PHOTOGRAPHS & RELATED STORIES
DISCRETION ADVISED - Photographs and Related Stories, is an illustrated autobiography coffee table book in two volumes. Behind it all is the voice and lens of a risk-taking artist and freelance journalist who is willing to do virtually anything to get "the shot". Sometimes the author fails, more often he succeeds, but most importantly, he goes for the ride and invites his audience to go along with him.
The stories cover the years from 1987 to 2021 and take place in Sweden, France, Hawaii and across the continental United States.
Volume One - ART ADVENTURES, contains anecdotes that highlight the artist's creative process, his formulas, trails and tribulations and their results. Laden with humor, frustration, occasional melancholy and great moments of triumph, the stories in ART ADVENTURES tell of an artist's self-taught approach to photography and how by thinking outside the box his surreal visions come to be.
Volume Two - FREELANCE STORIES, or (FRAMING THE MOMENT) covers the author's ventures as a freelance photographer often becoming involved in sub-dramas while endeavoring to capture the bigger picture. Unhindered by the obligations of a hired photojournalist but without their easy access to the action, Stokle navigates his way through obstacles and around security authorities to obtain his uncensored views.
Contemplative in tone, what makes these stories so evocative are their bare naked first person descriptions. Readers are placed right in the mind and eyes of the author photographer and in these dramas within dramas, the action moves at top speed.
The two volumes in this series speak of honest ambition, creative drive and assertiveness. This is not reality TV, it's the real thing, and because the drama is not censored, discretion is advised.
David J Stokle is a Boston based artist with a long history of travel and diversity of expression. His work incorporates multiple mediums including painting, sculpture, and photography, and has been exhibited internationally. DISCRETION ADVISED - Photographs and Related Stories, is his first book.
SAMPLE STORIES AND PICTURES FROM VOLUME I. ART ADVENTURES
Like people, some cows are friendlier and more communicative than others, but even for a Big Island Cow Gertrud was exceptional.
The day we met I was exploring the luscious pastures of Parker Ranch, taking distant mirror views of Gertrude and her companions picnicking in a field. It was a mostly sunny afternoon with just a faint layer of clouds that perfectly diffused the light. Gertrude raised her head from the grass, and stared my way and mooed, "Look at that handsome photographer."
Of course I was very busy holding my mirror up in one hand and my camera in the other. Next thing I know Gertrude walked right up to me completely unannounced and introduced herself by rubbing her head against my back and shoulders. She was not the least bit shy. Rather, she was most affectionate and indeed quite straightforward for a cow I had only just met.
And what a charmer she was. In her own special way she nudged me to scratch her as one affectionately would a dog. And so I indulged her, rubbing her neck and forehead all while keeping a careful hold of my camera and adjusting the mirror in which I photographed our encounter. Gertrude obviously appreciated my scratching technique for whenever I stopped she softly bunted me to continue. I could barely contain my laughter as Gertrude's picnic companions watched us disapprovingly. I think they were hiding their envy actually.
Then, just when it seemed Gertrude had had enough, she threw me another big surprise. She lowered her nose to my foot, took a big loud whiff of my sneaker and then began licking its top. Perhaps it was the soft texture of the sneaker, or the salt from my perspiration that she liked. Whatever it was, very soon her giant tongue and saliva rendered my sneaker soaking wet. It was drenched. Again, I laughed out loud while the other cows seemed to wonder what all the fuss was about. I'm not exactly sure what they were saying to each other, but some of them were lifting their chins and slowly shaking their heads in disapproval.
"Huh," I think they were saying.
Big Island cows are full of aloha spirit, but they can be very jealous, too.
THE DOOR, SOUTH DAKOTA
Driving cross-country along Interstate 90, through the vast expanse of South Dakota, right in the middle of nowhere, I spotted an old abandoned wooden house at the top of a distant field. Intrigued, I parked my car alongside the road and began walking through the field leading to the house. It was a windy day and I could hear the gusts whistling through the tall thick grass that bent with my every step.
Drawing closer to the house, I noticed a single tree beside it. Though separate, the house and the tree were intertwined. They were linked in time and by the same fate of abandonment. Both objects were likely from the early twenties, relics from an era when a farmer and his family may have occupied the premises. There was a mystery to this lonesome place, one that beckoned.
