Chinese Lantern Festival

Walking Under Symbols of Luck and Good Fortune

Sitting two blocks from the Liberty Bell and under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a site not to be missed. Come sunset, the heart of Philadelphia is now aglow with 28 larger than life illuminated groupings of 1,500 individual lanterns created by artisans from China. Many beautiful cultural traditions have grown out of myth and legend and this is one of them. Centuries ago as the story goes, there was a beautiful bird who was favored by a god. This bird flew down to earth and unfortunately, a villager killed the bird by accident. The god was so angry that he ordered the entire village be burned in retaliation. As fate would have it, there was a very wise man in the village who hit upon an ingenious solution. He got the people to light torches, lanterns and set off fireworks to fool the god into thinking the world was already burning and then leave mankind in peace. Out of this legend over hundreds of years, the celebration of the Chinese Lantern Festival continues throughout major cities in China on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar. They are held to gain favor of Taiyi, the god of heaven and invoke blessings on a fruitful harvest. In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs similar to those on view here in Philadelphia.

Brilliant Peacock

In China, artists designed the lanterns and they were then created by hand on over 50,000 square feet of silk fabric. They then transported all the materials by ship in 15 containers to Philadelphia. For one month prior to the recent opening, a 30 person team of artisans worked to build the steel frames, light them with over 15,000 LED lights along 16,000 feet of electric cables and finally stretch the silk over the metal. It is a massive feat of artistry and engineering and a truly wonderful gift from China to our city of Brotherly/Sisterly love. Last year, more than 89,000 people from 49 states and 17 countries visited the Festival.

Entrance of Koi
Dragon Head

The festival location at Franklin Square is totally transformed into a magical, whimsical Chinese wonderland. Each light sculpture tells a legend or symbolizes an old Chinese story. Visitors first walk through a beautiful orange and red glowing koi fish gate. The design was inspired by the Chinese myth, “Leaping the Dragon Gate.” Legend has it that each Chinese carp would swim the Yellow River upstream to spawn, and those who could leap the waterfall at the Dragon Gate would transform into dragons! This metaphor is used to describe a person who works hard and diligently. A centerpiece is the glowing blue and white Chinese Dragon lantern which is longer than three school buses and weighs 3,000 pounds. Standing 200 feet long and 21 feet high with the head installed by a crane with a 15-person crew. The Azure Dragon of the East, the White Tiger of the West, the Black Tortoise of the North, and the Vermilion Bird of the South are four mythical animals said to have mystical powers that brought luck and happiness. Their stories have been passed down from generation to generation for over 2,000 years. One can walk through a Shark Tunnel that is 75 feet long and weighs 1.5 tons and a Time Tunnel with stars and moons and the heavens glowing in changing colors. One of my favorite displays was the beautiful fairy tree, a symbol of life and vitality. Its constantly sparkling and changing hues drew me into its magic and charm.

Fairy Tree
Sichuan Opera

Besides the 28 larger than life illuminated groupings to wander through and enjoy, shows are presented daily highlighting the special skills of an acrobatic performance of plate spinning on 3 foot bamboo poles. The spinning plates resemble lotus leaves in the breeze and butterflies flying among the flowers. Contortionists showcase their skills of extreme physical flexibility, balancing a variety of items and twisting and turning towards the sky. The acrobats visiting from China are Yuhan Song, Lun Huang, Xiaoqi Zeng, Xiaoqin Tang, Shihue Wang. Each night, visitors are privy to one of the most fascinating Chinese cultural performances associated with the opera in the Sichuan Province for over 300 years. Ms. Aibi Chen has been practicing “Face Changing” or “Bian Lian” for the past 10 years. With a twist of the neck and flip of the fan, Aibi changes masks in a split second and morphs into another character, capturing other emotions. The technique is a treasured secret and passed down from one generation to the next. These performances with the unique lighted backdrop certainly enhance the wonder of a visit to the Lantern Festival. Before leaving, stop by the artists booths and have your name painted with images of dragons, mountains, birds, flowers and animals to spell out your name. It is believed to bring good luck and is often given as a gift on very special occasions in China. Stand and watch these craftsmen create butterflies from melted sugar and just like the Face Changing, painting beautiful scenes from the inside of the bottle is another art passed down through the generations and one wonders how they ever can do that! I was truly in awe at the intricate designs appearing before my eyes.

