Category Archives: Travel

Leif Skoogfors: Interview

 

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LEIF SKOOGFORS INTERVIEW:

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TW: When did you first realize your vocation would be to become a photojournalist? Who or what influences in your life early on led you down this path?

LS:  The weekly arrival of LIFE magazine, in those days a respected and worldly periodical showed me the world. I saved up to buy a 1958 book on LIFE’s photo staff and was fascinated by the adventures the men and women who worked for LIFE were.

Politics and world events were part of my blood; my father, a Swedish engineer, had worked for a time in Germany. He was in Prussia as Hitler tried his Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. After he returned to Sweden, he was consumed by news about the Finish-Soviet Winter War of 1939, and my father, who had worked in the US, decided his family was best raised there. Three months after the German invasion of Poland, he packed us up, and we emigrated to the US, so current events were subject to daily analysis.

My interest in world events and politics was consuming, and photojournalism combined all of this with art. It was the ultimate answer for me.

TW: What impact did studying with Alex Brodovitch have on your approach to photography and photojournalism in particular?

LS: I’m not sure I fully understood Brodovitch at first. He said to the twenty-plus students who met in Richard Avedon’s studio, he would only talk about photographs that were new to him; or were so terrible as to raise his anger. He ignored the mediocre. And most of my work was mediocre. It led to a healthy self-criticism. There is a push to go beyond, even in the most ordinary projects. And that is an invaluable lesson!

TW: As I reviewed the breadth of your work for this interview, it became readily apparent that the themes you addressed in your visual reporting from 40 years ago are very relevant to the types of demonstrations, marches and protests we see currently on the American streets and throughout the world. What are your thoughts about the Trump administration and the propaganda the white house espouses these days?


LS:
I photographed Donal Trump once, at first as other journalists have written about, he pretended to be his own press agent under another name. I arrived at his Atlantic City casino and asked for the press agent by name, John Miller. A tall blond haired man came down the stairs and I said,”Hi John, good to meet you”. The man scowled and said, “I’m Donald Trump.” We didn’t get along well since I didn’t really know who Donald Trump was. An ego jolt?

More eloquent folks have analyzed The Trump White House. It is clear it sucks. And it is incredibly sad that the current demonstrations must go on to force more change. I’m sorry that my current situation won’t allow me to be out there still.

TW: What was the most exciting assignment you worked on where you believe your photographs may have influenced public opinion for the good of mankind?

LS: I’m not sure my photographs influenced people; I know I tried in my book, “The Most Natural Thing in the World,” done a long time ago. I tried to show the situation there, and the poor folks caught in the middle of a bitter war. Recently a journalist said that the essay in the book, text by friends John and Lenore Cooney, was the most accurate depiction” of “The Troubles” he’d ever seen.

 Just two years ago, I had an appointment with a doctor who had emigrated from Bosnia. When I told her of my time there, she was effusive in thanking me. She said that it was the journalists who covered that terrible war, influencing the US and NATO to come in and enforce a Peace. It made me realize how important the work we do is, helping end a war with the highest mass killings of civilians in Europe since WW2 .

TW:  You have spent a significant amount of your time working with the DART Society and the effects of war and its aftermath. How has seeing so much death and destruction impacted your life and well being?

LS: One of the most severe problems facing any journalist covering current events; from a war zone or a local car crash is Post Traumatic Stress. Estimates range from 15 to 30 percent of photographers who face horrific situations will have to deal with these issues. If not treated, the photographer may experience a lifetime of problems.

I suffered from a severe attack years after covering the irregular war, known as “The Troubles,” in Northern Ireland. Fortunately, I’d also attended a workshop on Post Traumatic Stress given by the Dart Center and found treatment.

I’ve volunteered with this and other groups to raise funds for groups helping journalists both to understand PTSD or receive counseling.

TW: What advice can you offer the young photojournalist who has the compassion to document tragedy?

LS: I would advise any young photojournalist always to be prepared to offer compassion or help when covering traumatic events. Often, just letting a subject you know the pain they may be suffering will help. And never be afraid to ask for help yourself.

TW: If you were to start your career over again, what would you do differently if anything?

LS: If I was starting my career over, what fun would that be! I’d wish for the opportunity for an excellent liberal arts education and add another language and some decent art courses. Drawing is a fast way to learn about two-dimensional work, and that’s what a photograph is all about.

TW:  Now that you are retired from the grind of day to day photojournalism, what is a typical day like for you since you had the recent health challenge?

LS: Unfortunately, I’ve suffered some health challenges, not to mention the infuriating limitations of advancing age. But I try to spend as much time going over my archive in anticipation of placing it with the University of Texas. I love finding a beautiful photo I’d overlooked in the past, something that surprises me. I also realize that my work covers history and I’m proud to have worked during the “golden age of journalism.”

TW:  Who is your favorite photographer and why?

