First Night in Jerusalem

You know when you're experiencing something, and right in the middle of that moment — it could be hours long or a millisecond — you can feel it being stamped indelibly on your brain? Like suddenly the drowsy court stenographer in your mind jolts awake, shakes herself, and begins furiously typing, and even as you observe the events unfolding you can already hear their narration — that same narration you will hear years from now whenever something pulls you back, again, again, to this nascent memory?

That is how I felt in the airplane when the clouds parted and I first looked down upon Israel, real Israel-not-just-in-books, and it is also how I felt as we ascended the hills into Jerusalem. The melting chocolate peanut butter cup in my hands. The windows down, the smell of rain in the air, and across verdant valleys and winding roads, shimmering beige fortresses peaked out of the clouds. I felt like the crane vending machine of time had suddenly plucked me up by the head, moved me haltingly toward scratched plexiglass, and dropped me right into this strange and ancient place. Where was I. When was I. What child had won me now.

Pictured: early morning view from the balcony of the fourth floor loft I'm staying for the week.

A Walk to the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art

Hoo! It's been nonstop sleepless action since I got to the beautiful city of Jerusalem, but before I get too behind, here are some more images from Saturday morning's walk to the Museum of Modern Art (including one interior shot, black & white). The hot air was completely unmoving that day, and I walked by multiple cabbies napping in their cars.

CULTURE SHOCK: pay phones are everywhere, and appear to be in regular use.

As the Storm Rolled In

I worked from a cafe this afternoon and lost track of the hour — by the time I was walking home it was dark, and the rain that had threatened the thick heat all day was just beginning to fall. Lightning filled the sky, and a wind came off the sea, bringing sand with it. The palm trees threw their shaggy heads about like dancing noodle air puppets, and women ran through the streets, laughing as they held their skirts against their thighs. I love the electricty in the air when the weather is like this; it's maybe my favorite time to shoot.

Pictured: tuxedo street cat on abandoned mattress in the yard. Flag in the wind above a storefront/residence. Rug store, closed for the night. Sentinel dog at the cell phone store. White kitty awaits mani/pedi at the spa.

Culture Shock For Nerds

"Tel Aviv is beautiful and all," someone told me the other day, "but if it didn't have the sea, it would be nothing."

As far as I can tell, most signs in this city telling you not to do something are purely decorative. People park their cars (and even drive if traffic seems bad enough) on the sidewalk. They swim far beyond painstakingly multi-lingual no-swimming notices (sometimes even for contaminated water — dozens of families lugging naked children seem to especially congregate beneath those signs). They move barricades. Earlier today I was halfway down a steep cliff staircase that was seeming more and more like my likeliest cause of death, when I saw the bottom and realized it was taped off and boarded up; I'd have to either ascend nightmare staircase again, or hop a chainlink fence. Someone had removed whatever warning or tape had existed up top. As it happened, I needed to wait at the bottom anyway, because a whole family had congregated and were working to bend the fence so that they could push through and climb up.

It's never malicious, or even mischievious. "Eh, or not," everyone seems to shrug — men, women, children, the elderly. I am immediately enchanted, every time. I want to follow them back to their lockers, watch them lean Jordan-Catalano style against the wall. "So you want to get out of here, or whatever?" they'd ask, and I'd pretend like it wasn't a big deal, but totally, totally.

Preview: HaTanach Semifinals

Yesterday I hopped in the car with two Israel Story producers to head to Israel's Chidon HaTanach (Bible Competition) semifinals. The winners go on to the International Chidon HaTanach hosted in Jerusalem on Yom Ha'atzmaut (independence day, May 12th this year), to compete with students from all over the world.

The competition was just under two hours long and conducted entirely in Hebrew, a language that, on a good day, has me recognizing about five of its words. And somehow, I didn't even notice that I couldn't understand what was being said. It got me thinking that I may be a bad listener in general when I have a camera in my hands.

Photo: peers cheer their friend from the front row.

A Walk to Jaffa

Burying Dad: kids playing in the sand on today's walk to Jaffa. (I didn't know it, but I was becoming quite sunburned at the time.)

The entire walk is along the coast of the Mediterranean, so I walked six miles today barefoot along fine sand and crushed seashells, the cuffs of my jeans slowly soaking up to my knees. I walked past the Dolphinarium and around the clock tower (under construction). I talked to an old Italian man in lederhosen about Greece and gathered pamphlets about walking tours/museums/potential propaganda.

