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Water's Soul - a Preview

October 19th, 2021

Water

A sneak preview of Water's Soul, a new giant sculpture on one of Jersey City's piers.

Read more about it in my latest post: https://alinaoswald.com/2021/10/19/waters-soul/

One Night in September

September 16th, 2021

One Night in September

Photographing the September 11 Tribute Lights on the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

World Trade Center, NYC

September 1st, 2021

World Trade Center, NYC

Walking around the World Trade Center area, in New York City, photographing the Oculus, the Freedom Tower, and the 9/11 Memorial.

Pride Month. Strawberry Moon. More Life

June 29th, 2021

Pride Month. Strawberry Moon. More Life

So much happening, especially in this past (and last week of June):

Pride Day fell on the same day as National HIV Testing Day this year, 6/27; there were a few Pride events in NYC, yet no fireworks…
More Life, a series of art shows highlighting HIV and AIDS counternarratives opened in Manhattan: check out a few images below as well as my article published in A&U Magazine to find out more
strawberry moon also highlighted the week, and I took a few pictures of it, too
also, my cover story and related photography for the Pride issue of Out IN Jersey will hopefully finally be posted online, and I’ll share the link as soon as it’s made available
and, last, not least, Fourth of July is coming up in a short few days; check out my post about photographing fireworks.

Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2021/06/29/more-life-pride-month-strawberry-moon/

COUNTERnarratives

June 24th, 2021

Check out my latest article published in A&U Magazine--America's AIDS Magazine. COUNTERnarrative focuses on HIV and AIDS counternarratives captured in More Life, a series of exhibitions opening this summer at David Zwirner Gallery, in New York City. Read more at: https://aumag.org/2021/06/23/more-life/

Minimalist Photography

May 26th, 2021

Minimalist Photography

During this coronavirus pandemic, I’ve spent months organizing and reorganizing pretty much everything around the house, a la Marie Kondo. I’ve also become interested in minimalist living (not the extreme kind) and, in the process, realized that I’ve always been a minimalist to a certain degree.

Recently, I’ve also discovered that there is such a thing as “minimalist photography.” So, what exactly is minimalist photography?

Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2021/05/11/minimalist-photography/

Learning from Photographers

May 26th, 2021

Learning from Photographers

What I’ve learned about photography and life from award-winning photographer Kurt Weston

In 2005, I came across an award-winning photograph posted online. It was called “The Last Light” and featured a man with a drawn face and ghostly eyes. He was sitting in a chair with his back at a tall window. He appeared as if at a crossroads, about to follow a path unfolding in front of him, beyond the visual sphere of the photograph.

Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2021/05/25/learning-from-photographers/

ACT UP Activists Stories in Words and Images

March 30th, 2021

ACT UP Activists   Stories in Words and Images

The Activists - Stories in Words and Images

March is not only Women’s History Month, but it also marks the anniversary (the 34th this year) of ACT UP–the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power. Over the past twenty years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet, interview and photograph many LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS activists, many of them ACT UP activists. In the process, I’ve discovered mentors and role models.

Here are a few of my interviews and photo shoots with ACT UP activists. Hope that their stories of resilience will inspire you, too.

Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2021/03/30/activist-stories/

Interviewing Photographers

March 9th, 2021

Interviewing Photographers

Over the years I’ve interviewed many photographers and learned a lot along the way, not only about photography, but also about art and activism, history and culture, and life, in general. Today, I’d like to share several of those interviews with you. Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2021/03/09/interviews-with-photographers/ .

Warrior Within - excerpt from a #tbt interview with award-winning photographer Kurt Weston

March 5th, 2021

Warrior Within - excerpt from a #tbt interview with award-winning photographer Kurt Weston

A #tbt interview with award-winning, legally blind photographer Kurt Weston, originally published in A&U Magazine–America’s AIDS Magazine

Some fifteen years ago, I came across a contest looking for works by visual artists and writers. The contest was called Unfinished Works and featured a black-and-white photograph–The Last Light, by Kurt Weston. Although I didn’t know it at the time, that moment was about to forever change my life in the most amazing ways. I ended up getting in touch with the photographer, Kurt Weston for a first interview. I’ve had the chance to interview him several times since then, and we even collaborated on a book.