LS: Too many, I fear. Among them, Cartier-Bresson for his “Decisive Moment,” Gene Smith for his passion, and Jacques Henri Lartigue for his sense of humor. Ed van der Elsken also influenced me, perhaps with the romanticism of his book “Love on the Left Bank.” I still have the first edition of that work from 1954.

TW:  How would you like to be remembered?

As one of the hardest working photojournalists!

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Portrait of Leif Skoogfors with Special Warfare unit.

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About The Photographer: Leif Skoogfors (born 1940 in Wilmington, Delaware) is a documentary photographer and educator. He was born in Wilmington, Delaware, one month after his family, including brothers Olaf and Eric, fled Sweden as World War II broke out. His family crossed the North Atlantic in December 1939 on a neutral Norwegian ship.

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Editor’s Note: Licensing of photographs available through Getty Images. Leif Skoogfors, Copyright 2020.

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, Covers, Documentary, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, History, interview, Men, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture

A.H. Scott: Flags of Our (Mythical) Fathers

U.S.A.

Text by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2020

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Flags of Our (Mythical) Fathers

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Observing the daily dumpster of disaster which is the Trump presidency, a constant refrain which swirls in my brain is this: WHAT THE FUCK, AMERICA?!!

‘God is gonna shake His mighty head

He’ll either say I’m pleased where man has been

Or tear it down, and start again

In the year 9595

I’m kinda wonderin’ if man is gonna be alive

He’s taken everything this old earth can give

And he ain’t put back nothing

Now it’s been ten thousand years

Man has cried a billion tears

For what, he never knew, now man’s reign is through’-   

“In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)” – Zager and Evans, 1968[a]

Musical duo of Denny Zager and Rick Evans’ hauntingly, eloquent melody from 1968 taps into the sparks of an oncoming apocalyptic desolation which mankind has brought upon himself.

When I was a young girl in the 1970’s and heard this song on the radio I just kind of bopped my head to the beat of the tune. As I have gotten older through the years and think about this song from all those decades ago, it’s the vision of the lost soul of humanity that I’ve come to absorb.

What could a symbol mean? It could be a piece of fabric, brick of stone, or just a long ago memory. Or, is it only a fallacy crafted by cynicism which holds no true allegiance.

Thus, “Flags of Our (Mythical) Fathers” was born.

Ensemble of sky blue cashmere dress made for a statement of elegance as she stood holding an object in her hand, as he began to raise his right hand to take the oath of the highest office in the land of America:

“I, Donald J. Trump, do solemly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” – President Donald J. Trump, January 20, 2017 [b]

Unseen in the shadows is the ghost of Marie Antionette, as she claps politely at the lady in blue and a lady in black, each holding a common item in hand – a Bible.

But, I’ll get into the lady in black a little further later. For now, it’s the coy beauty of European mystique[c] in sky blue, standing by the side of a certain man of the moment.

2017 seems like four centuries ago, but its’ only been four years since Donald J. Trump assumed the presidency of the United States of America.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”– President Abraham Lincoln

A person can focus, propagate, and drift in attraction towards certain things. For some it could be an admiration of the written word, like yours truly. For others, it might be a plethora or leisure sports.

You see, a child isn’t as easily adaptive to choosing something positive or negative. But, as for an adult, that’s a whole other ball game. And, yes, all pun intended.

Adults make choices for good or bad reasons. Done once, it can be casted off as a mistake of misunderstanding of the elements of a subject at hand. Maybe it is a fluke of association or an unfortunate use of a phrase. Repetitively done, it’s a revelation of a person’s basest essence.

It is exactly whom they are, right down to the marrow of their bones.

So, when a person chooses to engage in a shameless flirtation with an ugly underbelly of the American patchwork; then the hushed tones of civility dissipate and the bullhorn of righteous response is raised for what a person faces from other American citizens.

We all make choices. We make them from the moment we awaken to the moment we retire off to sleep.

But, when a President of the United States makes a conscience choice to stand on the wrong side of history in ardent affection for the Confederacy, he has abdicated the mantle of being a leader.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”– President John Quincy Adams

American carnage? American choice.

President Donald J. Trump is absent without leave to the American people. He is vacant of humanity. He is vacant of compassion. He is vacant of leadership.

Constantly in a front-facing battle of attempting to drape himself beneath a boastful banner of ‘his Generals’, President Donald J. Trump hasn’t the deft skill of using a simplistic rah-rah in some sort of bravado’s folly in being such a pretender. Wannabe warrior of military might is he, as a screaming eagle of victorious conquest is only a tweeting chirp of puny poultry.

The truth of his stewardship of the ship of state has not been that of a sail which stands tall in reality, but a flaccid wave of a white flag from his own self-indulgent delusions of granite.

As if being in the presence of those men and women who have dedicated their lives to the American military could change who he is in an act of osmosis of transferring their glory onto him Donald Trump falls short of not even greatness, but the most underwhelming of that which is mediocre. Honor can’t be bought or rented for a temporary image boost.

Besmirching men who have served with honor for the benefit on the behalf of a grateful nation, President Trump hammers anyone who dare have opinions other than his.

