Farewell, Harrisburg

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Six years ago, when I moved into this apartment at the Simon Cameron School, I was working long days—shooting photos during the day and bartending at Speakeasy at night… One night, after closing the bar, I dragged ass down the hallway of my place, dumped my bags right in the middle of the floor and thought, “I am so fucking glad to be home.”

I felt this very sweet, exhausted joy as I realized that this was the first time I felt like I was “home” since I was in high school. It was so profound. I leaned up against the wall and wept… and then laughed. And crawled in to bed.

I loved this apartment in this place with all of you people.

With the help of a small army, I moved out last month. I said goodbye to my apartment in a fit of tears and red wine. I’m sure I could have found another apartment in Harrisburg, but I’ve been restless for months. It felt like time to go.

I’m thankful that I didn’t leave Harrisburg because I dislike it or I’m running from something… I thrive when I’m traveling and I’m stoked to put myself in a state of agitation to push forward and grow.

I am filled with gratitude for everyone who helped me… whether you came over and kept me company, helped me sort and pack, fed me hot dogs and grilled veggies, or did the heavy lifting. Moving sucks. Y’all are true friends. I appreciate you.

I made my way to Asbury Park for the summer to live with my friend, Jill, and to do a residency at Parlor Gallery. Months ago, I approached Juicy Jenn, my friend and one of the owners of the gallery, and told her that I wanted to photograph women at home. I adore environmental portraiture and I’m so excited to make images of women in their residence—in their space.

At the time, it was so silly that I didn’t realize the significance of losing my own home and wanting to make these images. Everything has slowly shifted into focus though. What wasn’t a thought at the time now seems so obvious.

Dearest Harrisburg, you are the biggest part of my heart. Thank you for being so tender. Thank you for being my home.

Love always,

Fresh

You Saved HACC Arts: Shawna Purdy-Beaver & Ariana Bronson

How profound it is to be resilient… Thanks to the students who took time to share their stories with me. Thank you for demonstrating strength in community and the value of art. And thank you to HACC for listening to the needs of your students and community.

You saved HACC Arts.

A few weeks ago, students and professors at Harrisburg Area Community College quickly took action, organized, and worked with the college’s administration to restore arts courses that had recently been removed from the curriculum.

Due to their efforts, five of the six courses have been reinstated for the Fall 2018 class schedule and HACC’s President, Dr. John “Ski” Sygielski, has promised that the college will continue to better assess the needs of it’s students.

https://theburgnews.com/news/hacc-restores-arts-offerings-in-response-to-complaints-from-students

I spent time with some of the students who are not only enrolled currently in those classes, but are part of a tight-knit community of makers thriving and supporting each other through the arts programs at HACC. As of Wednesday, they are relieved and excited to continue their arts education here at the community college.

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Shawna Purdy-Beaver throwing in the ceramics studio at HACC. March, 2018.

Shawna Purdy-Beaver originally worked as a hairdresser and hair educator in Harrisburg. In 2013, after owning two different salons, raising her children, and getting married, she decided to go back to school. Shawna started taking photography courses at HACC… which led her to explore glass art and eventually, ceramics as well. “I fell in love with ceramics!” she states passionately.

Shawna hopes to eventually open an arts center. She has always loved to teach and is fervent about the ‘desire in [her] heart’ to open a place in Harrisburg where people of all ages can come to learn to be makers of art. Agency through art and the programs at HACC helped her discover her own gifts and she wants to help others do the same. “When you get involved in the arts you always hear people say, ‘I always wanted to try that…,’ and I want to have a place where people can try it. I don’t care if you’re 80 or 95 [years old],” she says, “come on in here. We’ll find you a slow wheel and some soft clay and we’ll teach you how to throw.”

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Ariana Bronson shows her classmates, Megan Caruso and Allanah Green, the progress she has made experimenting with crystalline glazes in the ceramics studio at HACC. March, 2018.

Ariana Bronson was homeschooled and cyber-schooled before coming to HACC to study ceramics in the Fall of 2015. Ari comes from a family that cherishes the arts and, as a result, states that she has, “always had a tactile sense of learning.” Acknowledging the cost of tuition at four year institutions and hoping to avoid extraneous debt, she values her education and resources here at the community college. A large portion of her time in the studio is dedicated to experimenting with and developing her own crystalline glazes and building a portfolio to apply to four year schools to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

“I’ve been president of the ceramics club at HACC for the past two years,” she says. “It has been what I consider to be one of the most valuable learning experiences in my life so far. The sense of community that we have and share is like no other.”

