The Finer Points of the 413 with Photog Chris Marion

I suppose I’ve reached a certain age when my talented friends start hosting retrospectives of their work. The trade-off is good when it’s youthful uncertainty for art-show openings with beer gardens, though, and here we are.

Marion Reception

I’m really proud of my friend Chris Marion, as I tell him frequently on Instagram. There was a time when I knew him as an IT Guy with a good eye, toiling along with the rest of us in Western Massachusetts. Now, after mapping out a dream and honing in on a specific set of skills while doing so, he’s a full-time photographer with client names like NBA, WNBA, UConn, and MGM.

With a portfolio like that, no one would begrudge him a gallery show limited to celebrities, sports stars, and once-in-a-lifetime events. But Chris never forgets where he comes from, literally or figuratively, and his recent show From the 413 to the NBA was proof.

Held in the Benzine Gallery at Gasoline Alley in a once-industrial section of Springfield, Mass., Chris whittled his collection down to 100 bright spots — some captured locally, others from the sidelines of national championships or rock-legend concerts — and joined forces with more than 16 local small businesses who served as partners or vendors.

“It still feels like a dream that I grew up in the birthplace of basketball and now I get to help document the game at such a high level,” he says.

Back in the day, Chris and I shared the same friend and mentor: street photog, reporter, and one of the original members of the American paparazzi (back when velvet ropes meant something) Keith Sikes. He founded the Valley Photographic Center and helped me, Chris, and countless others navigate the business of art and the art of business when we were still young enough to want to set the world on fire.

Keith, who was always young enough to set the world on fire, passed away last year and I miss him very much. Chris’ exhibit opened with a photo and thank you to Keith, and that alone would’ve been enough to warrant the trip — my first overnight foray since a pandemic/medical crisis combo took me out of the game for a year and a half. But it was followed by capture-after-capture of some other very-important-humans… Current Olympian Flag-bearer and WNBA star Sue Bird. The Dropkick Murphys. LeBron James. Victoria, a little girl from Springfield, who’s portrait was hung at her eye-level in the show.

And for me, it was also a trip back to a city I called home for a decade; one that is overflowing with culture, diversity, talent, and strong connections… a combination I sometimes miss where I live now.

People say you can’t go home again … that may be true, but we can always go back and look at the pictures.

Read, watch, or listen to more about 413 to the NBA from some Western Mass. Media Greats:

Report by Alanna Flood, Mass Appeal/WWLP

Report by Paul Tuthill, WAMC

Report by the great, cantankerous G. Michael Dobbs, Reminder Publications

Close up of two hands holding a phone and a 3D castle is popping out of the phone screen

Sinking my Teeth into Professional Development: Accessibility Edition

It’s been a minute (as the kids-these-days say) since I’ve taken on any substantial professional development.

I’m always reading articles, white papers, and case studies relative to this communicative world we live in, but the professional, personal, and pandemic stressors of today have kept me from enrolling in any kind of course that would add real beef to my skill-set sandwich.

Thanks to the university system for which I work, however, I was able to turn that around and take advantage of a full suite of online accessibility training free-of-charge this month. It was coursework I’ve long filed under “I really need to do this,” and once I got started, I wished I’d done it sooner.

Digital accessibility — the process of making websites, apps, and everything on ’em accessible to all, regardless of disability type or severity of impairment — is a discussion that surrounds a lot of what I do as a writer and marketer. With so much of the content we create headed online as a final destination, checking that screen readers, closed captioning services, and other assistive tech can interact with that content is imperative.

That said, it’s also easy to get lost in the mire of everything that needs to be done to get a message out at all, and fail to check or optimize accessibility. Or, in what seems to happen even more often, we limp along with just enough of an understanding to make a document, photo, or video compliant, but not necessarily ideal for the end-user.

That’s when those “I really need to take a class…” thoughts start creeping in, because we, the content creators, know through both gut and experience that it’s easier to make something accessible upon creation, not after-the-fact.

So finally, I’ve taken the damn class. Offered through Deque University —an off-shoot of global accessibility consultancy Deque Systems Inc. — I plowed through 22 online accessibility training courses and earned four curricula certificates, and I’m feeling much better.

The courses were meaty; I know I’ll use the information in my job immediately, and frankly there’s something to be said for finishing the quizzes and receiving your certificate and continuing education credits. It’s very Pavlovian.