Here’s an excerpt focusing on “The Last Light” photograph from Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of award-winning, legally blind photographer Kurt Weston:

Read more at: https://alinaoswald.com/2021/03/02/warrior-within/

Mardi Gras 2021

February 16th, 2021

Mardi Gras 2021

Photographing Mardi Gras while at home during Covid-19 quarantine

Happy Mardi Gras! I have to confess, I love New Orleans. It’s a phenomenal city that also goes by names like The Big Easy, Crescent City, or the City of the Dead. I’ve visited several times, but never during Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday). Yet, this year, with the pandemic still upon us, most of us celebrate Mardi Gras at home.

But how do we photograph Mardi Gras while in quarantine?

You don’t have to live in New Orleans to add a few carnival colors to your life. Rather, you can use Mardi Gras decorations to add a hint of NOLA to your living quarters. Decorations can include beads, masks, mostly in purple (for justice), green (faith), and gold (power).

[Read more at: https://alinaoswald.com/2021/02/16/happy-mardi-gras-2021/ ]

The story behind Under the Covid19 Dome image

January 12th, 2021

The story behind Under the Covid19 Dome image

Under the Covid-19 Dome – The story behind the image

Today I’d like to share with you the story of an image I made last summer, during the Covid-19 quarantine. It’s an image I called “Under the Covid-19 Dome” and one that was included in The Pandemic Archive Project.

So, here it goes: https://alinaoswald.com/2021/01/12/how-i-made-that-shot/

Angel in Central Park

December 2nd, 2020

Angel in Central Park

On World AIDS Day 2020, a post about the making of Angel in Central Park black-and-white Lensbaby photograph, the history of the Bethesda fountain sculpture in Central Park, NYC, and its role and symbolism in the play (and HBO movie) Angels In America.

Angel in Central Park

Angels in America has been a source of inspiration for many artists, in particular those capturing the AIDS pandemic of the eighties. The Bethesda angel is a symbolic figure at the center of Tony Kushner’s play, and, itself, a source of inspiration.

Known as the Angel of the Waters, the fountain sculpture designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868 hints at a Bible story of Christ healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. As it watches over Central Park, in New York City, the angel also alludes to the Croton Aqueduct, the first water distribution system (1842) to provide clean, drinking water to the city. In the context of Angels in America, the angel fountain sculpture becomes a symbol of hope, of a possible healing for those struggling to survive HIV and AIDS during the darkest years of that pandemic. [read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2020/12/01/angel-in-central-park-the-story-of-a-photograph/]

Coronavirus...a Blessing in Disguise?

September 29th, 2020

Coronavirus...a Blessing in Disguise?

Can you still recall how excited you were about the beginning of the year? Can you still recall your New Year’s resolutions? Have you had a chance or strength or motivation to accomplish any of those resolutions? And how about that 2020 vision?

Maybe “plagued” might be a more appropriate word to describe this year. The pandemic has altered our lives in profound, horrible and terrifying ways. Yet, at least in part, it has also been a blessing in disguise. Let me explain….

Among others:

[Read more at: https://alinaoswald.com/2020/09/29/coronavirus-a-blessing-in-disguise/ ]

No Surrender The Story Behind the Image

September 8th, 2020

No Surrender The Story Behind the Image

How I made that shot and the story behind my “No Surrender” image

Those of you reading this blog might recall some of my previous posts mentioning a new series of hand portraits and self-portraits, which is still very much a work in progress. Here’s the story behind one of the images in this series–No Surrender.

Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2020/09/08/no-surrender-the-story-behind-the-image/

Two Pandemics How HIV and AIDS has inspired Covid19 related creative work

September 1st, 2020

Two Pandemics How HIV and AIDS has inspired Covid19 related creative work

Drawing parallels between AIDS and Covid-19 pandemics

Several people, on different occasions, have asked me to talk about similarities and differences between the pandemic of the eighties (or the eighties’ “plague,” how Larry Kramer called it) and the current, Coronavirus pandemic. While I’ve covered HIV and AIDS for almost twenty years, I’ve just started capturing the present pandemic, for obvious reasons.

Read more: https://alinaoswald.com/2020/09/01/documenting-pandemics/

How to Talk About Your Images

September 1st, 2020

Should you and (if yes) how to talk about your images, your creative work?

The other day Facebook “reminded” me of a picture from a couple years ago, showing yours truly with her artwork at a gallery opening. Looking at it through the present Covid-19 lens, the image appeared to speak of a time long ago and another life…. It also brought to mind the idea of creatives talking (or not) about their work, especially at art shows, when meeting face to face people interested in their work, potentially.