Save HACC Arts: Allanah Green & Roderick Dixon

Students and professors at Harrisburg Area Community College recently discovered that the college has cut valuable courses from the arts program. Strategically, as enrollment for the next semester opened, classes including ceramics, screen-printing, printmaking, and glass quietly disappeared from the catalog.

Last week, I spent time with some of the students who are not only enrolled currently in those classes, but are part of a tight-knit community of makers thriving and supporting each other through the arts programs at HACC.

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Allanah Green in the hot shop of Harrisburg Area Community College. March, 2018.

Although she initially came to HACC for equestrian studies, Allanah was always fascinated with glass. When she learned that the program existed, she quickly switched her major to pursue Fine Arts. Following the switch, her life was quickly consumed by glass. “[The hot shop] was the first place I felt accepted.” After graduating, she continues to audit the class–building a portfolio to apply to bachelors programs at four year art schools. Without access to the shop, she will not be able to build a glass portfolio.

The shop, tucked behind the Rose Lehrman Arts Center is student maintained and also partially student built. “I fix everything,” she states confidently. She is adamant about how important it is to be trained in the maintenance of the shop in addition to developing skills as a maker. Students here develop well rounded, valuable skills that make them strong assets to programs at other schools and established glass shops.

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Roderick (Rod) Dixon sitting with his classmate and friend, Allanah Green, before heading into the hot shop at HACC. March, 2018.

This isn’t Rod Dixon’s first experience at Harrisburg Area Community College. Initially, Rod came to HACC to pursue a career change in 2002. He received an Associates in Web Design and subsequently moved on to Duquesne University, finishing a Bachelor of Science in Leadership and Computer Systems Technology and then a Masters in Information Systems from Shippensburg University. Since then, he has been working as a business professional in the Harrisburg area.

After purchasing a new camera, Rod eventually returned to HACC in 2014 to take a beginning digital photography class. Once again realizing his endless capacity for learning, he began to foster his new curiosity for the arts in photography. While waiting for photography courses to be offered in the evenings to accommodate his schedule, Rod was also introduced to glass. He immediately fell in love with the process and the hot shop promptly became a happy home for his creativity. Currently, Rod is working on an Associates in Fine Arts in Photography with a focus in Glass Arts at HACC as well as a MBA from Western Governors University and hopes to eventually open an arts focused business.

“The possibility that we won’t have this anymore is extremely disheartening.” Rod speaks sweetly of Allanah, his other classmates, and future students who will potentially never have the opportunity to explore glass art. He has found camaraderie and community through the arts program, specifically the glass courses, at HACC. “Glass forces you to form a bond,” Allanah adds. The hot shop can be a dangerous environment and it is crucial to communicate clearly, trust each other, and develop supportive, nurturing relationships as classmates and fellow makers.

Rod is determined to help the administration come up with solutions to keep these classes in the community college. “To figure out ways to try to save this program is on the top of my agenda… to push [HACC] to do the right thing.”

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Please consider signing the student petition below and share your personal stories about HACC Arts with the hashtag #saveHACCarts.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/764/582/810/save-the-arts-at-hacc/

 

Save HACC Arts: Morgan Crumlich

Students and professors at Harrisburg Area Community College recently discovered that the college will be cutting valuable arts programs from the curriculum. Strategically, as enrollment for the next semester opened, programs including ceramics, screen-printing, printmaking, and glass quietly disappeared from the catalog.
 
In hindsight, one thing seems truly telling: a couple years ago, HACC ceased advertising for their arts programs.
 
Community colleges, like HACC, were erected with great purpose: to give access and opportunity to all. Underprivileged students and students of color who otherwise cannot afford to pursue higher education at a four year institution, students unsure of their path seeking opportunities to be curious and creative, and adult students with tricky schedules and families are a large makeup of HACC’s student body.
 
While it is true and necessary that HACC offers quality trade and workforce driven programs, numerous courses and programs that transfer to four year colleges, it is unacceptable for the institution to strip such a diverse arts program that serves those demographics. By doing so, HACC perpetuates the struggle of access and agency historically denied to underprivileged people.
 
Frankly, this is exhausting and sad. And I am not in the business of explaining privilege and the value of the arts to the largest community college in Pennsylvania.
 

I do, however, always believe in the power of people’s stories.

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Above is an image of Morgan, who my close friends and I lovingly deemed the “Friend-tern” in the summer of 2016. (Friend-tern [noun]: an intern who wins your heart and becomes a fast friend.)
 
