Isolation

isolation2020

If ever an image could illustrate how all of this sudden emphasis on social distancing feels to me.. and although I fall more on the introvert end of the spectrum, I much prefer hibernating on my own terms.

How quaint it seems now, looking back on the month of January when I took 4 weeks away from the rest of society- on purpose- in an effort to focus on writing the first draft of my first novel. How quaint it all seems, having a glass of wine at a crowded bar, accepting a hug from a friend, taking a flight or a train ride to a bustling city for a photo shoot, going to a live concert, a hair appointment, a diner, on a date.

I’ve been photographing this tree for nine and a half years now and even though it is Tree v2.0, the scene never fails me, either serving to uplift, inspire, mystify, or reflect the weather within.

EDIT: a dear friend just sent this raw John Lennon demo of “Isolation” to me in response to this post and I wanted to include it here: https://youtu.be/nGNgsptYdDs

Like a pulsating mix of champagne and meteors

New York City skyline Photographs by Alessandra Nicole

A woman like me alone in a city like this spells trouble, which is presumed, and I wish that you were here for the adventure. I love New York City like I will never again love any inanimate object that seems real and breathing to me, she embraces me every time, my passionate lover.

I am seated in patient anticipation. I hear her voice from afar only to come around the curve after Newark and see her brightly dyed hair tumble upon the nape of her bone-white neck in the form of the latest color scheme on the top of the Empire State Building. Her hands stretch out to greet me with a different bauble for every finger of her warm-heart-cold-hands. I leave the train, climb the escalator, step through the automatic doors to 8th Avenue, and am intertwined with her once more. She steals my breath into her mouth and slaps me across the face with her icy January winds for not calling. I love her with all of my heart and I let her seduce me, caressing every part of me, until I look at my cell phone and see it’s after midnight and someone else is awaiting my arrival.

She pouts with her arms suddenly folded, the black lace strap of her bra slipping down over her shoulder, and I put my finger to her blood red lips, Shh, not tonight, but I will be back tomorrow. I’m just as disappointed to leave as she is to see me go, onto the ferry, where she closes her eyes in sorrow like a woman who knows she’s the Other One in my life, and I realize some of her glittering eyeshadow has rubbed off on my cheek. A man next to me thinks I am crying, and maybe I am a little teary at the heartstopping way her skyline is sparkling like a pulsating mix of champagne and meteors; he offers me a handkerchief.

Anyone would be jealous of the way I dream of her at night, the way I think about her throughout days away. In the morning, she awakes me with the memory of her warm deep kisses and here I sit at 9:30am, plotting the hour when I will steal away to my secret lover New York City. Oh, if only you could see us when we’re together…

words ©️Alessandra Nicole 2004

bits from Abiquiú

IMG_8108

Ghost Ranch, NM, near Abiquiú in Rio Arriba County in north central New Mexico

In March / April of this year I was able to explore the same hallowed ground that painter Georgia O’Keeffe celebrated in many of her works. Ghost Ranch was a restorative sojourn. Red faced mountains amplified the fiery sunrises and sunsets and stood protectively in silhouette when the navy night revealed billions of stunning pinholes to heaven. Free of many distractions, I spent my days on horseback admiring the landscape, in hot springs, and in my sketchbook.

IMG_8032IMG_8055IMG_8145IMG_8718BNEN3772IMG_8358IMG_8736

follow Alessandra on Instagram @Alessandra_Official

Jerry Irwin, on to his next adventure 

A few weeks ago I visited a dear friend and photography colleague, Jerry Irwin, who was placed in hospice care. He tasked me with a great project, to gather his slides and do a few things for him with them. The return of cancer had recently paralyzed him from the waist down (“It’s a bitter pill, I tell ya,” he said) and I accepted the project because I felt maybe it would be something to help keep his sharp mind going. 

“I have a business proposition for you young lady,” said a very special man from his hospital bed- of course whatever came out of his mouth next would not be anything I would turn down. 

And so I went to the studio where I gathered some of the best of his life’s work that had been stored there in slide form, and brought them with me to my drawing desk for cataloging, archiving, plan-making.


Hopelessly optimistic me didn’t fathom that we wouldn’t have months to work on this together, that we wouldn’t have many more conversations peppered with his nuanced vernacular, many more milkshakes from the Charcoal Pit, many more laughs. I was able to visit him just two more times before he passed away yesterday morning, four months and some days shy of his 81st birthday. I came to see him on Valentine’s Day and the doctors already had him in an induced “twilight state”; I just squeezed his arm softly and left, in shock at how quickly it was all happening, stunned that I couldn’t come to him with my questions about our project anymore, that that was it. 

Jerry’s work is iconic. Quintessential. He lived amongst the Amish for years and gained their trust to the extent that they allowed him to take photos of their children. He traveled the world. He rode with the Pagans and he did thousands of sky dives, even lost an eye to one. And because his ashes will be spread during an “ash jump” by his best buddies in skydiving in lieu of a formal memorial service, I will share my favorite memories of knowing this plucky Irish guy the past five years here, in my space. (And please forgive my scattered thoughts; the experience is still moving through and changing me.) 

