University of Hartford Commencement

Posted on in Education


 "I'm the only grandma in my class," says Mary Beth Johnson, as she nuzzles her granddaughter Lily at today's University of Hartford Graduate Commencement Ceremony (MS in nursing).




"You did it," yells out Daniel Levasseur as a friend walks across the stage at today's Commencement celebration for all students receiving advanced graduate and PhD diplomas. 



Faculty members got into the spirit of the day, celebrating the students as they receive their diplomas.






After getting his diploma, Daniel Levasseur unzipped his robe to reveal his superhero belt to the delight of the crowd! And then the celebration began as students recessed to their family and friends.






Joy was everywhere as the graduates reunited with family, friends, and fellow graduates. The 11 members of the first graduating class in the new Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) program celebrate (below).  Good luck to all of today's graduates and may your new lives commence!!




Autumn Beauty at Amherst College

Posted on in Education



I spent a wonderful day at Amherst College photographing outdoors and going into classes.  I LOVED the students who all seemed so open and happy and I felt nostalgic for the fluid, freewheeling discussion of ideas.








If only the beautiful late day light hadn't faded so fast.....






A Day at Baltimore's Krieger Schechter Day School

Posted on in Education


Don't you love when joy happens like this??????  I love, as a photographer, when a moment happens spontaneously that just stirs a 'yes, yes, yes' feeling inside.  This was that moment for me during an all-day shoot at the Krieger Schechter Day School in Baltimore.  There's a purity and openness in kids this age.  It can't be faked.  It's there or it's not.  At KSDS it's there alot. 

When Bil Zarch, former Head of School at LGA Schechter in Northampton, MA, called asking me to come to Baltimore to photograph his new school, Krieger Schechter Day School, I was thrilled. Bil, a wonderfully dynamic and spirited leader, had moved from a school of 96 to a school of 370, a challenge he was hungry for.  We were sorry to see him go from up here.

The day starts early - he's outside the school building at 7:30 am shaking hands with each and every student, whose names he learned quickly.



Whiteboards are used in most of the classes and it's amazing to see pint sized kids navigating the tools of technology.



Of course, there was also plenty of good old fashioned science experiments, including one I'm embarrassed to say I still can't figure out (below) of a balloon on a wine bottle sitting in a pan of boiling water.  In 60 seconds the balloon fills up. It's bad when a group of second graders have a more sophisticated understanding of scientific principles than I do, but so it is! Just listening to them offer opinions and predictions beforehand stunned me. 












At the end of a day that includes kindergarten Hebrew lessons taught with a turtle puppet (above), it's pick up time. Moms, dads, kids, dogs, hugs and a ride home filled with stories from a school that knows how to mix learning with fun.  




Posted on in Education

23-20. The final score of the hard fought Amherst-Williams game at Amherst College's homecoming this Saturday!!  The school spirit of students and alums alike was fabulous.  I was blown away by the facepaint, the joy, and the look of students so thoroughly exhuberant.



Even the college's president, Biddy Martin, got into the act, cheering and shaking her purple pom poms...

I was moved too by the return of dozens of team captains to mark the final game played on Pratt Field, which is about to be renovated. Leading the march of captains was Maury Longsworth, Class of '54, (right) who at 80 years old was the oldest returning captain. With him at the game was his son, also an alum, and his grandson Stewart Longsworth, a current freshman at Amherst. Talk about Legacy!

I didn't stick around for the parties, but if they were half as much fun as the Homecoming Football game - with the added fun of a half time odd-even alumni class game of beach ball football -  everybody had a grand time. I never even thought about attending a football game as an undergraduate.  Maybe I should have. 





Camp Season

Posted on in Education, Non Profits


(JCC/Andrew Pinnock Football Camp, Bloomfield, CT)


(Mandell JCC Sports Jam Golf Camp, West Hartford, CT)

(Multi-Arts Camp, Amherst MA)

Last week was a week of camp assignments, and something obvious - but intriguing - struck me as I was editing the images: Boy are there a lot of different kinds of kids!!!! And different kinds of camps, each a mini-haven where kids get to throw themselves into what they love, and only what they love, with other kids who love the same thing they do!!! Just looking at the three pictures above - the kids embody the activity in a way I find amazing. 