Two years ago, after finishing photography and glass at HACC, Morgan was accepted to Tyler School of Art at Temple and has since been working exclusively with glass. She also plans on pursuing her MFA and eventually returning to the Harrisburg area to pursue a career as a maker and teacher of glass.
 
Morgan was devastated by the news.
 
“That one small decision to step into [the glass] studio [at HACC] entirely changed the course of my life.
 
Glass is a medium that extends far past its materiality and process. I am constantly learning from the material everyday. It has taught me invaluable lessons about community and perseverance. It consistently challenges me to be a better maker and person. It was in that studio that I found my home.”
 
I took this image at a happier time: Morgan feeling the warmth of the new sunrise on her face. The reflection in the water like glass. Her first road trip with me. Her first time this far away from home. Her first time on a sailboat. Portland, ME. July, 2016.
 
Please consider signing the student petition below and share your personal stories about HACC Arts with the hashtag #saveHACCarts.

Sprocket Mural Works: Harrisburg Mural Fest

(Story originally published in The BURG)

“It was an event like central PA had never seen before.

Over the course of 10 days last month, more than a dozen murals were created as part of the Harrisburg Mural Fest. Sprocket Mural Works asked local, national and even international artists to paint murals in Shipoke, downtown and Midtown Harrisburg, supplementing the projects with several mural-themed social and educational events. It all ended with a tremendous block party on State Street.

In this photo feature, photographer Dani Fresh shows us some of these stunning works of art, captured during and soon after their creation.” (Lawrance Binda)

There are probably thousands of images of these newly painted, beautiful walls. And hot dog, they are wildly beautiful walls and wonderful perspectives. But the most striking thing about the Harrisburg Mural Fest was the profound willingness of artists to invite an entire city to be a part of the process of creating art. It is brave, vulnerable, and sweet—and it is one thing to say that murals are tools for civic engagement; it is another to witness it on such a grand scale.

These images are a collection of gestures and moments that exist between working diligently, talking to and engaging with people passing by, teaching and guiding students and eager community volunteers, and eventually, the triumphant finish of a long project.

http://www.sprocketmuralworks.com/

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Women’s March on Washington

Just some personal notes of reflection: I recently found myself reading a pretty provocative cocktail of books… A friend gave me “The Gift of Anger” by Arun Gandhi while I was in middle of reading “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

One thing is truly glaringGandhi and MLK’s ideas of non-violence have been so perverted by connotations of passivity. Practicing non-violence does not mean a movement is non-confrontational. Non-violence does not equate legality with morality. Movements rooted in non-violence acknowledge the plight of marginalized people who have turned to violence in the throes of oppression.

In order to be loving and empathetic, we must understand systems of oppression and mindfully learn ways to foster agency for those who have historically been disenfranchised. 

———-

Anger is a powerful tool in the hands of the oppressed. It is the industrious force behind action and in this case, is the vehicle for change. A year ago on January 21, 2017, an estimated 725,000 gathered in Washington D.C. and an estimated 4 million people gathered worldwide in solidarity for the Women’s March. It was visually commanding to witness the sheer density of people that filled the streets. According to the Washington Post, it “was likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history.” But gathering in cites across the world was only the beginning. Among countless actions of resistance this year and following it with gusto, a record number of women are running for office and Tanara Burke’s “Me Too” movement which was created originally in 2007 as “a grass-roots movement to aid sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities where rape crisis centers and sexual assault workers weren’t going” has reached women across the world. “Empowerment through empathy” is being employed to help speak about experiences of sexual harassment and assault. And the momentum is only building.

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Collective Quarterly Basecamp: Darien, GA

Georgia in July is HOT. I mean, really hot. It’s the kind of hot people like me from Pennsylvania don’t even know. The kind of hot where you step outside and you just immediately sweat–and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re just wet and salty. And there are mosquitos. So many mosquitos. They ate me alive. My legs were reminiscent of a crime scene straight out of an episode of Criminal Minds. I guess I have what people call “sweet blood.” Folks there would look at my legs and say, “OOF! Have you tried *any number of bug repellents*?” or, “Yes, ma’am. I see you’ve discovered our Georgia State Bird.” (Yes, the “bird” is referring to the damn mosquitos.) But in spite of the sweltering heat and all the damn bugs, I loved being in Darien–a small town of about 2,000 people in Southern Coastal Georgia. I was there to attend a photojournalism workshop hosted by Collective Quarterly and, almost as soon as my feet hit the ground, I was graciously invited into peoples’ homes, to their pool parties, their neighborhood bars, to church, onto their boats, etc. and I am thankful for the things I learned, the kindness of those who are no longer strangers, the food we shared, and the wine we drank. Oh, and I am especially thankful for all the tequila I drank with Martha on her porch and the beautiful summer nights in Tolomato Island.

