Sister Josaphat Slobodian Creates Ukrainian Easter Eggs with Pysanky

Sister Josaphat Slobodian dyes an egg while she does Ukrainian eggs, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Sister Josaphat Slobodian dyes an egg while she does Ukrainian eggs, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

In May of 1990 I was working on a feature story for the Philadelphia Inquirer about the fact that nuns were getting older and new nuns were not taking their place. The 132 acre province was home to the dwindling order of Sisters of Saint Basil The Great in Glenside. I believe I spent a day and a half there making pictures. It was a time when newspapers would give a photojournalist the time needed to capture images that would illustrate a story and do it justice. They also allotted a good amount of space for it with the Neighbors sections.

Sister Josaphat Slobodan heats up an egg to melt wax while doing Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysnaky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Sister Josaphat Slobodan heats up an egg to melt wax while doing Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysnaky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) 

 

While I was wandering around the motherhouse grounds I met a few nuns that were kind enough to allow me to hang with them as they went about their day. One sister tended to horses, another maneuvered a tractor across the lawn, one nun was tending her garden and yet another was washing outdoor furniture. Some of the nuns taught at St. Basil Academy. The one I have never forgotten is the sister I met in one of the buildings of Manor College. Upstairs far above the classrooms was an attic which Sister Josaphat Slobodian used as her workspace. There, every Easter, she made Ukrainian Easter Eggs with a technique referred to as “Pysanky.” According to pysanky.info, Pysanky is an Easter egg decorated using a wax resist (aka batik) method. Its name derives from the Ukrainian verb “pysaty,” meaning “to write. Design motifs on pysanky date back to pre-Christian times–many date to early Slavic cultures, while some harken to the days of the Trypillians, my neolithic ancestors, others to paleolithic times.”

 

Sister Josaphat Slobodian places wax on an egg while doing her Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Sister Josaphat Slobodian places wax on an egg while doing her Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

It is a really interesting process to watch. Sister Josaphat allowed me to hang around while she made the eggs. Some of the details in the eggs must have taken her hours to finish. They were so detailed with indicate patterns. I must say, it was some of the most inspiring art work I had seen in a while.

Sister Josaphat Slobodian draws a pattern on an egg while doing Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Sister Josaphat Slobodian draws a pattern on an egg while doing Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Sadly, Sister Josaphat passed away a few years ago. I just found that information out a few days ago. But with Easter coming, I thought it appropriate to share some of the images I made while she created her Ukrainian Easter Eggs May 1, 1990. A few days after I made these images, a small box showed up in the mail at the office. It held a very cool Ukranian Easter Egg that Sister Josaphat had made. It was one of the finished eggs in her collection that she noticed me admiring the day I was at the Motherhouse. In the box was a nice thank you note.

Sister Josaphat Slobodian draws a pattern on an egg while doing Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Sister Josaphat Slobodian draws a pattern on an egg while doing Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Sister Josaphat Slobodian draws a pattern on an egg while doing Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Sister Josaphat Slobodian draws a pattern on an egg while doing Ukrainian egg decorating, or pysanky, Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

Twenty eight years later, I still have that egg. It rests on my mantle.

Every time I look at it I think of Sister Josaphat.

A batch of finished Ukrainian Easter eggs created by Sister Josaphat Slobodian are shown Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

A batch of finished Ukrainian Easter eggs created by Sister Josaphat Slobodian are shown Tuesday, May 01, 1990 at Sisters of Saint Basil The Great motherhouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain/Cain Images)

 

Sisters of Saint Basil the Great in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania


In May of 1990 while working for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I spent some time with the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great who founded St. Basil Academy in 1931. The sisters also established Manor College in 1947. What I photographed in the times I spent at the school was the sisters at morning prayers and then followed them through their teaching day at St. Basil. I also was able to photograph some of the retired sisters as they worked on the farm, gardened, cleaned furniture and did some crafts.

The sisters were very open about their lives on the campus and pretty much allowed me to make images showing whatever I felt was necessary to tell their story . You see, their numbers had diminished from about 50 strong in the early days to 35 when I visited them.

Why Do Students Not Take Deadlines Seriously?

nohomeworkeexcuses

 

When I was teaching at a university, one of the biggest problems I found was that students never seemed to take a deadline seriously. It is one of the simplest rules. Get your assignments in on time! Not sure why that is so hard. Maybe they need to manage time better. Some of the excuses are plain stupid. One student said she had to work, another had a death in the family, another had her gear stolen. In that case, I asked for a copy of the police report. Never did receive it. I don’t think the student realized that faculty members speak with each other and that I was told the student had used the same excuse a semester before.

Last year I had a student challenge her grade. She believed she deserved a better grade then I had given her. I told her I didn’t give her a grade. She earned it.

She asked that I review the reasoning behind the grade she had earned.
So, I did. I made note that 8 out of 10 assignments were not turned in on time and they were almost a week late in most cases. One was never even completed. Another notation I made upon review was “student did not follow directions.” In that case the assignment called for one program, which was readily available on campus, but the student chose to use another program. Thus, not doing the assignment the way it was intended.

When I explained that her lower grade was due to the fact that she didn’t follow directions and couldn’t meet a deadline. She still didn’t understand.

This was my written response to her.

“I teach part time. I make pictures full time and have been doing so for 30 years.
I have never missed a deadline.
My father died.
I didn’t miss a deadline.
My dog died.
I didn’t miss a deadline.
My house flooded.
I didn’t miss a deadline.
The list goes on.
No excuses. Just meet the deadline.
 
