Malik Mubashshir: Cornel West’s Quixotic Bid for the Presidency.

Illustration of Dr. Cornel West by Thomcat23
Dr. Cornel West. Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2023

Text by Malik Mubashshir, Copyright 2023


The Impossible (and Unfortunate) Dream: 

Cornel West’s Quixotic Bid for the Presidency.


Cornel West should absolutely not be running for president.  Now, don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against Dr. West per se. He is an accomplished scholar, prolific author, public intellectual, social justice activist, pop culture celebrity icon, as well as a voice on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden.  

That said, there is nothing in West’s history that suggests that he is remotely qualified for the position of Chief Executive of the United States of America.  Before some of you respond, “What qualifications did Donald Trump have?” allow me to say, you make my point.  Is that where we set the bar of national expectation for this country’s leadership?  Let us look at this situation realistically.  

1. Cornel West is a political novice.  He is a gifted and eloquent intellectual who has never held public office.  A visit to his campaign website: reveals West’s political wish list. If elected, President West goals are “Dismantling the Empire,” “Unleashing Democracy” and “Saving the Planet.”   It is a platform chock full of excellent ethical positions and prophetic passion – with no hint of how he plans to achieve these lofty goals in the hardscrabble game of realpolitik. 

Perhaps one of the early warning signals that West is not ready for political primetime was his affiliation with the People’s Party. Started in 2017 the People’s Party has been bogged down in allegations of sexual harassment on the part of its party leadership, and general organizational dysfunction, including a lack of democratic processes, obscure and questionable finances, ableism and racism, among other things. As if this weren’t enough to give candidate West pause, the People’s Party has no track record and no nationwide ballot access for a serious presidential campaign.  Was West not aware of his chosen party’s liabilities?  As criticism poured in for his association with this group, West soon dropped the People’s Party and decided to work with the Green Party, which at least has a history of running presidential candidates for decades. 

2. Which brings us to the next point.  Third-party presidential candidates, even in the best-case scenarios with widely popular candidates, are doomed to failure and can only serve as spoilers rather than as a viable option. Thus, even if Candidate West were able to mount a successful campaign, that is, able to generate enough popular support for the massive fundraising necessary, able to get on the ballot in every state, and establish a platform with broad appeal to the electorate, he would still – if history is any guide – find support drastically reduced come Election Day. There has been a Green Party and Libertarian candidate in every presidential year in recent elections and they rarely received more than 1% of the popular vote in presidential elections. There’s a good reason why Bernie Sander’s chose to run as a Democrat rather than a Green Party candidate in 2016. He was serious about his run and was in it to win it!

3.This leads me to the very worst thing about Cornel’s ill-timed run for the Oval Office. With Cornel West having slim to no chance of winning his bid for the presidency, what will he accomplish by running?  Simple. He will probably be a spoiler whose campaign will siphon some votes away from the sitting President, Joe Biden.  We have seen this play before with many observers believing that Jill Stein’s third-party run in 2016 took some votes from Hillary Clinton and helped Trump to win the election. Now, to be clear, I have serious doubts that Cornel West has the mass appeal to win over a large number of voters. That said, whether West draws great support or little fanfare, the 2024 election is too critical to take that risk. Even West has said that the country may face a choice of a “neo-facist like Brother Trump” (brother fascist?) or a “milquetoast neo-liberal like Brother Biden.”  Think about that for a moment.  Are we really making a case for the moral equivalence of a swing toward fascism with a business-as-usual-moderate-liberal option?  If ever there was a time for the voters to “choose the lesser of two evils”, this is that time. Of course, we can’t know yet how Trump’s legal problems will affect his run, but he is still far and away the front runner for the GOP. That should tell progressive and moderate voters all they need to know about their choice. Even if the GOP has to lean toward DeSantis, or a similar wannabe Trump, it represents just another cycle of rabid culture wars, racism, sexism, corruption, hypocrisy and the usual fare of today’s Republican Party.  This is the party that wants to gut Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements. That wants to remove the true history of this country and its foundation upon genocide and slavery from school curriculums. The party that is hell bent on taking away women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ trans rights to safety and security. This is the party that wants to make America great again by reversing every civil rights victory won by the struggle, blood and tears of African Americans, and turning the clock back to the 1950s. With so much at stake in the 2024 election, with our country’s future and the future of our seniors, our youth, and the ones who Cornel rightly recognizes as “the least of these,” tenuously hanging in the balance, can we really afford a spoiler’s vanity run? With our nation fighting a close and pitched battle for its very soul, can we really afford Candidate West at such a time as this? 

