Writing. Design. Social Change.

Posts from the ‘Photography’ category

Finally, the summer solstice was upon us. Five years ago we had met on this day at this very place on the Delaware River. I knew then that it was wholly significant that we were meeting with the sun at its highest point, the traditional feasting day for celebrating the marriage of day and night.

Even with riots and a pandemic the seasons had turned. Nature endures and brings the natural balance and beauty of the seasons into our lives.

On this long, steamy, stormy, oppressively hot, thunderous day we said our vows to each other with two witnesses present, tied a Celtic knot, and married ourselves with a self-uniting marriage license.

There’s never a dull moment.

Enormous gratitude to our friends Jim and Jen, the Black Bass Hotel, Melissa Kelly Photography, Levone Floral, The Lorelei Cake Design, and Elena Smith for helping us do what we set out to do, although much different than intended.

All Photo credits: Melissa Kelly Photography

June 20, 2020


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SYROS – 37.4385° N, 24.9139° E

Postcards from our month in Greece traveling, writing, and storytelling in COM 382 Digital Publishing.

When I look back on our two weeks on Syros I will be thinking about the blues. The seas, the skies, the bays, all in a range of that clear, impossible blue. If we can have that every day, perhaps it is enough. Maybe we don’t need as much as we think we need. That’s really the undercurrent of my time on Syros. The slower pace of life (except for the drivers!), the kindness of everyone we met, the three-hour meals with the waves lapping behind us, the raw beauty of the island, and the simplicity of its beaches. A towel and a tamarisk tree are all you need.

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COM 382 Digital Publishing in Greece May 24 – June 25, 2019

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Join us for a special COM course as we explore the islands of Greece.


  • Fulfills upper-level communications elective for majors & minors
  • Open to all majors at Saint Joseph’s University, no pre-requisites
  • Travel and study in Athens, Santorini, Syros, and Crete and many other locations

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Spend a month in Greece traveling, writing, and storytelling. The wide variety of digital media tools and platforms available allows us to share observations, research, and personal narratives with global audiences online. Using a variety of digital tools including 360 photography, video, audio, and social media, we will create a portfolio of stories for publication.

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As we travel throughout Greece, we will develop projects for digital publication. Each project emphasizes skills essential to writing for the web: finding, framing, and pitching story ideas; research, reconnaissance, and field recording techniques; the appreciation for and acquisition of story context; tools for evaluating issues of ethics; an understanding of story elements, organization, and assembly; writing, revising and editing for clarity and purpose; peer review and constructive feedback on your drafts; and finally, publication strategies for your work.

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Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 4.18.25 PMSee the Center for International Programs for more course information. studyabroad@sju.edu (610)660-1835


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I’m currently teaching visual storytelling through the creation of Cinemagraphs  — photographs with a whisp of narrative. Cinemagraphs are compelling images which feature a cinematic twist through the isolated animation of multiple frames. These animated images capture a moment in time or a living portrait of a person or place.


Cinemagraphs are the animated GIF’s sophisticated cousin. My  Visual Rhetorics students had seen them all over the Internet, but had no idea how to make one themselves. To create one, students first learned to approach and compose a video shoot to convey mood and meaning. Students also learned about the basics of composition and lighting. After trimming their videos, students imported their clips to Photoshop where each video frame became a separate layer, which they then manipulated, adjusted, colored, and animated.

Although it took some effort, students loved making them.


Students in the course followed free online tutorials from Phlearn: Part 1 (video capture) and Part 2 (Photoshop editing). Spoographics and Lifehacker also have decent Cinemagraph tutorials. I’d like my students to create their own tutorial in the weeks to come.
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Moonrise in the Hudson Valley

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The most important exhibit of the summer (for me) is Taryn Simon’s  A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters 1-XVIII. (At MOMA until September 3). It’s about bloodlines and their stories. (Or stories and their bloodlines…) The story sequences have a lot to do with inheritance and chance (or fate, if you will). One story traces an Indian man’s family who was declared dead so that other relatives could seize (inherit) their ancestral farmland.