Four of us went to see Toots and the Maytals at the Tocadero in Philly a couple of summers ago. Two left Jerry and I in the balcony to go get a round of drinks for us all before the show started. 

Looking after them as they walked away, Jerry turned to me and asked, “Where are those two off to?” and I answered, “I think they’re going to the bar.” “Well, …why?” he said, reaching down to his ankle where he pulled two little airplane bottles of liquor out of his sock! Ha!! 

He was my absolute favorite rockabilly punk and his work will not only live on, it will also educate and inspire the next waves of photographers. It’s been an education sitting at my desk here with some of his greatest work in front of me the past three weeks and I’ve learned a lot from him at the studio (and on the birthday sushi dates he would take us on each fall.) 

His pragmatic views on life and passion and dedication to his subjects- the way he would live with a subject for years and really get inside of it- so much meat and marrow there the rest of us as documentarians, historians, social anthropologists, and general observers can learn from. Jerry to me was a national treasure and those who knew him know he was far too humble to ever hear me when I said it to him. Grounded, salt to the earth, decent, completely open and generous with whatever he had. He’d leave two pieces of the best carrot cake on earth in the fridge at Northbrook for us to find when we returned from travel as a thank you for letting him stay when actually he was the one doing US the favor keeping an eye on things while we were away. 

I don’t know why everything feels like it’s a Grand Canyon away and also like it’s right on the other side of my cheek sometimes, how my raw heart could feel like it’s made of wood at the moment with this small hollow place inside of it, but I know that Jerry’s next grand adventure involves much bluer skies than today’s, and that this profound body of work sitting in front of me that allows me to see this world through his eyes has even more gravity and beauty, is even more vivid and eternal, and blessed. 


I took this snapshot of Jerry taking a snapshot of me at his 80th birthday dinner late last June. Longtime friend Chris at the left and longtime love Janice at the right. 

So put on some Mott the Hoople, crack open a beer, and think of our friend Jerry for a bit this eve. 

Peace + Ease

It’s been a turbulent few months politically stateside inviting plenty of opportunities to unplug and allow the soul to expand and exhale. So busy- I haven’t had enough time on my hands to keep up with my blog so I’ll just put this little slice of heaven 

right 

         about 

                       here.  ☺️

some more regional magazine work 

We picked up a stack of magazines from the studio over the weekend that included a note from my wonderful editor:

   
I was dispatched last month to meet a writer in Cecil County, MD to photograph farmer Robin Way and her circa 1700s cruelty-free, nonGMO, organic, grass fed, non pesticide working farm Rumbleway. Here are a few of the many images I took there that were published as part of a great profile written about Rumbleway.

  
Robin Way has run the farm with her husband since the 1990s.

 
Local artist Bill Dunlop painted this mural to greet visitors as they drive up to Rumbleway Farm.

   
An intern collects eggs from a mobile hen house. 

Komorebi

  
The Brandywine River. Has nurtured, inspired, and been the backdrop for generations of fine artists in southern Chester County, PA. The house where i live backs up to it and a few inches out of frame is a fantastic and simple old wooden tree swing that invites you to kick your legs out over this river of great heritage.

Autumnal Mums

It’s that time of year again! I bought purple mums to greet our guests at a wonderful little soirée we threw at the studio a couple of weekends back. The stunning marmalade-colored mums were given to us that night by our favorite friends Chris+Albert as a host gift. 

We mixed and sipped and mingled and then all headed to Longwood Gardens to see my friend’s brilliant light and sound installation “Nightscape”. It’s gotten incredible press and is only up for a few more weeks- a Must See!  More info: http://longwoodgardens.org/nightscape
 

4 years ago… 10 years ago happened 

This was from four years ago today… Popped up in my Facebook newsfeed and is worth remembering what I went through, curating a ten year commemorative exhibit (by request) of the biggest event in my life. I definitely got by with a little help from my friends! It was a collaborative effort that included a reading of an award winning off Broadway play and the authentic music of my Kabul-born musician and dear friend.  A well-rounded, personal, deeply intimate event. 

Here is a link to another small interview / article published about my experience: Delaware Photographer’s images of lower Manhattan on 9/11/01 to be exhibited in downtown Wilmington on the 10th anniversary

 

catskills gravity

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

   
 

  My pistol of a great aunt Freya from Amsterdam. She grew up in nazi occupied Holland. She makes award-winning dandelion wine, is a consummate storyteller, sharp wisecracker, and is a well-read, multi-lingual, vibrant, inspiring, formidable spirit. There really aren’t enough words to describe the All of her! 
 