Read more at: https://alinaoswald.com/2020/08/25/talk-about-your-images/

Creative Work and Covid-19

September 1st, 2020

Creative Work and Covid-19

Questions creatives might ask themselves in a time of Coronavirus pandemic

Sometimes I think that this pandemic is a blessing in disguise, to some extent and in some strange way, that is. Coronavirus pandemic has really brought into focus many aspects of our lives and issues in our lives. As I might have mentioned in a previous post, it has put things into perspective for yours truly and maybe for others, too. Hasn’t it?

Read more at: https://alinaoswald.com/2020/08/18/creative-qa-during-coronavirus-pandemic/

Quarantine Self-Portraits

August 11th, 2020

Quarantine Self-Portraits

Quarantine Self-Portraits: A visual representation of the evolution of mental distress caused by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic

I’ve thought about photographing pain (physical and mental) in a series of self-portraits, but found it difficult to capture pain, in action, as it targets one’s own self, mind, and body. Thinking of pain and how we perceive ourselves and others through the filter of pain, and in particular through its most recent 2020 lens, I feel that the Coronavirus pandemic has unveiled a raw and real, individual and collective portrait of pain, and transformed many people’s lives…and stopped lives, too.

In the spirit of #2020challenge here’s a version of this transformation so far, as perceived through my own eyes:
https://alinaoswald.com/2020/08/11/quarantine-self-portraits/

Photographing Hawaii

August 4th, 2020

Photographing Hawaii

It's August, Hawaii's statehood month. Here are a few images from the majestic, mesmerizing Aloha land, the land of rainbows: https://alinaoswald.com/2020/08/04/hawaii-in-images/

Pandemic-Inspired Creative Work

July 21st, 2020

Pandemic-Inspired Creative Work

On using creative work to capture pandemics, such as HIV and AIDS, and the Coronavirus pandemic

Oftentimes in life we have to face extreme situations–man- or nature-made–that, in turn, force us to look at life through a new lens, and compel us to capture the experience for ourselves and for those who come after us.

It’s not unusual for creatives to inspiration in these kinds of experiences; after all, they can be life-changers, for better or for worse. Take the HIV and AIDS pandemic, for example. Many works of art and activist art have been inspired by that ongoing pandemic, in particular when at its height. A few examples come to mind: plays (some then made into movies) like Angels in America, RENT; also, the AIDS quilt; activist art like Silence = Death and other posters; books by AIDS-journalists like Randy Shilts and, more recently, other authors; or visual art work by award-winning photographers like Kurt Weston, and so on.

Fast-forward to 2020, when we’re faced with yet another extreme situation–the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The experience of trying to make it out of it alive, of surviving this particular never-ending pandemic has also inspired and compelled many creatives to capture it–in words, images, moving images, and other art forms.

While I wasn’t here during the eighties and early nineties, to capture the dark years of HIV and AIDS, I’m here today, during the not-so-bright days of Coronavirus and Covid-19, and I’d like to share a few images I’ve captured so far in this post:
[read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2020/07/21/coronavirus-inspired-creative-work/

When Considering Photographing People During Covid19 Summer

July 14th, 2020

When Considering Photographing People During Covid19 Summer

Here's what to consider if you're thinking of resuming photographing people this Covid-19 summer. Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2020/07/14/photographing-people-during-coronavirus-pandemic/

The Symbolism of 7pm Cheer in a Post Covid19 World

July 7th, 2020

The Symbolism of 7pm Cheer in a Post Covid19 World

A visual interpretation of the meaning and symbolism of 7pm cheer for Covid-19 first responders during and post coronavirus pandemic

“Silence Equals Death, so let’s make some noise,” I wrote in a 2012 interview with artist/activist Nancer LeMoins for A&U Magazine–America’s AIDS Magazine. [As I also mentioned in my June 2019 A&U cover story, the Silence = Death poster has been a symbol of “AIDS activism and AIDS activism history.” In recent years, it “has become a symbol of activism, in a much larger sense.”] [read more: https://alinaoswald.com/2020/07/07/its-7pm-somewhere-a-visual-remembrance/ ]

HalfYear Mark Six Notes for the First Six Months of the Year

June 30th, 2020

HalfYear Mark Six Notes for the First Six Months of the Year

‘Tis the last day of June, and halfway into this year, we still find ourselves on a never-ending, roller-coaster ride.

