One Sky

a report (and next steps) about
a photographic project
by Skip Schiel

(third report)

Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage, Stone Mountain, Georgia, 1998

In the past one and one-half years, June 2001—December 2002, I’ve examined the photographic materials generated during my 15 month journey to explore historic slavery and contemporary racism. I’ve put them into forms more usable by people: exhibits, slide shows, website presentations, and publications. Four topics have emerged:

My experience on the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage,

People in the US south who are correcting the social
infrastructure of troubled areas,

A two week long sojourn I made thru the Mississippi Delta to Chicago from New Orleans,

And organizations in South Africa which are rebuilding the post-apartheid nation.

After much turmoil searching for deeper themes in each of these topics, I’ve discovered the following:

Slavery underpins this nation’s development, wealth, and destiny—with racism as its contemporary manifestation.

Both may be ineluctable, but at least capable of elucidation, if not transformation.

Crossing a colossal bridge revelatory of the racism in this country, I have identified with a woman of color from the Mississippi Delta thru a series of occurrences that seem random but may in fact reveal synchronicity.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a guiding presence for me. This came to me vividly and with some angst during a dream I had in South Africa.

Something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa might be a good idea for the United States. Is its existence possible, given the power structures now prevailing in our nation? The present newly reawakening emphasis on reparations for people of color suggests, yes, it might be possible.

And there are other themes. Most are not immediately photographable. Does that mean they are unimportant in the life and work of a visual artist? Hardly. They form the bedrock, the grounding, the underlying perspective that shapes the imagery.

The themes constitute the One Sky I refer to in the main title of my project. They flow together—one large social picture. In addition, everywhere I travel, northern or southern hemisphere, there are similar clouds, similar star formations, similar winds, the same four major directions, and the same air, recirculating—One Sky.

What next?

Two elements:

Continue to present the photos thru exhibits, slide shows, publications, and the Internet. (I’ve been working with Soul Brown, fellow pilgrim and artist on a joint exhibit, Itineraries, shown at the Boston Public Library and to be toured.)

Once this is accomplished, shift to the next theme, one related but different, growing from the photos I’ve made, taking them and my work generally a step or two further. Related by being based in the oppression a particular group experiences, with hints of how this oppression can be ended. Different by being a different topic, different population, different location.

I feel strongly—oh so strongly!—that both of the following topics will guide my next photographic journeys:

The prison experience in the US,

And Israel and Palestine.

Helping me prepare for the prison theme—and I do hope to gain permission to enter and photograph prisons—I’ve been visiting a friend in a maximum security state prison (Walpole, Massachusetts). I’ve also embarked on a new design featuring the aerial photographs of prisons by Alex MacLean, Landslides Photography. For Palestine-Israel I’ve been researching the historical and political background of the region, as well as contacting possible hosts and guides.

I hope to complete One Sky by June 2003—this phase at any rate—and lay a foundation for my next work.

Thanks to all for your support.

I invite you to examine my earlier reports on the web.

Eyes Wide Open,
Feet Walking:
A Report

(first report)

(second report)

One Sky overview

(Photography of Skip Schiel)

Skip Schiel
9 Sacramento Street
Cambridge Massachusetts 02138-1843-------



Itineraries, an exhibit and installation with Laura Soul Brown, about our experiences on our journey retracing the trans-Atlantic slave trade—Boston Public Library, March 2002 (We are developing this further, now applying to venues outside the Boston region.)

In the Footsteps of the Freedom Fighters: Photographs from Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina—New England Yearly Meeting, August 2001, Friends Meeting at Cambridge, January 2002

Visions of a New South Africa, black and white and color photographs of organizations rebuilding the post-apartheid nation—Cambridge Center for Adult Education, June 2002

Living With Too Little: Landlessness, Homelessness and Poverty, contributions from my South African series to a group show—The Gallery of Social & Political Art, Community Church of Boston, February 2002

Environmental Injustices, a group exhibit including my photos from a South African community inundated by medical waste incineration and toxic waste disposal—The Gallery of Social & Political Art, Community Church of Boston, February 2001


Walk the Witness, co-produced with Louise Dunlap, examining the practice and ideology of prayerful walking to sites such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Ground Zero NYC, and Wounded Knee—Yoga in Motion Studio, Napa CA; Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Berkeley CA; Seminarians for Peace, Berkeley CA, August 2002; Harbin Hotsprings CA, September 2002

Delta Passage: A Journey Home, an exploration of the Mississippi Delta for my personal history and that of the Freedom Movement—Lyman grant awardees gathering, Portland Maine, October 2001, Friends Meeting at Cambridge, January 2002

The Deadly Fumes of South Africa, co-presented with Heeten Kalan, about the environmental justice movement—Community Church of Boston, February 2002


South Africa Partners, annual report, 2002

Imprisoned Massachusetts, an illustrated map of the state prison system,
co-produced with John Schuchardt, distributed by the American Friends Service Committee, 2002

INTERNET, designed, revise & maintain this
retrospective of my photos and writings, 2001-present

In the Footsteps of the Freedom Fighters, Ervon Brisbon, North Carolina Racial Justice Network, Greensboro, 1999

Delta Sojourn: A Journey Home, Learning to drum, New Orleans, 1998

In the Valley of the Refineries, South Durban, South Africa, 1999

Whipped, Jacob Lawrence

Delta Passage, Bernice Thomas, raised in Cahoma county, Mississippi, moved to Chicago
in the 1960s, 1999

Whipped, Jacob Lawrence

Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop, Cape Town, South Africa, chair of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, photo from the Internet

South Bay prison, Boston, Interfaith Massachusetts Prison Pilgrimage, 2000

In a Palestinian school,
immediately after Sept. 11, 2001