Revealingly, in his campaign video, West concludes by asking, “Do we have what it takes? We shall see. But some of us are going to go down fighting, go down swinging, with style and a smile.”  

At least he knows he’s going down.  Let’s not go down with him.


About The Author: Malik Mubashshir is a beloved History teacher at Friends Select School, Philadelphia. Mr. Mubashshir is an alum of Harvard University with Master’s degree in Religion and Religious Studies. This is his first contribution to the blog.

Kitchie Ohh: Well, That’s Embarrassing

Pinup model Kitchie Ohh photographed in a bathtub wearing red lingerie
Photo: Victor Devilbliss, Copyright 2023

Text by Kitchie Ohh, Copyright 2023


Well, Thats Embarrassing


Several years ago, I was spending some quality time with one of my sisters, I have three, but this one’s my favorite. No, it’s not a secret. Our day brought us to the local home improvement store, specifically the outdoor landscaping section. The carts at this store are not the typical shopping cart; they’re open sided, low, and often hard to steer. As we usually do while out shopping, my sister and I wandered away from one another as things caught our respective eyes. Also, as we often do when this happens, we continue talking to one another and suddenly burst out with something like “oooh, come look at this!” to summon the other back. And that’s exactly what happened this day. But remember that shopping cart? As I turned to head back in her direction,I walked directly into the shopping cart whose low profile was completely out of my line of vision. The abrupt stop, and pain, in my lower shin caused a literal knee-jerk reaction and a little hop step away. Wouldn’t you know it? That hard to maneuver thing had turned at the bump from my first step and was slowly rolling in a bit of an arc toward me. I noticed a split second too late. My foot coming down from that upward knee-jerk, landed directly on the bed of the cart and my brain said “nope,” followed by another quick knee-jerk, except this time, having the cart under my foot, I was launched backward. I twirled and flailed like the most uncoordinated ballerina in the world until I finally lost the fight against gravity. Somehow I managed to twist in mid-air to prevent a face first meeting with the ground. But wait! I did not hit the hard concrete floor. No, sir. The universe, apparently, needed more drama. When I finally stopped the panic, I began to laugh hysterically, splayed out in an extra large potted plant, ass in the dirt. 

Why share that story? Well, despite my laughing about it, there was a part of me that was so incredibly embarrassed not only to have tripped over something so large that I failed to see, but to have then stumbled and ungracefully crushed a tropical plant with my rear end in public! But hey we all do stupid stuff. We’re human. Sometimes, like this case, it’s completely accidental. We don’t intentionally screw up, but we still find ourselves dealing with the consequence, physically and emotionally. 

Falling spectacularly in Home Depot didn’t do any irreparable damage. My bruises healed. I can still peruse every aisle including the garden center without panic. This, of course, was an extreme physical example. But it still raises a question: why do we let other embarrassments that we experience alter us? Worse yet, why do we let the CHANCE of embarrassment do so?

Embarrassment is an emotional reaction. Self-consciousness, shame, awkwardness, they can all be really big feelings – and scary, which is why we avoid them. Can we, though? Should we?  A resounding no to both of those questions.