Childishly he tweets about Presidential harassment when other branches of government hold him in legislative or judicial check, as if anything that does not go his way is a slight to his oh so fragile ego. This is how he chooses to act, time and time again.

For him, a flag is just a prop in his phony play of being the tough guy who beats his chest and howls of uber-patriotism.

Funny thing about the length of one’s life is that over a certain ten-plus year period in the younger years of Donald John Trump he had his chance to prove his level of making a sacrifice on behalf of this country. But, it just wasn’t one chance, but five of them.

Maybe bone-spurs are just like Coronavirus in the magical thinking of Donald Trump and ‘will just disappear’, especially when he’s on one of his golf courses almost every weekend.

Then again, sacrificing himself for his country ain’t his thing either. Trump’s way is to attack those who have done what he wouldn’t or couldn’t have the backbone to do.

Anyone who dare speak the truth about the absence of leadership of President Donald J. Trump is snarled at by him as being ‘overrated’. Such is the esteemed former Marine General James N. Mattis, who was Secretary of Defense in the Trump Administration.

Always in a calculated cloaking of himself as a conqueror, President Trump’s zeal in clinging to using a certain nickname for former General James Mattis is based upon a moniker continuously promulgated by the press during their coverage of this military man.

Never has Donald Trump once called the General another nickname[d] those marines who respect and have served with and under him refers to him as. But, I guess the nickname of the “Warrior Monk” isn’t as snappy for the twitter feed as “Mad Dog”.

The image of a military man who studies history and lessons in the art of war is a snore to Donald Trump; as he always craves that myth of the lowest common denominator of bloodlust.

President Trump gleefully propels presentation to accelerate that which he lacks himself – courage, wisdom, or forethought of consequence.

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” – General James Mattis, former Defense Secretary [e]

Even the American heroes of the D-Day invasion of decades long ago that are buried on hallowed ground in Normandy, France aren’t safe from the debasement of his constant hunger for getting an apt image for his campaign scrapbook of crassness.

Once seated with an interviewer from his favorite news channel, with the white marble crosses dotting the greenery in the background behind him, President Donald J. Trump derided Robert S. Mueller[f] as being a ‘fool’ and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as ‘Nervous Nancy’. Even on foreign soil, he demeans the office of the president with juvenile snarkiness.

Another one of such men which became a constant target of vileness was former prisoner of war, Senator John. S. McCain, who was belittled by then candidate Trump as not being his type of ‘hero’ because he was shot down and captured during the Vietnam War.

Victim of another in President’s odious odyssey of bullying is the courageous Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, driven to the point of retirement, months after his steadfast testimony about the Ukraine shakedown for Trump’s petty political gains.

Impeachment of a President would seem to sober a man drunk on hubris and enlighten him to humility in being chastened by the ramifications of his own actions that led to a judgment which only two other men holding that office has faced.

But, oh no, never his thumbs are taken off that accelerator of arrogance. In fact, getting impeached was like getting a shot of adrenalin into his veins.

Donald J. Trump is unfit for the office of President of the United States, as his dereliction is laid bare before the stopwatch of this moment in time.

He is the man who has tossed in the towel on confronting the challenges we face in this country, as it teeters into an unknown future.

Our national health, our national security, our national narrative; these three issues are held in the palm of his hand.

In the dichotomy of grasping at the cords of security, are the frayed strands of insecurity. The crash of the American prospect has been a long time coming and the catastrophe of a pandemic has hastened the culmination of insecurity in this moment.

Economic insecurity in this era of recession is aligned with the housing insecurity of whether rents and mortgages can be paid in the coming months from citizens who have lost their jobs due to business closures, furloughs from businesses waiting to re-open, and that final nail of impatience from landlords, both small and large.

Intertwined in the economic realm is the healthcare crisis we all face. If a person doesn’t have a job or hasn’t a roof over their heads and a tragic illness comes to pass; they cling to a lifesaver which only the Federal Government can afford them to survive.

Then, there is food insecurity, which none of us are immune from if the first brick of our own budgetary walls of security crumbles. Food pantries around the nation have been stretched to their limits, as families that have been whiplashed by the past six months are trying to keep their bodies nourished and souls revived by experiencing the open hand of their fellow Americans.

Does he live up to the oath he took on January 20th, 2017?

A trio of words listed in the Presidential oath rings out like a bugle blaring at reveille:  preserve, protect, and defend.

Preserve the health and wealth of fellow Americans by using all levels of power in your wheelhouse of Presidential directives and executive orders; such as the Defense Production Act to enlarge the national stockpile with Personal Protective Equipment and a simple mandating for the wearing of masks.

Protect the rights of all citizens in this country with an enforcement of equality and justice for all, using the enormous power of the Justice Department to investigate, prosecute and hold authorities accountable for violations of civil rights.

Defend this nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. President Trump’s inaction is an action of sorts, as he constantly seems like a puppy in need of a belly rub when he is given any blink of attention from the Russian President.

