Monday, November 02, 2020

Somerville Photographer Emily Falcigno: Takes inspiration from the neighborhood, people's essence, and even the sexist remarks of Trumpism


Emily Falcigno is a photographer who is about making a strong statement-- she boils people and things  down to their essence. She is not after the sizzle but the steak. I was glad to catch up with her.

 DH: First off-- tell me about your experience as a photographer--here in Somerville. How does it compare to other places you have lived? One person told me if you are taking pictures in the streets of Medford--they think you are an insurance person or a real estate agent--in Somerville they think " Hey just another artist."

EF:Ha ha ha! I never knew that about Medford. My association to Meffa is Italians, fig trees wrapped for the winter, and wine making. I can totally relate to the Somerville analysis.

My first real foray into photography was photojournalism and as they say in that industry, “if you wanna shoot a good story, look in your own backyard.” As a local photojournalist in my hometown, one of the hardest assignments we had was to shoot “enterprise photos”. We had to go around and look for single filler photos for the gray space in the paper. One time I hopped in the back of a landscaping truck to get a shot of the landscapers on the move. Another time, I was walking through a state park, and a ranger who could have been Hagrid’s brother, was carrying a fawn he found alone in the woods. To see the soft side of this huge guy with a little tiny wild animal was so moving. The day was really foggy so it made for a beautifully moody photo.

Somerville is chock-full of eye candy, like the DPW during snowmageddon, unicyclers, School of Honk parading on a snowy day. Festivals galore! Honk and The Independent Film Festival are tied for my favorites. I have been volunteering for IFF since 2011 and got to photograph Dennis Leary, Miranda July, Jason Segel, MIT researcher, Joe Davis (look him up!), etc. It’s a great opportunity to see films people care about deeply, and rub elbows with filmmakers in your own backyard.

I learned that no matter where you are: the more you look around, the more you see.

DH: In my research about you, I read you viewed a sexist video and this propelled you to create " In her Words: A Collective Diary of  Everyday"Women." Tell us about this project?

EF: Yes. In Her Words Diary started the day I heard about Trump’s pussy grabbing video back in 2016. I refused to watch it, I was so angry. Instead, I pulled out my camera, and asked myself, ‘How do I show disgust and anger in a self portrait?’ I have a whole series of me flipping the bird. After that, I decided to illustrate small battles and triumphs of other everyday women to tell a bigger story. We illustrate tiny things that go unnoticed and women brush off. The problem is, those little issues build up and trigger us when they’re not acknowledged and healed. What started as a venting project, became an inspirational one through women’s stories of sisterly support.

We took the project to new heights in 2018 when I got a billboard in Times Square; and photographed AOC and Ayanna Pressley for it.

For 2019’s Women’s History Month, Heather Balchunas and I collaborated on “Visible Voices” for the Inside OUT gallery in Davis Square. We collected battles, triumphs, and supportive stories from all genders around the city to display on paper dolls alongside IHWD photos. Anonymous stories included one on collecting breastmilk for a baby who had lost his mother, and another was about a guy who got a job, had no idea what he was doing, and relied on a female colleague to teach him what she knew. We heard countless stories of body issues. And one of an older single woman who never married and felt outcast from society’s norms. That one hit home for me.

DH: You are the founder of Savvy Singles. You photograph single people for the digital dating era, According to material I read you want to capture people in a natural way. How do you go about capturing the essence and energy of your clients?

EF: Savvy Singles Studio started as a way to help people with their dating profiles. People were posting car selfies. Frankly, those kinds of selfies talk behind your back. All they tell me is: You wear a seatbelt, and you drive distracted.

Remember the point about photographing the story in your own backyard? We help singles pull out the real story they want to tell about themselves, not the story they think they should be telling because it’s convenient.

Over quarantine I deepened my clients’ Roadmap to Savvy by creating The Visionary’s Journey workshop (and podcast on IGTV). I teach people how to get back to their core values, build a vision of their ideal lifestyle, and teach them how to manifest it. By giving singles permission to break society’s rules and make their own, we help them cultivate confidence and enthusiasm.

I specialize in photographing people who don’t typically like how they look in photos. We don’t do styling makeovers, we do soul makeovers.

DH: Do you define yourself as a feminist?

Yes, however, I don’t like to put myself in a box. I don’t like labels. If you ask different generations, you’ll get different responses to what “Feminism” means. I like Gen Z’s definition: Feminism is the equality of all genders.

A Black Lives Matter member once said to me, “Feminism: the White is silent”.

Intersectional Feminism is important to keep in mind. This refers to one person who belongs to more than one oppressed group. For instance: Black + female + LGBTQIA + other-abled. When we do the work to lift up the most oppressed of us, everyone is lifted up.

In all of my work, I lead with compassion, and promote the acceptance of feminine values in our society. Balancing feminine energy (empathy, community, fluidity) and masculine energy (pride, action, efficiency) in our bodies will help us find balance in society.

DH: Did you formally study photography? What photographers are your role models?

I was obsessed with my mother’s Kodak camera in the 80s. I picked up my first photography class in high school, and in college I couldn’t wait to get into the dark room. I was the photo editor on my paper for three years, and started learning Photoshop as soon as it came out. I was mostly interested in photographing people.