As long as there are people and we worry, at all, what any of them think there’s a chance for embarrassment; it’s unavoidable. That’s the main factor in embarrassment: people. What they see or hear and wondering how they’ll react can be terrifying. Still, we often do try to avoid this unavoidable thing. We are extra careful, don’t speak up or speak out, don’t draw attention, water ourselves down for fear of being too spicy for someone else’s palate. And when a situation arises anyway, we beat ourselves up for it. Extra if our plans to avoid it in the first place failed. If you’ve read the first few posts I’ve written here, you know I’m speaking from experience. Years of constant bullying left me with a coping mechanism of avoidance and to-the-core embarrassment about everything about myself. I know I’m not alone. And I hope I’m not alone in having (mostly) overcome it. 

In no way did I wake up one day completely unselfconscious, without a single care about what others thought of me, my interests, appearance, what I said, how I said it, the decisions I made, my life in general. No. I wake up every day and make choices. Control the things I can. Be forgiving when things go awry. Admit my lack of perfection. Accept that even if everything I am, do, and say are perfect, someone will feel differently. When I find myself holding back or shrinking myself down to avoid that self-conscious feeling of embarrassment, I ask myself why is this better? Why will not expressing an idea at the conference table be better than expressing it? It could solve a problem, even if someone else laughs. Why will watching everyone else dance to your favorite song be better than joining them? It brings you just as much joy as them. 

Most times, the temporary feelings of being uncomfortable or embarrassed, by far, outweigh whatever avoiding them might take when you get past them. Then having gone through them, we also learn something. Which is the reason, I feel, we shouldn’t plan our hours, days, whole lives around avoiding uncomfortable feelings. The best way is through, right? The lesson could be something about yourself that you didn’t realize before. It could be how to do something, correctly, that you had embarrassingly been doing wrong. It might be as simple as completely enjoying yourself in the moment. And, sometimes, it could be always remember to look out for shopping carts at Home Depot. 


Pinup model Kitchie Ohh photographed in a bathtub wearing red lingerie
Kitchie Ohh. Photo: Victor Devilbliss, Copyright 2023



Kitchie Ohh is a full-time professional fundraiser who has worked with a number of health and human services nonprofits in the Philadelphia area over the last 20 years. She found her passion for modeling after a pinup-style photoshoot in 2013. Since then, she has worked with many talented photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists in a variety of styles. She has been featured in- and on the covers of – multiple print and digital publications. Over the years, she has branched out from pinup studio modeling to serve as a figure model for live sketching, walked a runway, and was part of two campaigns for Philadelphia designer K. Vaughn.

In addition to her philanthropy-focused career, she has volunteered with art, historical, and community organizations, and even the events team of a local brewery for a while, pre-pandemic.

You’re just as likely to find her whipping up something deliciously plant-based in her kitchen or knitting a sweater as you are to find her on a photography set. Her motto is “be both.” The model and the homemaker, sultry and sweet, serious and silly. All the things, all at once.

To access additional articles by Miss Kitchie Ohh, link here:

A.H.Scott: Twisted, But True

Independence Hall Philadelphia
Independence Hall Philadelphia

Twisted, But True


A.H. Scott, Copyright 2023


Why is it that America touts the line of ‘….all men are created equal with inalienable rights’…yadda, yadda, yadda…and yet, many of the citizens constantly feel as if we are that orphan in the film “Oliver!” constantly having our bottom lip quaking in asking something along the following line: “Please, Sir, may we have our rights back?”


Can anybody answer the question of when is a right, not a right? 

I’ll answer that – It’s not a right, when you constantly have to crawl up those courthouse steps and drag your ass into a courtroom to plead for the validity of your Constitutional rights. 

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass[1]

It is like we are all legal orphans, pondering this question to the six saints of callously twisted legal theories.

Yet, unlike Oliver Twist making a request for more gruel in the workhouse, we as many a member of the American citizenry are in the position of longing for reinforcement of our rights. 

In some ways, we are humbled and pitied at the bar of justice for a crumb of respect, equality and simple humanity from this dismissive half-dozen on the bench of the Supreme Court. 

Oh, please, sir (or madam of virtue Coney Barrett) may we have our rights back?

Or, shall you continue to splatter cynicism all over that glorious piece of parchment, once known as the bedrock of our democracy, which we all are told to live and ascribe to – the United States Constitution? 