Plate Spinning
Painting with Melted Sugar
Name Painting

The Chinese Lantern Festival is being held at Franklin Square through June 30th. The Festival opens to the public at 7 and tickets cost $18.for adults, $12 for those age 17 and under and $15 for seniors and active military. Timed tickets are required for Friday and Saturday nights. Parking can be easily found close by under the Constitution Center. I went back twice recently just because there is so much to take in and I just loved learning about the myths and legends and experiencing the wonders and the beauty of the Chinese culture. I am so grateful to Stephanie Zhou for her great generosity of time and knowledge. Now I want to visit the Sichuan Province to see how it all begins! At a time when we hear about levying tariffs and being involved in trade wars, ART always uplifts and transcends and it is in the sharing and appreciation that the magic is found.

Video Highlights of the Festival

Chinese Lantern Festival from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

Gallery and Sales

Philadelphia Has Another Number One!

We arrived at 4:45 pm thinking that would be just fine. It was a gray day with the type of cold that goes right through you and takes up residence. Of course, no one would be standing outside in line! Oh so wrong! There were 6 people in line ahead of us and they arrived before 4:30. I guess when an eatery receives the anointing of “The Best Pizza in the United States” – yes, the entire United States, from Bon Appetit , bad weather doesn’t stop pizza aficionados. My curiosity and craving had to be vanquished. With the best that close to me, how could my friends and I resist?!

Now Pizzeria Beddia has some unique qualities…it is only open Wednesday thru Saturday from 5:30 until 10:30 or until Joe sells out of his 40 pizzas each day. Customers line up in close quarters at this tiny corner mecca and can choose from 3 variations…plain ($20.), seasonal($25.) and spicy ($25.)! Each person may only buy 2 at one time in order to be considerate of all the stragglers standing out in the cold who didn’t plan ahead! By the time we made it to the number one spot (5:45), we were told to come back an hour later. At 5:30, Joe, the chef extraordinaire, began to make and bake each pie individually so wait we must. The good news is that Fishtown, that part of Philadelphia named in the 18th century to honor the German-American fisherman who made their living from the shad of the Delaware River, has gone through a resurgence of “cool”! Philadelphia Magazine provided a must see guide to explore during the wait. A rum distillery right on site with French Press, Chemex and Yama Silverton coffeemakers are just some of what makes La Colombe a fascinating space to be in. It was one of those places that when we were leaving, we had already started to talk about coming back!

The time 6:45! Three large pizza boxes were right there for us but since there was no place to sit, nothing sold to drink, our taste test had to wait. I think they call this, delayed gratification! Anyway, at a little after 7 pm, I finally was able to enjoy the absolute best pizza in the United States! Now to be fair, there are still a few states I have yet to visit and I know I am a born and raised biased Philly girl,so I can’t say with total certainty that it is pizza supreme, but this alchemy of dough, sauce, spices and cheese was definitely worth the price and the wait! I will be back, but in the spring with more than just the IPhone camera!

The Master Chef
The Master Chef
Eat, Drink and Be Merry!
Eat, Drink and Be Merry!
Rum At Its Finest
Rum At Its Finest

Japanese Tanabata

Tanabata Festival
Tanabata Festival

According to legend, Orihimi (weaving princess) wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (The Milky Way, “The heavenly river”) but was so sad because she could never fall in love and marry. She had to work day and night. Her father took pity on her and introduced her to Hikoboshi (cow herder star) who lived and worked on the other side of the river. They fell instantly in love and became husband and wife. Orihimi no longer wove for her father and her husband allowed all his cows to roam all over heaven. Tentai, the father, was so angry, he separated the two lovers across the river. Orihimi was so despondent at the loss of her husband but her tears moved Tentai to acquiesce and allow the two to meet but one day each year. On the 7th day of the 7th month, if she finished her weaving, Orihimi and Hikoboshi would be reunited. But since every good story/legend has more than one conflict, Orihimi and Hikboshi found no bridge to cross the river. The young bride cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata (the 7th day of the 7th month), the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.