When I exited the tourist center, the air was heaving mournfully with song, Arabic words floating down from invisible speakers. The alleyways were empty. The sun blazed overhead. I thought "I don't know what this is, but it's pretty much exactly how the Middle East is portrayed in movies." Where was the song coming from? Was it a prayer? I turned a corner and dozens of pidgeons took flight into the sky, the beating of their wings momentarily obscuring the melody; by the time they were gone, the song had ended.

Danger: Crumbling Brutalism

Since meetings today wrapped up just before sunset, I decided to drop off my laptop and wander back out toward the beach, heading away from the Port this time to see where that direction led me. I clambered on some lighthouse rocks, took some boring photos of sailboats and skylines to pass the time, and then boom, the light hit this hotel just right.

"Ta da, done for the day!" I cheerfully announced to myself. Extra credit: take a different route back to the apartment? I saw that immediately to my left was a large concrete staircase, vaguely in the direction of home. Probably there would be some kind of amazing view of the Mediterranean involved. I bounded up each step, propelled by joie de vivre.

When I reached the top I staggered, feeling like I had just landed in another planet.

It was a massive open plaza of concrete, with an even massiver building of squared passageways looming over it. Bloated concrete mushroom umbrellas dotted the landscape. Despite its busy walkways and occasional open stores, something about it put me on edge and made my heart hurt at the same time. The active storefronts contrasted with the vast cold, dense emptiness like a suddenly wandering eyeball on a dead body. Where was I?

Turns out I was at Atarim Square, built in 1971 to house over 200 businesses but "nowadays, considered one of the most unsuccessful projects built in Tel Aviv."

Another funny thing about this space: I thought I had been in it much longer than I actually was, and when I got home I couldn't believe that so few of my images were from Atarim — apparently my eyes took more photos than my shutter finger did. Spiral staircases to nowhere; deep wells in the cement leading to dimly flickering parking garages. Graffiti and infinite passageways into darkness, all very appropriately set to the muted echo soundtrack to Nightmare, a haunted horror maze attraction that's taken residence just downstairs.

Yeah, I left before the sun set. Who even needs ghost actors and projected monsters when you have pillars of concrete?

Postcards from a First Night

I'm going to be staying in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the month of April to shoot for Israel Story, a public radio show and podcast based here ... I type this all very casually as if everything about it isn't something I've been dreaming of for years.

In the 22 hours before I landed I'd had 2 hours of sleep, spent face down in my own lap on the plane. I've, uh, never been a great plane sleeper. But after I was graciously picked up and deposited into the Tel Aviv flat I'll be staying at for the next 10 days, there was no way I was just going to bed. Bed! Pfft! Can you imagine?

I quickly attempted to memorize a Google Map, grabbed my camera and smallest lens, and headed for the sea.

These images were taken in and around the Port of Tel Aviv. Although the photos don't show it (I wasn't quite ready to start taking shots of strangers, even discreetly), it was more bustling there than I thought it would be here on a Friday evening. Walking back home, laughter and music poured out of all of the warmly lit windows and porches.

I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to be here. I have next to no idea what the coming days have in store; more updates soon!

Landing in Tel Aviv

For nine and a half hours the Israeli solider sitting next to me on the plane was completely silent, but as we began to descend and my ears slowly congested with pressure he suddenly got chatty. "What was that?" I kept asking. He'd laugh in response, or nod gravely as if we had an understanding. "I'm sorry," I'd repeat, raising my voice, "what?" At one point he leaned over me and pointed out the window. "There. See that line across the land?" I pictured us both in full scuba diving gear, his words slowly reaching me through a sea of blue jello. Thhhheeerre. See that liiiiine .... acrosssss the laaaaand?

I finally nodded.

"That is the wall that separates them and us. That is all there is. Just a few feet separating the two. That is them, that is us." He shrugged. "And the airport is just barely on our side."

"Wow," I shouted. " ... is it safe?"

"Is what safe?"

I swirled vaguely with my hand down toward the earth, treading atmosphere. "Where we're going. The airport. Is it safe there?"

He was taken aback. "Of course it's safe!"

"Haha, well good."

He settled back into his seat, letting a few minutes of disgruntled silence pass. "What is safe anyway," he said. "Nowhere is safe. Just don't be stupid. It's like ... Harlem in the 90s."

"What?" I said.

"50 Shades of Bey" at Oberon

I was just talking to a peer on the phone. "I just realized it's the end of March!" he said, "and we haven't updated the blog since February! What happened?"