I guess from the middle finger that is always given to the underdogs of life, such as we, who are the un-male, un-white, un-Christian, un-manor-born or any other outsider on the basis of sex or acceptability’s scale, shall know this as being a reality in this land of fallacy and the hovel of ambivalence.

What makes an American an American?

Is it ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’…..? 

Is it that ‘all men are created equal’……? 

Is it ‘domestic tranquility’…?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Declaration of Independence[2]

Or, is it even that every one of us who are citizens of this country are actually seen as worthy of the promise of the founding documents of this nation called the United States of America?

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – U.S. Constitution[3]

Does the Constitution reflect all of us, or just those whose visibility has never been questioned in any quarter of American society?

Sadly, it seems to be the latter realm of reality which we exist upon.

Those six persons on the Supreme Court have chipped away at the progress of the full faith of showing all Americans that they have the rights to freedom and equality with their rulings from on high in this terms cases, from affirmative action[4] used in college admissions being disassembled to infringing on lgbtq+ rights[5] based on speculation over a Christian web designer’s standards of not wanting to serve[6] certain customers. 

We citizens who are disenfranchised, are seemingly forever having to beg for our rights to be respected and upheld whenever the Supreme Court waxes and wanes with the fickle finger of fate that becomes the steamroller for legal rights that had to be won within a court of law.

Time and time again, we must rely on, keep our fingers crossed, or pray, and pray again that legal rulings which were once considered sacrosanct due to their position of being a precedent is not built upon a solid foundation of fairness, but, temporary structure sinking in a quicksand of quirks.

For the present, it seems as if things that were once normal have been tossed into the dumpster fire which is being shoved down a highway of incivility by a vociferous portion of today’s conservatives. 

With a sense of the maniacal, many an elected Republican gets that accelerated boost by incinerating the cloak of comity between themselves and their Democratic colleagues. 

Alabama’s own, Tommy Tuberville has cut a poor profile for himself with his words and actions during his days in the United States Senate. Poor in being a person of spite over holding up over 270 members (and counting) of military personnel to be promoted, not to mention referring to white nationalists as being ‘an American’[7]. 

I guess saying the ‘quiet part out loud’ should be the new tagline for today’s Republican Party.

Oh, and of course ‘Bama Tommy has his own cheering squad from the lower chamber of Congress who is pushing a parallel amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. 

Lead sponsor[7] of the same amendment in the House came to Senator Tuberville’s defense: 

“He’s got backup here in the House,” – Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas

Former White House doctor, Good ‘ol Doctor Ronny Jackson once again knows how to pick ‘em and stretch reality, just as he did when touting the specimen of physical magnificence[8] that is known as Donald John Trump. 

“I told the President that if he had a healthier diet over the past 20 years he might get to live to be 200 years old” – Ronny Jackson, former White House physician and now current Congressman from Texas

Out of the Republican’s mouths things just keep a’ flying without a semblance of sobriety. 

Yep, that’s who they are – Twisted, But True!

But, that’s just scratchin’ the surface of the twists that keep a’ comin’. Speaking of twists, there’s that honest soul named George Santos. (NOT!!)

He’s on his high horse trying to reach for the crown of victimhood off from Donald Trump’s noggin. And, boy, oh boy he’s pulling out all the stops in going mighty low to drag an icon into his twisted tableau. 

“Guess what? Rosa Parks didn’t sit in the back, and neither am I going to sit in the back! That’s just the reality of how it works,” – Rep. George Santos, R-NY[9]

For that name to come from those lying lips takes being bereft of reality onto a new twisted level of audaciousness. Consumed and constructed with such manufactured self-righteousness, George Santos made an attempt at affixing civil rights icon Rosa Parks to the eagle’s nest of his own rickety vessel which is void of honesty, humility and humanity.  

Not here! Not now! Not ever!

That name from that mouth is just another ember doing the dance of the damned and dubious from the flickers of that rolling dumpster fire which seems to be speeding and descending down an unknown road. 