Though the house had no porch, looking at it I imagined long summer evenings when, after a hard days work the farmer and his wife sat on chairs outside watching the sunset and their children playing on a swing attached to the tree. In sepia color I visualized the whole family sipping Coca Cola from those old curvy bubbly bottles. This was the American West of the early 20th century, a simpler time with simpler pleasures.
But why had the occupants left? Had there been a Dust Bowl in this area of South Dakota? Was the family's departure related to the Depression? Or had they, like so many others, simply left for greater riches in California? Perhaps the farmer had volunteered for military service in the Second World War and died on the beaches of Normandy. Anything was possible, even ghosts.
I neared the house with the caution of an intruder. The front door was locked. But the side door was held in place by only a flimsy wire that I easily removed. Inside, everything was bare, the walls, the floors, the living room, the kitchen and the bedrooms, they were all empty. There were no faded family pictures, no discarded dolls or toy soldiers, nothing except the mild scent of mildew and a subtle draft.
The sun was setting. It was already too dark inside the house for pictures. I had long wanted to use a door in a photograph and the one I had unhinged fit the bill. In a race to use the remaining light, I carried the door a short distance into the field and propped it up with a branch from the tree. Once again, the tree and the house were inseparable. It seemed only natural to photograph them together.
Today, I can no longer recall the location of the tree and the abandoned house. At the time, it was just one of many stops I made on my drives across the States. While it might have been interesting to revisit the site, I prefer not knowing where it is. I enjoy it as an isolated memory.
THE MOUNTAIN RANGE OF NO GOODBYES
Mountain Range of No Goodbyes
At first glance, the picture above looks much like a mountain range or an abstract sculpture perhaps. The reality however, is that it is the engine hood of the wrecked car in which my father, Norman Stokle, died.
On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, at 23:34 hours, my father was pronounced deceased at Fresno Community Regional Medical Center. According to the autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist, Dr. M. Chambliss, the cause of death was chest trauma from a blunt impact, with evidence of a probable cardiac event occurring as he operated his vehicle. In other words, while driving, my father may or may not have suffered a stroke or heart attack that resulted in his fatal accident.
What happened exactly no one will ever know, but according to eyewitnesses, my father's car came racing through an intersection, crashed into the back of a left turning vehicle, then bounced onto a sidewalk from which it sheared off a fire hydrant, then crashed into a telephone pole before finally coming to a full stop after hitting a cement brick wall. My poor Uncle Gerry, at whose house my father had dined the night of the accident, had the unfortunate job of identifying his brother's body.
Four days later, I traveled from Boston to Fresno, California, to join my brother Paul, to view the site of our father's accident, and to examine and photograph the remains of his wrecked car that had been moved to a nearby junkyard. For legal reasons, in order for my brother and I to examine our father's vehicle, the presence of two police officers was required. This meant our time to see the car was limited. While my brother examined the vehicle's exterior, I went into my press photographer's mode, and, with a degree of forced indifference, I looked at the car's interior front.
The front engine side of the car was a complete wreck. Surprisingly, apart from a cracked window shield, the interior front was in relatively good condition. The front doors were still working. I opened the one on the driver's side, looked in, and sat down in the driver's seat. Before me, about a dozen or so inches above the dashboard was the unmistakable flowered circle that in all probability marked the spot where my father's 82-year old life abruptly ended.
"This is where Dad was in his last moments," I thought. "He was seated here. He was alive one moment and then suddenly his car went flying out of control and his life was over." I wondered what his last thoughts were. I wondered if for a split second or two he realized his end had come. Mostly, I wished I could have said goodbye to him.
Beside the driver's seat, in the cup holder space was a dented can of Coca Cola. "That was probably the last thing Dad ever drank," I thought. I wanted to make a record of my father's last drink. I lifted the Coke out of the cup holder and put it on the dashboard where there was better lighting. The can was at least a third full, and, with the flowered window shield as a backdrop it seemed to tell a story. I took three quick stills and then, while Paul began questioning the policemen, I moved to the back seat of the car.
In the back were some discarded clothes, some newspapers, and a paperback book from the Fresno Public Library. The book was about King Louis XIV of France. Of late, Dad had been reading all about the Sun King and this book, I deduced, was likely the last book he had been reading. At face value the book was worth no more than a few dollars. In essence it was just a collection of bonded sheets of paper with ink on them, but to me it carried sentimental value in that it was one of the last objects to influence my father's existence. I put the book in my camera bag for safekeeping and vowed to reimburse the library. Dad would have wanted that.