On that foreign front, Vladimir Putin has free reign to take out murder-for-hire contracts on our men and women on the frontlines in Afghanistan and not a peep of objection drifts from Trump’s lips. But, more threatening is the internal tide of terroristic orthodoxy based on nationalism that has been courted and arisen by the winks of affirmation which is given by the President of the United States of America and his Oval Office minions.

The health of the American people cannot be pushed to the side in a misguided attempt to reopen the economy of this nation. And, make it seem like life in this country is back to normal, just by willing it away with some magical Trumpian thinking.

In a mega-ego showdown of the Wall Street economic axis of Trump-Kudlow-Navarro-Kushner versus an invisible Coronavirus – the virus wins like a penny tossed into the sputtering machinery of American industry.

Pandemic of virus, financial upheaval and racial reckoning is on the platter of tasks. And, it is this meal Donald J. Trump has been served up and is obligated by oath of his office to chew on, one damning bite by one.

America needs a leader. We have Donald J. Trump.

“Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver five minutes longer.” – President Ronald Reagan [g]

In the wake of his abdication, we as the American people mustn’t abdicate our role in this society. The hero is the person we see in our own mirror.

If we wait for President Donald J. Trump to save us; we will be dust. 

Oh, and of course I am not in any way saying Coronavirus is his fault. But, the aftermath of its’ spread and how he has decided to deal with it, is his duty.

Two elements he could do right now, could be to put on a mask, wear it continuously in public, and tell everyone to follow his lead. But, then again, it would mean he would have to lead others beyond just thinking about himself.   

Down to the small things which each and every one of us can do on a daily basis – Wear a face mask or covering. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands.

Of course this is a small thing each and every one of us can do. But, until a vaccine for Coronavirus is found, we can show courtesy in keeping each other off this deadly disease’s grid.

Whenever around others, show that little bit of courtesy in caring about them, as much as you care about yourself.

It is evident that he can’t even craft a thin veneer of faking comprehension of the enormity of what’s going on, as he revels in ignorance like a pig in mud; which is an insult to swine.

Parroting words of confusion over his years in the public eye show the contradiction, hypocrisy, cruelty, and just downright nuttiness of message conveyance.

Allergic to the principles of science that is driven by analytical theory, he comes up with his own bizarre remedies. In Donald J. Trump’s Presidential Medicine bag of misery are screwball pandemic panaceas of taking a swig of disinfectant cocktails and illuminating yourself with shoving of light-bulbs up your nether-regions.

“And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you’re gonna test that too, sounds interesting. And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that. So you’re going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that’s pretty powerful.” – President Donald J. Trump, April 23, 2020 [h]

The reckless way he speaks, as casual about a lethal disease as if it were a game of Wheel of Fortune; with lives of Americans in that black hole of existence’s bankruptcy for another year.

Caution is the melody that should be heard by us all. But, that ain’t his thing.

Dancing with hate has never been a danger to the political existence of President Donald J. Trump, until the pulse of the American people has started shifting to the rhythm of a different tune.

The choir of chaos played a vicious screed of nationalism in Charlottesville, Virginia during that first August of the Trump presidency in 2017, leaving a young woman named Heather Heyer dead from injuries after being run over by a white supremacist.

Among the participants of the “United the Right Rally” was David Duke, a former head of Ku Klux Klan. He was not ashamed to speak to the cameras that were there that day. In fact, Mr. Duke beamed with joy in knowing a man represented his point of view on racial issues was in the highest office in the land.

“We are determined to take our country back, we’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we gotta do.” – David Duke, August 12th, 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia[i]

Mr. Duke’s statement of support for the current occupant of the White House was not denounced or rejected by the President.

But, Donald Trump probably just needed a few days to say how he really felt in being put in the same category as a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Of course, he would say what happened was the fault of those nationalists at this tragic event. And, not doling out comparisons of guilt to the counter-protestors who were standing up for what we all proclaim American values are.

There are the right words to say. There are the wrong words to say. Well, then there are those uninspiring words of Donald J. Trump.

Then, in case of President Trump, there is that dance between the raindrops of his racist supporters and the rest of America. He chose to dance in the dark once again.

“I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame object both on both sides. I have no doubt about it. You don’t have doubt about it either. If you reported it accurately, you would say that the neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville. Excuse me. They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis. You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides.” – President Donald J. Trump, lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, August 15th, 2017 [j]

Boy from the New York City borough of Queens, whose grandfather hadn’t touched a toe upon the shores of the United States of America until 1885, which was decades AFTER the Civil War had ended, firmly plunges himself deeply into the adoration of the trappings of the treasonous secessionists of the South.

Mr. President, you are not Donnie from Dixie. You are Donald from Queens.

So, when he speaks so passionately about the Confederate flag and the monuments of granite and steel; it is not from the position of a son of the Southern states of America. He is only a son of a Trump from Queens.

