The Aftermath

Their uncle called them “losers”.

What can make a difference in the life of a youth whose behaviors are at once destructive to humanity and self-destructive?

We hope and wait for answers to the “why” of the Marathon tragedy; those answers may never materialize. Why was there such a disconnect to the rest of humankind? Why would creating bombs and firing guns be an answer?

Last year, Adrien worked to photograph a wonderful organization working with Lowell area youth. The group, UTEC, (United Teen Equality Center) has the mission to “ignite and nurture the ambition of Lowell’s most disconnected young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success”.  

Listen to the stories these young people tell of how they were once disenfranchised and the difference UTEC has made in their lives. The following short video and the story of the project are the results of Adrien’s association with UTEC last summer.

At this time when we are wondering what triggered the Tsarneav brothers to disconnect from humanity, it makes me pause and wonder if there was a moment that might have changed their course as well.  This is, of course, a mammoth leap of speculation.

We may never know that answer to why the Tsarneav brothers did what they did, why their uncle called them “losers”. But we can be thankful for the UTECs of the world who help the disenfranchised become successful members of the world in which they live.

Chipping Away

This is the longer version of Adrien’s short documentary about an extraordinary group of young people and the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) here in Lowell. Take a moment to see what overcoming adversity to hope and to dream about a future really look like. And then,if you are so inspired, support UTEC’s programs and efforts by going to their website.

Where dreams intersect

Several years ago, my husband Adrien was working in the corporate world as a software engineer.  For a long time, he had worked for large and small software companies and enjoyed both the work and the camaraderie…. and the pay wasn’t bad either.

But some time about five years ago, he had a moment when staying with his engineering job was overshadowed by the desire to do something more creative, to return to his early interest in photography. And so he did. It has been an exciting journey of hard work and worry and determination.

This past summer, he connected with the staff at UTEC with a proposal and a hope that he could explore creating portraits and a film documenting the UTEC program’s young people.

Capturing the hope and resilient spirit of youth who have had some tough breaks, but who are determined to break out of cycles of trauma generated from varied socio-economic factors, has been a journey of enlightenment. While we both were aware of UTEC’s existence, I don’t believe either of us knew the depth of this program’s impact.

These young people also have dreams and goals. How eloquent they are in the expression of where they have been and where they are going! I want my own elementary-age students – the ones who could easily take a misstep – to listen, to learn from you.

Serendipity has put these young people, so determined to overcome challenges, and Adrien, determined to tap into something more,  in each other’s pathways.

It is the place where dreams intersect.

To see the images and the film, click on the following links:

UTEC Portraits

Video “Chipping Away”

 

 

Thank you Dr. Seuss

Sometimes, though not that often lately, we have fun.

Adrien reading

Lots of schools mark Dr. Seuss’ birthday with Read Across America celebrations.  Even though it was low key, we did too!

Our special visitor and guest reader was my husband, Adrien. We dug up a book that loosely connects to his career as a photographer, Snowflake Bentley. Bentley was an avid photographer of snowflakes and his collection of glass negatives and resulting prints is still fascinating. Adrien always brings his camera when he visits, and the kids enjoy hamming it up for the professional photographer. Before he left, he was asked several times if he would

go with us on our spring field trip to the Boott Mills.

Sometimes our influence on children is so subtle that it nearly goes unnoticed.
But today, in the midst of all the fun, I knew Adrien had knocked it out of the park when I looked around my room. There were all of my kiddos who normally need to be cajoled into wearing their glasses – wearing their spectacles mid-nose. Just like their “Mr. Bisson”.

So thank you Dr. Seuss. Thank you for giving us a fabulous excuse to have a bit of fun today. And to Adrien…. thank you for voluntarily being a role model for my kids. Now how about that field trip date?

Sustainable Farming and CSAs

I hadn’t driven on Route 27 for a few weeks. Yesterday, though, driving through Acton and over to Concord, I noticed the gigantic red, white and blue FOR LEASE sign outside of one of the recently (ie within the last 5 years) organic farmstands. It was kind of a shock to me; no one has been buzzing about it in town.

A reminder that farming and selling fruits and veggies is a tough business? This particular farmstand may have relocated, that would be my hope, but I fear it simply has fallen victim of America’s penchant for cheap food grown who-knows-how.

If your family history is anything like mine, you probably have people in your ancestry who made their living from working in agriculture. And as we’ve become more modern, the farms, sadly have been disappearing. Over the 16 years I’ve lived in my town, I’ve watched as apple farm after apple farm has been sold off as plots for housing development. The old-timers in town talk about pig farms and dairy where a strip mall now stands.

My husband, Adrien, has been photographing the efforts of farmers who work with New Entry Sustainable and we belong to the CSA, World Peas. The farmers working with New Entry come with a variety of backgrounds: some have degrees or backgrounds in a related field, some are career-changers tired of being tied to a desk, some are immigrants from far-away countries trying to adapt to a new land.

Trying to encourage and train new farmers is a work of the heart as farming is such an unforgiving business: market selection, tending crops – those can all be taught. Weather and the whims of nature, impact even the most thoughtful farm efforts. For more on New Entry and some of the people who do this work, you may find this blog post interview with Matthew Himmel  interesting.

We enjoy the fruits of their efforts as they learn farming techniques that we hope will enable these newbies.  One way we can all support local farms and farming is, of course, through Farmers’ Markets, but another is to buy a CSA share, like World Peas.

And maybe, those For Lease signs won’t be popping up so frequently.

 

Downtime

The weather has been unseasonably warm for the last several days. Yesterday was no exception. Even though yesterday was the City of Lights Parade and Holiday Stroll here in Lowell, no one seemed to mind that temperatures were in the 60s — people were dressed in flipflops and shorts while waiting for their moment with Santa.

When asked, Adrien shoots for Cultural Organization of Lowell, the organizer of this and other wonderful events in the City.  Yesterday while he was on assignment, I walked around too, making a record of the Mill City on an unusual late-November afternoon:

Boarding House Park, Lowell MA
Boarding Houses, Lowell MA
Boott Mill Trolley Tracks, Lowell MA
Gatehouse Reflection, Lowell MA

Photographing Local Farming

One of the ongoing creative projects Adrien has been working on is photographing some of the farmers working and learning through the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. We receive a weekly share of the farmers’ bounty through World Peas CSA and, so far, it has been a wondrous adventure in fresh local veggies – and fruits.

This morning, Adrien set out to try to catch up with some of the farmers working their plots in Dracut. And, in my new role of photography assistant, I went along with him. Near Richardson’s Dairy, where many of the new farmers work, we met up with Justine, a farmer who immigrated from Cameroon.  Justine was a bit unsure of us at first – who wouldn’t be at 7 in the morning! – but remembered Adrien from an earlier introduction by McKenzie Boekholder, a coordinator for New Entry Sustainable Farming.  Justine also remembered that Adrien owed her a photograph ;-).

Adrien convinced Justine to pose for him near her plot. She was very tolerant of both of us interrupting her morning chores. Here is one of the shots from this morning:

Photography by Adrien Bisson Photography

One of the most fun things about this morning was the friendliness we were shown. Justine clasped my hand and walked us to a covered framed building. She not only insisted on giving me a beautiful bunch of collard greens, freshly picked before our eyes, she gave me directions on how to best prepare them for tonight’s supper. I’m hopeful I won’t screw it up!

Meeting new people and learning about where my food comes from is turning out to be a wonderful adventure. One that is full of reminders of the generous goodness of humanity.