In Japan, people celebrate this day by writing wishes on small pieces of colorful paper known as tanzaku and hanging them on bamboo with other colorful decorations which is known as the “Wish Tree”. Long streamers with Tanabata star ornaments and paper cranes are hung for good luck.

In Philadelphia, in the midst of city noise and frenetic movement lies a serene sanctuary that should not be missed. Philadelphia Magazine named Shofuso Japanese House and Garden the best hidden tourist attraction in this city of “Brotherly (and sisterly) Love”.Shofuso in its present incarnation was built in Nagoya, Japan in 1953, using traditional materials and techniques, exhibited at MoMA as part of “The House in the Museum Garden” series and moved to the temple gate site in Philadelphia.

Three traditional types of Japanese gardens comprise a 1.2 acre site: a hill-and-pond style garden which is intended to be viewed from the veranda; a tsubo-niwa, or courtyard garden in the style of an urban 17th century Kyoto garden; and a roji, or tea garden, which is a rustic path to our tea house. Visitors can immediately feel the expansive and collective “Ahhhhhhh” as they dwell in pristine beauty and elegant simplicity of design and style. This past weekend, Shofuso celebrated Tanabata with families by sharing the legend and having old and young create colorful wishes to decorate the bamboo trees. It is fascinating to take time out to become immersed in another culture and another world. I am presently working on a series of short videos highlighting out of the way and interesting places Philadelphia has to offer and I can’t resist the opportunity to return for the the tea celebration this weekend …let’s hope the sun shines on the 7th day of the 7th month so that the magpies can work their magic for Orihimi and Hikoboshi!

Japanese Gardens

Tanabata Festival
Tanabata Festival
Japanese Legend
Japanese Legend

Japanese Garden

Japanese Home

Come and Visit

Japanese Beauty in Simplicity

Victor’s Cafe, South Philadelphia Landmark


I just love being a travel photographer…I go in search of new and interesting people, places and things.  I always have a camera with me for that unexpected find which happened this past week.  Victor’s Cafe is a landmark restaurant in South Philadelphia.  It is housed in two brownstones located at 1303 Dickinson Street, Philadelphia and it was my first visit and definitely not my last.

Victor’s has a very interesting history :

“One hundred years ago a young Italian immigrated to America bringing with him little more than a great love for classical music and grand opera. It seemed only natural that his way of living would somehow include that love. John DiStefano settled in Philadelphia in 1908 and in 1918 opened his first business: a gramophone shop. Here, friends and neighbors came and enjoyed an espresso and spumoni while they listened to newly recorded operatic arias, symphonies and popular music of the day. DiStefano’s Victor dealership became a meeting place not only for the musically inclined but also a nexus for companionship and advice.

John often took the South Street Ferry to visit the directors of RCA Victor, located just across the river in Camden, arranging auditions and making suggestions of selections to be recorded. Because of his broad knowledge voice and vocal repertoire he earned the respect and trust of those at RCA, and established a lasting relationship with numerous budding artists, some of whom went on to musical renown.

His efforts to bring together artist and recording studio are well documented by the signed photographs and operatic memorabilia which literally cover the Café’s walls. The collection includes thousands of the family’s considerable collection of 78 rpm recordings, treasures of another era. Many discs are rare, out of print, or never published but still earn their keep. A larger-than-life replica of Nipper, well-known canine mascot of “His Master’s Voice” fame, stands sentinel at the front door, mute witness to a century of devotion to an ideal.”

Sylvester Stallone and the production crew filming “Rocky” decided this would be the perfect restaurant to transform into Adrian’s, an Italian eatery.  Throughout the filming cast and crew hung out here and it was the place to come for dinner every Saturday night.

Victor’s is known for the live performances of arias and instrumental solos which used to be performed by its patrons but now, the servers have taken over that role. Introductions were made and David Koh would be our server.  We learned that he was a doctoral student studying opera at Temple. After delivering our first delicious course, a small bell rang and Puccini would have certainly given his nod to the aria David began to sing to us…we were truly transfixed as his amazing talent  lifted us all. Throughout the meal, we were treated to two more operatic arias and while we dined on delicious homemade dessert, “Younger than Springtime” was one more gift David gave us.