For me, I might not agree with a native of the South speaking about his or her forefathers or foremothers’ participation in the Civil War; but, it would be something I could comprehend in giving them enough respect in their family history. At least they would have the link of their bloodlines to the events in those days gone by.

But, one thing that does stump me is someone who hasn’t any droplet of lineage to the South. I guess it is a mystery; just like the never-ending audit of Donald Trump’s taxes.

It’s just ironic that he is so enamored with symbols of those on the losing side of the Civil War. But, yet I can only voice my opinions on what I see a public official gravitate their time, effort and vigor towards.

For this occupant of the White House, he might have been more comfortable in Jefferson Davis’ homestead rather than Washington.

Public funding of iconography of the Confederacy is something which many taxpayers, both white and black know little about.

Taking a moment to touch upon the President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, his Presidential Library located in Mississippi is a bucolic place of Southern yesteryear and funded by taxpayer dollars of its’ white and black citizens.

Beauvoir was where Jefferson Davis wrote his memoir, which featured his thoughts on the beneficial aspects of slavery to the enslaved Africans he owned; which included the following –

“Their servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot. Never was there a happier dependence of labor and capital upon each other.” – Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America[k]

Now, this is one of the sages of the losing side of the Civil War, which President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump has decided to embrace in his cockeyed craving of appeasing those with similar beliefs in this present day. 

This is just one of the patches of poison which President Trump has insidiously attempted to meld into the fabric of being normalized and even heralded as a note of a tradition all Americans should be proud of.

Unexpectedly, it is a level of isolation which Americans are dealing with during this pandemic. The hustle and bustle of the daily grind of our busy lives have been slowed down so much over these past months, that a moment May 25th, 2020 on a street in Minneapolis would be the latest marker of sorrow in the story of America. More precisely it was 8 minutes and 46 seconds.[l]

Contrasting the beating of Rodney King in the darkness of a California night, George Floyd’s life was taken from him under the light of the blue sky above. Man of nonchalant malevolence held knee on neck and causally placed hand in pocket of his uniform pants, as he stole George Floyd’s humanity in those final breaths as he pleaded to maintain his life. In daylight, he gazed directly at the camera which was filming him with that chip on his shoulder as a cape of carefree in thinking this was just a black man and no one would care. Even to the extent of that look on his face as if to act like someone who figured this person is nobody; someone that no one will bat an eyelash of thought over. 

Era of pandemic’s side effect of stillness in having nothing else holding our undivided attention has proven to be a transformative moment in this country. If only a bully could use his pulpit for progress, than retreat.

Disunity is the defining markers in the signposts of the presidency of Donald J. Trump; from David Duke to George Floyd.

“Hopefully George is looking down, right now, and saying, “This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.” This is a great day for him.” – President Donald J. Trump, June 5th, 2020 [m]

He doesn’t strive to bring us together, as he relishes tearing us apart in words and actions.

Being a man who is void of any modicum of mutuality for others is just a walk in the park for him.

Park? Park? Hmm, that reminds me of something.

Oh, hello Lady in Black! Don’t think I could forget about you and a certain walk you took along with President Donald J. Trump on the first day of June 2020.

Maybe he was going down memory lane of standing at his Inauguration with a hand on Bible which was held by the demure lady in sky blue.

“The Bible tells us, how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity”. – President Donald J. Trump, January 20th, 2017[b]

Pulling it out of her stylish satchel, a dutiful daughter hands her father the perfect prop[n] for a tear-gassing of peacefully protesting citizens in Lafayette Square in one of the most scatterbrained, cynical and downright sinister events in the history of the United States of America.

Standing there with a Bible in his right hand so amateurishly, President Donald J. Trump held it upside down and with the attitude as if he’d ordered a cheeseburger and the waitress had given him a tossed salad instead.

Nobody should be fooled whenever this madness of an administration comes to an end, that the scion of the royal house of Trump and their spouses should be held to the same scrutiny of vocalized ostracism from their previous lives of social privilege. If the princess of this putrid parade handed her daddy a prop as those peaceful Americans were tear-gassed, then she shall not be forgotten by history either.

“I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.” – President Donald J. Trump, June 1st, 2020, The White House Rose Garden

Complicity is not chic!

Fancy threads can’t cloak the funky fragrance of fascism.

This daughter of the President isn’t a moderating influence, but just another collaborator in this circus of cruelty. 

“It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.” – President Donald J. Trump, January 20, 2017 [b]

Well, I guess one flag of a unity can be obscured by another of stars and bars.

Historians of lofty principle have debated the pros and cons of monuments to leaders of the Civil War for many years. Relics should be placed in museums with their history in context and not venerated in public squares. Part of me feels that would be a suitable solution. Yet, from the coolness of giving these articles of the past a soft adieu into the marble halls of an institution, my thoughts have slowly shifted towards that feverish nod of impatience towards these objects of  becoming vanished without regret. And, I wouldn’t go on a scavenger hunt to find them.

