Tag Archives: Dani Fresh

Pau: It Is Only And Ever Heart Work

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Pau leaned forward in the backseat of my friend Will’s car on the way to Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, chatting with me about ideas for my residency at Parlor Gallery, photographing women at home.

“There’s a word in German that doesn’t translate to English—called “heimat.” … It is when your heart feels at home.”

The phrase was like a memory recall. I immediately remembered the feeling I get when I’m floating in the ocean, sitting upstairs at McGrath’s, watching a band that I love play, laying on the couch with Will eating tacos, the smell of my parent’s house, scream singing Debra by Beck in the middle of a bar, walking down the hallway of the apartment I just left in Harrisburg, a hug from a close friend, watching Jill cook breakfast…

Whelp. I think I might need to do a second part to this project.

About a month or so later, at the end of her time here, Pau and I sat on the boardwalk watching the ocean. She said that the old Pau died when she arrived in Asbury this time and a new Pau was born. And I don’t know entirely what that meant for her, but I believe her… and I’m thankful to have been there with her when she was feeling new again.

“It is only and ever heart work,” she said.

Pau, doing the work—finishing up some really beautiful pieces and visiting her murals on the boardwalk one last time before flying away. Asbury Park, NJ. June, 2018.

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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

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.

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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/

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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.

 

 

Detroit: Cold Weather, Warm Hearts

“Detroit is a place where we’ve had it pretty tough. But there is a generosity here and a well of kindness that goes deep.” (Mitch Albom)

It’s true that most of my favorite adventures have been born on a whim. Respectively, my recent trip to Detroit was amazing… At the last minute, without itinerary or expectation, I decided to tag along with Andrew and his close friend, Naim. Naim, who grew up in Harrisburg, now lives in Detroit and was a wonderful host. While we were there, he introduced us to some really beautiful people— we witnessed incredible community organizing, met sweet neighbors and passionate activists, went to church and heard Naim sing in the choir (shameless plug: he’s a really great singer!), learned about the history of Detroit and it’s current narrative, ate delicious food, volunteered, made new friends, and saw some art! I came back feeling inspired… it even felt a little like I had prepared my heart for the new year.

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Thank you to Naim and his roomate, Rich, for having us at Hope House. I look forward to coming back in the spring when you’re planting to make more images… and, of course, take Rich up on his offer to teach me how to knit!

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SHEILA FRANK

This past week, SHEILA FRANK, a fashion designer and friend from Central PA, asked if Elena Jasic and I would create a few images to help launch her new campaign, #BUYateeGIVEonefree. When you buy a SHEILA FRANK tee, they will donate a plain tee to someone in need at a local shelter. Purchase one here: BUYateeGIVEonefree

I’m a sucker for art and activism all in one neat little package, especially when involves a friend. It’s exciting to see them weave bits of service into their growing businesses… It reminds me why I became friends with them in the first place and that I’m surrounded by warm hearts.

These are portraits we created for the campaign during our sweet little impromptu lady photo date and a few of Elena’s product shots.

Two things are very apparent: Elena is a mega-babe and I look like a little kid.

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We Have One Chance.

It is, for the most part, summer. And thank goodness for that. I knew it, for sure, when I was sitting out back of Justin and Brit’s in Virginia Beach over the weekend. I mean, I could really smell it: the ocean air, the smoke from the fire in the backyard, and my not-so-fresh breath from eating an entire catalogue of cheese and other snacks. I was happy and grateful for all of those smells and to feel cool grass between my toes again… I think this whole winter was pretty rough on everyone in the Northeast. But there is a recurring narrative between so many of my friends who live in this region of America: we are appreciative of all the seasons. Because after a winter of bitter cold and wind and snow and ice and straight weather-y shit, these nice days feel like winning the lottery. I love that.

Justin and Brit–I hope I say it enough and I hope that you know how much I love and appreciate you. Thank you for beach and clams and cheese and beers and fire and hugs and love. Thanks for always being supportive friends and a tremendous inspiration to love others. Thanks for the time off and time to really breathe.

“We have one chance… one chance to get everything right.
And if we’re lucky we might. 
My friends, my habits, my family; they mean so much to me. I just don’t think that it’s right. I‘ve seen so many ships sail in, just to head back out again and go off sinking.
(Modest Mouse)

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Future City

Bright kids, bright future.

Future City is a national contest that challenges middle school students to create just that, a future simulated city. Young participants learn about zoning, urban farming, local government, water and sewer treatment, sustainability, business, and more. They use Sim City to execute their plan and then they build a model, write an essay, and do a presentation. This is the group of Future City students from Camp Curtin and they’re rad kids. Hopefully this project inspires them to carry the torch… to help make their own future Harrisburg a little better.

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