Also in the back of the car, was a small packet of unopened M&M's. Dad and his sweet tooth, he loved his sugar just as much as I do. I put the M&M's packet in my pocket. It was another little item for me to savor and remember him by and to keep him alive in some artificial way even if only just for a few more minutes.
Handling my father's personal items struck an emotional cord. "Ah Dad," I thought getting teary eyed, "why?"
Regaining my composure, I stepped out of the car and focused my attention on its front side. The engine hood was bent upwards in half and into smaller back folds that pointed to the sky in a horizontal fashion giving it the appearance of a mountain range when viewed from below. Near the hood's center, the biggest fold even looked like a valley. Quickly I took a few low angle stills and then I moved to the backside of the car. Our time to view the vehicle was almost up.
On the back bumper Dad's bold personality shined. On it was the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign sticker he so proudly displayed. Dad was a hardcore Socialist all his life. He had always been a strong advocate of universal health care and of comfortable living wages for all peoples regardless of their professions. Looking at the Bernie 2016 sticker, I was proud of my father for his unwavering political convictions and I was especially happy his most recent favorite sticker had survived the crash virtually unscratched.
Our time was up. Before leaving however, I told the two police officers that I was going to kiss the car goodbye even if it was a weird thing to do. Thus, I walked back to the driver's door window and put my arm along the car's roof as if to hug my Dad in some last way. Then, with tears running down my cheeks I softly said aloud, "Love ya Dad," and then I twice tapped the vehicle just as if he were inside and about to drive away.
Ah Dad, I wish we could have listened to a little more Vaughan Williams. I wish we could have said goodbye.
The Last Drink
THE MUSHROOM CLOUD
The Mushroom Cloud
Sometime in the late eighties, I was with family and friends in Washington state. We were walking to our vehicle in a parking lot when, in the distance, we saw what looked like the mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb. No one in the immediate area seemed terribly concerned however. There were no alarms, no radio warnings, no loud bangs of any kind. Just a strange mushroom cloud breaking up in the distance.
EXCERPTS FROM VOLUME 2.
FREELANCE STORIES or FRAMING THE MOMENT
HAMMER ATTACK OUTSIDE NOTRE-DAME
PARIS, JUNE 6, 2017
Leaving the Enclose
Then, just as the two sirens ceased, more could be heard in the distance.
"We were right there," I overheard an excited English couple tell their waiter as they took their seats at a nearby table. The rest of their conversation was difficult to make out over the multiplying sirens, but essentially they had heard two gunshots and then seen some crazy man carrying a hammer fall to the ground in front of the cathedral. He was all bloodied-up, the couple said. They thought he was dead.
Immediately I went over to them.
"Is it true?" I asked, "has someone really been shot? Is that why all these police are here?"
"Yes," they answered, and that was all I needed to hear.
At once I left a few Euros on my table and raced across the Qui Saint Michel and onto Le Petit Pont (Little Bridge) leading to the park square in front of the cathedral. "Move your ass Stokes," I said to myself while running to the scene, thinking maybe I'd be able to capture the press shot and recognition I'd always wanted. At the same time, I recognized the need to be careful of the growing number of police officers carrying machine guns. Those guns could split me apart if I were mistaken for another terrorist or crazy person...
Makeshift memorial, Copley Square
EXCERPT FROM - THE RUINED FINISH
Thus, excitedly we walked up to Commonwealth Avenue, where, near Boston College, on the downside of Heartbreak Hill at mile 21, we found ourselves a great spot to watch the competitors race bay.
First came the wheelchair athletes. After their strenuous climbs up heartbreak Hill, they roller-coasted the hill's downside passing by at astonishing speeds in their state of the art aerodynamic two and three wheel contraptions. They went by so fast they made the race seem more like a stage of the Tour de France than a marathon. My students were amazed.
"The Boston Marathon is the first marathon to host a wheelchair division," I told them with the beaming pride of a local. "And, the first wheelchair athlete to complete the race was a Vietnam War veteran named Eugene Roberts, who lost both his legs in combat. Roberts completed the race back in 1970 using a heavy hospital wheelchair."
Next came the race's top runners. They too came flying by. First the women, and then the men in a carefully coordinated sequence. With 116 years of experience, the race organizers had the staging of the world's oldest annual marathon down to a fine art.
