Archive for October, 2010


Oct. 31st 2010

Happy Halloween, Blog-O-Sphere readers.  

Halloween falls somewhere right  up there between Christmas Eve and my birthday–and below  Arbor Day and Ground Hog Day.

Have pillowcase……….will Trick-or-Treat.

I miss Trick-or-Treating.  How about you????

Plastic pumpkins as Halloween collectors of candy? We didn’t go that direction.

A paper bag from an upscale grocery store? Snooty and would lead to years of therapy. No.

We ran with those Hallmark Halloween bags. Paper, not plastic. We were green back then–and had no clue what that meant. And, the paper bags were made in the American Heartland–not China—where their human rights record is scarier than any Nightmare on Elm Street Hollywood movie or CYO haunted house.

Ah….memories of Halloween. What drug was the city planner on when her/she was designing my childhood neighborhood?  The neighborhood is designed in a swirling pattern.  One could Trick-or-Treat about 43 houses without crossing a single street. Pretty safe. It was a simpler time. We were allowed to Trick-or-Treat with friends. No helicopters swilred above us.

When we would arrive home after Trick-or-Treating, we would get out the bathroom scale and weigh our bags of candy. Now people pay good money to stand on scales at diet workshops and weigh themselves–then bust into tears.

Next, we would divide our candy into distinct categories. On the Darwinian scale of higher order candy, there were Reeces Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey Chocolate Bars, Baby Ruth bars, Junior Mints, and Butterfingers. On the lower rungs of candydom were boxes of raisins.  Raisins? Say what? Raisins are not candy. That is a TRICK.  They are dried grapes,  people. Hello…..

Oh, and folks who gave out popcorn–that did not make the count—nor our Trick-or-Treat bags. We tossed bags of popcorn “to the wind” before ringing the doorbell of the NEXT house.

Another “does-not-cut-the-mustard” item—-Apples. Are you kidding? I am looking back to 1969. Are we not in a Great Depression.  I was history savvy at age 9. I would say to myself—-shouldn’t one be  selling apples–and pencils—on the streets of Manhattan, on Wall Street, across from the Stock Exchange building? Apples=dull. Healty, yes. Dull, another yes.

 The razor blade scare of the late 70s threw both a wet blanket and a monkey wrench on the bliss of Halloween Trick-or-Treating. The same was true of the public service announcement from our community hospital advertising they would x-ray one’s Halloween candy bag free of charge. What? no co-pay? How about tossing in a free tonsillectomy while standing between the X-Ray and Pediatric Surgical suites.

My new neighbors with young children and I were talking about our Halloween experiences. My friend  mentioned a dentist in his neighborhood gave out tooth brushes. Before exiting the dentist’s driveway, he and his Trick-or-Treat mates impaled the toothbrushes in the dentist’s pumpkins. Message to all dentists……..skip handing out toothbrushes. Go with floss. You cannot impale pumpkins with dental  floss.  I believe one of those cooking divas recommends stringing/tying up turkeys with dental floss. Candy, yes. Anything that remind y0u of the end results of candy–no.

I did go out tonight  with my camera equipment the night before Halloween on Cape Cod. I took a series of night photographs of a fine French bistro in Wellfleet, MA. I dined in a relaxed atmosphere.  Once I finished a delectable meal, chef/owner Phillipe invited me to photograph a roasted pig’s head.  The cooked-to-perfection pig’s head was placed on a classic French copper pan. It  was attractive to the eye in a macabre irresistible way; a great subject for fine art photography.  The motif was  tres Halloween’ish.

Share your memories of Trick-or-Treating. Relay a Halloween story. Write. I will reply. I’m listening………….Do I hear ghosts? No. It is just the heater kicking and sputtering for one of the first chilly New England nights. 


Brendan Ben Feeney

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“May I HELP You?”……Decoded

Oct. 16th 2010

“May I HELP you?,” said the manager of a very up-scale, boutique shopping market in Mill Valley, California.