Here’s a run-down of what I was able to bite off by carving time out of late afternoons and evenings:

DeQue University certificate of completion

Document Accessibility Curriculum 1.2 Certificate

This set of courses is probably the most appropriate for a full-time writer or communications wonk like myself. It includes 11 classes focused on ensuring documents are created with accessibility in mind, from Word docs to PDFs to online content.

DeQue University certificate of completion

Accessibility Program Management Curriculum 2.0 Certificate

I think I ultimately enjoyed this curriculum the most, as it presented a lot of new information and taught me some new tricks. It consists of five classes focused on ‘baking in’ accessibility at a departmental level, continuing some of the document accessibility lessons from a managerial perspective, and adding others with a legal flavor. An overview of Section 508, for instance, dives deep into the requirements all Federal agencies and departments must meet to provide access to information and communication technology to people with disabilities.

DeQue University certificate of completion

Native Mobile Apps Curriculum 1.0 Curriculum Certificate

This three-course block focused on accessibility as it applies to mobile apps — managing, designing, and testing.

Certificate
OF COMPLETION
Jaclyn Stevenson
has completed the courses in the
Customer Service for People with Disabilities
Curriculum
Version 1.0
28th of May, 2021
4 courses, 1.00 IAAP Continuing Accessibility Education Credits (CAECs)

Customer Service for People with Disabilities 1.0 Curriculum Certificate

It seemed like a no-brainer to take this unit, and the four-class run included communications courses geared toward both in-person and remote conversation. It also came with the added benefit of a glossary of accepted and unaccepted terms that can be added to our style guide.

While I didn’t have any particular allegiance to Deque as a training body before, these curricula definitely felt important and applicable while I was taking them; they’re updated frequently, well-written, and appear to be recognized as valuable certificates out there in the zeitgeist.

What are you getting certified in these days?

Cover Image by FunkyFocus from Pixabay

Crystal Visions ~ The Art of Mindy Lam at Berkshire Botanical Garden

As galleries slowly reopen, my list of hopeful weekend engagements continues to grow. It’s one I was worried would start late due to my ongoing injury recovery, but I was able to begin the return to culture this weekend with a show after my own heart: Flights of Fancy: The Botanical and Bejeweled Universe of Mindy Lam.

On display in The Anna and Frederick Henry Leonhardt Galleries at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in West Stockbridge, Mass., the exhibit is an intersection of several different things I already love: modern art, vintage pieces, fantastic elements, haute-couture jewelry… all hosted in the rooms of a slightly ominous garden house constructed in the 1700s.

Lam works with crystals and semi-precious stones, repurposed, vintage costume jewelry, and metal wire — including weaving metal lace out of gold, copper, and steel. Her art is inspired by and reflective of nature, and has been displayed within the clapboard walls of the Leonhardt on moss beds, willow branches, and squares of unbleached linen.

Separated into three rooms, the exhibit includes a selection from Lam’s Homme Couture brooch collection; a “man-made ornamental garden” of twigs and brambles adorned with pins, necklaces, and earrings; and a curated menagerie of pieces created for once-in-a-lifetime events, featuring Lam’s signature metal lace gown: “a wearable sculpture originating with a single, delicate thread of wire,” as described on the BBG website.

The real piece de resistance for me, however, is a cool-metal crown in a mirrored bell jar that appears to be telling an entire tale in-the-round.

Lam is also a decidedly philanthropic artist, working with charities large and small including the American Heart Association, American Theatre Wing, and St. Jude’s Research Hospital. She has extended sales on her website to support BBG’s education and horticulture programs throughout Flights of Fancy’s run, until June 6, 2021.

All photos (c) jcs 2021 ~ view the full set here

White Star Line Wednesday

Cobh, Ireland (then Queenstown) was the Titanic’s last port-of-call prior to taking its final, ill-fated voyage. For many aboard, the bell tower of St. Colman’s Cathedral was the last sign of on-land civilization they ever saw; the spire had yet to be completed.

The Titanic departed Cobh on April 11, 1912 to set sail for New York, and struck an iceberg 375 miles south of Newfoundland three days later. An estimated 1,517 people lost their lives at sea.

The first photo shows the cathedral; the second was taken from the cathedral, over-looking the docks.

Photos taken while on assignment for GoNOMAD.com Travel and Eurail.

Riding Trains and Ferries in Ireland and France