Taryn Simon Exhibit

Another story depicts the bloodline of the first woman to highjack an aircraft. Another story tells of the descendants of Hans Frank, the Nazi governor of Poland.

Another shows the faces of the children at an orphanage in the Ukraine who will inevitably become victims of human trafficking once they reach the age of 16.

One of the most chilling aspects of the exhibit is the interruptions in the story sequences. At times, a panel in a sequence stares back vacantly. The individual could not be photographed due to religious reasons. Or chose not to out of fear. Or shame. Some individuals sent their clothes to be photographed in their stead.

Viewing, I noticed how the story was different for each viewer, depending on the their choices, their attention span, how they chose to navigate through the image, text and footnote panels (or not).

Viewing, I noticed how our own stories are affected by chance, bloodlines, and circumstance, too. What would our own stories look like, cataloged, curated, made visible, up there on the wall? I think of my friends of American Indian ancestry and their stories. And my neighbor’s stories. I think of my adopted friends and their stories. And my new friends, TEDx organizers from around the globe.

The exhibit is complex, absolute, devastating, human, stunning, beautiful. I’ve known this for some time…Taryn Simon is among the most important artists of our time. And I would really like to meet her. Saying this, I know… the wheel is now in motion.

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The Cindy Sherman retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday afternoon.I’ve loved Cindy Sherman’s work since my first glimpse of her Untitled Film Stills from the 1970s. The kind of work where you meet an array of compelling characters (Girl Fridays, centerfolds, film noir heroines) and make up the story as you go along.

Something about this retrospective brought me back to my days playing Barbie. My parents refused to let me have a Ken doll, so in a desperate move, my neighbor and I cut off Barbie’s hair, snipped off her high-heeled feet, and ground her breasts into plastic dust on the sidewalk.

Voilà, Ken.

You must believe me when I tell you that we used our Ken doll. We put him through all the moves, all the scenarios, all the silly, dark, soap operatic passion plays our young minds could invent, trying our best to hold onto the illusion that he was really a Ken doll and not a mangled, stub-foot surrogate.

This was the feeling I had walking around the sixth floor at MoMA yesterday. The viewer is made complicit in the illusion of it all; each photograph a cutting commentary on the nature of identity, representation, mass media culture, manipulation, male gazes, women, their faces and their bodies.  The exhibit made me  (or was it the image of me?) feel like we do this everyday. We all play pretend,  we try to project an illusion of some idealized image, when we really are a little mangled, a little disfigured, a little played upon by external forces and internal ones, too.

This feeling only doubled as I sat down to lunch downstairs at The Modern. In an eerie life-immitates-art moment it appeared as if the ultra-chic restaurant was completely populated by characters from the “Society Portraits” series. There was the botched lip injection Cindy to my right and the tired Upper East Side Cindy to my left. The Cindy next to her had drawn on her arched eyebrows a good inch too high…

Voilà, Cindy everywhere.

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A Cinemagraph is an image that contains within itself a living moment that allows a glimpse of time to be experienced and preserved endlessly.

Cinemagraph NYC

I’m enthralled with these images – caught somewhere between a photograph and a video. On their portfolio site, Cinemagraphs, Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck display their captivating and somewhat eerie moving images. They’re animated gifs. And they’re beautiful.

I have to try this. My students would love to make them, I know. Could this be the first “challenge” in our upcoming Digital Storytelling course?

You can see more images on Becks’s From Me to You  Tumblr.

Zuzi, one of my favorite fashion/photography bloggers from Prague, has made her own. Could someone please share the magic recipe? Thank you.

Update: Here are a few tutorials readers have sent this way from Smashing Buzz, An Aesthetic Discourse, and Tested!

And here’s Zuzi’s tutorial recommendation. Thank you!advice for cinemagraph

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