“Those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity, so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny.” – President Donald J. Trump, July 3rd, 2020 [o]

Appointing himself as the pseudo-intellectualist of a cause lost in the bowels of racism, President Donald J. Trump adorns the garb of victimhood and martyrdom. As if he is a member of a persecuted group, his speeches at Mount Rushmore and from the south lawn of the White House on July 4th, 2020 should have had the cameras get a super-duper close-up of an invisible tear rolling down his cheeks.

A man clinging to the myths of yesteryear was on full display as he dribbled drabbled about maintaining some sort of vanished pride.

“Those that are lying about our history, those who want us to be ashamed of who we are, are not interested in justice or in healing.” – President Donald J. Trump, July 4th, 2020 [p]

At some point, the question of debating and debating and constantly debating what should be done can come to a time of finality.

In some ways, that dismissive shrug of apathy among some white Americans have fed into the rising tide of protest and even going into hands-on actions of taking statues down without consent.

Like it or not, this is America’s reckoning of sins, both past and present.

Black Lives Matter!

Now is the time! Deal with it, America!

I will leave it up to those far wiser and eloquent to muse upon theories and thesis, and dissertations on the long line of history of this land called America.

So, I’m going to short-circuit it and say the following to anyone who might have their interest peaked with my observation.

The United States of America from 1619 to this date in 2020 has had over 400 years to do something of permanent transformation about the problem of race in this country.

I believe there is a need for an Agenda of Atonement in this country. Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking; here’s another white glove commission that gets announced with fanfare at a press event that will lead nowhere and only benefit the paper and book-binding company that gets the contract for publishing the final product. Ugh! No, I think this time, it definitely cannot be that. But, in this moment of the uncertainty of this country being on path of partnership between black and white; you’ve gotta start somewhere.

And, if I may say a short note of advice on anyone who might be putting together an agenda on this issue; please, please, please follow a one-word rule – FOCUS.

Specifying what needs to be done is crucial; as if it is amorphous, it will become something so diluted that its’ potency of impact is moot.

Make the plan as plain as it can be. If it is a plan that is interpreted as scattershot, then anyone in the corridors of power that oppose it will be able to weasel their way out of doing anything at all in furthering the country.

We barely speak about race, until a person of color is killed by the hands of authority. If a viral video has a racial slur or stereotype of a white woman falsely accusing a black bird-watcher of attacking her, then we all go bat-crazy in outrage. Now, of course the outrage at the woman is more than well deserved. But, after the temporary roar of a couple of days or weeks, we all return to our corners of comfort and continue on with our lives until something else grabs our attention.

And, God forbid if we ever want to get into some kind of in depth conversation about the history of slavery in this country. Oh, damn, some people would rather go clean out a cesspool with their toothbrush than ever have to listen to a person talk to them about that part of our American history and the residual realities which people of color are still stained with right now.

If not atonement of some sorts in the form of an acknowledgement or admittance of the problem, then there is another avenue which could be taken.

Reckoning with the past is here in the present. No matter who the person is in the White House, he (until there is a woman holding that office) is the man of the moment. It is not history’s obligation to verify or amplify a man’s ability to rise to the occasion that is now.

The reckoning is here and the chime of fate rings for the man in the office – President Donald J. Trump.

For sins of others in days long gone past, he who sits behind the resolute desk has to deal with those smoldering ashes of today.

Of wearied bone and denigrated soul, the true victims of American carnage in the United States of America from 1619 to 2020 have come a knocking and will not exit from the portico of that house of white; until they are allotted a miniscule grain of respect and recognition in their timeline of existence within this country. 

And, no, the mealy-mouth words of tossing ‘all lives matter’ into the mix of this misery which only a certain segment of this country has faced ain’t gonna cut it in this moment of life in America.

Now, that is the reckoning that all Americans have to come to terms with and the President of the United States of America has to deal with. Like it or not, this is the moment.

Can history change a man? Or, can man change history?

“So, I think I’ve done more for the Black community than any other president, and let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln, cause he did good, although it’s always questionable,” – President Donald J. Trump, June 6th, 2020 [q]

Well, from all which Donald J. Trump has revealed to the world during his years on the public stage, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

And, neither should anyone else.

Either we stand in solidarity beneath the American flag or we shroud ourselves under the white flag of surrendering to the bitter devils of division.

For me, Old Glory blowing in the breeze of freedom’s notion and a promise for a continuation of this experiment known as America is what I shall salute and honor.

Now, that is NO MYTH!

