Sapna,The Cultural Leader India Independence Day Celebration
The word “friend” is only one syllable and often times used so casually without reflection on its true power. I am certainly guilty of that! Today though, I was very appreciative of my friendship with Sapna Prasad. She seems to have at least 35 hours in her day for all that she accomplishes and of course, nothing is ever too much. Sapna has been inviting me to the most beautiful Indian celebrations: Holi, Diwali and today, The Festival of India. It was a celebration commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the day India became free from British rule. PECO sponsors this celebration as part of its Multicultural Series at Penn’s Landing located in Philadelphia. Sapna is the cultural leader for the Council of Indian Organizations. She got there early, checked everyone in and served as the very capable MC for the program.
The view of the waterfront was a spectacular backdrop to the beauty of the dancers. The energy of the music combined with the grace of movement brought huge cheers from the audience and I couldn’t click the shutter fast enough to capture all of the colorful vibrancy that I found myself in the midst of. This friendship has opened incredible doors and I thank all those whose hands I shook, who reached out to hug me and who allowed me the honor of photographing them today as so many came together to celebrate India’s strength and culture. Namaste!
Indian independence Festival
Dancers at the PECO Multicultural celebration
Dancer at the PECO Multicultural Celebration of India
Dancer for India Independence Celebration
One aside – Kerala, India has been hit with the worst monsoon in 100 years. As of today, thousands are still waiting to be rescued. More than 325 people have died over the past two weeks. There was a special part in the program today asking for collective help for the people of Kerala. Amazon and Flipkart have teamed up with NGOs engaged in relief efforts. If you wanted to help and connect with those suffering right now, here’s one way –
Log in to either of the apps and the flood relief banner will show up on the app’s home page. On Amazon, you will be led to a page with the registries of three NGOs — Goonj, Habitat for Humanity and WorldVision — from which you can choose the products you want to buy, which will then be donated to these NGOs. Thank you for the gift of your time in reading this and your consideration.
The Chinese New Year celebration began on February 8th. Philadelphia’s Chinatown put on a grand street parade today which included a performance by the very colorful lion dancers. The lion symbolizes courage, stability and superiority. The loud noise of the firecrackers going off and a mirror on the head of the lion frightens away the evil spirits. The Lion goes in search of the lettuce hung above doors. It “eats” the lettuce and a rolling crescendo from the drums, cymbals and gongs is heard as the lion spits back the leaves. This symbolizes a fresh start and a blessing upon the business. The movements of the tail of the lion is meant to sweep away the bad fortune from the year before. Hidden within the lettuce is a red envelope containing money from the shop owner thanking the lion for the blessing of luck and prosperity in the New Year. Oranges are also given and seen as a symbol of luck. There is usually an actor dressed as a fan bearer with a huge smile to remind us to approach the future with good humor and flexibility.
2016 is designated as the year of the Fire Monkey. Chinese Zodiac.com covers all the interesting facts related to personality, health, career, relationships and compatibility with other signs.
The Monkey is mischievous, lively and energetic…can you see me smiling?!!!
Happy New Year!
Smiling Fan Bearer!
New Meaning for Hip Hop
Reaching Out for a Bit of Luck
Of course what would a visit to Chinatown be without eating?! The Nan Zhow Hand Drawn Noodle House Inc. located at 1022 Race Street in Chinatown is by far one of my favorite restaurants. If you visit their web site, be sure to read the interesting history of the pulled noodles and check out their vast menu. Ending our visit with the wonderful staff, the delicious noodles topped with peanut sauce and a large take out bag was a perfect finishing touch for this day celebrating vitality and fun! The first of many!
The Reading Terminal Market, located in the center of Philadelphia, was just recognized as one of the “10 Great Public Spaces in America”. With over 6 1/2 million visitors a year to this historic and diverse landmark, The American Planning Association felt it worthy of this honor. There are 76 independently owned retailers all under one roof. This would be the epitome of “one stop shopping”! One can buy homemade cannolis, taste cheeses from around the world, dine on the culinary delights of the Amish, buy a good book and take home a beautiful bouquet of flowers to name just a few of the offerings. It is a feast for the senses and this was home for me and where I grew up!
My great grandfather (pictured second from left) was one of the first vendors at the Reading Terminal Market when it opened in 1892. My grandfather (on the left) and great uncle worked side by side with him. When my grandfather died suddenly during the depression, my grandmother had no money to bury him so the vendors took up a collection and came to her aid. This story was passed down from generation to generation so that we would realize the importance of working together and giving back. My grandmother was eternally grateful to all those around her. My father was only 13 at the time and had to drop out of school to take over the business with his older brother and of course, it doesn’t end there…when the cousins all turned 14, going to work at the market was our right of passage! My one older cousin and I drooled over Mr. Bassett’s son (the ice cream king) who worked directly across from us. Pearl had the very best fried chicken and I would always wonder how the Amish women dressed using only pins and hook and eye closures, thinking zippers and buttons would be so much easier! As a teenager, getting up at 5 o’clock on a Saturday and going to the slaughter house to pick up the meat for the day and not getting home until 9 was not my idea of fun to say the least. My mother would try to extol all the life lessons I would learn which I would of course appreciate when I got older… one being that I would meet so many many different people, personalities and cultures. (I will always remember the gaunt man who always wanted a quart of sauerkraut juice without the sauerkraut, only to find out later that it was a potent laxative…great for dinner party conversations but I digress!) Even though I didn’t want to hear it then, I have to say that she was right! One of the 10 top public spaces in America was the nucleus for my family. The place I grew up working side by side with siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. The Reading Terminal Market was also the spot that first stoked my curiosity about people and my love for travel. It was my spot of “Roots and Wings”.
