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Active Learning and Research
Active Learning and Research
Photographer Stephen DiRado and biochemistry and studio art major Mary Badon share an interest in documentary photography. While DiRado finds inspiration close to home in Worcester, Mary photographed exotic wildlife on an island off the Panamanian coast.

Daily life in black and white

Professor Stephen DiRado's creative work
"If you had to name only one photographer synonymous with Worcester, it would have to be Stephen DiRado." --Worcester Magazine, March 6, 2003.

His photographs reveal ordinary people in ordinary settings. They are people you see walking down the street, riding the bus, in line at the movie theater or supermarket. Their faces are not airbrushed, their idiosyncracies are not hidden. They may be ordinary, but they are not identical. The starkness of black and white highlights their individuality. That's the way photographer Stephen DiRado wants it.

DiRado is a Worcester resident, one of several Clark artists and researchers* who find the city a source of inspiration and interest. "It is a big town with a small, inviting community," he explains. "Everybody knows one another and is eager to help when it comes to making my art, which in turn is primarily about them. Everything around me-friends, family and environments--all are consumed by my curiosity and questions and recorded by my camera."

DiRado shot two series of photographs in Worcester during the 1980s: "Bell Pond: Portrait of a Community" and "Mall." From May through October 1983 he documented the low-income community whose members recreated at Worcester's Bell Pond and adjacent park. The pond provided a brief refuge from what was an exceptionally hot summer.

During that that six-month period, DiRado shot more that 1,000 sheets of film, quickly becoming known in the neighborhood as "the picture man." Without prejudice, he recorded anyone willing to pose for his tripod-mounted camera, and each subject received a print as a thank you. Most participants were regulars; some drifted through, politely requesting to be photographed but never returning for a print. By the end of the season he had recorded families, couples, seniors, immigrants, individuals, gangs, prostitutes, and drifters. For DiRado, then just 25 years old, it was a profound experience that galvanized his career as an artist. In March of 1984, he exhibited 100 of the Bell Pond images at the Grove Street Gallery in Worcester.

Bell Pond paved the way for another project with a Worcester focus. From 1984 to 1986 DiRado directed his camera at the Worcester Galleria Mall (later renamed the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets) located behind City Hall. DiRado shot 3,700 negatives documenting shoppers and other visitors to the Mall. Fifty-seven of these photographs were later shown at the Worcester Art Museum. The Mall has recently been sold and may be at least partially demolished. DiRado's photographs will remain to document the comings and goings in an urban mall.

As can be seen from the Bell Pond and Mall photos, DiRado's passion is in using photography to reveal the details that distinguish the lives of ordinary people. The minutiae of their interpersonal exchanges, the settings in which they live, and how those details mutate over the years, is what DiRado wants to document for future generations, much as an individual might use a diary to record the daily events of his or her life. In recognition of his recent "Dinner Table Series," photographs of family and friends sharing meals together over a span of approximately 19 years, DiRado received an Artist Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2003.

Examples from Other Series
Click on any photo for a larger image.
All photographs copyright Stephen DiRado.


Beach People
Gay Head.
Gay Head, MA. 1997.

Night Photos.
Edgartown Harbor.
Edgartown, MA. 1999.

Dinner Table
Lights Out.
Chilmark, MA. 1999.

Sanctuary
Felix Neck Sanctuary.
Edgartown, MA.

Artists.
Roger
Vineyard Haven, MA. 2000.

Celestial.
Hale-Bopp Comet. 1997.

*See, for example, articles about artist Elli Crocker and the UDSC summer fellows.

 

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Mall Series
Bell Pond Series
Click on any photo for a larger image. All photographs copyright Stephen DiRado.


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