The Kayan Tribe of Myanmar

When I think about photographing the Kayaw, Kayan and Kayah tribes of Myanmar, an hour glass comes to mind. The constantly flowing sand reminding me of the passage of time and once gone, it cannot be regained. Setting out on the second day, in each village we visited we were taken right to the elders and usually the elder women. These are the ones embracing traditions of the past while the Western world starts to slowly enter in with new ways of life. It was obvious that those who accompanied us into the village were so proud of them. The women were in their 80’s and older so it was a true honor to be able spend time with, laugh with, learn from and photograph these wise women whose hearts are rooted in the past and whose eyes look out on the future.

Clement’s Auntie

Clement, our guide extraordinaire, took us to visit his Auntie in the village of Hwa Ri Ka Ku. Her lineage is that of the Kayan tribe. As soon as we pulled up, Daw Mu Nan came right out to greet us. Clement’s huge hug enveloped this tiny woman and I was so happy I had the video running. I was able to capture her giggling with us and later when Clement started to sing, he coaxed her into dancing. I love family reunions!!! To me this moment was priceless! I focused on taking still portrait photographs to hopefully capture a bit of her spirit as she looked out and took everything in and then video to capture her explanation of wearing the brass coils, her heritage and her enjoyment of rice wine! (video to come later). The sands of time are passing and every time I hold my camera up to my eye, I realize the importance of the calling and how very fortunate I am!

Clement’s Auntie, Kayan Tribe

Clement’s Auntie

We then went to the Daw Klainlin village. The women here do not wear the brass but wear shells, beads and coins. They also wear threads made from cotton with a type of liquor around their knees.

Woman At Work

This woman is a member of the Kayan Kagan tribe. We were able to photograph her after working all day and then she transformed herself into the traditional dress. I love seeing her different expressions! The adornments only compliment the beauty within!

Laughing With Us

“Oh You Are So Bad!”

“Without A Spare” A Fearless Woman’s Life of Travel by Bonnie Kassel

Without A Spare

The New York Times Travel Show is not only a catalyst, stroking the desire to see fascinating far off places but it is also a hub to meet very interesting and creative people. One postcard being handed out caught my attention straight away! Who doesn’t love a red volkswagen? A car with character and a personality for sure. One took me all through Peru! “A fearless woman’s life of travel”…yes, I am there. Put that book in my hands! I have spent the last week being on a fascinating roller coaster of travels. Bonnie is the ultimate “free spirit”. All one has to do is look at the table of contents: “Europe 101”, “Bonlez, Belgium”, “Motoring Through the Sudan”, “Eritrean Guerrillas”, “The Himalayays”, “Sri Lanka and the Maldives” to name just a few! As one who loves the visual, I was disappointed that there were so few photographs throughout the book but then I read how so many roles of film were taken while abroad (I felt Bonnie’s pain)! Her writing however was a feast for the imagination. The reader is able to breathe the same air, see vibrant colors and hear the cacophony of street sounds. Bonnie travelled with an open heart allowing so many rich and sometimes horrifying experiences to be woven into her life’s story… a train was missed but this led to crossing paths with a yacht owner! I can only imagine what an interesting conversation would have taken place if Bonnie Kassel were to sit with Robert Frost! “Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and this has made all the difference.” Reading “Without a Spare” will not only open doors to countries and cultures for the reader but will perhaps also inspire them to walk through them.

New York Times Travel Show: Oh Take Me Away!

New York Times Travel Show 2013

New York Times Travel Show 2013
As I sit inside with the temperature down to 17 degrees and the snow up to three inches as we speak, I thought I would take out my notes from Arthur and Pauline Frommer again to pass along the most popular destinations predicted for 2013. China seems to take the spot for number 1! There is a 10 night city tour available with flights from JFK for $1399. In Frommer’s words, “Everyone should see the Great Wall of China in their lifetime.” (Sounds great to me!). He said this is the best price for a destination he has been able to find.

Ireland has been suffering badly from an economic downturn. One very savy marketing company decided that since Ireland is known for its hospitality and “party spirit” that this year would be known as “The Gathering” with celebrations going on at a spot in Ireland for the entire year. I absolutely love Ireland and its people. For me, this is a definite, “going home” experience when I travel there, so I am putting together a trip in July/August.(If you would like to join us, just let me know! We will have such great “CRAIC” which in the Irish language translates to good times, gossip, music, drinking, debauchery and good clean fun!…a type of mantra for me!).

India was next in the countdown due to the exchange rate. So much can be done and purchased now making India a very popular draw. (It happens to be one of my favorite draws any year!).

Dubai is putting forth quite the effort to lure tourists, but the elder Frommer was unable to recommend this travel destination. Having never been myself, I am unable to comment.