I tried to be very respectful of the rule regarding no video but this was just too good !  I was grateful to receive the permission to film just a very limited amount in order to share this unique dining experience.  I would highly recommend Victor’s Cafe for a lovely, romantic dinner  as well as a wonderful evening out with friends. Experience the stars of tomorrow as they stand in the shadows of the great stars from the past…another of Philadelphia’s historic charms!

Just click on Victor’s Cafe to be treated to a bit of our experience.



Woodlands Cemetery and Mansion

The Woodlands _MG_6496

It is summer with red roses all around me  but until yesterday, I had no idea that the person who brought the red rose to the US lived right here in Philadelphia.  William Hamilton inherited 356 acres of land in West Philadelphia in 1766 and I made a visit to the venerable property yesterday in anticipation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book,  “The Signature Of All Things” (but more of that later). Erica Maust is the Program and Communications Coordinator and Jessica Baumert is the Executive Director and they could not have been kinder in sharing their vast and oh so interesting knowledge of the man, the mansion and the cemetery. (How wonderful to meet you both!)  Mr. Hamilton amassed over 9,000 species of native and imported plants in America…the rose, the hydrangea and the ginkgo biloba plant are just a few. He had friends in very high places and Thomas Jefferson made sure that he was one of three who were able to procure the seeds brought back by Lewis and Clark.  Sadly, with no children, his nieces and nephews were unable to afford the upkeep after his death in 1813.  The property was bought by The Woodlands Cemetery Company with the purpose of preserving this beautiful and scenic building and land in 1840.  Park like green space remained in the midst of a rapidly developing urban neighborhood.  Today, one can walk along the meadering pathways seeing the graves of notable persons, unique monuments and rare and unique trees in the arboretum. I visited the final resting place of Francis Drexel, as in Drexel University, Thomas Eakins, as in the painter of “The Gross Clinic“, Joseph Campbell (yes, those delicious soups!), Jessie Wilcox Smith as in the famous illustrator of children’s books and so many more with a weathered gravestone serving as the touchstone to once vibrant lives.  The largest funerary obelisk in the US stands so tall among the trees and marks the grave of  Thomas Evans who was Napoleon’s dentist  and the founding force behind the University of Penn Dental School.  Trust me, it is so easy to find!

And now,

“The Signature of All Things: A Novel” by author Elizabeth Gilbert will be coming out on October 1st. The story spans the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with one of the main characters becoming a gifted botanist, According to , “It is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.”
Elizabeth’s research took her to this mansion in Philadelphia. Since I am anxiously awaiting the release of this novel, I thought I would make the same visit and see what I could discover.   In order to capture a bit of this historical site with mood, I used the vintage movie camera app.

Also, if you visit and take this fascinating walk back in time and become very hungry, I would echo Erica’s and Jessica’s recommendation to eat at the “Gold Standard Cafe” right down the street – delicious food with the owners dedicated to enhancing the community.

Today, the cemetery, mansion and landscape all form The Woodlands National Historic Landmark District…”a site where Neoclassical and Victorian ideals coexist to create a visual, living history of Philadelphia and the United States.


Those Who Inspire and my attempt to honor them!

This will be remembered as the summer of inspiration for me. In the beginning of June, a former student showed me his power point presentation… a simple one with such a compelling message that frankly took me totally by surprise and truly touched me. In his brother he saw a hero. His brother is 12 years old and he can’t speak, can’t eat and has difficulty learning due to CDLS but Joe didn’t remain in the “can’t” category. He saw so much more and recognized all the lessons that his brother was teaching him. Joe created for his audience just a brief glimpse but this story to me, just called for so much more. He needed the tools to tell his story more fully and Kickstarter, a wonderful program that funds those with creative endeavors seemed to be the path we needed. I am so sincerely grateful for all those who have visited the Kickstarter site and I am happy to say that in less than a week, our contributions total over $600. My sincere thanks also extend to the Patitucci family, to Beth and Paul and Joe and Andrew for their gracious welcoming (and feeding me) as we try to birth a short documentary on the lives of teenage boys and the impact of CDLS on the family.