Yet, in the present day maelstrom which seems ordinary in the world Donald J. Trump has wrought upon the United States of America, anything goes and can just be said with barely a shrug or dot of shame. 

During the House debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, the same one which Ronny Jackson was lead sponsor of and Senator Tuberville in the upper chamber was diddling around with; there stood a member of the House Freedom Caucus who cast the bleaching freely.

“My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or Black people or anybody can serve, OK?” – Rep. Eli Crane, R-AZ, July 13, 2023[10]

In the modern-day GOP, there seems to be that certain something that always rears its’ head. Hmm, they shout from the rooftops how much they adore the members of the United States military. 

But, then again, the likes of Tuberville, Crane, Jackson and many, many others in the elected ranks of the Republican party seem to get their rocks off on making an attempt to hold hostage the organization, almost to the extent of having the military of 2023 be frozen in time before Executive Order 9981[11] was issued by President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1948. 

“What we want to preserve and maintain is the fact that our military does not become a social experiment. – Rep. Eli Crane, R-AZ, July 13, 2023[12]

Oh, my gosh! Maybe, Representative Eli Crane is onto something. Yes, it must be true. And, of course this sky is falling[13] twist isn’t anything new. History shows that pernicious trope is used in moments of backlash, backbiting and fear of a change in the way ideologues wish things to remain. 

Authored by associate professor of strategy at the US Army War College, Dr. Jacqueline E. Whitt and manpower officer in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth A. Perazzo, is an insightful essay titled, “The Military as a Social Experiment: Challenging a Trope”,  which takes head-on this myth of how this type of innuendo is used. 

“The claim the military should not be a social experiment, the locus for advancing a social agenda, or a product of social engineering – which we collectively term the social experiment critique – has been used primarily by political conservatives to criticize diversifying the American military.” – The Military as a Social Experiment: Challenging a Trope – U.S. Army War College Press (USAWC)[14]

Mr. Crane’s looseness of speech when he said ‘colored people’ had that air of residence of a certain kind of commonality, for which revealed those two words placed together is not something out of the ordinary to come out of his mouth. And, being blunt, maybe ‘colored people’ could be transposed from another word which probably flows freely from him in his social circle. It might be a crumbling or half-assed step-up from something more degrading.

“The social experiment critique is deployed selectively, namely against populations other than heterosexual, white, Christian, native-born cisgender men in the military. Thus, the social experiment critique operates as a political trope, gaining traction specifically in conservative political circles.” – The Military as a Social Experiment: Challenging a Trope – U.S. Army War College Press (USAWC)[14]

Oh, and there we go once more – to those who in America, can just ‘be’, seem to be the ones who are always chewing up the scenery in mocking the progress of society by tossing a false narrative of social experimentation into their true reasoning for not wanting diversity. 

To them, I just say – just be quiet, just be gone, just sit down, and stay in your own lane. 

For some of us in the United States of America, we cannot just ‘be’. We have to be on that constant loop of persist, persevere, and propriety. We always have to be ON. On the lookout for retaining rights that shouldn’t be constantly under attack of being ripped away, based on how a judge may feel on a certain day. 

Being ON, means having to be our own voice for validation as we are situated upon some mythical chessboard to prove that we belong in any sphere in this society. And, then when we lift our voices, it is us who are the voiceless that are given the side-eye and backlash across the entirety of society. 

Those who can just ‘be’ are the ones who reside in the realm of obliviousness. They just live in their own bubble of never having to care about their rights ever being stripped away by a lionization of legalisms, which shift by an ideological gust rightward. 

As for the rest of us, the ones who must stand with a slight quiver upon our lips, like an orphan of democracy in a continuous loop of grasping for relevancy of our citizenship to be ratified without a need of addendum or allowance being granted us, I offer this thought:

Be graceful. Be grateful. Be good. Be calm. Be still. Be satisfied. Be standard. Be beyond.

Be hope. 

But, then again, in America 2023 an antithesis of tactfulness has risen, which has proven to be twisted, but true. 