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 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.
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Chase Jarvis said, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” A few weeks ago, I bought a Leica point and shoot…a great camera to carry everywhere to capture those surprise moments. This past Friday,was one of those times. I happened to be driving on Cathedral Road in Bryn Athyn, PA. I then saw a magnificent Gothic and Romanesque cathedral and postponed my original destination. This was just too beautiful to pass by. I needed to photograph it. The term sanctuary in the true sense of the word comes to mind. A sacred place of refuge. Paths meander through beautiful gardens. Benches are placed so one can just sit and take in the expansiveness. Silence is the catalyst to relaxation. Bryn Athyn Cathedral is home to the largest New Church congregation and was funded by the industrialist, John Pitcairn in the early 1900’s. The New Church is based on the teachings of the Bible as illuminated by Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century theologian and scientist. As their website states: “A notable feature of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral is the use of architectural refinements; intentional departures from vertical and horizontal straight lines (bends in elevation, curves in plan) in order to give a sense of life and movement to the building. This subtle quality represents the unpredictable path of human growth.” I was on that unpredictable path on Friday and it led to an hour of peace, relaxation and appreciation.
In 1920, Robert Frost so eloquently urged us to think about the paths we travel in life. I cannot count the number of times I have driven around the city, in a hurry with a destination, hence just passing by the expansive murals that truly grace Philadelphia, missing an opportunity to engage more. Images, beautiful colors reflecting and inspiring transformation. This week, I chose to slow down, stop and take in the stories that each mural holds… “And that has made all the difference.”
Philadelphia is the mural capital of the world with over 3,300 paintings enlivening each neighborhood. Community involvement is a critical step in determining the appropriate theme to capture moments of greatness and celebration specific to that area. After taking the Northern Liberties’ tour, I decided to go back to this area to photograph the people because as Miguel Angel Ruiz said, “Every human is an artist.” “Thedream of your life is to make beautiful art.” In Northern Liberties, both the hand and heart are creating art.
After photographing during a tour of Laurel Hill Cemetery several weeks ago, I was asked to come back for the New Year’s Eve celebration in honor of General George Meade. December 31st was the day of beginnings for him – his birthday and his wedding day. Over 300 people attended this grand celebration to honor Philadelphia’s Civil War hero. Many attendees came in period dress and served as “living historians”. Major Charles Meade, a direct descendant, was instrumental in providing the headstone for the previously unmarked grave of General Meade’s mother, Margaret Coats Butler Meade. This dedication was then followed by a ceremony at the gravesite of General Meade. Speeches were made by members of the General Meade Society, the Union League of Philadelphia, and the Allied Order of the Grand Army of the Republic. The Philadelphia Brigade Band performed and the music echoed throughout this National Historic Landmark. A champagne toast and a luncheon was the wonderful finishing touch to this event!
I recently had the great privilege of photographing in Laurel Hill Cemetery in order to showcase its grand history and beauty in video. As the website states, “It is an outdoor sculptural garden, a horticultural gem and a truly unique historical resource.” As one who loves to tell stories, this project is one I am so enjoying doing. Laurel Hill is one of the oldest Victorian cemeteries in the United States and there are 78 acres of art and history. “Victorians delighted in memorial symbolism. Sometimes the monuments reflect a common repertoire of visual symbols. Angels with upraised fingers point the way to salvation. Shattered columns indicate a premature death. Flags, calvary swords, and arms represent a military career. In many cases, symbolism reflects the person. A mortar and pestle marks the resting place of George W. Vaughan, a well known pharmacist. An eagle perches on the monument of Commodore Isaac Hull, hero of the War of 1812. Calvary spurs memorialize Benjamin Hodgson, who died in the battle of Little Big Horn.” So many fascinating people are resting here… Josepha Hale, who edited Godey’s Lady’s Book; Thomas Walter, who designed the dome of the United States Capital building. Laurel Hill has earned its distinction as Philadelphia’s Underground Museum. My great thanks go out to Alexis Jeffcoat for her warmth, welcoming and help with this project. Joseph Edgette. Phd and Richard Sauers are truly the consumate storytellers, passing along their wealth of research and knowledge so generously. Taking a tour with them is a fascinating experience. Upcoming events are: General Meade Celebration on New Year’s Eve and I am told that hundreds of people come to this so get there early. Also, you may want to be a part of their 175th Anniversary Celebration. The website provides all the fun and interesting details. Again, many thanks Alexis, Joe and Rich! (Also, Caitlin Dougherty for your camera help!)
The Byers‘ family certainly knows how to create magic and impart the Christmas spirit to everyone who is fortunate enough to pass through their doors. It is truly a wonderland with thousands of their world famous Carolers and Kindles at every turn, each with its own unique personality. Each one being hand made with such care. There is an observation deck where visitors can see the entire production process, basically still done the way Joyce created her first Carolers on her kitchen table. I was there for 6 hours with the purpose of doing a video on what a wonderful spot this is to visit. Originally, I thought two hours would be sufficient. I was so wrong! One room houses 250 nativity sets from around the world with the large centerpiece being one that was created in the 1700’s. It is one of only 4 made in the world. Besides Byers’ Choice, two of the others can be found in the White House and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visitors can learn the ways Christmas is celebrated around the world…take a walk back in time down an 18th century street in London. All generations will love this immersion into everything Christmas. Byers’ Choice Ltd.
I want to thank Joyce Byers, her son, Jeff, David Daikeler and all the gifted artists who were so amazingly kind to me and generous with their time. Each radiated the true spirit of this season. Their creations evoke feelings of happiness. Everyone is welcomed and greeted with a warm drink, and there is a strong belief in the importance of giving back to the community. What an honor to be with you all as you create your magic!