 
Great aunt Bunny, her twin sister (my paternal grandmother), their brother in front of the little chapel on the Karsch family farm in upstate NY, early 1930s)

   
The little chapel on the Karsch family farm today, 2015

 < 
It’s really cool inside, the family has Christmas Eve service annually and hold occasional memorial and wedding services there

 
Twins, their brother, and my great grandmother on the family farm I visited every summer growing up. Apparently, the twins worked the farm as their father preferred to play music and on any instrument around. My grandmother finally “escaped” the farm to go to Temple University in Philly to become a nurse. To this day she’s still a hard working woman and my favorite pen pal. Her “little” brother- my well-spoken great uncle Willard- and wife Freya reside on the land now.  Willard rebuilt the house pictured, preserving many of its original elements. 
  

Mural in Middleburgh, NY

   
  
   
  My second great grandmother Dorothy (first one passed away before I met her and my great grandfather remarried) lived here in town for years and I stayed with her often as a young girl. It’s just ten minutes’ drive from the family farm up on the mountain.
 
Here’s lookin at you, Kid  


Next- to make it full-circle to my birthplace of Stuttgart (when there was still a West Germany) to reconnect with the maternal side of my family. 

  
My very first passport as a German import – ha!!

  
Me with my EU / German passport 

Zuppa Toscana, a recipe for staying warm

While spring is struggling to maintain altitude in the northeast and midatlantic, we are keeping hearty soups on the menu. It was below freezing last night, will be again tonight, and again this coming weekend! Philadelphia forecasters warn that we won’t be able to put our snow shovels away for good until after April 15th! 

Here is a photo from a lighting test for an upcoming cooking shoot on an icy day in southern Chester County, PA recently. This is Chez Dejardins’ Zuppa Toscana, a similar recipe below.

    

 Zuppa Toscana 

  • 1 pound(s) Italian Sausage (spicy)
  • WE RECOMMEND Esposito’s sausage, located in the heart of Philly’s Italian Market mmm
  • 4-6 Russet Potatoes :bite sized cubes
  • Onion :minced
  • 1/4 cup(s) REAL bacon pieces
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Garlic :minced
  • 32 ounce(s) Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 bunch(es) Kale (or Swiss Chard) :destem & cut/torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup(s) Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Flour

Prep Time: 20 Minutes 
Cook Time: 5 Hours, 30 Minutes 

  1. 1. Brown sausage links in a sauté pan.
  2. 2. Cut links in half lengthwise, then cut slices.
  3. 3. Place sausage, chicken broth, garlic, potatoes and onion in slow cooker.
  4. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and meat.
  5. 4. Cook on high 3-4 hours (low 5-6 hours) until potatoes are soft.

  6. 30 minutes before serving:
  7. 5. Mix flour into cream removing lumps.
  8. 6. Add cream and kale to the crock pot, stir.
  9. 7. Cook on high 30 minutes or until broth thickens slightly.
  10. 8. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.
  11. 9*. Serve with Alsace, stoke the fire in the fire place, and nosh leisurely while gazing out over the hilly serenity of quintessential horse country in southern Chester County, PA
  12.   
  13. *substitute for enjoying the best of your unique surroundings 🙂

unexpected Snow!

I am cozy, hot coffee in-hand, in my creative nook today editing last night’s event shoot while listening to Neil Finn as the snow falls softly outside- this late in March! I can’t believe I’m hearing snow plows scraping along the curvy bend outside the house. It was 65° just three days ago! Some craggy old seasons truly don’t know when to let go, move on, stop it’s petty vanity and let the new season settle in- WE ARE ALL READY for it. Your grace has withered away and you have Long overstayed. Winter, you are OVER! As Neil Finn sings in his song Recluse, you are like a “dog pissing on a statue,” trying to mark your territory and get your last shots in before delving back down below the equator. Go bully another continent! Give us fresh flourishing sun-kissed Spring! Freedom and light and colour and life-giving inhales and exhales! 

A morning glance from my personal Instagram account:  My day lily looks forlornly out at the snowy vista. She was looking forward to being planted outside this weekend but we’ll likely wait another week. 

I have seen the world turning
in time you’ll find that some things
travel faster than light
In time you’ll recognise that love is larger than life 
-Neil Mullane Finn, Faster Than Light

We got to see Neil Finn perform last year on Apr 11th at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA, front and center, and were sent home swooning on a moonbeam of love. Such a great show! 

March Force

It is March 4th and this week in southeastern Pennsylvania we have been experiencing the strangest winter weather yet. 

A 3-day storm is moving through and has brought us water in every form! Yesterday, everything was quickly encased in an inch of solid ice. Today brought temps in the 40s so the lingering snow from last week began to melt which caused a magical fog. Tonight it has been raining torrentially and after midnight the rain is forecast to turn to snow that will bring upwards of 6″ in accumulation. 







View these images on Alessandra’s Instagram: Alessandra_Official

Sunday Epeolatry

Yesterday, we tucked ourselves hand-in-hand, book-bossomed, into a warm coffee shoppe with our recent findings from the book trader on 2nd + Market to try to revive a little inner apricity and to kill time before catching a film.

Taking a moment between pages and sips of fresh coffee in my typical state of glowy vorfreude to steal a glance at and a gaze from my mate, I noticed this fun typography:

2015/01/img_7228.jpg

Find Alessandra on Instagram @Alessandra_Official | Twitter @novembergrlfoto