Friday, November 14, 2008

....a star studded night for all

October 7 was the Preview Party for the 2008 Project:Tomorrow Exhibition at Boston Children's Museum. Invited guests included families and friends of the nine Young Photographers and members of the Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center staff. 

The Young Photographers and the Parents whom were photographed were allowed to enter the show about 15 minutes before the rest of the guests so that they could have a moment to view the images for the first time privately. Then, we all descended on the gallery.

 I think the operative expression here is..."a picture is worth a thousand words"

A special moment for a mother and her Young Photographer daughter whose father succumbed to his gallant battle with cancer a week before the Preview.

To close out the festivities, Dr. Paula Rauch Founder of Massachusetts General's PACT program did the honors by thanking all who made the event possible.... 

...and I got to give out "diplomas" to the Young Photographers.

I am sure that a good time was had by all and that this was an experience that these kids will not forget for a long long time. 

For me personally there aren't words to express the gratitude that I feel for having had the opportunity to share the experiences I did with these amazing kids and their equally amazing parents.

And last but not least I would be remiss if I did not thank my "project angel" Dola Stemberg for her generosity, vision and direction. Without her Project: Tomorrow would never have happened. Thank you a thousand times.
Dola with Museum President Lou Casagrande

Monday, October 13, 2008 was everything it was supposed to be and more!

Last Tuesday was OPENING NIGHT for my nine 2008 Young Photographers. Gail Ringel and her staff at Boston Children's Museum pulled out all the stops and I think the kids were blown away. What was extra special was the fact that THEY DELIVERED. The images they shot were wonderful... and so right-on for so many reasons.

At one end of the spectrum there was Chelsea's  portrait of her father who wrote, It's in my nature to make jokes and be funny.... 

Then, you had the more serious "Vogue centerfold model" approach taken by Stepehen's when he did his mother

Max and his father are both musicians so Max chose to catch dad "doing his thing". And that music that Max captured his dad "producing" was NOT an accident.

                                  Zoe Ashley and David chose to take a more "traditional portrait" approach, although the results were all far from "traditional". 

                                    It was indeed fitting that Caitlee would choose to photograph her mother with some of  her siblings... she is one of seven and mom is one of 10! 

While one might be hard pressed to know if Caitlin's mother was laughing or screaming in a state of abject terror as she did her best "Lance Armstrong", there is no mistaking her "enthusiasm for life".

Lastly, a picture that Kate took of her mom that "needs no caption" when it comes to her expression of the emotion that she and others, who have been triumphant in their battle with this terrible disease, feel.
The show runs until November 2, so if you happen to be in  town go see it. You will NOT be disappointed.

I have indeed been blessed with this project. The idea for it came up in a chance conversation that I had with a friend of mine (Dola Stemberg who became the project "angel"). She in turn introduced me to Dr. Paula Rauch of Mass General's PACT program... and the rest is history.I am forever grateful to the two of them and Gail Ringel of BCM for their confidence, support ....and patience. All the money in the world could not buy the experiences I have shared with these kids and their parents this summer.

Now I get to take some time off, enjoy the moment... and who knows I may even  think about next year's YPI KIDS project.

Monday, September 15, 2008 must be the full moon

This Full Moon, September 15, 2008, is in Pisces and is about emotion more than ever before.... from The Spiritual Eclectic.

I am a Pisces and today is the 15th..... and yes, today is ALL about emotion.

I collected the final canvas today. The journey is over, well almost over (the canvasses still need to be stretched and framed) and it has been an emotional roller coaster. But I am buoyed by the fact that I think that I/we have some of the most amazing images that will be going on display at Boston Children's Museum, starting on October 8 when 2008 Project: Tomorrow opens.

Shooting my images (I took pictures of the Child who was the Young Photographer in the Project:Tomorrow program with his/her Parent who was being/had been treated for cancer in the Marjorie E. Korff PACT (Parenting at a Challenging Time) Program at Massachusetts General Hospital ) was just an amazing experience. I basically let the Parents pick the venues in which they wanted to have the shot taken. The choices were as diverse as you could imagine. One was done at the top of a set of stairs that were dedicated to the Parent's mother, another by the ocean at a favorite picnic area, another in an arboretum and then a couple were simply shot in the backyard. In every case it was an experience... a unique experience. "Now you can't have a name on the T-shirt because everyone will focus on that and not you face"; "Do you think this necklace is too much"; "Mom, really... just try to act normal... pleeease!". I was able to do most families in a single sitting but in one case I needed four... patience I have seldom seen. What a group of troopers.