Can I get an interrobang; there's a lot I've been meaning to post here too. Office shoots! Portraits! Upcoming travel! To start things off, I am so incredibly excited to finally be able to share my favorite images from the Lipstick Criminals' Beyoncé-themed burlesque show, "50 Shades of Bey" at Harvard Square's Oberon this January. Everyone in the Lipstick Criminals is an incredible dancer, and they're all incredible performers to boot.

Dancers include: Sugar Dish, Pamela Passion, Abby Normal, Dinah Deville, Belle Gunz, Legs Hershey's, Honey Pie, JaneDoe Cabaret, and Essy Sosa. Need more of the Crimz? Here's a quick preview from their rehearsals for this show — more of those soon!

Preview: Rehearsal with the Lipstick Criminals

A couple of weeks ago the Lipstick Criminals asked me to take some photos of their dance rehearsals leading up to "Fifty Shades of Bey," their Sunday evening show at the Oberon. (This was the third run of the show at this venue, and it was sold out, again. I'm not the only one who loves Lipstick Criminals + Beyoncé.)

The first time the show ran, I worked with director Sugar Dish to create an end credits video — stay tuned past the first 28 seconds to see footage of the dancers doing their thing.

This time around I also got the opportunity to shoot this amazing show onstage, so check the blog again soon for some pretty spectacular moves, shoes, and eyelashes!

Backstage at The Slutcracker 2015

In 2005 my dad gave me a DSLR camera as a graduation present, and in 2008 I was feeling vaguely bored/dissatisfied with the life I'd created since graduation, so one night I googled "Boston, join the circus." I found a MySpace page for a new show that was happening that December called The Slutcracker, I immediately emailed the director ... and one month later I was standing mostly naked on stage waiting for the curtain to go up, wondering if this was the best thing to ever happen to me or a literal nightmare someone was having. The minute the lights came on and the cheering began I knew exactly which category it fell into. The next night, I brought that camera.

I've been shooting backstage at The Slutcracker almost every year since that year of its inception. It inspired me to study documentary photography more seriously and to get out of all the "auto" modes on my camera. It made up my entire portfolio when I applied to Salt.

Note: you can now enlarge images on my blog by clicking on them.

Every year I wonder if this is the last year I'll shoot this show backstage. I must have all the photos that could be taken by now, right? But every year the show gets better: dancers travel from all over to audition and participate. The director and choreographer of the show has now made this her full time job, and it shows. The budget has grown, the props and costumes become more fantastical. And if there's one thing I learned in documentary studies, it was this: the minute you think you've got it, that you're tired, that you've seen everything there was to see: that's exactly when to stay. The best images come to those who wait. You'll never regret staying and shooting more.

Here are the albums from 2012, 2011, 2009, and 2008. It's a fun way to watch the growth of the show, and a strangely scientific method to see the growth of a photographer. (By the way, I realized recently that I shot backstage in 2014 and still haven't processed those photos! That's what happens when you get engaged, move cities and officially start your own full time business just weeks after filling a card with images. Still can't wait to see what I got and share those.)

Did I "get it" this year? I think 10 years will be a nice round number. We'll see how 2017 feels.

Demo Video for the Boston Hoop Troop

This fall I took some video footage of the awesome ladies of the Boston Hoop Troop performing a routine. They were champs for performing barefoot in a wet Jamaica Plain parking lot on a very chilly day.

On Monday that video went live, and yesterday it was also featured on hooping.org!

Experiments in Nature Photography

A couple of weeks ago I was tagged in a nice Facebook post from an old high school friend and fellow photographer, inviting me to post one nature photo a day for 7 days, as a kind of artistic electronic chain mail.

I've always said I don't "do" nature photography, that while I feel confident shooting and editing images of people and their objects, I don't "get" what makes a good landscape. I can look at two portraits and tell you which one is better in terms of composition and action/feeling and processing style, but nature photos, I thought, left me cold and clueless. A lot of what gets classified as "nature photography" struck me boring, overly clinical and textbook. Where's the feeling? Where's the magic and luck?

In retrospect this lazy narrative has all been nonsense — two of the photographers who have had the most influence on me could often be called nature/landscape photographers: Michael Nichols, and my dad Alan Mathiowetz, both of whose work hangs all over our apartment and whose compositions have startled me, made me think and feel and wonder how.

Just before I closed that window, I thought, "... maybe if I don't know how to do something I should try to figure it out, even if it means a lot of failure? Maybe especially if I don't know how to do something I should do it and do it often?"

So I commented: I'm in.

And then I thought "... now what?"