[here are six notes for the first six months of this year, including Pride Month 2020, interviews about photography art and representing Coronavirus pandemic through art, my brand new Silence = Death Covid-19 mask, and much more; read on: https://alinaoswald.com/2020/06/30/a-few-updates-at-half-year-mark/ ]

What to Photograph - Photo Project Ideas in a Time of Covid-19

April 28th, 2020

What to Photograph - Photo Project Ideas in a Time of Covid-19

Photo Project Ideas in a Time of Coronavirus

Winter is supposedly over. Easter came and went. Summer is around the corner (or so they say), and Coronavirus is still with us, keeping most of us inside our homes.

For a creative, this could be a great time to:

read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2020/04/28/what-to-photograph-in-a-time-of-covid19/

Covid19-inspired artwork

April 12th, 2020

Covid19-inspired artwork

Capturing the Coronavirus pandemic in words and images

To borrow from Jonathan Larson’s “Seasons of Love” [RENT, the musical], I wonder how do we measure a month in a life defined by the Coronavirus? I’ve never lived through a pandemic. I’ve been covering HIV and AIDS for almost twenty years, oftentimes through the stories of long-term survivors, but I’ve never lived through the crisis of the early days of that pandemic.

So, how does one really capture the story of a pandemic, while living through the pandemic themselves? Journaling? Documenting each day in thoughts and worries, text and visuals, news updates?

Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2020/03/31/coronavirus-pandemic-snapshots/

Also, for more covid19-related and other images, feel free to visit me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/alina.oswald/

Reflections on Self, Creative Work and Life in a Time of Coronavirus

April 12th, 2020

Reflections on Self, Creative Work and Life in a Time of Coronavirus

As individuals we often find ourselves having to face many kinds of extreme situations–man-made or nature-made. Oftentimes, these extreme situations change our lives and our views on life.

So, how about today, in a time of Coronavirus?

COVID-19 has forced many of us–on a collective and individual level–to pause, to take time out. In particular on an individual level, the virus has given many of us the courage to use this time for self-reflection, for reassessing priorities in our lives and our work.

Read more at: https://alinaoswald.com/2020/03/17/reflecting-on-self-creative-work-and-life-in-a-time-of-coronavirus/

Self Portraits Black and White and Depth of Field

February 28th, 2020

Self Portraits Black and White and Depth of Field

More thoughts on self-portraits and self-portraiture, in black and white and shallow depth of field.

Valentine's Day - Photographing Love

February 14th, 2020

Valentine

Photographing Love - a #tbt post

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today, in particular, most of us celebrate love…or maybe lack thereof. But how do we, creatives, define love (or lack thereof) and how do we express or capture love in our work?

Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2017/02/14/valentines-day-photographing-love/

Hand Portraits and Self-Portraits in Black and White

February 11th, 2020

Hand Portraits and Self-Portraits in Black and White

Hand (Self-)Portraits: On the Visual Language of Hand Gesture Captured in Black and White

Read more at https://alinaoswald.com/2020/02/11/hand-gesture-a-visual-language-in-black-and-white/

A Night at The Whitney

January 14th, 2020

A Night at The Whitney

Art and Photography: How visiting museums and art galleries can better our photography work

Getting Ready for the Opening Night

January 5th, 2020

Thoughts on how to get ready for the opening night of your photography show.

On Submitting to Photography Shows

January 5th, 2020

What to consider when deciding to submit work to photography shows.

The Decisive Moment

January 4th, 2020

How to capture the decisive moment in portrait photography

A Brief tbt Interview with Photographer Kurt Weston

January 4th, 2020

A brief interview (a #tbt) with award-winning, legally blind photographer Kurt Weston.

Gifts from and for Photographers

January 4th, 2020

Gift ideas from/for photographers

Creative Work as Holiday Gifts

January 4th, 2020

Check out unique gift ideas from living creatives. Buy art from living artists and buy books from living authors.

Creative Work Purpose, Protest and Passion

May 6th, 2019

Creative Work Purpose, Protest and Passion

Creative Work: Purpose, Protest and Passion - a post attempting to answer some of the following questions, and more:

Why do we create?

Oftentimes, many people might associate a piece of artwork with beauty (in the eyes of the beholder) but should art have a deeper purpose? And, if yes, what should that purpose be?

