Thursday, July 30, 2020

Somerville's Stan Eichner: A Lawyer and a Photographer with a Mission

Stan Eichner

By  Doug Holder

It was a blazing, hot day in July, but being the holy fool I am I walked from my apartment in Union Square to Davis Square to meet Stan Eichner. Eichner has an exhibit at the Inside/Out Gallery that is situated in Davis. The 'gallery' is in a storefront window--that gets a lot of traffic--perfect for a photographer who wants exposure (pardon the pun).

Eichner has lived in Somerville since 1984. When I last met him I was interviewing a group of artists in East Somerville. In that group exhibit--  sponsored by the East Somerville Main Streets program, he had an evocative photo of a snow-covered farm in Central, MA, as well as other photos exploring the theme of winter.

Eichner was a civil rights lawyer in another life. He remembers his first case in 1974--(when I was a mere sophomore at Boston University, living through the Watergate Crisis). Eichner said, " It was a race discrimination case that involved a bakery in St. Louis and an employee." He also remembered a  a police misconduct case in Boston. The police chased a suspect for 40 minutes. Finally when they caught him--they smashed the windows of his car, and dragged him out. Then they proceeded to brutally beat him. Eichner said between 17 and 20 cops were involved. The Attorney General and Eichner got an injunction to sue the officers.  In the end the police involved were given a warning by the court about severe repercussions if  they engaged in that behavior again. Eichner said, " I never heard about any misconduct from these officers after the legal action."

Eichner was stoic about today's turmoil. He said, " The more things change, the more they stay the same." I told him that a friend of mine who worked as an administrator in the penal system for many years opined that 50 percent of cops were 'bad' players.  Eichner took issue with that. He replied, "I don't agree with that. The police, like many of us, are victims of a racist culture. There are always bad actors in every part of society."

Eichner's  defines himself as a landscape photographer. He has taken workshops in Chili, Ireland, and Scotland. He counts as a mentor Betty Wiley of Cape Cod, who he has studied with. He has connected with others of his ilk in the vibrant Somerville Arts scene. He recalls being involved with folks from the Somerville Open Studios program, and felt very welcomed. Eichner said, " They were very supportive of this newbie."  Eichner, who is well into his 60s, said he did not experience any ageism among people in the community.

Eichner told me he has expanded his photography to encompass environmental themes. He said, " I want people to appreciate the beauty in this world. This might spur to do something to fight the climate crisis."

In his current exhibit he displays a number of climate protest marches in Boston and New York-- not to mention a banner drop on the Mass. Ave bridge and Storrow Drive. Eichner told me he had a leadership role with photographers at the U.N. Summit  concerning climate change. The Inside/Out exhibit also included his signature landscape photography.

Eichner said he hopes to travel to the Canadian Rockies to take pictures of Lake Louise and other bodies of water.

As the heat became more oppressive, I sort of pined to be in the Canadian Rockies. Indeed, Eichner is just one of the many of the creative folks that make Somerville, " The Paris of New England."

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Stan Eichner

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