Walden Pond Trail Trail (Walden Pond)

I went on some hikes, hoping to find this elusive "nature." First stop was the most nearby nature I knew of: Walden Pond! To shoot deliberately!

I avoided the actual Walden Pond and its lines of tourists for some path that wandered off a parking lot where no one was. Then I left the path.

Then I was lost! Hurray!

Self as Tree Self as Tree (Walden Pond)

Spotlight on Pine Spotlight on Pine (Walden Pond)

Tree in Sun Tree in Sun (Walden Pond)

This Used to Be a Lake Center of the Lake, Dry Season (Walden Pond)

Walden Pond Mud Mirror (Walden Pond)

Lichen and Rock Lichen, and Rock (Walden Pond)

Before this photo challenge, I can't tell you the last time I went on a hike by myself. I've gone camping and on hikes with family and friends; I've walked dogs around neighborhoods and parks. But just ... me, and the woods all around? You listen differently when you're by yourself. You see differently when you can stop for whatever you want to, take whatever turn you like, go backwards, sit down, wait. Walks with other people are so directed.

I didn't look at my watch. I kept shooting until it was too dark to continue, and then I walked back to the car where I could happily turn on the radio and the heat, warming my cold fingers over the vents.

My fiancé Janaka joined me for the next trip: on a cool wet Saturday we drove to the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust.

Self in Bog Self in Bog (Manchester Essex Conservation Trust)

branch Green Pine (Manchester Essex Conservation Trust)

Swamp Marsh Lookout (Manchester Essex Conservation Trust)

I hopped over the path and wound up ankle-deep in mud, tangled in a bunch of poisonous berries, so that was more exciting than our usual Saturday of errands and house tasks. Janaka was a very helpful and quiet assistant, lifting me over things, holding lenses and my hand on the damp wood railings. Afterwards we stopped by Woodman's, and despite having solemnly vowed to Janaka that for all of our days together I would never, ever try clam chowder, or anything at all involving clams (because I'm from the Midwest where clams are distrusted, and it's hard to let go of distrust), or really anything involving chowder (because that word is also gross): that day, I did, and it was insanely delicious.

Lesson two of hiking: warm sustenance is necessary afterwards.

After that I had fulfilled the assignment: 7 days, 7 images. (Selection of 10 shown here.) Ta da! NATURE! I did it!

Seascape Seascape (Ellisville Harbor State Park)

But then ... I'd read in a guidebook that Plymouth had seals, and yesterday the forecast was warm and dry. So I headed back out for another solo journey, and despite the hours of traffic and the hot tea from the full thermos spilled all down my coat and the countless times I nearly turned around to go back home since I was sure the sun would be set by the time I arrived ... I'm so glad I went.

Maybe this will become a semi-regular thing, to stay in practice and get better.

Seals Seals Seals Seals! (Ellisville Harbor State Park)

The sound of seals barking is unlike anything I've ever heard before. I would build a house on the beach, just to be near that strange and beautiful cry. That sound alone basically contains all the elements present in some of my favorite films; there is a darkness, and a sadness, but at the same time you're laughing at the absurdity. They raised their heads out of the sea and flopped on the rocks, chattering like rows of anguished "nope" monsters. BWAAAAAAAAP BWAPBWAPBWAP!

Sunset on the Rocks Sunset on the Rocks (Ellisville Harbor State Park)

Night Falls Night Falls (Ellisville Harbor State Park)

I stayed too late; the sun set, and I had a mile walk back through the woods to the parking lot with no flashlight. My boots were wet with algae slime and sand and snow, my cheek cut by a renegade twig. I was happy.

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to shoot an event for the Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Brighton. I'd shot a "mock wedding" for them the past summer (those images are incredibly fun, and coming soon) and loved how all-in everyone was with a wonderful variety of silliness and play concerning real-life dyanmics I had never seen before. I knew regardless of the details I would have a great time shooting it and committed immediately. "What's the event?" I asked the rabbi, day-of.

It was just a couple of hours before I needed to be out the door when he sent me a link to the Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade.

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

Grand Chanukah Hummer Parade

There was rowdy facepainting and balloon-making in the basement, and piles of powdered donuts upstairs. Mayor Martin Walsh arrived to much fanfare to help light the giant menorah. There were heartfelt speeches, humemr oil-use jokes, convivial handshaking, and accordion music — before all of the kids crammed into their giant brightly menorah-lit Hummer limosines to ride in a parade throughout the city.

The all-in-ness was inescapable and contagious.