Revisiting my experiences from the workshop months later has been edifying. I have been able to think a bit more critically about what I learned and what I need to work on while creating stories in the future. I know that I am privileged to have these opportunities. I feel at peace with acknowledging my shortcomings, correcting my bad habits, and allowing others to affirm my strengths and encourage me. I was challenged, for sure, but more importantly, I feel exponentially more so prepared to critically look at my own work without feeling like I’ve hit a wall with every project.

I’d like to thank Jesse Lenz, Seth Putnam, and the rest of the team at Collective Quarterly for taking the time to organize these workshops and bringing all of us together. Thank you for choosing to be people who curate spaces where we can all learn and feel encouraged and nurtured. Thank you for publishing my photo of Martha in the Golden Isles issue. Thank you to my photo editors, Benjamin Rasmussen and Judith Puckett-Rinella, for guiding me, letting me know that I am enough, and that my heart is a valuable resource. Thank you, specifically to Ben, for establishing what I need to work on while captioning… even if all of that information didn’t materialize in this project, your words were exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you to Rita, my workshop roomie, for almost instantly becoming my friend. You are a light. And thank you to all of the other speakers, photo editors, photographers, and to all the sweet humans that we met in Darien. I feel like a very lucky Dani Fresh.

RitaKovtun_DaniFresh_DarienGA_072017Photo by Rita Kovtun.

*

Portraits from Darien, GA. July, 2017.

“If you stop in a place and just take the time to talk to people and care—people just want to be cared for… and no one does that anymore,” Martha said one night while having dinner with friends at Skippers Fish Camp.

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She and her husband, Maurice, moved into a historic house up near Tolomato Island on October 31, 1992. “It was a full moon with an appropriate owl just outside the window that night.” Mrs. Garnett, the woman that previously owned the house lost her husband in 1924 and lived in the house alone until she passed in 1960. In the interim, it was a “vacation house” for Martha’s family. “She used to chloroform herself to sleep every night,” she says of Mrs. Garnett. The bottle is still on a shelf in the kitchen. Martha now lives in the house alone.

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Pastor George is the pastor at the First African Baptist Church. It will be 195 years old this December. They have service every 2nd and 4th Sunday. He also makes a mean rack of ribs.

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“I was homeschooled. It was really hard because I loved being around people… I had to learn how to be alone.” Joscelyn has lived in Darien since she was 9 years old and began homeschooling in the middle of the 3rd grade. She is frank about her struggle with depression and anxiety.

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Sister Ophelia is a member of the congregation at the First African Baptist Church and performs with the Gullah-Geechee Shouters. “We’re performing in Savannah tomorrow!” She is very persistent about Darien’s story being told accurately. “My mother-in-law, Sister Margie B Washington. She’s an encyclopedia about Darien.”

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Dee and her husband, George, just built their house in Tolomato Island. She is a waitress during the day at Blue Bay Mexican Restaurant. “We really love it here.” She lists numerous locals that they have become close with including a number of shrimpers. “Really, really wonderful, salt-of-the-earth people,” she repeats.

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Lime and his wife, Toni also live in Tolomato Island. They have lived there since 2009. He urgently created a 2-page outline on why, “Darien is so incredible!” Originally, Lime is from England and Toni is from Columbus, Ohio. They have an antique tray with a faded photo of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip on it. He brings her tea on the tray every morning.

And here is the essential document:

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“I hate Spanish moss. It’s messy.” Mario said with a grimace. He and his wife, Joanne, are originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He cuts Martha’s grass.

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John Wayne Anderson has lived in Darien his whole life. He’s also been a shrimper his whole life. He speaks soft and is astonishingly polite. He says, “Yes, ma’am,” with a subtle head bow.

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Bobby and Gina both graduated in 2002 from the same high school. “It’s just home, “ Bobby explains why he still lives in Darien.

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Brother Abraham grew up in Darien and moved back after living all over the US working construction on bridges. “It’s fine here,” he shrugs. Once a year, he escapes to the Gulf Coast of Florida for a few days to watch the sunset.

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Rob and his wife Anita live in the condos by the water near Skippers Fish Camp. They split their time between their house located in the mountains of Georgia and Darien. There is an alligator that follows their Boykin Spaniel, Trout, along the dock every time they board their boat.