Here at home, Miami Beach is enjoying a huge surge in tourists. Colorado and Washington have been drawing many due to the legalization of marijuana and its huge appeal. New Orleans has just completed its 3rd of 6 buildings dedicated as a World War II museum which is a fascinating exploration of history.

Caral, Peru has attracted so much attention from the pyramids and ruins discovered after nearly a decade of excavation. It is now deemed to be the oldest city in the western hemisphere. The difficulty at this point in time is that there is only one local hotel which often is filled to capacity by many archaeologists.

Frommer predicts this will one of the top destinations when they are able to keep up with the tourists coming in. Next in the line-up would be Oslo, Norway. With the building of the acclaimed Opera House, it has become a major landmark with over 1.3 million visitors in 2008 and is the largest cultural building to be constructed since the beginning of the 14th century.

Many continue to yearn for a trip to Cuba but according to the speakers, it is still too overpriced which is exactly what I have discovered so my trip is on hold.

If you saw the “Life Of Pi” and loved the scenery, Taiwan is the place to visit. Amsterdam was voted the Best in Travel in 2013 by the Lonely Planet and January 2013 was the beginning of the year-long role as Europe’s Cultural Capital which was bestowed upon Marseille,France. So many wonderful places to see and so little time (and money!). A girl can dream can’t I?!

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 Harpist: Another Way of Storytelling

As a visual storyteller, I have always been drawn to the power of the still photograph. One image can convey so very much and if strong enough, bring one to stop and breathe it in. I chose to create another way of relating the powerful and gentle story of Marilyn Lemke who is receiving chemotherapy for her second bout with breast cancer. Marilyn allowed me to come into her home and listen as she shared her life story. A former teacher who decided to play her harp at the bedside of those in hospice. It was there that she met Nancy Ostroff, a hospice nurse. Nancy saw first hand how soothing the music was and she and Marilyn became quick friends. Nancy began taking lessons from Marilyn every Monday. At other times, Marilyn has travelled around the world with Jerry Lacey while sharing a relationship spanning decades. Both were such valued and strong supports when Marilyn learned her breast cancer returned. They now sit by her side at every chemo treatment, doctors’ appointments and recently surgery to remove a brain tumor. Marilyn has made a choice to approach each treatment in a very gentle way . She visualizes each drop as a cleansing while playing her harp throughout. I had the great honor of seeing how her music brought a peace and certain joy to the infusion room at Fox Chase Hospital. Rather than stay in each small section of the room, curtains were drawn and patients were all talking. Before Marilyn began, the only sounds were that of machines and quiet whispers. Her music drifted in and melted that sterile, secluded environment. Marilyn is still very much a teacher by her gentle example. I was given a glimpse of very strong bonds of love, courage rather than fear and peace rather than war. I am so very grateful.

A Great Woman, Gentle Music and Loving Friends Standing Up To Breast Cancer

I met Marilyn Lemke by chance…at the Lancome Counter where she had just received a make-over sponsored by Fox Chase Cancer Center (although she is so beautiful without the make-up!) Marilyn was so easy to talk with. She related that this was her second bout with breast cancer and previously she saw it as a battle, this time around Marilyn brings her harp to each treatment and puts herself in the mindset of receiving a gentle cleansing. Marilyn is such an inspiration to me in the way she meets this challenge with courage, dignity and grace. She radiates a sense of peace. We became fast friends and I just knew I had to tell the story of Marilyn, her harp and her very loving friends, Nancy and Jerry.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Too many of us know friends, mothers, wives, sisters and brothers with this disease. May a cure be in sight.

2012 copyright Frances Schwabenland

In Celebration of Artists Around the World


On this rainy day in Philadelphia, I was going through my photographs and was drawn to the artists… those I met who brought color, soul and beauty into the world. Some were carrying on generational traditions. Some were doing it for survival while others just felt the need to share a gift and vision.The Italian street artists, the young girls who coax the very fine silk threads from cacoons in Cambodia and the Indian men who hand print designs on material…these are the transforming magicians who give the traveler another connection with place, spirit and people to cherish and remember.