Experiments in Holiday Greetings

After nearly a year of neglecting to use the Pocketwizard transceivers I had been so excited to receive, I realized they had a second function beyond firing my (incompatible model) flash — with the right cable, they were also a remote shutter trigger. A 100% reliable remote shutter trigger! I can fire this thing from other rooms!

Also I can much more easily take pictures of us holding three cats at once, all of whom are unwillingly wearing Christmas sweaters/singing Santa hats, for a weird kind of Christmas card for us to send to friends and family! Wooo! Why not, right?!

With great power comes great responsibility.

Christmas card Outtakes

The main response to our e-card has not been "wow your tree is so cute," which it is, or "Adrianne your hair looks amazing," which for some reason it really does. It's been "uh how did you get all your cats into sweaters?"

And the answer is: quickly. Quickly, quickly, quickly.

Rebetika: The Evolution at Onassis

Night two of Rebetika: The Blues of Greece at the Onassis Cultural Foundation in NYC was called "The Evolution," and featured performances of more current popular songs. The room was packed with an audience enthusiastically calling out requests, singing and clapping along.

I don't speak any Greek so I didn't know what any of the lyrics were specifically saying, and having grown up in the States none of the melodies were familiar to me; but if anything this just heightened the sensation of being in a room full of pure feeling. The middleman of language was cut out; all that was left to discern was joy.

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Rebetika - The Evolution

Performers were Lena Kitsopoulou, song; Kostas Gerakis, guitar; Ilias Krommydas, accordion; and Georgios Petroudis, bouzouki.

Rebetika: The Origins at Onassis

One of my favorite things about being a photographer is how it exposes me to people and places I would otherwise completely miss out on. I'm a clozy sloth of a homebody at heart, and even when I know about an interesting event happening somewhere, the siren song of my couch and the cats and a good book is too strong to resist. Photography forces me out into all different creaks and corners of the wonderful world and I'm always happier for it.

Last week The Onassis Cultural Center in NYC hosted a two evening exploration of Rebetika: The Blues of Greece, and the first show was devoted to the music's origins. I was able to spend a little time with the amazingly talented performers (also, bonus, an adorable daughter) in their green room before the show, and learned that they had traveled from all over — some from Boston, some from Crete. Hearing them perform you would think they did this together every day.

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Rebetika - The Origins

Performers were Kyriakos Kalaitzides, oud; Tony Barhoum, qanun; Mavrothi Kontanis, oud, guitar; George Lernis, toumperleki, defi; and Phaedon Sinis, politiki lyra.

Generation Citizen's Civic Tech Challenge

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to shoot the awards and presentations show that concluded a day-long hackathon called the Civic Tech Challenge.

Generation Citizen organized this amazing event, which paired change-seeking kids with professoinal and student technologists to help them develop a method that might help their message reach the most people — from video blogs to visually engaging petitions. After a day of working in small groups, the kids and technologists presented their issues to a panel of judges and an incredibly supportive audience.

Kids presentation (BW)

Conversation

Kids gather

Kids play (BW)

Peeking through the shelves (BW)

Tie adjustments

Presentation

Vertical

Office of the Mayor

Kids read

Laughing couple

Film noir moment (BW)

Judges

Watching from the balcony (BW)

Voting booth (BW)

Hug (BW)

GIll

Sharing screen (BW)

Kids file out

Henry!

Ten days ago I didn't know I was going to Dallas, but then one five hour flight later suddenly there I was, standing on the curb of Love Field in the 80 degree sun, regretfully still wearing my dark flannel and thick autumn boots. My sister Paige needed some help with her toddler Henry while her husband was away on business. They offered to fly me out if I could just clear my schedule. Done!

And, bonus: a week spent laughing with Paige (even going to two intense barre classes, which even 8 months pregnant she totally owned while I flopped sadly to my mat and asked if they had "any weights below 3 pounds?") and chasing/dancing with/feeding copious amounts of cheese to/photographing Henry, who might be the most adorable sweetest toddler in the whole world aaaaagh!!!

Henry in the garden, Baxter in the bushes

Henry and Paige - feel the baby (bw)

Henry on a walk (double)

Autumn leaf (bw)

Henry and autumn leaves

Henry on a walk - smile

Henry in swing (bw)

Henry in swing

A boy and his dogs (bw)

Henry and Baxter

Henry plays (double)

Henry plays

Holding hands

Henry on a walk (bw)

Henry on a walk - looks at mama (bw)

Henry on a walk - across street

Henry meets shadow

Henry in bed

I'm so glad I got to spend this little bit of time with them, just before the little brother arrives.