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Melanie is a ‘life of the party.’ “Sit down and talk to us,” she winks.

Gather The Spirit For Justice: Common Ground Cafe

It is one of my favorite places to volunteer.

One of the most remarkable people I have ever photographed in Harrisburg, Naed Smith, introduced me to Common Ground Café. Naed is a neighborly presence in Allison Hill—called to vocation as the manager of the Catholic Worker House on Market Street. He is a tall, burly man who always greets people with literal and proverbial open arms. And, of course, he is almost always present here…

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Specifically, at Common Ground Café, they foster a safe, loving space to build community and the people who gather there embody the qualities that are essential to serve our homeless and underserved neighbors.

This is a mash-up of organizers, volunteers, and neighbors who come together for sit-down, restaurant style breakfast every second and last Saturday of the month.

And if it is a thing on your mind or on your heart, they’re always looking for volunteers. I hope you’ll join them.

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Thank you to Jeff Sigel from Gather The Spirit and my bud, David Yancey who helped out and made it possible for me to make images in this space. You’re both real swell fellas and I appreciate you, for sure.

http://gatherthespirit.webs.com/
Email Clay Lambert at commongroundbreakfast@gmail.com to volunteer.

New Year, Still Beating.

I’m going to level with you… 2016 was a weird year.

I felt a little lost, mismanaged my time, felt unnecessarily stressed, lacked balance, etc. And that’s a really difficult thing to admit to myself, but accepting that I have so many things to improve on actually feels good. Growth is exciting… and in the future, I know I need to stay focused and a little more structured. I need to give myself more time to work on personal projects and feel inspired. I need to take time away from work to be present with friends and family. I need to allow myself to be in more spaces where I am able to learn and grow as a photographer and as a curious person. Yes, all of these things, for sure.

That being said, this year wasn’t all bad. I still had a lot of beautiful experiences including the work I did on Marilyn Schlossbach‘s cookbook, seeing young people that I mentored show their work in Asbury Park with Jill Audra Bartlett, recording protest songs with my dear friend Koji & a water justice choir in Detroit, continued work with TheBurg, Sprocket Mural Works, Capital Region Water, Bare Bones Theatre Ensemble, and other wonderful friends and clients. I photographed some truly joyful weddings, had a summer intern (Morgan Crumlich, you are a treasure), taught photography at the Full STEAM Ahead Summer Day Camp at Marshall Math Science Academy, explored Acadia National Park, Portland, ME, and Pueblo, CO, and spent a week documenting in Detroit with Naïm at Voices For Earth Justice. All of these things make me immeasurably happy.

So now I’m onward to 2017:

The first thing I did this year was update the portfolios on my website! WHEW! WHAT A TASK THAT WAS! Ha! I hope you’ll take a moment to go look at the images there.

I will always be in love with people. They are so valuable and this is where I collect beautiful bits of them that they are willing to share with me: http://danifresh.com/

——————–

This is a photo of Morgan. We stayed in a yurt in Maine. And drank a lot of tequila. That was pretty cool. (Thanks for going on an adventure with me.) Durham, ME. July, 2016.

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Full STEAM Ahead Summer Day Camp

“The best camera is the camera that’s with you.”

Recently, I saw this post in The NY Times about “What Makes a New York City Kid?” In it was a video compilation of kids in different parts of the city who “agreed to document their daily lives” on their smartphones and while I was watching it, it struck me… How sweetly honest and accurate the footage was because they had been given the power to control their own narratives.

I will say this now and forever:

Giving young people agency is important. 

Similarly, here in Harrisburg, Jump Street puts creative tools in the hands of young people in the city through programs like Full STEAM Ahead Summer Day Camp. With the help of local artists in residence, teachers and administrators, student mentors, and volunteers, young students are introduced to a diverse plume of the arts and are able to choose mediums to express themselves.

During the camp this summer, I was asked to teach photography. For a week, we talked about color and composition, history and tools, and made images with Fuji Instax. My heart grew each time I witnessed their joy with the Polaroid-like prints rolling out the tops of the cameras like magic. They made portraits, documented other classes and spaces, and self-published their work by creating zines. The students were tremendously sweet and hilarious, tough and opinionated, super sharp and very determined… but most importantly, through all of the classes, they left with the power to create their own stories.

THANK YOU to Jump Street for having me, the student mentors and my intern, Morgan, for helping me, and the students for obliging me. I hope we can do it all again in 2017!

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Full STEAM Ahead Summer Day Camp from Dani Fresh on Vimeo.