“Twisted, But True” 


A.H. Scott

“Twisted, But True” – FOOTNOTES:

1.-9 Greatest Frederick Douglass Quotes

2.-Declaration of Independence – National Archives

3.-U.S. Constitution – National Archives

4.-20-1199 Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (06_29_2023) – U.S. Supreme Court

5.-Supreme Court ruling allows businesses to refuse some services to LGBTQ+ customers – PBS NewsHour

6.-303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 600 U.S. ___ (2023) – Justia

7.-Tuberville Is Showing How Much Power One Lawmaker Wields Under Senate Rules – NPR

8.-WH Physician Ronny Jackson: President Donald Trump Has A Lot Of Energy & Stamina – CNBC

9.-LOL! George Santos Compares Himself To Civil Rights Icon – The Young Turks

10.-Fallout From GOP Rep. Eli Crane’s Racially Offensive Comment – AZFamily

11.-Executive Order 9981 – National Archives

12.-GOP Rep. Eli Crane Sparks Fierce Criticism After Saying ‘Colored People’ On House Floor – HuffPost

13.-Like Truman’s Military Desegregation Order, Leadership Against Racism Starts At The Top – Brookings Institution

14.-The Military as a Social Experiment: Challenging a Trope – U.S. Army War College Press (USAWC)


Portrait of A.H. Scott poet and writer based in New York City
A.H. Scott


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A.H. Scott is a poet and essayist based in New York City and is a veteran contributor to this blog.  To access additional articles by A.H. Scott, click here:

Understanding the Dichotomy: Infatuation vs. Love

The very sexy Alice Chaillou muse of Tony Ward studio topless in a Paris Hotel
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2023

Text by ChatGBT


Edited by Tony Ward, Copyright 2023


The realms of human emotions are intricate and fascinating, none more so than the delicate dance between infatuation and love. While often used interchangeably, these two terms represent distinct stages of affection that vary in intensity, duration, and depth. By unraveling the complexities of infatuation and love, we can gain a deeper understanding of human connections and the transformative power of genuine love.

I. Infatuation: A Fleeting Flame:

Infatuation is a state of intense attraction and obsession, characterized by a passionate desire for someone. It is often accompanied by a whirlwind of emotions, butterflies in the stomach, and an overwhelming longing to be close to the object of infatuation. However, despite its initial intensity, infatuation is typically short-lived and lacks the stability and depth associated with love.

Infatuation tends to be based on superficial qualities, such as physical appearance or a few shared interests, rather than a deep emotional connection. It is often driven by idealization and projection, where individuals create an idealized image of their infatuation and assign them with unrealistic qualities. Infatuation can lead to a loss of rationality, with individuals disregarding any flaws or red flags associated with the person they are infatuated with.

Moreover, infatuation is characterized by an intense focus on one’s own needs and desires, rather than a genuine concern for the well-being and happiness of the other person. It is primarily self-centered, seeking personal gratification and validation rather than engaging in mutual growth and support.

II. Love: A Foundation of Empathy and Growth:

Unlike infatuation, love is a complex and multifaceted emotion that develops over time. Love transcends the initial infatuation stage and forms the foundation of deep emotional connection and commitment. Love involves genuine care, respect, and empathy for the other person, fostering a sense of mutual growth and support.

Love is not solely based on external factors but encompasses the acceptance and appreciation of the whole person, including their flaws and imperfections. It acknowledges that no one is perfect, but it chooses to see the beauty and potential within the other person. Love withstands the test of time and remains steady even when the initial spark fades.

Furthermore, love is selfless and characterized by acts of kindness, sacrifice, and compromise. It involves considering the needs and well-being of the other person on an equal footing with one’s own. Love is a partnership, where both individuals actively invest in the relationship, supporting and encouraging each other’s personal growth and fulfillment.

Love is not bound by fleeting emotions but endures through challenges, conflicts, and adversity. It requires open communication, trust, and a willingness to work through difficulties together. Love allows for vulnerability and deep emotional intimacy, fostering a sense of security and emotional connection.

