in each cell with vaulted sky lit ceilings, David shared his expertise in controlling, modifying and shaping the light using only small strobes.  Along with the faint voices of the prisoners past, one could hear the collective sigh of relief that amazing results could be achieved without having to carry huge lighting equipment!  Three to four small strobes attached to a hot shoe with a pocket wizard coordinating the firing served to create the big results David promised.  The goal of every photographer is to continually become more attuned to the light and at the end of this day, our goal had been achieved.
To see more of David's work, visit   
Belito Garcia was the model in the photo above.  His entire presence was one of strength, character and intensity...what a pleasure to work with him!

Philadelphia Flower Show

With 9 inches of snow here in Philadelphia, I could not pass up the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Flower Show and be transported to Italy.  Flourishing gardens, villas, free flowing fountains and wine tasting...these sensual delights enabled me to experience the fullness of spring and know that the true fruiting of that promising time was not that long off.  Ciao!

Entrusted with Special Moments

As a photographer, I have had such amazing opportunities to travel but I also feel so very privileged when I am entrusted with capturing the beauty of family moments.  These are sacred moments in the cycle of life.  Recently, I have also been asked to help prepare loving video messages to be shared with one's family in conjunction with a written will as a lasting reminder and gift.  These are truly legacies of love.  Through it all, I have met incredible people and have been taught how important it is to be in the moment and never miss an opportunity to tell others how much they are appreciated.

The Largest Folk Festival in the US

If you are unable to go to Venice for the Carnival, the next best thing is Philadelphia on New Year's Day!  The stage is Broad Street and it is transformed into a sea of sequins, feathers and over 10,000 comics and musicians carrying on a tradition which began in 1901.  If you would like to see more, my video is on You Tube under francesanne24.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hope Lodge

Living in an historic area provides many opportunities to go back in time.  I was driving by Hope Lodge on a Saturday afternoon and looked over to see tents, smoke rising from fires, men in dress from a time period two hundred years prior and the sound of cannons firing. I gave immediate thanks that I never travel without my camera! The men and women involved in the Revolutionary War reenactment are truly dedicated.  No matter what the weather, they camp outside.  There is such attention paid to recreating every detail in the uniforms and dresses.  All are hand made and very expensive.  Wood is cut, soup put over the flame to cook...all done following the same lifestyle of our forefathers and mothers.  I have to admit, I have a strong affiliation with my warm bed and a hot shower which inhibits me from signing up, but I am happy to photograph people with such a love of history.

The World Series

Dreams definitely do come true!  The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series!  This was an experience I was not going to miss photographing.  I joined together with a mere two million people to celebrate this win and the city certainly did this team proud!  I was fortunate enough to be able to photograph this amazing event from the roof top of City Hall.  Photography consistently brings such rich experiences into my life and being able to capture the event from that viewpoint created a cherished moment in time for me...the swell of two million people in red, joining in collective shouts of cheer!  Congratulations to the 2008 World Champions!

Lancaster, PA

Open fields awaited our explorations in the town of Intercourse and Paradise...(the sayings on the T-shirts that are for sale are definitely worth checking out!)  In order to better understand the relationship of the Amish to this beautiful land, we went to "Aaron and Jessica's Buggy Rides".  It is an excellent tour given by an Amish farmer and it provides the opportunity to drive through farms that would normally be off limits.  We then went on to see the beautiful hand made quilts and feast on Turkey Hill ice cream which is produced right in the heart of Lancaster county.  Be sure to also try the shoe fly pie!  We then came home and rented the video. "The Witness"  which was filmed in Lancaster county.

Fall Escapes

With the winter ice and snow, I am enjoying my time hibernating and bringing things up to date.  It was either working on the blog or doing my taxes... three guesses which one I chose!
Six weeks of the fall were spent with a friend from Italy.  Paola is a freelance journalist and came to cover the election and immerse herself in as many US experiences as possible.  I was most happy to oblige!  The first place she requested was New York City.  Taking the $12. bus from Chinatown in downtown Philadelphia is a wonderful way to travel and it brings you to the most colorful sights and extraordinary foods the New York Chinese have to offer. Our time was spent exploring the architecture, museums and indulging in international good cheer and hearty meals.  We left the excitement of New York to take in the tranquility of the Amish in Lancaster, PA.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Philadelphia's Chinatown

I was not able to afford a trip to Beijing for the Olympics but I did decide to visit Chinatown often in order to learn and explore the richness of this culture. Chef Joe Poon was kind enough to give me a private tour for a video piece I was working on.  His famous, "Wok and Walk" tour has been featured on The Food Network and The Tonight Show. I highly recommend a tour with this very talented and enthusiastic chef.  Joe showed me restaurants, book stores, the Asian fruit stand (a word of caution, you will create quite a stir if you try to eat the Durian fruit...the odor will try get you noticed far and wide!).  I was able to see exactly how those fortunes got into the cookies, which by the way began with an American who wanted to lift the spirit of men experiencing difficult lives.
Chinatown holds a wealth of visual delights for a photographer.  I loved immersing myself into the excitement of the Chinese New Year as well as the everyday movement and flow. Confucius thought that knives were a sign of aggression so that is why we now use chopsticks.  According to legend, if you are given a pair of uneven sticks, you are going to miss a plane, train or bus.  The egg is a symbol of fertility while the noodle symbolizes long life - I stayed with the noodles! From tasting bubble tea to learning the art of Chinese calligraphy and joining hearts with those in the local Buddhist Temple, Chinatown has so much to discover. 

Two Buttons- Importer of World Wonders

Recently, I read in the local paper that Liz Gilbert (the author of "Eat, Pray,Love") and the man she fell in love with while in Bali, her husband Jose, opened Two Buttons in Frenchtown, NJ.  They share a love of the beautiful and have brought back very interesting pieces of art and hand woven cloth from around the world to share with others.  Since I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book and find it fascinating to learn about the art of other cultures, I was off...a short 45 min. drive from Philadelphia.
Jo Liddell, an artist from Scotland (I am on the left and Jo is on the right in the picture above), greeted my friend and I with an offer of wine, water and/or popcorn along with a hand made fan.  I knew this would be fun!  Not only was there going to be food but Jo was the type of person who just radiated warmth.  She introduced us to Jose.  I could have sat at his feet for hours just listening to the amazing stories he shared with us regarding each piece of art we inquired about.  I am now the proud owner of a sculpture from Bali that brings protection to the home.  In Jose's words, "It is like having a guardian angel from Bali." This certainly works for me!