As the elite runners came down the hill to the roaring of the crowd, the made it look so easy. They appeared to defy gravity; they were always in the air it seemed, almost gliding. As a Bostonian, and as a former competitive marathoner, I was particularly proud to show my students that the city's most famous sporting event had once again managed to assemble a lion's share of the sport's greatest competitors. And, not unexpectedly, the front pack was full of Kenyans and Ethiopians, the icing on the cake.
My students and I were having a blast cheering and cow belling the marathoners on, but after an hour or so it was time to head back to school. We were just arriving in the classroom when a student read on her phone that two bombs had gone off near the marathon's finish line on Boylston Street. Evidently, some people had been killed and hundreds were reported injured. The race, she read to us, had been called to a halt, and the area near the finish line had been completely sealed off.
What! Could this be possible! It didn't make sense. This was the Boston Marathon, people were supposed to be out having fun. Why would anyone bomb the marathon?
We soon learned that three people had been killed by the blasts and up to 264 were injured many of whom would suffer amputations. The area around the finish line was described as a war zone. There was blood all over the place. It was horrid.
Bostonians were in a state of shock. And the questions remained, who, and why? Especially why?
EXCERPT FROM - A CLOSED CITY
Scene of the crime, Boston Marathon Finish Line, Boston Street, April 19, 2013
On the morning of April 19, 2013 the City of Boston was closed. Federal authorities ordered the public transportation system to cease operations, and the citizens of Greater Boston were asked to remain indoors while federal and state police sought to capture the now infamous Tsarnaev Brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan. Hoping to catch some of the action on film, that morning I set off for the city from my loft in the town of Milton some six miles away.
Reports were vague, but the latest news on the radio was that the whole area of Watertown, parts of Cambridge and much of the area northwest of the city, had been completely sealed off with no access in or out except for the authorities. This general area would thus be my destination. And so, with fingers crossed and cameras in hand, I began my long walk through the deserted streets of Greater Boston, on my way to Watertown.
Right from the start, even on the outskirts of the city, it was obvious from the eerie silence and the near complete absence of traffic and pedestrians, that something extraordinary was going on. Other than the sounds of patrolling helicopters, walking down Dorchester Avenue had the feel of the post-apocalypse.
One effect of the day's unusual circumstances was that for the few who did venture out, they, like I, would initially view other pedestrians with cautious suspicion. At this point, hardly anyone except for a few police and federal authorities knew anything of the whereabouts of the Dzhokhar Brothers. And, since no one was certain who all the terrorists were, almost anyone seen on the street was a possible suspect...
THE TRIAL OF DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV
Trophies On A Prison Cell Floor, Dzhokhar's
Jessica's words, everyone of them carried intense meaning. The description she gave of her and her husband Patrick's last walk through the Boston Common and along the streets towards the marathon's finish line sounded joyful and romantic, but everyone listening in the court room knew they would inevitably lead to the horrifying reality of their amputated states. Each time she said the word "walked," one struggled to suppress a wince knowing that was something she could no longer do.
After leaving the Public Gardens, the newlyweds walked down part of Newbury Street, then towards Boylston Street to watch the marathoners approaching the finish line by the Public Library. Jessica said she remembered hearing the race announcer's encouraging words over the microphone. She was standing behind Patrick, hugging him on tiptoes, when suddenly she felt like she was on a rocket and landed far on the right. In an instant she said, she could no longer hear the man on the microphone, just her internal organs. Mostly, she was focused on her husband whose foot was detached. She didn't want Patrick to see his detached foot. Instinctively she wanted to block his vision.
"Ma'am you're on fire," she said someone told her. Then, she was pushed on her back and the fire extinguished...
EXCERPT FROM - SEPTEMBER 11&12
New Yorkers applauding the emergency crews as they head to and from Ground Zero on September 12
On September 12th, West Street was a good place to be. It was a place of sanctuary and comfort where New Yorker's assembled in a therapeutic rally of solidarity. Looking down the long street with Ground Zero smoldering in the distance, watching my fellow New Yorker's standing tall, was, I imagined, the closest I would ever come to experiencing the London Blitz. One difference however, was that no warnings had come before these bombings.
In the crowd every face told a story. Some of anger, some of anguish, but most were of shock and bewilderment. No one yet fully realized the ramifications of this catastrophe, that it would lead the United States into a second prolonged Gulf War, that travel would never feel as safe again anywhere in the world, and that New York was now a scarred city, both physically and psychologically...
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