Saturday, December 25, 2010

Warm Wishes

I send along wishes for a warm and inviting spot to come in out of the cold, laughter that makes you cry and gentle peace.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Laurel Hill Cemetery

I recently had the great privilege of photographing in Laurel Hill Cemetery in order to showcase its grand history and beauty in video. As the website states, "It is an outdoor sculptural garden, a horticultural gem and a truly unique historical resource." As one who loves to tell stories, this project is one I am so enjoying doing. Laurel Hill is one of the oldest Victorian cemeteries in the United States and there are 78 acres of art and history. "Victorians delighted in memorial symbolism. Sometimes the monuments reflect a common repertoire of visual symbols. Angels with upraised fingers point the way to salvation. Shattered columns indicate a premature death. Flags, calvary swords, and arms represent a military career. In many cases, symbolism reflects the person. A mortar and pestle marks the resting place of George W. Vaughan, a well known pharmacist. An eagle perches on the monument of Commodore Isaac Hull, hero of the War of 1812. Calvary spurs memorialize Benjamin Hodgson, who died in the battle of Little Big Horn." So many fascinating people are resting here... Josepha Hale, who edited Godey's Lady's Book; Thomas Walter, who designed the dome of the United States Capital building. Laurel Hill has earned its distinction as Philadelphia's Underground Museum. My great thanks go out to Alexis Jeffcoat for her warmth, welcoming and help with this project. Joseph Edgette. Phd and Richard Sauers are truly the consumate storytellers, passing along their wealth of research and knowledge so generously. Taking a tour with them is a fascinating experience. Upcoming events are: General Meade Celebration on New Year's Eve and I am told that hundreds of people come to this so get there early. Also, you may want to be a part of their 175th Anniversary Celebration. The website provides all the fun and interesting details. Again, many thanks Alexis, Joe and Rich! (Also, Caitlin Dougherty for your camera help!)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Byers' Choice LTD.

The Byers' family certainly knows how to create magic and impart the Christmas spirit to everyone who is fortunate enough to pass through their doors. It is truly a wonderland with thousands of their world famous Carolers and Kindles at every turn, each with its own unique personality. Each one being hand made with such care. There is an observation deck where visitors can see the entire production process, basically still done the way Joyce created her first Carolers on her kitchen table. I was there for 6 hours with the purpose of doing a video on what a wonderful spot this is to visit. Originally, I thought two hours would be sufficient. I was so wrong! One room houses 250 nativity sets from around the world with the large centerpiece being one that was created in the 1700's. It is one of only 4 made in the world. Besides Byers' Choice, two of the others can be found in the White House and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visitors can learn the ways Christmas is celebrated around the world...take a walk back in time down an 18th century street in London. All generations will love this immersion into everything Christmas. Byers' Choice Ltd.

I want to thank Joyce Byers, her son, Jeff, David Daikeler and all the gifted artists who were so amazingly kind to me and generous with their time. Each radiated the true spirit of this season. Their creations evoke feelings of happiness. Everyone is welcomed and greeted with a warm drink, and there is a strong belief in the importance of giving back to the community. What an honor to be with you all as you create your magic!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

And the Stockings Were Hung By The Chimney With Care

While, I have the Dutch to thank for the tradition of hanging stockings over the fireplace at Christmas, I have the women of Peru to thank for these stockings. Each one was created by hand by "The "Women of Dignity". These women live in hope each day...hoping that the proceeds from the sale of these stockings, trees and tapestries will help support their after school program as well as a nutritional program for their children. Each woman sharing in this collective vision, piece by piece. These stockings truly carry that spirit we all want to fill our homes this season - hope, love and making a positive difference for others.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Photographs of Peruvian Architecture

The holiday has given me that precious time to work with photographs which have been waiting patiently to see the light of day. While walking in Peru, the saturated colors, the interesting design elements and ornate details on the architecture were so striking and beautiful.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Last Look at Fall in Valley Green

Valley Green is located on the outskirts of Philadelphia. This was one of the first pieces of publicly owned U.S. land to be preserved due to its scenic beauty...waterfalls, a covered bridge, winding paths calling to be explored and a welcoming inn and restaurant since 1850 (The Valley Green Inn)

Valley Green in the Fall from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Engagement Shoot, Phillies Style!

I love to do engagement photo shoots because I always have such fun being with the couple and the focus is just to have fun. My goal is to capture those special looks, the shared laughter, the touches and embraces that have become second nature to the couple. Tiffany and Vinny were so easy going and flexible, getting up for an early morning shoot without even having a cup of coffee! We did several looks at several
spots but couldn't get to that breakfast until the Phillies shirts came out and this moment in time was immortalized with their love! Thanks so very much for a great time!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Love Letter to My Niece

Hey baby girl!!!

Where does the time go? A little over 20 years ago, I can remember very clearly sitting on a rocking chair beside your crib holding you in my arms. I was so taken with you and I have no idea how long I just sat watching you. (I even tried singing knowing that you would not hold it against me!)

Fast forward to this past week, and here I am watching you again...totally taken with what a beautiful and talented woman you have grown into. I am so very proud to be your Aunt! Taking your engagement photographs, I just loved watching you and John interact and seeing how happy he makes you! (Welcome to the family, John!) May the respect, playfulness and deep love you both share just continue to grow and carry you through the amazing adventures of life! Hold close to each other as we hold you both close in love.