Last week, I received a call from a friend who invited me to a Tony Melendez concert and perhaps I would be interested in filming this! Tony was born without arms due to the thalidomide his mother took while pregnant. In Nicaragua, he developed his love for music. His family brought him to Los Angeles to be fitted with artificial arms which he wore until he was ten and then decided to dispose of them because he could use his feet for so much more! Tony has gone on to travel the world, stand next to two Popes, be gifted with the First Inspirational Hero Award from the NFL Alumni Association and asked to sing our National Anthem at the fifth game of the World Series in 1989. He had a desire to enter the priesthood when he was in high school but due to the fact that he didn’t have an index finger and thumb, he was rejected (I could go off on this but I won’t!) but he has remained faithful to his love of contemporary music that speaks to faith, courage and inspiration and has taken it throughout the world and this past weekend to St. Thomas Acquinas parish in South Philadelphia… a truly vibrant parish that celebrates the rich ethnic diversity of its parishioners. The church came alive and I certainly was thrilled that I was there to film this.

So this summer I have been given the challenge and the grace to reflect upon those who strive not let expectations and limitations hold them back and hopefully, when I have something difficult ahead of me, as Tony said, “Just think of me!” Thanks Tony, I will!

Chinese New Year 2013

Philadelphia's Chinatown

The Friendship Gate

Woman in Waiting

On His Father's Shoulders

Store Owner Hoping for Good Luck

Lettuce, Red Envelope and Explosions


Hoisting Up Hopes


Mirror to Scare Away Evil Spirits

Little Buddha

Little One

All Set and Ready to Go

Going for the Riches

Explosions and Movements

Bringing in the New Year

The Crescendo

End of the Party

Firecrackers exploding to scare away evil spirits, lions dancing, the rhythmic beating of drums and lettuce symbolizing prosperity…The Chinese know how to do it so well; celebrating the New Year over 15 days and inviting everyone to join in this huge feast! February 10th was the start of grand scale festivities with the annual Lion Dance which dates back thousands of years. This creature signifies courage and stability. A mirror is placed on the face of the lion so that evil spirits will be scared by their own image and disappear. The movement of the tail sweeps away bad fortune. A procession starts at the temple and proceeds through the streets, going door to door to each business. Buddha teases the lion while gongs, drums and cymbals spur this massive animal on as it moves in a zig zag pattern (since everyone knows that evil spirits walk in a straight line)! According to Nations Online, “The dramatic climax of the Lion Dance is the “Cai Qing” or ‘Picking the Green’. The green refers to vegetable leaves which are tied to a piece of string which also has a red packet attached containing money. The string is hung above the door of the business, shop (or home), and the lion ‘eats’ both, the leaves and the red packet. Lying on the floor the leaves are ‘chewed’ by the lion while the musicians play a dramatic rolling crescendo. The lull is broken as the lion explodes back into activity, spitting out the leaves. This is a symbolic act of blessing by the lion, with the spitting out of the leaves signifying that there will be an abundance of everything in the coming year.
A shop, business (or household) being visited by the performers of the Lion Dance will have good luck in the year to come.”

May that be for us all!

Mayor Nutter Where Are You?

United Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill
United Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill
United Presbyterian Church of Chestnut  Hill
United Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill
To Many Have Died
To Many Have Died

On the eve of the Inauguration with the gun control debate front and center, I and many others were struck today while driving past the United Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill.  331 multi-colored tee shirts on the front lawn were waving in the wind. Traffic slowed. People got out of their cars and  upon closer inspection, each had the name of a person killed in Philadelphia in 2012…a stark reminder that so much still needs to be done to reduce the violence. Far too many precious lives have been lost.

The Divine Lorraine Hotel, Philadelphia, PA

After photographing at the Mummers’ Parade last week and spending a great deal of time on Braod Street, I thought it might be interesting to photograph the architecture along this most famous street which spans approximately 13 miles. Broad Street was one of the earliest planned streets in the United States (1681) and has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The most prestigious art centers, sporting complexes and historic architecture line this street.