There were no grumpy, I-hate-this-activity mopey kids to be seen. Even in the crazy humid heat, no-one complained.  They played their hearts out in the sports camp, painted sets and created costumes in the arts camp, and wore their joy on their faces throughout.

(Multi-Arts Camp, Amherst MA)

I never went to camp, except for a week of animation camp at the Y in NYC sometime when I was 10 or 11. I'm not sure I even knew anyone who went to camp.  It was a different time. We were shipped out of the sweltering city every summer to our grandmother's place in Baltimore and my aunt and uncle's in Oklahoma.  Days passed easily at the pool, where we dove off our big cousin's shoulders and ate mini jaw breakers during the 10 minute adult swim breaks every hour. For a few summers, my parents got to housesit an old orthodox synagogue in Fire Island, and that was heaven -  a stone's throw to the ocean, a short walk with our wagon of painted shells and rocks into town where my sister and I spent the dimes and nickels we made on frozen Milky Way bars and arcade games.

Camp fascinates me - the bonding, the focus, the freedom. My daughter is in heaven right now at DASAC, an arts camp in Deerfield, MA. From 9-5 she dances, throws pots, explores a range of arts in a range of ways, and comes home singing.  I saw the same exuberance at the Andrew Pinnock Football Camp, sponsored by the Mandell JCC, the golf camp, also sponsored by the JCC, the Mutli-Arts camp in Amherst, and the new Summer Academy at Mt. Holyoke College. (More on that camp in my next post)

(JCC/Andrew Pinnock Football Camp, Bloomfield CT)


(Summer Academy Equestrian Program, Mt. Holyoke College)

(After a day of Forensic Science, Veterinary Science, Leadership and Arts classes, campers at the new Mt. Holyoke College Summer Academy relax and dance to music in their dorm room (above) and play music together (below) on the South Hadley, MA campus)


If anyone ever invents a camp for grown-ups, sign me up!!!!




Love and Filmmaking

Posted on in Photography and Multimedia

There are some nights in one's life that will be remembered forever.  Thursday was such a night.  Two short documentaries of mine were shown at the new Center for Contemporary Culture, a beautiful space at the Hartford Public Library, a thrill in itself, but what unfolded next was the amazing part.

My two films, viewable below, are about the lives and work of quilter Ed Johnetta Miller and dancer/drummer Nandi Dixon Smith, AND the contributions they make teaching in the Hartford community.  The shorts, part of a series I'm calling Urban Legends, were funded by an Arts & Heritage grant from the City of Hartford.  

After they played, many in the audience of nearly 100 stood up with personal stories about Ed Johnetta and Sistah Nandi, stories so deeply moving my eyes welled up more than once. Lives were touched, transformed, and I daresay saved by these women.  It was a lovefest and the tributes could've gone on and on, but the library was closing so we had to leave!  I was humbled that so many liked the films and that they opened the doors not to a discussion about technique and process, but about content, about the women who were the subjects.  

I have more work to do on both of these, including an interview with a student of Ed Johnetta's who is now a fashion designer in NYC, but I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about what would improve these, what more you might like to know about the two women, etc.  

I love, love, love having the opportunity to do visual storytelling above lives worth celebrating!!  Thank you Ed and Nandi.


Peace and blessings, Shana


At 70 years old, Sistah Nandi Dixon Smith, a former postal worker turned arts educator, is dancing, drumming and teaching Hartford youth in city schools through the organization she founded in 1986, Sankofa Kuumba Cultural Arts Consortium.



Ed Johnetta Miller is an internationally renowned quilter and also a gifted teacher, working tirelessly to inspire old and young alike in her hometown of Hartford, CT and around the world.