Those who know me would say—Ben, why didn’t you tell him you are BEYOND help.”   “Rattle off a litany of things you need help with–such as not washing light clothes with dark clothes ” (Oops. Sorry EH for doing your laundry when we were on  Sanibel Island, Florida. That white t-shirt is now a stunning shade of pink. I apologize.)  

I had a dead mouse stuck in my car’s fan/ventilation system. One hundred eighty four dollars later, the problem was solved. I could have used HELP getting that critter out of my car’s vent system. So THAT was what was making that loud whirring sound all summer when I turned on the AC. And the smell? I thought it was a pickle that fell between the crack of the diver’s seat from Sonic take-out.

What about help with a photo shoot from the tippy top of the pointed antenna-thingy, on the top of the Empire State Building? I could use help. Anyone willing to climb up with me, to help change photo lenses?

I have noticed, the phrase “May I help you”……decoded is…………………..Brendan Ben Feeney is taking photographs where he should NOT be taking photographs…………….and management wants me out! Or, management wants to move along people who they deem a threat to their operation. Silly me for intellectualizing a phrase. But I am silly. And I do intellectualize.

Back to the very chi chi grocery market in Mill Valley, California.  Was there a sign posted noting no photography? I did not see one……………..

Were there   security cameras (plural) in this particular tiny, tiny, tiny upscale market PHOTOGRAPHING ME?


But I must first roll back the tape. BEFORE being asked for help —–AKA.”Get out of here,”——– over the store’s  loud speaker system  came a voice. It was a smooth melodic voice with a very cool California accent.”Manager to aisle  one, manager to aisle one……” Why the repetition? I knew what was about to happen——— but did not run.

Like working on a movie set, the line was delivered with intensity and precision———————-“May I HELP you?”

I should have said……….’Man, I am beyond help, but I  was transparent as to what I was doing————-photographing  the beautiful olive oil bottles on the shelf.

We do not see stunning, artistic olive oil bottles back on the East Coast. Click. Click. Chick. Chick. Close up. Now an establishing shot. Click. Click. Done.

Then I personalized it. They were now HIS bottles.  HIS beautiful bottles. HIS store. HIS olive oil. I told him about color theory, symmetrical alignment, abstraction, and asymmetrical alignment…………all deep artistic elements I use in my visual artwork. And I learned my craft from many art mentors whom I dearly love as friends and colleagues. (Coffee, S & B, when I am back on Cape Cod?)

When I began discussing the interplay of light on negative space…………I think this manager was so confounded, he was about to GIVE me all the olive oil bottles on the shelf to get me the hell out of his store.   I could have been more of a pain in the keester, butI  let him deliver his company line.

He thought I was some sort of industrial spy, trying to copy the design of his tiny, tiny  tiny, tiny,grocery store, in a tiny beautiful small enclave of a town, nestled between redwood trees.  I gave him my business card, and told him to look up my work. I can only guess where that business card is now. Can you say, landfill?

If he was PC, he would have recycled it—then it would come back to me in the form of birthday card made of recycled paper.

Yet, I do have a dear friend who is of color. She says she is habituated to “May I help you………………………”

She say, she gets followed around almost every upscale store she enters.  Even “down-scale stores!”

Is this where we want to be as nation in 2010? Then she went on to tell me this has gone on for generations for her, her friends, family, and members of her church…………this “May I HELP you” line.   Translated, in her situation, I hear institutional racism. Believe me, my friend who is educated as I, and  has every right to look, linger, and shop where she pleases, yet still gets the” May I help you? treatment. AKA………………..Leave………………………….Hurry up, and get out of here……………………We are watching you……………………

I am booked for a photo shoot in California soon. Should I return to the store to snap more pictures of olive oil bottles, or should I drop it?  I need advice Blog-O-Sphere readers.

Yet there is something deeper here. Are we growing more suspicious of each other as a society? Security cameras are in every row practically at that big box store that begins with a “W” and ends with a “T.”  And in the other store that begins with a “T” and ends in a “T.”