The Divine Lorraine Hotel, located at the corner of Broad and Fairmount Avenue, was built in the late 19th century. This building initially symbolized opulence and luxury as a 246 room high rise apartment building with 2 ball rooms, in house staff and one of the first elevators in the city. It later became home to Father Divine and his congregation and was noted as the first integrated hotel in the city. Those wanting to join this religious cult turned their savings over in return for a room and had to abide by Father Divine’s strict rules. Richard Nickel posted a fascinating look at the history of this building, its inhabitants (Jim Jones was a member before starting his own cult which later committed mass suicide) and photographs of the interior of this now deteriorating and gutted building. A great friend and photographer, Conrad Louis-Charles shared one of his favorite quotes with me before I went off to shoot. “Don’t shoot what you see, shoot what you feel.” (David Alan Harvey). Taking this advice to heart, I went off to capture this boarded up, graffiti ridden shell as it now stands decaying. I am not sure what will become of it since it was just purchased by developer Eric Blumenfeld. He plans to convert the building into rental units with restaurants on the ground floor. May his vision come to fruition.

The Divine Lorraine Hotel
The Divine Lorraine Hotel
The Divine Lorraine Hotel, Phialdelphia
The Divine Lorraine Hotel
Divine Lorraine Hotel
The Divine Lorraine Hotel

Mummers’ Parade 2013 and New Year’s Traditions

“Tis New Year’s Day! What interesting traditions we have as we move from one year to the next. If I were in South America, last night I would have had a major decision to make about the color of my underwear…yellow would symbolize a hope for abundance. Red would show a yearning for love in the New Year and white would simply mean a desire for peace. I wonder how many people go to a tied dyed approach to get them all in! Scarecrows made up of old clothes are burned on the front lawn while the old calendars are thrown from windows. Speaking of which, I heard on the local news station yesterday that various and assorted items are dropped from high levels at the stroke of midnight…large potatoe chip bags, lebanon bologna and a possum drop in N. Carolina and Georgia (PETA has expressed their total distaste of this one). Here in Philadelphia for the past 113 years and still going strong, grown men (women referred to as the wenches brigade and children) all get dressed in feathers, sequins and umbrellas and strut their stuff up Broad Street and all of this is perfectly normal! They have perfected the art of partying for sure! I wonder what color their underwear is????????

Gifting of the Beads!The New Normal!Guess Who I Am!Here's To The Red, White and Blue!Long lines for the bathroom!The Mummers' StrutThe Strong!  The Bold! The Beautiful!Hey Philly!Your Normal Run of the Mill Rabbit on the Street

Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Faithful Celebrate


Still in Prayer
City Procession

Over the past few years, some leaders of the Philadelphia Archdiocese have become known for very grevious offenses. However, this past week, I was able to witness what the spirit of the real church looks like. St. Thomas Acquinas is a multi-cultural parish located in South Philadelphia. Members are from the Indonesian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Hispanic, African American, Italian and Irish communities. This parish is microcosm of the world. Although struggling financially, all are committed to being a beacon of hope for the neighborhood and the vibrancy of support and welcome is so palpable.

Five centuries ago on a hill in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe appreared to the poor and abandoned. Speaking their language she promised protection and inspired hope. On a small hillside in the freezing cold, roses bloomed. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather the flowers in his peasant cloak (tilma). When the flowers were laid out in front of the Bishop, there appeared the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe which was miraculously imprinted on the fabric. This cloak of a poor man touched by grace can still be viewed to this day. Over time, she was declared the patroness of the Americas and has endeared the largest number of pilgrimages in the world. On December 11th, in the cold night air, the people of St Thomas Acquinas processed over an hour and a half to the cathedral to join thousands of others filled with the same heartfelt faith,belief and joy. It was so inspiring for me to see the strength and faith of the men, women, children, old and young from all different cultural backgrounds sharing in this celebration. These are the acts that should not go unnoticed. Hopefully the video provided will give an small insight into the tremendous spirit!

Eastern State Penitentiary

Hands reaching out to grab your throat, chilling screams in the darkness, a cold that goes right into your bones and yes, people pay good money for this experience! Lines can be seen going around the block as people wait for admittance into a state penitentiary and a Halloween thrill. Eastern State Penitentiary located in the heart of Philadelphia at 2027 Fairmount Ave.
The website states: “Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers.”
“Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts.”
“Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone who spent 8 months in a cell block adorned with oriental rugs, lamp, furniture.”