A.H. SCOTT

JULY 2020

***FOOTNOTES – “FLAGS OF OUR (MYTHICAL) FATHERS”***

a. – In the Year 2525 – Songfacts – https://www.songfacts.com/facts/zager-evans/in-the-year-2525

b. – Presidential Inaugural Address – https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/the-inaugural-address

c. – Why Melania Trump Wore Blue Ralph Lauren – Harpers Bazaar – https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a20098/why-melania-trump-wore-blue-ralph-lauren-inauguration/

d. – Meet James N. Mattis –  Military Times -https://www.army.mil/article/181147/meet_james_n_mattis_10_facts_about_the_new_dod_secretary

e. – James Mattis Denounces Trump – The Atlantic – https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/james-mattis-denounces-trump-protests-militarization/612640/

f. – Democrats Have Been Going After Me – Real Clear Politics – https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/06/06/full_trump_interview_with_laura_ingraham_democrats_have_been_going_after_me_and_they_have_nothing.html

g. – Ronald Reagan Speech – Reagan Library Archives –

https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/research/speeches/122282a

h. – White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Conference -https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/donald-trump-coronavirus-press-conference-transcript-april-23

i. – David Duke on Charlottesville Protests – The Hill – https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/346326-david-duke-charlottesville-protests-about-fulfilling-promises

j. – Trump Press Conference – Vox – https://www.vox.com/2017/8/15/16154028/trump-press-conference-transcript-charlottesville

k. – The Costs Of The Confederacy – Smithsonian Magazine – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/costs-confederacy-special-report-180970731/

l. – Man Pinned Down By Minneapolis Police Officer Dies – The Cut –

https://www.thecut.com/2020/07/man-pinned-down-by-minneapolis-police-officer-dies.html

m. – Trump on Jobs Report, New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/us/politics/trump-jobs-report-george-floyd.html

b. – Presidential Inaugural Address – https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/the-inaugural-address

n. – Trump’s Photo with His Loyalists Was A Vulgar Mess – Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/trumps-photo-with-his-loyalists-was-a-vulgar-mess-and-ivanka-brought-a-handbag/2020/06/02/af44d0ee-a4e8-11ea-b619-3f9133bbb482_story.html

b. – Presidential Inaugural Address – https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/the-inaugural-address

o. – Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration – https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-south-dakotas-2020-mount-rushmore-fireworks-celebration-keystone-south-dakota/

p. – Salute to America – https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-2020-salute-america/

q. – Trump Criticizes Lincoln – CNBC – https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/12/trump-criticizes-lincoln-brags-he-has-done-a-lot-to-help-black-americans.html

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bridesmaid-question/

 

Also posted in Art, Documentary, Erotica, Film, Friends of TWS, History, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Women

Emily Williams: Home/Solitude

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Photography and Text by Emily Williams, Copyright 2020

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HOME/SOLITUDE

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I dedicate this series to my grandfather, Leon Williams.

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Driven by my frustration with the passage of time without a singular place to call home, I started to think about the meaning of home—a feeling rather than a physical space. A feeling that I chased, both literally and figuratively, while running countless miles on roads both familiar and unfamiliar. Listening to the sound of my own feet, in part, lead me to this series.

As the series grew, it started to center around solitude, the feeling I always circle back to when meditating on home. I wanted to explore the range of emotions contained in solitude—from loneliness, to peace, to anger. I aim to create visual representations of quiet that convey and explore the nuances among feelings that come with large amounts of time spent alone.

My photography searches for the evidence of humanity—an unmade bed, an abandoned shoe, an open window, a dilapidated gate—to discover who was or will be in that space. I want to find places that mean something to whomever may have inhabited them but appear vacant at the moment they are photographed. I felt the mundane, uninhabited nature of these scenes best convey solitude.

In the first few months of working, I mostly photographed inside houses. I was drawn to the easily recognizable evidence of their inhabitants. Later, other spaces that were not as easily recognizable as inhabited, such as landscapes and abstract pieces, were incorporated into my work.

Throughout the year, I have been consistently concerned with the geometry of my compositions with the exploration of different patterns of light. How light shapes what we see, how it defines space, and how its presence and absence creates mood fascinates me.

I used analog and digital processes in making and printing my photographs. I have printed on 11 in. x 14 in. Ilford warm tone, silver gelatin paper, and made inkjet prints on Baryta Photo Rag paper of the same size. I started by printing on the Ilford warm tone paper in the darkroom, and found that it allowed for more detail to be visible in heavy shadows. I chose the Baryta Photo Rag because it was the closest digital equivalent. I have used both the analog and digital processes in order to print each photograph in the process that suits it best. The photographs are taken primarily with Kodak 400TX film, in both the 35mm and 120mm sizes; I have on several occasions used Ilford HP5 for my 35mm photographs. Both of these films have a wide exposure latitude, allowing me to push and pull them as needed and giving me the flexibility to shoot in a wide range of lighting situations.

My work is inspired by that of Abelardo Morell, mainly from his three series Childhood, Still Lives, and Light, Time, and Optics. He records light and shadow, patterns, and domesticity to create compelling photographs of the everyday. I draw aspects of my creative process from Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, where Murakami seamlessly connects his work as a fiction writer with running.

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About The Author:  Emily Williams is a recent graduate of Haverford College majoring in Fine Arts and History.  Class of 2020.