Infatuation and love, though often confused, are distinct emotional experiences. Infatuation, characterized by intensity and obsession, is transient and centered around superficial qualities. In contrast, love encompasses empathy, selflessness, and mutual growth, forming a deep and enduring bond. By recognizing the difference between infatuation and love, we can navigate relationships with greater awareness, fostering meaningful connections that stand the test of time.

Ted Kawalerski: The Saudade of Neal Slavin

portrait of the great photographer Neal Slavin by Ted Kawalerski copyright 2023
Neal Slavin. Photo: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2023

Photography and Text by Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2023


The Saudade of Neal Slavin


On what turned out to be a beautiful morning in New York, I was walking along Greene Street in SoHo to meet with Neal Slavin in his studio.  Tony Ward publishes a monthly blog and he asked me to make a portrait of Neal for an upcoming issue.  I had no idea of how I was going to make this happen.  I actually like to work this way and just let things evolve. When I hit #62 I rang the buzzer and entered what developed into a magical mystery tour.

Neal Slavin is a legendary photographer/director that I had never met before. He is probably most famous for the pictures that he made of large groups of people. However, there is a lot more work than that.  In over forty years I have photographed many famous people and I usually work with assistants and a lot of equipment. For this adventure, I decided to work alone and low key. This proved to be the correct decision.

As soon as I made it to the second floor, I was greeted by Neal’s wife and Producer Anita Burkhart. That set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. She has the kind of persona that you immediately feel like this is going to be a real good day.  Neal made his entrance with the same vibe and we went into the main studio. Their combined living/work space is the paragon of an artist’s environment – organized disorganization.  It’s fabulous!  We sat around a long table and drank a lot of coffee.  Anita had to leave but Neal and I spent several hours talking – about a wide variety of subjects.  In particular, Neal elaborated about his relationship with Portugal.

In 1967 Neal went to Portugal via a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph an archeological site but he became more interested in the people and he created a collection of black and white images that are incredible. He discovered Saudade, which is a unique Portuguese term that refers to a melancholic longing. This was a time when Portugal was under the brutal dictatorship of Salazar and his pictures reflect Saudade.



Neal recently returned to Portugal to make a film – Saudade a love letter to Portugal which Neal refers to as “portrait of an artist in search of his soul.” He reconnected with people that he met fifty years ago and he interviewed them for the film. He also shot color stills which are an interesting contrast to the early black and white pictures. Portugal has transitioned to a much different place than when Neal was first there and he was fortunate to have the cathartic experience of personally witnessing this metamorphosis.



So, finally Neal asked “What are we doing?” Fortunately I had the answer. While we were sitting at the table I was facing a wall that had a large work print of a picture that Neal did of a group of NYFD Chaplains.  When I first walked into the studio I thought that I would do an environmental portrait of him.  After our talk ended I wanted to do a simple photo.  I asked Neal to stand in front of the work print, I moved a light panel that was on and WE made his portrait.  I drank so much coffee that I was shaking so much  I had to use a tripod and cable release. Neal looked at the results, gave his approval and within minutes we were done.

Neal Slavin is one of the most interesting people that I have ever met!  This is not hyperbolic bullshit! No attitude or egomania. Just intellect!



About The Author: Ted Kawalerski is a New York based photographer and filmmaker who has been shooting for more than 40 years for corporations, graphic design studios, and advertising agencies.

He has done assignments worldwide of AIG, Bank of America, Chevron, Dominion Resources Services, Ernst & Young, Harris Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, Liberty Mutal, MasterCard, Medico, Pitney Bowes, Praxair, United Technologies Corporation and The Hartford.

Ted lives on the Hudson River in Sleepy Hollow, NY and is involved in an ongoing project to photograph landscapes and portraits along the entire length of the river.  This work has been exhibited in one-man shows in New York City at MV Gallery and a The Beacon Institute in Beacon, NY. Another project, “Windows” has been exhibited in NYC and Connecticut.

With two partners, Matt Stanton and Gene Mayer, Ted launched Cork Factory Films, a full service film/video production company. To access Ted’s film work, link here