Then, there were the images taken by the kids with their Holgas. After a few false starts where I got some rolls of film back with double-exposure-itis, others with four images instead of 12, all nine kids hit their stride. How does the expression go: "Out of the mouths of babes..". Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the spectrum of images that they produced. Every thing form intense head on portraits to compositions that were completely off the wall.

A special Preview will be held just for the families and their invited guests on October 7. Each of the images will be accompanied by responses written by the parents and kids to questions about what the project has meant to them. None of the children or parents has seen the images taken by the kids or me or these writing assignments. The drill at the Preview will be that the nine children and their parents are going to be admitted into the Gallery for a brief period of time before any of the assembled guests so that they may share the experience of seeing this exhibit for the first time, privately. It is something they all are looking forward to and I am confident that it will be an emotional moment in time that all of the participants will cherish.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

... and the "shots" just keep on coming

I am totally into it..... a little frayed around the edges... but enjoying the ride. Three down, six to go. To say it is intense would be an understatement but I am thankful for every day I get to spend with these special families.

The Alpha and David shoot was at their home. Her parents were in for a visit from the Philippines. They were ALL into it, especially mom. It was like her daughter was some type of movie star. We did the entire shoot in the back yard. Both David and Alpha are very photogenic. And I did, after taking 103 shots, get a "keeper"... can't tell you what a relief that was. One down!

Next pair, Moises and Max. They live in high-rise so they suggested a local park that Max picked out. Got there a little early to scope the site. Well, there are two guys who have about four weeks beard growth and another that is sitting there rolling joints.... so I am not exactly inconspicuous in my preppy Polo shirt and shorts with my backpack loaded with cameras. About 10 minutes later dad arrives in his signature Black attire with shades and fez. Son is in pink polo shirt with black sneaker and florescent pink shoe laces..... this is going to be GREAT!

Max is somewhat shy and it was a challenge to work with them. We took this shot and that shot and then, as often happens, they sat down on this wall together for a breather. The rest is history. I got them to stay in that position... with a little coaching ...and got some final shots. And yes, one of these shots turned out to be the "keeper".

Oh.... and as I was leaving we got a chance to talk about the 4th of July concert in which Max played. That would be Moises doing all the talking, as in the proud dad. Max is a base player. (Moises is a tuba player). Moises described how it was so hard to see Max that night. I'm thinking to myself... he is small but not that small. Something apparently got lost in translation. Well, it turns out that this is an adult orchestra in which Max, age 14, is the only teenager playing.... a revelation by dad that causes Max's face to turn the color of his shoe laces. Just such a warm special moment to share and enjoy.

Last Night I went up to Salisbury to shoot Peg and Caitlin...... and company, as in Peg wanted me to do a "helping hands" shot of those who helped her get through her battle. Location: the Salisbury Beach State Reservation. Again, I arrive early to scope out the site…. lots of potential. Gang (Peg, Caitlin, husband-Mike, mother, and five other "helping hands") who are all dressed in blue T-shirts with red heart stenciled on them follows shortly thereafter. Peg has it all organized. They are going to start the cookout while we go off and shoot. She also takes me aside to share with me some of the experiences/moments she has had in the YPI KIDS Project, to explain how much it means to her and to apologize for tearing up (with joy). Very special.

As the shoot starts, Caitlin takes charge. She has this cove, these rocks, etc. that she wants to be shot on with Mum. The interaction/ electricity between these two take-charge gals can only put a smile on my face. So we go from the shoreline rocks to the dunes, then to the ocean and finally back to the picnic area where I am asked to take various other "family" photos. It all culminates in the "helping hands" photo.

Paul: Now, how is this going to work?
Peg: Smile and trust me! I am going to lie on that picnic table, roll off and they (gesturing to a group that includes her 80 year old mother and a child that is all of 4'2" tall) are going to catch me. And then.... carry me over to the water's edge where you WILL take a photo.
Paul: Yes, mam!

Well, with much "you go here", "you go there", "not so fast", "are you carrying any part of this package?" and other phrases that were quite deliberately muted or mumbled, Peg wasn't dropped and I got my photo of the “helping hands” at work.

I took over 200 images and yes, I did get a "keeper"...and that's what it's all about!

Don't know if I will have time to do this again but ..............want to thank Paula, Gail and Dola for this opportunity and their continued support.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

......and lots of laughs, excitment and energy

Last Saturday nine Young Photographers, parents and family friends assembled in the Seuss on the 5th Floor of Boston Children's Museum for the Kickoff of the 2008 YPI KIDS Project:Tomorrow. Paula Rauch MD, Director of the Korff PACT Program (Parenting At a Challenging Time) at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center was there with me to welcome them.