A New Look at Aging

Posted on in Non Profits, Photography and Multimedia


Aging has always been something to fear, but Dr. Laura Singer, 94, a psychotherapist who lives and runs groups at Kittay House in the Bronx, sees blessings and endless possibility in long life. This documentary looks at her life, her work, her community, and her contagious attitude.

I've seen aging as a positive and a negative.  I've been inspired beyond words by the lives and wisdom of some sages in my life, including my grandmother who lived to 105 with all her marbles intact.  I've also witnessed the tragedy of wonderful people brought down by illness and dementia, reduced to a dependent shell of who they once were.  Dr. Laura Singer-Magdoff (nicknamed Lol), the subject of this documentary, lives in the first camp.  She's awesome and lives fully, motivating others around her to seeing the possibilities that come with aging, instead of just the drawbacks.  I hope as i age, and parts don't work as well as they once did, that I can, nonetheless, stay positive and active, engaged in love and life, as she does.  I thank my close friend Faith Messer Fuerst, who is Lol's neice, for introducing us and working with me to make this film.  I'm hoping that a distributor might want to pick it up so that it can be seen by more seniors and by students in colleges and medical schools who want to work in geriatrics after they graduate.


Dancing, Stories and the Heart of a Journalist

Posted on in Non Profits, Photography and Multimedia

WELCOME to my new website and blog about visual storytelling, multimedia and the convergence of words, pictures and sound on the web.  It's an exciting time for photographers, especially for those of us whose heart lies in photojournalism and visual storytelling. The tools of our craft are changing to meet the demands of the web's (and the world's) insatiable appetite for visually compelling imagery of all kinds. No longer is strong photography enough, although it will forever remain the basis and signature of our work. Knowing audio and video have become essential, and the exciting, creative, half-crazy world of being a solo entrepreneur in this field  has become a lot like dancing.  Sometimes you know the steps and the music and you lead.  Other times, you follow and learn new steps. 

I look forward to this blog being about the beat, the dance of our craft.  We'll talk shop, show work and projects (by myself and others), discuss trends, and offer tips for those wanting to make multimedia on their own. It's my hope that in addition to photographers and other journalists being part of this discussion, that social workers, community organizers and people working in non-profits and schools might also engage in a discussion about meaningful storytelling as it applies to their work and needs. Hopefully we can also explore how to make this a viable path for some of us ex-photojournalists to use our skills, our experience and our love of people to earn a living!! 

As visual storytellers, the ground beneath our feet has changed. The web, not print, is increasingly our platform, money for longer stories has largely evaporated, and the worlds of print magazines, journalism, and book publishing are all in shambles. We're looking for new opportunities to translate our skills into meaningful ways of communicating stories of importance. One of those ways is creating multimedia for  companies and organizations that go good work in the world. They are always in need of great images and great videos to get the message out to the public, to potential donors and clients, to grant providers, volunteers and the media about the important work they do and the impact that has on the lives of their clients.  Their sustainability as an organization depends on this. Without the luxery of marketing and p.r. departments, most cash-strapped mission-driven organizations struggle with how to translate their work and information about their organization into affordable, visually and emotionally compelling stories.  Hence, the launch of Multimedia For the Good Guys!!  It's the work that stirs my heart and I'd like to continue to make a living doing what I love while providing clients with a high quality product that will spread their message.

Here's a recent project, done on a small budget in a short amount of time.  It's a six minute piece I created (with the help of assistant Andrea Wise) about Wintonbury Early Education Magnet School, a fabulous preschool in Bloomfield, CT and was produced for the CT MIrror to use at their recent "Early Childhood Education: CT's Future" conference in Hartford.  As we try to do with everything we produce, we blend still photography and video, and let the subjects of the piece do the talking, without outside narration. 



While we're on kids and schools, here is another video about the Lander-Grinspoon Academy, a progressive Jewish Day School in Northampton, MA.  As a parent of a 5th grader there, I volunteered to shoot and edit this film with a small group of other parents for a national competition. The video took 2nd place, bringing the school $5,000.



Let's dance!