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A.H. Scott: 100,000+

Deaths from Covid-19

 

 

Text by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2020

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100,000+

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Oh, I’m sorry if the number crimps your style
They are just souls of the departed
Oh yeah, just statistics in a ledger that runs red with their blood and our salty tears
We won’t forget them
Yet, you never acknowledge their existence
Let that number sink in for a while!
They’re gone now, but that’s not why you have a furrowed brow
Banner of best econ in history has dissipated from your craven clasp
Even as each one of them take their final gasp
Efficiency experts in Hades tout the time is right to kick open the doors of business to start the machine of industry again
Referencing the workforce as human capital stock, those in towers of ivory frivolously mock
Lessening this tragedy in terms of decimals and cents
Nary is a word of lament
Push, push, push won’t be easy for all of us to heed
Cynics might scoff at the naked two-step of greed
100,000 lives and counting
Coronavirus’ toll is mounting
Keepin’ your distance is what the Docs say
Yet, all which any of us can do when they slip away is pray
Covering one’s face assists in mitigation
But, some think they are above the fray of the citizenry to lead by example
They get on television and preen and pout their bleached vision
100,000
Yeah, that is a quantity
But, damnit it’s more than that – its’ human quality
Quality of flesh, blood, dreams and life were theirs once
Now, we who remain can’t even kiss their foreheads to say a final goodbye
They are not digits crimping a bureaucrat’s agenda
All they were we can remember
Beyond the spotlight that certain persons straddle with such soulless desperation
The souls of these Americans exhibit lives lived and loved to those touched by them
Less than a quarter of a year has amassed a horrendous record that some are attempting to ignore
Optics of the obvious tide of sorrow cannot be wished away
Closing one’s eyes and acting as if what’s happening exposes that rotten core
Turn the page and reopen America to make it yesterday once more
But, not this time
Bluebird bluster and any prophylactic concoction you can muster will not keep the spirits of 100,000 coming within a grasped few winks in your nightmare’s view
In day, in night the fallen will forever follow you
Even with the hallowed position you were entrusted with, you haven’t a clue
Who were they?
They are us
Who are we?
We are the bullhorn of their memory never to be silenced  
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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/conference/
 
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Bob Shell: Meditations on Pandemics

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
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MEDITATIONS ON PANDEMICS

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I was reading an article last night in THE WEEK, my trusted weekly news magazine, about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. No one is alive today who remembers that pandemic, but the historical records exist, and the parallels to today are strong. Like the current Coronavirus that is causing so much havoc in the world, Spanish Flu was a novel virus to which no one had natural immunity. And, like today, weird rumors circulated. One was that the Spanish Flu was artificially introduced by German spies who sneaked into the U.S. aboard U-boats.

Some major cities in the U.S. shut down everything when Spanish Flu arrived, and did well. Philadelphia refused to cancel their war parade, which was held on September 28, 1918. A crowd of over 200,000 packed the streets and cheered. Within three days, every hospital bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled. Within a week 45,000 people were diagnosed with the disease and the city belatedly shut down. But the shutdown was too late, the damage already done. By the second week of November, 12,000 people were dead, just in Philadelphia! Bodies “were stacked like cordwood.”. Public health nurses walked into tenements and found whole families dead. Bodies were piled up on sidewalks after the morgue filled and shut down. Within six months, 16,000 were dead, and half a million sick in Philadelphia alone. By the time the Spanish Flu played out, more than 675,000 people were dead in the United States.

Researchers have found that cities that acted early and aggressively, quarantining the sick, and shutting down schools, churches, theaters, and other public places, saw 50% lower death rates. Milwaukee, which acted early and aggressively, had a death rate of only 0.6 %, the lowest of any U.S. city. St. Louis, which cancelled its parade had a death rate one-eighth that of Philadelphia.

This reinforces the fact that reopening the economy now, which Mr. Trump and most politicians seem to want, may be a terrible mistake.

A study published this year on the 1918 pandemic shows that “cities that acted early and aggressively to impose social distancing to limit the spread of Spanish Flu actually performed better economically after the pandemic was over than those that did not.” Fewer workers had died and the local economies bounced back sooner.

Here in Virginia, our Governor, who is a medical doctor, has faced intense political pressure for insisting on keeping restrictions in place until July, but I think he has made the right decisions, based on medical reality and not political expediency.

Some places like Singapore and Hong Kong, where restrictions were relaxed early, have seen rebounding infection rates. Others, like Taiwan and South Korea, who kept restrictions in place longer, have fared much better, with exceptionally low infection rates.

Where did this damned virus come from? The highly respected British medical journal, The Lancet, says evidence that it came from the Huanan Seafood Market is “shaky,” and points to the nearby virology lab, which had already been criticized for inadequate protective measures, and speculates that the virus escaped the lab through poor waste disposal or in the body of an infected lab worker. If it came from that government lab, responsibility for this plague must rest solely on the shoulders of the Chinese government, which should be made to take full responsibility for the economic havoc it has caused.

Meanwhile, the King of Thailand is riding out the pandemic in a German luxury hotel, where he is ensconced with his twenty concubines. Must be nice to be a king!

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/nude-photography/

 

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