“Many people believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences in the ancient prison. And the ghost sightings have only increased since Eastern State was abandoned in 1971.
With the growing interest in paranormal investigation, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Dozens of teams visit to explore the site each year.” “Ghost Adventures” and “Most Haunted Live” are just some of the shows filmed from inside this historic prison. Visitors are treated to an hour tour of cellblocks, death row and underground punishment cells. “Terror Behind the Walls” has consistently ranked among the top 10 haunted attractions in the country.

The Rocky Statue: (My time lapse video and a two hour study!)

The iconic Rocky statue stately stands in front of the beautiful, Greek inspired Philadelphia Art Museum . This bronze icon of the underdog going up against all odds and achieving success seems to strike a chord in so many hearts. It is Philadelphia’s “David”. A photograph with this famed statue has become the siren call for tourists. I wanted to document this in a different way so off I went with a time lapse camera set to take a photograph every minute for two hours while I also stood and took individual pictures. One grandfather told me that the only thing his grandson from Florida wanted to see was this statue and to have his picture with Rocky on his phone. I found that the majority of people morphed into the Rocky pose. Others stood stoically as if to show, yes they had come to Philadelphia. Some dressed him in an American Flag while others struck a fighting pose. Some touched his “private parts” and another blew him a kiss. Even though our world renowned Art Museum was closed, I was amazed at the number of people coming up. But for me, the most incredible moment which seemed to sum it all up was when a man came up in a wheel chair. He was disabled but he got up out of the chair and even though walking was obviously very difficult for him, he made it to the statue and stood tall next to this inspiration of greatness and the hope of transformation. He didn’t need the steps, he had the statue and its meaning.

All rights reserved. No unauthorized use, distribution, sales, lending or duplication is permitted without written notice from Frances Schwabenland, copyright 2012.

Philadelphia Color Run 2012

Today, Philadelphia held its first “Color Run”. 25.000 runners lined up at the Art Museum for a 5K run with the mandatory white shirt. 3,2,1…the runners took off into a shower of powdered paint. Oranges, greens, blues and yellows filled the air. Colors were everywhere…what is not to love about this event!

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Frances Schwabenland copyright 2012

Where Is The Story? There Is Always A Story!

The weekend was one that just called out to leave behind that “To Do” list and go photograph. So off with a friend to downtown Philadelphia I went. Our GPS was set to the fountains in the center of the city and then on to capture the skyline from the Camden Waterfront. As a photographer, I try to heed the sage advice to be open to take in subjects from different vantage points…above, below, behind and basically any other way I can contort my body. So while I was at the fountains, I looked around to photograph from another direction and I was drawn to an American flag supported by boxes and blankets on the overpath of the expressway. I wanted to see more…here in Philadelphia, there is a heated debate regarding a mandate not to feed those who are homeless outdoors. Many would see this as just a way to make our homeless population more and more invisible. I wanted to see who was so proud of our county while living in cardboard boxes. It was then that I met Carlos. We talked for a long time and he shared that he had lost his job two years ago and then had major health problems the next year which caused him to loose everything he owned. Carlos said he tries to make the best of everyday and look for the good. “It’s my choice and it helps me with this time.” He is sleeping over the Vine Street expressway and he told me he doesn’t notice the noise, just the stars!

We then went off to the Camden Waterfront. There was a surprise fireworks show and Andrew, another photographer hunched down and off to the side. He was outgoing and began sharing how much he loved that spot to photograph. We learned that Andrew was studying to be a meteorologist even though many told him he wouldn’t be able to succeed due to his Asbergers. He was also gay which added to his struggle for acceptance. Andrew told us how he saw beautiful angels and was then put in a psychiatric ward but another man his same age saw angels and was put on Oprah! Andrew was a gentle soul in the night.

Following sage advice trying to look in other directions, I met Carlos who reminded me not to take all that I have for granted and try to make the best of everyday which I will remember when I get back to my mundane “To Do” list… and Andrew who I hope really did see angels.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.