The Young Photographers are children whose parents are or have been in treatment for cancer at MGH Cancer Center. This is a departure from last year's Project where the children were the ones in treatment for cancer but the MGH program was just too enticing. They range in age from 11 to 18.

What better way to start the day than with the famous Knot "Icebreaker". First the kids and then the parents. You simply form a circle shoulder to shoulder. Then, you reach over and grab a hand, as in with both hands, of any other person... and don't let got. Once everyone has a hand you simply need to find a way to untangle the "knot" without letting go of the hands that you are holding on to. Needless to say there was a lot of directing and misdirection .... and laughter.

Now I know if I ..... Naaaa, think this is fi

This exercise was followed by several others that were designed to breakdown whatever other inhibitions the group might have had when they got to the door. To further loosen up the crowd I attempted my one legged version of the soft shoe. Applause was NOT overwhelming.

One of the exercises involved having a person step to the center of the room and assume a position or pose. The next person simply had to go out and attach himself/herself to that person... and so on. Again, more barriers fall ....and lots of laughter.

Before lunch, I showed some of the portrait work I had done to give
the kids some type of a frame of reference as to where to start. They also got to see the images that last year's YPI KIDS created with their Holgas.

A quick lunch and then each child received his/her Holga, which they will get to keep at the end of the project. Next task was to load them with film. Final order of the day: the group photo of the kids. ... an experience not dissimilar from herding cats.
But we prevailed.

Not to be outdone, the parents staged their own impromptu gro
up photo session.

Next up, kids have to have their exposed rolls of film back (they are to take images of their respective parents) to me by July 9 and I am going to start to shoot the portraits of the kids with their parents........ a lot of excitement and energy from a very special group of "individuals".

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the TEAM

On May 13 the "team" assembled for a luncheon in Boston hosted by Dola Stemberg, the "Project Angel". The cast of "characters" are (from left to right) Dola; Gail Ringel, VP Exhibits & Production of Boston Children's Museum which has agreed to host the YPI KIDS 2008: Project: Tommorw Exhibition starting in October; myself and Paula Rauch, Founder and Director, Marjorie E. Korff Parenting at Challenging Time (PACT) Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. Aside from getting a handle on some of the things that we needed to do to complete the 2008 Project: Tomorrow, it provided an opportunity for all to meet and get to know one another beyond the electronic (e-mail) level.

The most exciting news came from Paula who indicated that almost all children had been selected and that they represented a broad cross section of the types of patients at PACT. Details concerning the First Class for the children and their parents on June 21 and the Opening of the Exhibition on October 7 were also reviewed.

I still find the whole project to be like some sort of a dream. I feel so fortunate to have the support and backing of these three special ladies but most of all I am thankful for having been given the opportunity to work with these amazing parents and their children.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

...lift off for 2008

It all happened so quickly. I guess the corollary to that would be that when something is right, it's right for a reason. Through a friend I was recently introduced to Dr Paula Rauch, the Founder and Director of the what has become the Majorie E. Korff PACT (Parenting at a Challenging Time) Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. The Program provides counseling services to parents (and their families) who have been diagnosed with cancer. Issues such as addressing the child's reaction to and understanding of the situation and helping the child cope with the extremely difficult situation when the parent is dying are among those that may be addressed. The service is provided for free to parents who are being treated at Mass General. It is a GREAT program.

While I had been in discussions with three other hospitals over the past couple of months, I met with Paula one time and the "die was cast". Staff members are in the midst of the Selection process (they are selecting nine children whose parents are in the PACT Program who will become my 2008 Young Photographers). The Initial Meeting/Training Session is set for June 21st. The only missing piece to the puzzle is the venue for the fall Exhibition.

The children will be taking pictures of their respective parents and completing a writing assignment in conjunction with this portrait. I will be doing a portrait of each child with his/her parent.... and the parents also will have a writing assignment to complete. Details for the 2008 Project: Tomorrow will be available on the web site starting next month.

While I am extremely excited about the unique opportunity that I am going to have to work with these kids and their parents, I am also enormously apprehensive about the responsibility I feel to make it a meaningful experience for all. My intent is to share this experience, it's highs it's lows, for better or worse.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Up and running

While I missed the chance during the 2007 Project: Tomorrow, I plan to take you along with me as I do my 2008 project.
This is a group photo of the my nine 2007 Young Photographers from the Maine Children's Cancer Program... they were the best! And I am forever grateful for the experience I got to share with them.