I get gasoline. I am being filmed at the pump. Then I go to the pharmacy to get a birthday card for my father, and business manager, who turned 82 this October. I am being watched by security cameras. Oh, and the highway I often drive on outside of Boston, there are cameras on every bridge, filming each car as they pass.  Coffee anyone? Yes, I am being filmed at the 3 coffee shops I frequent. Eggs and milk?……………….I SEE MYSELF on a TV monitor, the size of Arkansas, even before I pass through  the second set of doors to begin grocery shopping.

Maybe I should ditch art photography and take up security surveillance photography.

Not an option.

Our privacy is eroding. Our life is being documented on film. Some have no problem with this.

I do.

Is this what our Founding Fathers envisioned when establishing our democracy……………to be watched and followed where ever we go?

I think not.

So next time when being filmed in a store…………practice your silly faces. The ones that your parents told you as a child that, “If you keep this up, your face will get stuck in that position—-FOR LIFE!”  (I believed my parents—and still do.)

Ask yourself today………………… you feel your right to privacy has eroded since you were growing up? Then ask, why? Is all this filming truly necessary?

I am not fool. Yes, we live in a Post 9/11 world……………….yet when I want to get one of those gross purple Slurpees at Cumberland Farm, that God only knows when the machine was last cleaned (1972?),  do I really want to be captured on film drinking a Slurpee?

So,…………………………May I HELP you?     Or—- maybee you cannot help me.

 Is your list of items that need attention, in your, life as long as mine?

Smile. make that goofy face. Question one’s right to privacy. Smile, again. It is good for the world—and baffles security cameras.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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Someone Has Been Good To Me

Oct. 10th 2010

“Someone has been good to me.”

I give attribution to James Taylor for this truthful line.

Recently I have been doing a lot of traveling. I have been on the road photographing new genres, interacting with people who are familiar with my artistic work. Chatting with people who have not seen or aware of my artwork.

Recent events come to mind when I think of what James penned many years ago……………

Thank you to the group of friends, all in their 20s,  who gave me a lift in their white pickup truck, on the sand fire road, in  the High Head area of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park.

Mom. Dad. Do  not read this…………..I had my thumb out. I was hitchhiking—and I am alive to tell the story.

What delightful truck mates. One, a lobster-man, told me to “hold on… is going to be a bumpy ride.” The voice of Betty Davis past resonated in my mind.  And it was  a bumpy ride. Sort of like being in Cody, Wyoming, at the rodeo grounds,  riding “Kiss-of-Death” or “Killer” or “Side-O-Beef” all 3 famous rodeo bulls.

As we approached what was to be the rise over the sand dune, and the gateway to the beach—there was a wire fence closing access to the beach. We made the best of an unfortunate situation. I took a series of photographs of my truck mates, standing in the back of their parked truck.  I informed them I would process the images and send them “snail mail.” One replied…”What is snail mail? …… sort  of  some slower e-mail?”

Ah, the techo gap …………”The Baby Boom/Cold War” generation gap merges with the “Ipod/I-Phone/Text Messaging” generation.  The encounter ended with  hearty laughter.

I receive a ride to take my photographs. When we parted, we all smiled and laughed some more.  I hopped off the back  of the truck as they turned around on the sand road.

I lingered on the beach, snapping images of how the reseeding tide makes vein-like impressions and patterns in the sand. It was a quiet  moment in time for me. Nature photography to me is  zen-like.

Later in the evening, I stopped on the benches in front of Town Hall, Provincetown, MA. My wallet fell out of my pants pocket. I noticed no wallet when reaching for money to treat myself to a Lewis Brothers ice cream cone. No wallet. No ice cream. Unhappy BBF……….So I raced back to the bench to where I left the wallet and here were the most kind and delightful couple from the Boston area calling out my name…..BRENDAN FEENEY!!!!  BRENDAN FEENEY!!!

Had I won a prize????

They had a plan. If no one responded they would turn my wallet into the Chamber of Commerce or the police. When I, the real Brendan Ben Feeney came racing up Commercial Street, with a Cannon camera— the size of Texas—hanging from my neck, the true owner of the lost wallet arrived—- breathless.