Weekend Getaway: Annapolis, MD

Annapolis, Maryland , the location of the signing of the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War, was a perfect weekend getaway. An easy drive being only three hours from Philadelphia. Once there, it was so comfortable exploring the historic downtown streets. We did the introductory trolley tours to get the lay of the land and some very interesting facts… one being that St. John’s College founded in 1696 is the third oldest college in the United States and its liberal arts curriculum is based entirely upon the study of the Great Books and engaging with the world’s greatest thinkers, Augustine, Aristotle, Einstein, Descartes etc. (The Entire Reading List), We then went off to easily explore by foot. St. Anne’s Episcopal Church was the first stop, located one block from the Information Center. The first church was constructed in 1692 but razed and rebuilt in 1775 to “look like a proper place of worship”. Francis Scott Key, author of our National Anthem, worshipped here along with three signers of the Declaration of Independence. The kneelers represent a needlepoint project where many in the parish created colorful and beautiful designs, making prayer a bit easier on the knees. A self guided tour is provided. Besides the tremendous historical aspects to explore, Main Street is host to quaint shops and restaurants. I would highly recommend the caprese salad with delicious homemade mozzarella at Osteria 177 Restaurant. The Naval Academy is certainly a central draw and hub here. Visitors are permitted to walk the grounds after going through a security checkpoint. The chapel dome serves as a beacon and would welcome sailors back home from their time at sea. In 1913, the remains of John Paul Jones were interred in the crypt beneath the chapel. One word of warning, get there before 4…we missed it by a few minutes. It is the dream for many to marry at this sacred spot. At the end of the day, rest up and relax by many of the wonderful restaurants on the water front. The Chart House can be expensive but consistently serves excellent food. Att the end of the day The Marriott Courtyard Annapolis, Shenae Moulde, the GM, Miss Candice, Miss Aleah and Greg will take excellent care of you! Orange scones, free internet …what’s not to like. I actually want to purchase the sheets and bedding from shopmarriott.com! I am a lover of deep and peaceful sleep!

High Exposure Aerial Advertising (Video)

While laying back on the beaches of Sea Isle City, NJ. and after a conversation with my wonderful dentist, Dr. Michael Repcsik (Thanks MicK!), I began to wonder how all of those signs in the skies advertising food, fun and night life were connected to the planes. Did someone just attach the string while the plane was grounded? Sounded very simple…but the reality is, great skill and precision are needed to complete this feat correctly.

I am so very grateful to Dave Dempsey and his staff at High Exposure for welcoming a walk in stranger with a camera so easily. I loved the energy there – it was definitely one big, happy family. It was such fun to be with them. I apologize for not having a microphone windscreen for some of the shots. That wind was just kicking up and I have already made a note to self.

So, if you were like me in watching these planes for years and not giving it too much thought, hopefully now you will know a little bit more. You might even share this new found knowledge with friends next time you are laying on the beach and a huge sign for WAWA Coffee flies overhead or Kevin declaring his love for Trish!

2012 copyright Frances Schwabenland Written permission to use in any other venue must be obtained.

Amish Mud Sale, Lancaster County, PA

Each spring in Lancaster County, PA, the Amish hold auctions/sales to support the local fire companies. Delicious food, buggies, farm equipment, antiques, and hand made quilts are all for sale. Since this occurs on weekends during the spring, the grounds are usually very muddy…hence the name.

Video can be viewed on Vimeo . Just click on the link to see it in full screen. Thank you.

Reeds Beach, NJ

Reeds Beach, NJ from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

Thousands of “laughing gulls” are drawn to Reeds Beach to feast upon the multitude of horseshoe crab eggs laid in mid spring.

Cape May Variety


The architecture in Cape May, NJ is so diverse. Yesterday, I posted a picture of an historic church while right around the corner, another religious gathering spot welcomes followers with a totally different architectural style.

Sites of Cape May. NJ

The weather was beautiful and the sites in Cape May, NJ have such character…made for a wonderful weekend getaway to photograph.
St. Peter’s By The Sea, an Episcopal Church, was built in 1876 and it is on the National Register of Historical Places. Services are held seasonally.

India: Street Scenes

In the streets of India, stories abound. I attempted to provide a glimpse of the sheer variety, beauty, struggles, determination and ingenuity that is so present. Dentist and barbers can be found side by side on street corners. Monkeys, camels, elephants and sacred cows are a common site amidst the trucks and motorcycles. Markets are teaming with goods and local produce. The streets are so dynamic and call one to explore and become immersed in its rhythms.

India Street Scenes from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

India: Land of the Sacred







The chanting of the mantra, “Hare Krishna” swelling in the temple, goldenrod flowers placed at the feet of dieties, saffron robbed little boys all present a feast for the senses. Spirituality is integral to the identity of India. Several weeks ago, the New York Times covered the Hindu religious festival known as the Kumbh Mela where a, “staggering outpouring of humanity” bathed in the holy waters of the Ganges. Hinduism and Buddhism originated here. After Indonesia, India has the next highest population of Muslims. In this land, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism also lend their voices and beliefs to this diverse spiritual center. At the very moving memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, the inscription of “He Ram” meaning “Oh God” which is said to be his last words (but with some controversy) are placed at the end of a black marble slab which marks the spot where Gandhi was cremated following his assassination in 1948.
Sala is the name given to the formal prayer of Islam. During five periods of the day which are determined by the movement of the sun, devout muslims observe the ritual of bowing down to Allah in formal prayer.
For those practicing Hinduism, flowers serve as an important offering made to the gods. They symbolize the good that has blossomed within. Flowers are placed at the feet of the statue of the deity and this vigraha (image of the deity devoid of ill effects) is showered with flowers.
Many different paths with the same purpose to connect and honor.