Sometimes my deadlines are weeks or days. Sometimes they are hours.
I still haven’t missed a deadline. And that dates back to when I was a student attending University of the Arts.
 
I have also worked as an assignment editor. I call a photographer with an assignment. They get it in before the deadline. If they do not, I never call them again. End of story.
A photographer gets one shot to make a good impression. Meeting deadlines is key.
 
If I’m an art director and assign you to make a slideshow using this new software called Lightroom. We want to show what it does. You decide, since you don’t have it, you’ll use another program. I know Lightroom can be easily downloaded as a trial. You submit your slideshow, 6 days after it was due. Missed the deadline and totally screwed up my production schedule. The worst part is that as I look at the slideshow, I realize that it was not done with the software I, as the art director, hired you to use thus negating the whole project. Wasting my time, your time, and screwing up your clients production schedule. Do you think that the art director would ever call you again. The answer is no. Your one shot at making a good impression is gone.
 
The reality is that an art director or photo editor does not care if your father, dog, your house was flooded, you had studio problems for another class, etc… They care that you get the job done correctly and on deadline.
 
I appreciate the fact that you said you worked hard on the assignments. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. 

You obviously have some talent, but I’ve seen is flashes of brilliance with long periods of mediocrity.”

Unfortunately, I sometimes believe that students think we are insane and that we ask these tasks of them to make it harder on them. In actuality, we ask these students to do these tasks so they will have the knowledge and fortitude to succeed in the career they’ve chosen.

Hopefully, she gets it….soon.

Georgian Court University Graduate Student 2014 Commencement

Last week I photographed Georgian Court University’s grad student commencement ceremony. As always, it was crazy but fun. Luckily, the rain held off so the students could march past the fountain and eagle sculpture during their processional. I met a nice couple who had met at the college during their grad student studies and just married two weeks before graduation. They hadn’t even gone on their honeymoon yet. Click the link to see the full gallery.

Never Thought…

A few weeks ago, I got screwed over by a so-called friend and former student who has worked with me as an assistant.

Lesson learned here is to NEVER, EVER do something without the photography agreement signed, sealed and delivered.

It started out innocent enough. A former student had asked if I would photograph his/her wedding. I was honored and agreed. It was then suggested by one of us that he help me with a job that I had in the books to work off some of the fees for the wedding. Made sense. I’d have someone capable of helping out with a shoot and it would knock a bit of money off the wedding photography package. I never though I’d get screwed over.

There wedding was over a year away. No paperwork. I’ve committed to photograph their wedding on said date. Just an agreement between friends. Paperwork to come later.
Most packages include an engagement portrait session that is free. Out of package the session is $100 which can be applied to the actual wedding package upon booking.
I’ve never done an engagement session and not booked the wedding.

The job I needed help with comes and goes, former student does nice job that day. Their wedding is still over a year away. No paperwork. We’re good.

A few months later former student emails and asks if we can do the engagement portrait on such and such a date. I said fine, I can make the date work. That afternoon I receive an email from a bride asking about my availability on the former students wedding date. I say “no can do” booked that day. No paperwork. Just an agreement between friends. Paperwork to come later.

Engagement portait date comes. That morning, before I leave for the shoot, my wife asks if I have the paperwork complete for the former students wedding date. I said “No, although I probably should. But, it’s a former student, I don’t think I’ll get screwed over.”
She reminded me that I always say never work without some kind of formal photography agreement. I agree, but state that it’s a former student and “friend” not likely to screw me over.

That day, another bride inquires as to my availabilty on the former students wedding date. Sorry, I’ve committed to another wedding. In fact we just did their engagement portrait today.

Engagement session goes very well. In fact the bride says “thanks for a wonderful day and awesome pictures!!!!!!” Pictures were very well received. After the session, I spoke with the couple about their wedding, how they saw it, what they’re looking for photographically, as well as how much time and if they want albums. They proceed to tell me how much coverage, the amount of guests, locations, etc… All good. I’ll send them some packages built around what we’ve discussed. At this point the wedding is 13 months away. I offer discounts worth 20% plus the money off for helping with that job a few months before, but if they book more then 12 months out, I’ll add another 10% off.
OK. So now, the discounts are worth 30% plus.

Former student then asks about downloading some pictures. I state that “You have access to download from when we work together.” I’m thinking they’ll download a few pics. No big deal.

No paperwork. Just an agreement between friends.

All good. I send the package info. Discounts are worth $1,100 plus. No paperwork. Just an agreement between friends.Wait a week, don’t hear anything. When I do hear back, they want to know how much without a book. I tell them. Fine. Wait another week. Now we’re less then 12 months out that extra 10% has to be pulled from the table. Discount is now worth $900. I email stating that and ask if they want to proceed, at the same time I offer to give them an album as a gift. Again stating that the book is worth $200 keeping the actual value of the discount at $1,100. Wait again.

A day later, they respectfully decline my package a full month after we’ve shot the engagement portrait, and I’ve turned down two other brides. WTF!? Quite frankly, they went over their budget and can’t afford the package. Really!? The numbers have been the same for the past month. You realize this now. Oh and by the way, even if they could afford it, they don’t have the deposit.

So, what can you afford? They give me a number. Best I could do for that is a six hour with one photographer, not eight. They insist upon eight. No can do. Good luck. We part ways.