Do not think for a moment that there are no kind people left on planet earth. These two educators, whom I struck up a wonderful conversation with, were benovelent  to track me down. And they insisted on no reward.

Kindness begets kindness. I truly appreciated the lift to the beach in the back of a pickup truck. I feel blessed that there are people out there who were so concerned about my lost wallet and were so nice to return it in a delightful way. They wanted NO reward. But the reward they receive came in the form of a bright orange parking ticket. I paid it. They insisted I not. I did.

So do not let moments of kindness pass. Savor the world as it is……..and often not portrayed.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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Notes From A Graveyard

Oct. 1st 2010

Twelve years ago,  I came across an extremely historic graveyard in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

I had no intention of wandering around this tranquil site. I came to Wellfleet to eat a hot dog, drink a Coke, then go to the beach.

Across the street from this non traditional fast food stand was a well tended, ancient graveyard. It has ancient slate gravestones in asymmetrical patterns. I was drawn to enter this resting place first by its look , then by the etching, later by the epithets on the gravestones–many dating back to the 1700s.

As I wandered around this peaceful resting place for generations of New Englanders who came before me, I was struck by the peacefulness of this place. I strolled deeper into this graveyard, alone, reading epitaphs and snapping a few photographs. 

I read notations such as, “Found washed ashore. Name Unknown.” “Died in New Amsterdam.” “Loving wife, devoted mother.” “Farmer and Revolutionary War Soldier.” “Entered Eternal Life in his 28th Year.”

New Amsterdam? This is modern-day New York City. Manhattan. Land of skyscrapers. This person pass away at a time when New York was politically and economically controlled by the Dutch.

Naturally, I took pictures. I always carry a camera.  In those days, I used 35mm film. 35 mm has gone the way of the wind. Remember black and white television? I didn’t think so. Can I find the pictures I took 12 years ago?


 I was back in Wellfleet this summer. I convinced myself I must revisit this historic graveyard.

Mistake. A huge mistake.

I was horrified what I encountered.

Gravestone after historic slate gravestone lay in ruins. Smashed. Reduced to stubs sharply protruding from the ground. Shards of slate scatted like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle no-one wants to finish.

I felt sick. Really. I did. I felt sick.

Then that sick feeling turned to questioning. “What happened here?” Why? “Who would do such a thing?” My first guess was that some under-age kids must have been drinking in this out-of-the-way graveyard, then took baseball bats to the stones –“wilding.”

A rush to judgement on my part.

 I walked over to one gravesite were someone lovely pieced the ancient slate gravestone back together, as best as he or she could–with caulking compound; the kind one uses to repair broken bathroom tiles.

The gnawing question as to who would destroy an ancient cemetery with graves of Revolutionary War heroes, sea captains, stranges lost at sea, strong women, and children who never made it past their second birthday haunted me.

I went to the Wellfleet police. I told them that I was a photographer and I had once visited this particular cemetery in the past–only to return and find so many graves leveled. Shattered beyond recognition.

The police office was very matter-of-fact. He told me a woman was drunk. She drove her car into the entrance of the cemetery road—-thinking it was her driveway. Like bowling pins, she struck gravestone after gravestone until the car came to a halt.

How can one mistake a graveyard’s road for the entrance to one’s home?

I was angry. Strike that. I was furious.

Yet, what was I furious about?

The lost of history? At someone drunk taking to the road?………….. What was driving my anger?

I was angry because I returned to a place that once held a special memory for me.

Why did I not hold on to that memory, of an  idyllic summer day, twelve years ago, with grass still wet from Cape Cod morning fog? I should have just remember this particular graveyard as a sanctuary to the past. A peaceful day.  Yet, I wanted to return to a place that offered me solace. It was if I could revisit a sacred moment in time, from the past. Now this idyllic place was destroyed.

What now?  Damage is done. Do I warn people of the dangers of taking to the road intoxicated?  Should I return with caulking compound on a Fall afternoon, like some unknown concerned person did, who lovingly tried their best to piece together one shattered gravestone—a  memorial to a forgotten soul who has no one to visit his or her grave? What shall I do?  

Brendan Ben Feeney

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