Whenever necessary, should creatives use art to send a message, make a point?

Should we use our creative work to speak our minds–to advocate for a cause or protest an injustice? Is it still safe to do so?

How and Why I Became a Nikon Photographer

May 5th, 2019

How and Why I Became a Nikon Photographer

Here's my story of how I became a Nikon photographer.

Exploring Black and White Photography

May 5th, 2019

Exploring Black and White Photography

I became interested in black-and-white photography when I discovered Kurt Weston's photography work, mostly b&w portraits and self-portraits. Here's my take on black-and-white photography, in an article published by Precise Moment photography magazine.

Thank you,
Alina Oswald

Being Interviewed by Author E.L. Lindley

November 16th, 2012

Being Interviewed by Author E.L. Lindley

What an honor to be interviewed by author E.L. Lindley! We talked about writing, photography, books, blogs and plans for the future. Quite exciting! I am grateful!

The interview is available online, at http://ellindley.weebly.com/2/post/2012/11/come-and-meet-social-commentator-and-talentedwriter-alina-oswald.html.

Thanks!

September 11 Tribute Lights

September 11th, 2012

September 11 Tribute Lights

September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were when 9/11 attacks happened. We all remember the shock, the loss... maybe the fear that gathered us together as one.

Time is the best healer. In time, the rubble (Twin Towers remains) at Ground Zero disappeared. Partially destroyed buildings were taken down and their footprints became new construction zones for new buildings. The 9/11 Memorial opened last year. A new tower is still under construction, growing higher and higher until it will reach its target height of 1776 feet.

While we'll never forget the events of 9/11/2001, most of us have moved on with our lives. For some of us, the 9/11 memories remain still fresh... Over the years we may have forgotten the bond that held us together, united during that time of trial. Yet, each year, there is one day reminding us that we are still capable of kindness, understanding, compassion, sacrifice and patriotism, as we were in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks. Yet each year, there is one day that reminds us of those we've lost, of those who have given their lives trying to save others. That day is September 11th.


I have photographed the 9/11 Tribute Lights for years, now. The result was my photography book called INFINITE LIGHTS: A Collection of 9/11 Related Photography. To find out more about INFINITE LIGHTS, please feel free to check it out at: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2565645

Thank you!

Alina Oswald
www.alina-arts.com

Backbone

August 14th, 2012

Backbone

Backbone or
Chasing Rainbows: How I started covering HIV/AIDS- and LGBT-related topics

In April 1986 I attended my first AIDS conference in Europe, where I was living at the time. The event marked what I call today my "chasing rainbows" experience.

Many years later and on this side of the Atlantic, I had the chance to build a career based on that event-I started covering HIV/AIDS- and LGBT-related topics as a writer and a photographer. And so, while continuing to chase rainbows (goals), I discovered a community that adopted me and changed my life in the most significant ways.

Over the years, many individuals have helped define and shape the backbone of the LGBT community. Some have names we recognize, others don't. Yet, all these individuals represent strong pillars of their community. They are people like artist Gilbert Baker, who dyed his first rainbow flag and flew it over the streets of San Francisco, thirty years ago, in June 1978. They are people like Harvey Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street, murdered in November of 1978 because he was openly gay, like Matthew Shepard and, the most recent victims of hate crimes, like Lawrence King. They are the many who suffered silently and died silent deaths during the first years of the AIDS epidemic, and also the AIDS warriors who're still trying to find a cure. They are those who made history during the Stonewall riots of 1969, and also those still fighting for equal rights today.

Throughout the decades, these individuals have formed and then built on the backbone of their community by following the rainbow and all that it represents as a universal symbol of hope and change for the better. Without them we wouldn't be here today and we would not be able to dream of tomorrow.

Every June, many of us follow the rainbow flags flying high over cities across the world. If we look past the bright colors, we see the many faces of the rainbow, of those who form the backbone that holds this community together, united in all its diversities, goals, and ideals. If we join them, we can also become part of the rainbow and, quite possibly, of a more understanding and accepting world.

Each summer I chase rainbows with my camera in hand, taking advantage of the photography's ability to make time stand still, if only for an instance. This summer was no different. Photographic instances from the experience became part of my Backbone.

PS: Check out what others have to say about Backbone by visiting Sean P. Farley's fantastic Boulder Uphill blog. Thank you, Sean!
PPS: Check out my book, Backbone, with images from the photography show with the same name at http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1594834.