When I moved to Boston, I started photographing rock bands. I really loved Liz Linder‘s work, and 13 years later I got to work for her which was incredible! I also loved Annie Leibovitz’s work for Rolling Stone and referenced her in an homage photo I did for In Her Words Diary. I spent a long time with Lorna Simpson’s work at the ICA too.

I am a painter first, so I look to Renaissance painters for inspiration. Caravaggio’s dramatic lighting makes my heart sing.

DH: Any new projects in the works?

EF: I’m really excited about The Visionary’s Basecamp (an intro to TVJ) coming up on November 14th. I’m teaching people how to manifest new opportunities - like I manifested my billboard, my pop up at Bow Market, and small miracles every day. One client got her dream job after piloting TVB. It really is a game changer when you change your mindset.

Beyond that I’m mastering the art of the remote photo session. I am happy to help people who are curious and willing to do the work to upgrade their lives over quarantine and beyond!

Sunday, November 01, 2020

High Tide By Ed Meek: Review by Carolynn Kingyens

High Tide

By Ed Meek

Aubade Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-951547-99-8


Ed Meek’s latest collection of poems, High Tide, is an exquisite reckoning with one’s self; between one’s past and present, a sort of home coming without a home. There’s a beautiful vulnerability along with a palpable sadness in High Tidethat speaks directly to the human condition. For example, in the poem, “Talking to Yourself,” Meek writes:

You can’t get up, can’t look away, you’re

uncomfortable in your own skin, like a dog in a drought –

if you could move, you’d get a drink or take a bath. Your

throat so dry you can’t swallow. You can’t swallow it all

anymore, the strangers who occupy your house – your wife

and children – as distant as the relatives who raised you.

You knew them all once, long ago, in another country you

called home.

Continuing with the same theme in “Gypsy Moth,” Meek compares the quiet desperation of the moth to our own distress:

Now they’re stressed like the rest of us,

susceptible to fungus and disease.

thwacking into window screens

desperately searching like the rest of us

for the light.

There are political poems, too, that lend thoughtful perspective to the state of American politics.In the poem, “Encomium for the God of Nothingness,” Meek reminds us:

This is where we are – on the verge.

Just over the edge – chaos.

But in the poem, “Make America Great Again,” he examines the disconnect between Trump’s notorious motto, and the reasons why some Americans take offense to it, offering a reminder how problematic earlier times in American history authentically were:

Let’s take America back

to the straitjacket

of the 1950s –

when women knew

their place

and cops let

domestic abuse

slide, divorcees

were outcast

and the church

lied for priests

who brought altar boys

to their knees.

……The good old days

when no women

or Jews were allowed,

Blacks were happier

with their own kind

and America could do

no wrong.

Some poems connect to each other faultlessly such as with “The Poetry Motel” and “In the Poetry Motel.” With these two poems, in particular, there is a slight dread reminiscent of the David Lynch film, Mulholland Drive:

You drew the drapes and sure enough – a view of the mountains –

hazy blue in the distance, peaks lost in white mist. You

had been here before you felt suddenly, as the first rays of

sunlight cut through the haze.

And “In the Poetry Motel,” the plot thickens:

You hear in the back of your ear a faint strain

of music – something so familiar. It seems to be

coming from the back of the room. Then you

notice another door.

You try the key and it opens. A radio on

the desk is playing the music you heard. In the

corner in the shadows someone sits. She beckons

with a crooked finger, come closer. She has

something to tell you. You bend down to listen.

She is old and frail. She whispers in a foreign

tongue. It could be Latin or Greek. You seem to

know some of the words. When she waves you

off you return to the desk in your room. You try

to make sense of it.

Throughout Meek’s book, there are nautical undertones, little reminders that high tide is coming in – fast. It’s when we call it a day at the beach, and begin to pack up all the gear – those old patchwork blankets, rainbow-colored umbrellas, and black scuff coolers with lids that don’t seem to ever want to close.

In the poem, “High Tide,” a young Meek relishes his limited time with his young parents on the beach, before his brother and sisters are born, calling them “those uninvited guests,” who “crashed the party.” He writes:

Before we left we’d weave along

the shore, heads down

in search of shells.

I walked between them –

one on each hand. The three of us

happy as clams at high tide.

In his poem, “Drifting Home,” he resides in a dream state – you know the voice of the clock/ is an echo in a vacuum/ and what’s lost hangs like a broken door. Meek continues:

But it is your mother the ocean

who drifts in waves in your sleep

and years pass by in a dream. The Sioux

called this the shadow world.

In his poem, “Praise for Ponytailed Girls Who Run,” Meek becomes the acute observer:

And the hair, lovely,

surely not dead

but vibrant with life and light

as it sways and bobs

like a rope swing in the wind

above the water.

I read Ed Meek’s High Tide the same day I’d received it. I wasn’t planning to read his latest collection in one sitting, but once I began, I could not put it down. Curled up with his book and a soft, gray blanket, my blonde, beagle-lab mix resting at my side, I could’ve easily been on a New England beach instead of on my bed in Brooklyn. Time and place didn’t matter as I read each poem slowly, savoring one delicious line after the next.

*****Carolynn Kingyens’ debut book of poetry, Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound (Kelsay Books), can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Greenlight, Book Culture, and Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. In addition to poetry, Carolynn writes narrative essays, book reviews, micro/flash fiction, and short stories. She resides in New York with her husband and children.