Guggenheim Fellows and the Lady in the Fur Coat

During the first week of April 2017, I received some very good news in the form of correspondence from Edward Hirsch, President of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The letter informed me that I had been named a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in photography. Each year since 1925, the foundation has offered fellowships to artists, scholars and scientists in a number of fields. According to a full-page ad in The New York Times, “Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of impressive achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.” The fellowship will allow me to continue my work on Military Sexual Trauma.

I met Sylvia Plachy who was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1977 for photography.

A reception honoring the 2017 class of fellows was held at the Century Association on West 43 Street in New York City. As only Fellows were admitted; no guests or spouses, each new conversation was with a fellow, past or present, representing diverse disciplines and backgrounds. 

It was a lovely evening in a beautiful place with plenty of food, wine and enlightening conversation: a journalist’s paradise. We all spent the evening walking up to each other, shaking hands and saying “Congratulations, what is your project?” I am humbled and deeply honored to be included among this group of brilliant and creative fellows. Thank you to the entire John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation family. 

April also brought some quirkiness. A seemingly routine assignment for the Daily Mail to photograph the “Queer Dance Party for Climate Justice” in front of Ivanka Trump’s home in the affluent, Kalorama neighborhood of Washington DC, unexpectedly ignited an internet flash-fire.

There was a slight chill in the air on that Saturday night as I photographed a couple of hundred protestors jubilantly dancing in front of Ms. Trump’s stately home, under the watchful eyes of US Secret Service and DC Metropolitan Police. 

I turned my attention to some neighbors who began gathering across the street to watch the festivities and began making photographs. This included a couple of frames of a woman, wearing a fur coat, with a glass of white wine in her hand. 

Somewhat unexpectedly it was that photograph that sent Twitter, well, all a twitter, along with Facebook, Instagram and the rest of social media. The woman in the photograph, Diane Bruce, quickly became the target of Internet trolls and journalists alike; the Huffington Post calling her “Ivanka Trump’s petty neighbor.” After I made her picture, I spoke to Ms. Bruce for a few minutes. She was very friendly and seemed amused by the dance party on her doorstep. I am guessing she was just as surprised as me when she became the latest social-media lightning rod in our nation’s current political storm. 

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