Congratulations and Best Wishes on this new journey!
Much love,
Aunt Francie

Bethany and John from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

The Women of Villa El Salvador and Ways For Us All To Touch

There are some things that we just instinctively know. For instance, I know that I will NEVER drive a car through the streets of Lima. Four lane highways, people moving from the far right to the far left, often never attempting to let anyone else know their intentions. It makes New York driving seem like a day at the beach! So, I took in the sights from the back seat of a stick shift, missing one windshield wiper "classic" red volkswagen while the woman who was driving was one of the most amazing people I have ever met...Claire Dawson! A women who not only meets everything head on but she does it with unbounded energy and incredible Irish joy ( with a few good" oh feck it" s along the way!) People just gravitated to her...I know I did hoping something would rub off! Claire is a member of the Passionist Sisters and has been working in Villa for over 10 years. She is one of the dynamic and dedicated women working to bring about positive changes for the families. One of the visits Claire and I made was to Maxi's home. She generously offers a spot for the women to gather and work on their beautiful art. Here, the walls were brown. The light harsh and the few chairs were made of plastic but laid out across the table were cards, stockings, tapestries, Christmas trees etc. All hand done with such care. Each woman working throughout the week and then coming together to share in their collective vision. All contributing to the community rather than their own individual gains. The vibrant colors energized us all. There in that room, each piece held the hope of medical facilities, (they are so in need of the equipment for ultra sounds and mamagrams), educational programs capable of being competitive with larger cities, nutritional programs so that the children will have a place to go and receive a hot meal each day. Irma, Julia, Lali, Luz, Maxi and Amelia formed "Llamkag Warmi" (Women Who Work). Claire then took me to meet Aurora, a small woman who has such an enthusiastic presence. As soon as we got out of the car, she was there to greet us. In ancient times, "Aurora" was the Roman goddess of dawn and here, centuries later, is her namesake certainly bringing new light and new life into the town. She is one member of "Mujeres por la Vida Digna (Woman for a Dignified Life). She, along with Juana, Terodocio, Maria and Alberta, besides working in the day care program, create beautiful traditional Peruvian dolls, again with all the proceeds going to support their program.

Here is my vision and my hope...that together, we can be a supportive presence for these dedicated women... that even though an ocean separates us, we can all hang a hand made, colorful tapestry in our homes reminding us of how beautiful life can be and how connected we all are. The women sell the following:

Arpilleras (tapestries) - $20.00
Bookmarks - $2.00
Peruvian Doll - $10.00
Christmas cards with Nativity scenes hand stitched - $2.00
Christmas Stockings/ trees for $12.00

If you would like to purchase any of these items in order to support these women, please e-mail me at:
I would also ask that if you know of anyone who may be interested in joining with us and purchasing items, please pass along this blog posting. MUCHAS GRACIAS!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Arpillera, the art of remembrance and empowerment

In 1973, General Pinochet led a coup against the democratically elected Marxist government in Chile. His army went after tens of thousands of people believed to be subversive and a threat to his policies. These mothers, fathers, sons and daughters were publicly executed in the national football stadium while others were imprisoned, tortured or simply disappeared. Families were torn apart and basic survival became so very difficult. The majority of women had husbands who had disappeared or were murdered and for the most part, were viewed as passive and unimportant by the government... but they were anything but! In 1975, Arpillera (pronounced as ar-pee-air-ah) workshops were started by the Vicariate of Solidarity which operated under the protection of the Catholic Church and were basically left alone by the Pinochet government. Women just doing women's work! Arpilleras are hand sewn and embroidered 3 dimensional tapestries. They became as Anna Burroughs called them, "Threads of Resistance, hand-stitched works of hope and protest." She went on to state, "The arpilleras were often made from clothing of the disappeared and the names of missing loved ones can be found on some pieces. Other sewn words and expressions were simple protests: Dόnde estás? Where are

you? The censorship that characterized Chile under Pinochet's dictatorship defeated written words that opposed his regime. The handwork of the arpilleristas testified for the oppressed and detailed the struggle for truth and justice despite the suppression of the military government.

Bold lines and colors relayed powerful messages depicted in folk-like scenes. An arpillera of a woman dancing signifies how women now performed the national dance La Cueca alone with the fate of their husbands unknown. Other images depict military violence, bloodshed and armed figures.

The arpilleras were made during clandestine meetings in dark basements or churches. The sewn testimonials of suffering were sold by the women so that their messages were released into the world and so they could feed their families."

Later, the arpilleras began to depict the women's dreams for peace and happiness. What began as a way to honor and remember loved ones now served as a catalyst to empower women socially, politically and economically. Workshops continue today throughout Chile and Peru. In Villa El Salvador, I experienced and was humbled by the love and dedication of women who are determined to provide a better life for their children through the sale of their exquisite arpilleras. In the book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn state that "Masculinity expresses the idea that there are things worth dying for while femininity expresses the idea that there are things worth living for." These women are dedicating their lives to things worth living for - health care, nutrition and education for their families.

In the next blog, I will make the introductions!