Monthly Archives: November 2015

Veterans Day, 2015

I was thinking a bunch about Ken today. Ken was a homeless Vietnam War veteran, who I met during my senior year of college in Boston while studying journalism / photojournalism. We established quite a friendship, which evolved into me making a photo essay over several months, with his consent, depicting his daily life that revolved much around collecting recyclables by day and cashing them in each afternoon across the Charles River in Cambridge to buy a meal and alcohol. He had strong bouts of schizophrenia and showed all the signs of PTSD. Ken drove an M84 Patton tank in the war. I spent evenings in his home, built of cardboard walls and plywood, supported by the footing and I-beams of the Harvard / Massachusetts Avenue Bridge in Boston’s Back Bay. The underside of the bridge was his ceiling. I invited him into my apartment. I had a fireplace. I’d make a fire, he appreciated the warmth during Boston’s brutal Winters. We drank a lot of beer, and I listened to him speaking endlessly about his friends killed in the war, his wife that left him on his return, and apparent letters and wired money she sent him each week, and how she was going to come see him. The stories of her rarely added up. I heard the same stories many times. They were so sad, some nights his storytelling was full of hope, but would vanish in the morning, when I’d greet him outside in the back alley of my apartment.
veterans day, homeless, homeless man, veteran, Vietnam War veteran, Vietnam War, Boston, print, silver gelatin print, michael ast

The print here was made the first time Ken showed me his home, taken from the doorway to his shelter. The evenings were warming up in April, Ken was starting to sleep on the ground. There were a few other homeless neighbors. I graduated in May, saw him a handful of times after this portrait was made. I tried for a couple weeks before graduation to say goodbye to him, but couldn’t find him. His shelter was abandoned. I often wonder what happened to him. There’s no way of knowing. He was a really nice guy, severely in trouble, who I was glad to share a friendship with. Looking back, I could’ve done more. At the time, I believed the friendship was enough, just there as someone for him to talk to.

That’s what I’d like to express on this Veterans Day. War is despicable. It isn’t going away. Thank you, veterans, for your sacrifice and courage.

(Photo: Ken – Boston, 1996)

Drying (11/3/15)

Photopolymer Etching, Michael Ast, hydrangea, ivy, hand-pulled print, printmaking, intaglio, Hahnemuhle, photo etching, Charbonnel, print

Drying, Photopolymer Etching (11/3/15)

Furlong / Blue Evening – Artist Book by Raymond Meeks

Needless to say, I slept well last night, after spending time with this gem of an artist book. Raymond Meeks’ “Furlong; Blue Evening” is a beautiful celebration of young adolescence, light, nature, and that seemingly eternal freedom we all tasted and felt in our youth. His hand-made publications are some of the finest artworks I’ve ever sat with. They lure me back to pour over repeatedly through the years. The photographs and their emotive nature are made completely present to us in their exceptionally tactile printing, incorporated with equally palpable repurposed materials to contain them in a transcendental layout and design.


“The artist book is printed with carbon pigment inks to repurposed book paper with spot varnish applied to the prints. Additionally, some prints are made to transparency material and tipped-in, throughout. Includes choice of silver gelatin prints, toned in selenium” (R. Meeks)

Edition of 20 12.5 x 9 inches

See more of FURLONG here