Thanks you!

Self Portraits and the Brocken Spectre

August 8th, 2012

Self Portraits and the Brocken Spectre

Many people love to "make love to the camera" as they say, to be photographed. Many others, don't. Lots of individuals do ask photographers to take their portraits, headshots, but that doesn't necessarily mean that these individuals enjoy being in front of the camera.

In my experience, photographers don't necessarily enjoy being photographed. That's because they love being behind the camera, not in front of it.

Still, a few photographers have reached a celebrity status because of their self-portraits. Cindy Sherman's self-portraits are shown at the Museum of Modern Arts in New York City. Award-winning, legally blind photographer Kurt Weston created a series of self-portraits through which to express his vision loss. Images from Weston's Blind Vision series ( a collection of black-and-white self-portraits) have won awards and been featured in various art galleries and museums. For example, Losing the Light was featured in the 2006 VSA (Very Special Arts) show called Transformation, which opened in Washington, DC. at the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts. Another self-portrait from the same series, Journey Through Darkness, is part of the AIDS Museum permanent collection.

As photographers, we sometimes have to have our picture taken. In these situations some of us would rather take the picture ourselves. Hence, the dreaded self-portrait.

What is about a self-portrait that's so scary, sometime unappealing? And what is a self-portrait? What does it take to make one worth showing to the public audience?

I've asked professional photographers these questions too many times. And while answers were few and with minimum of useful info, I decided to ask yours truly the same question, and then go seek the answer myself... and share it here, with you, even though in short form.

Truth is, much can be said about self-portraits, but I'd begin with the question: What's in a self-portrait?

A self-portrait is a... portrait of oneself. An image in which the photographer is also the model, the subject of the photograph. But changing these two hats is much easier said than done.

As any other portrait, a self-portrait can be:

* a headshot

* an environmental portrait

* a reflection

* a shadow

* Brocken Specter (I'll explain what this is a little bit later)

* any other portrait in which the model/subject is also the photographer

That means, a self-portrait can blur the barriers between reality and fantasy, ranging from fashion photography to an editorial or a work of fine art. It can be taken outside, using only ambient light, or in the studio, using strobes. It can be a pinhole photograph (taken with a pinhole camera) or a lensbaby image (taken with the Composer lensbaby, for example).

A self-portrait can show the subject's face, parts of the body, or subject's reflection or shadow. Depending on what the photographer wants to express through the photograph (self-portrait), the pose, make-up, hair, location and lighting (to mention only a few) can help achieve that goal. And let's not forget about all the options available through post (production) workflow, including converting the image black-and-white or sepia tones, perhaps to add or emphasize dramatic elements in the image.

So, let's take them one at a time... Let's start not with the obvious headshot, but with a shadow as a self-portrait. I'm not talking about just shadow. I'm talking about the Brocken Spectre, an optical illusion also known as the Ghost of Brocken.

A brief history, first:

Brocken Spectre, Brocken Bow, Gravity Rainbow, Brockengespenst. They are all names for an optical illusion originally observed and described by Johann Esaias Silberschlag (16 Nov 1721 - 22 Nov 1791) in 1780 on Brocken Mountain, Germany. Silberschalg was a theologian and natural scientist. A lunar crater is named after him.

Brocken Mountain is part of the Harz Mountain range (highest peak is Bocksberg), located in Northern Germany, near Schierke, in Saxony-Anhalt, Wurnberg, between rivers Weser and Elbe. Brocken Spectre appears as a halo-like ring of glory, also called a saint's halo or god- shadows. The spectre is an enlarged shadow of the observer surrounded by the rainbow. This hallo becomes visible on mountain regions, at sunset, when clouds, fog or rain are present. The above Brocken Spectre images were taken on top of Haleakala Mountain (10k ft or 3048 m above sea level) in Maui, Hawaii.

Famous visitors on Brocken Mountain include Goethe, who mentioned the Spectre in Faust, and Heinrich-Heine, who mentioned the spectre in Harzreise (1826). An un-sourced register entry says: "Viele Steine, mde Beine, Aussicht keine, Heinrich-Heine." The phrase relates to the trying mountain ascent in foggy conditions.

That brings me to my bucket list. I'll have to add a visit to Brocken Mountain in Germany. There's more to it than ghosts....

Thanks for visiting!

Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS