new website, new Playground

This Playground is about to make a move! For the past week I’ve been completely immersed in the process of moving my site into another theme, which was, I must say a monumental task. By trial, ridiculous amounts of error, and hours spent in support forums with computer techies, I’ve learned so much about programming and site design. This really wasn’t my intention, but I think it may have been a happy accident. My new perspective on site design (from the inside out) combined with This Playground’s new look, has led to so many new ideas. Stay tuned! Coming soon!


i’ll wait in the car : free books for you

Do you like to read books? Do you like to look at hand-colored photographs? Are you crazy for dogs? Do you like to win things? Well guess what?


A few years ago, my collection of hand-colored photographs of dogs waiting in cars was published by Sellers Publishing. This was a project that all told, took ten years: From the first photograph created in 1996, that made me want to make more:

to years and years of lingering in parking lots with my camera, watching dogs in their unheralded role as guardians-of-the-vehicle

and eyes-to-the-horizon companions.

I’m giving away two signed books, and all you have to do is leave a comment. In a week, two readers will be selected and two copies of I’ll Wait in the Car will be shipped out into the world. 

If you win, you can keep it on your nightstand, read it to your children, re-gift it for the upcoming holidays, or do what I did:

Cut up the pages and use them as an invitation for graffiti.


fotoplay for you : complete the zebra

I’m pleased to offer you the first of many free fotoplay pages! Feel free to print it out for your children, your students, or yourself.  When the page is completed, you can email your work to me. I’m creating a gallery of work created by you, which will soon be on this site.

Also, keep an eye on the fotoplay pages link widget on my sidebar. This is where you’ll soon be able to access all of my free pages.

To download today’s “complete the zebra” page, click HERE.

I look forward to seeing your work!


{note: Sale or publication of fotoplay is prohibited without the written approval of M.J. Bronstein.}



fotoplay : images and hieroglyphs

It’s easy to be wowed by the variety of approaches that students have taken to complete my fotoplay pages. It’s also easy to love these “finished” pages for obvious reasons: they’re unpredictable, clever, imaginative, and very personal.

What might not be so obvious is what takes place while the pages are being completed: the process. Sometimes I’m able to literally watch or hear (some children talk while they draw) what goes on in the process of completing a page. But other times the creative choices (and the connections between them) are more elusive, private, and symbolic.

The page above was completed by an eight year old boy, who very quickly drew his animal in response to the line/leash. This is a deceptive little drawing. So many choices were made! : The scale of the dog; the careful connection of a new (but similar) leash to the one I drew; the direction the dog faces…

The five year old girl who completed this page spent a lot of time interacting with the letters in the words at the top of the page. Back and forth between the sun and the dog, she focused on the words, the spaces between the words, and then the sentence as it’s own visual element.

The eight year old boy who completed this page created a full narrative, with another dog, a man, a far away landscape, a playground and a ball. The connection between the man in the background and the dog on the leash in the foreground is crystal clear.

The page above was created by a five year old girl who is one of my ArtLab students. Week after week I’ve been struck by her work and her repeated use of certain lines and shapes. Like many artists (young or old), she’s created her own alphabet of symbols, her own vocabulary: a personal iconography or system of hieroglyphs where marks made are words and sentences in a private story.


one image, once a year


I knew that November was near, and I had realized that day by day, it had become colder and colder. But I still wasn’t prepared to open my back door to this morning’s snowfall. I think of the obvious (getting out scarves and gloves and coats), but I also think about something that I only think about in the cold month of November: my once-a-year holiday card.

For about 20 years, I’ve sent out a few hundred cards to friends, family, and collectors, with an image I’ve created for the holiday season or for the new year. While I can usually count on a few weeks of total frustration, feeling that I don’t have any ideas that interest me, somehow it always gets resolved. In truth, it’s one of my favorite creative challenges of the year. I take the holiday card seriously because I’m creating and printing one image only, not a series.

I think I might have an idea for this year, and this one, like many, became clear when I was hiking with my friend Pat. (Hiking and yoga and swimming are great creative idea generators.) Hopefully I’ll post this year’s card in a couple of months, but in the meantime, I thought that today, on this snow day, I’d share a small selection of my cards from past years. There is of course a direct reflection in the cards of the arc of my personal photographic work: the use of children’s drawings, negative imagery, and throughout all of the years, hand-colored imagery.

{ 2002 }

{ 2003 }

{ 2004 }

{ 2006 }

{ 2007 }

{ 2009 }



art hero : roy decarava

Roy DeCarava was one of my first art heroes, and the first photo-based artist whose images opened my eyes to photography’s uniquely poetic power. This is probably the most important book in my photo library, and it has been with me for almost thirty years. DeCarava’s images placed an early, indelible stamp on my sensibilities. And as with all great art, I was physically affected by these works: they took my breath away; they made me shiver. And then, they raised my proverbial bar.

I can’t think of many other images that move me the way this image does. It’s an image that I carry around inside of me as a gauge for timelessness. DeCarava himself said: My pictures are immediate and yet at the same time they’re forever. They present a moment so profoundly a moment that it becomes eternity. It’s almost like physics; there’s an arc of being. There’s a beginning, then the peak is reached and then there’s the end… The moment when all the forces fuse, when all is in equilibrium, that’s the eternal…

Roy DeCarava showed me how personal image-making could be. How emotional. How quiet and strong and clear and communicative, all at the same time. How poignant.

His images taught me about framing space. They taught me that each photograph must emanate its own, extraordinary sense of light.

His images taught me about graciousness. How to align yourself with the rhythm of your subject.

The only way to do this is to be in tune… he said… to have the same sense of time that the subject has. This means you have to give yourself to the subject, accept their sense of time.

In 1987 DeCarava came to speak about his work at Hampshire College, where I was completing my degree in film/photography. As the slide show of his work was presented, he sat in the front row, watching along with his audience. When the presentation of images ended and the questions began, he did not quite turn all the way around. He answered our questions, speaking partly to himself, partly to the images that lingered, still, in front of the room. It was as if he were entranced by his own work.


fotoplay : adults jump in

The first thing the participants in Saturday’s workshop found when they came into the ArtLab was a fotoplay prompt. (Looking back at previous posts, I imagine that my love for creating visual prompts is by now clear!) The best part about what then happened, was what is usually the best part about “teaching” : It was I who learned something. What I had thought would be a basic ice-breaker at the beginning of the workshop, turned out to be one of the most loved parts of the day.

Not only did my workshop participants create beautiful, sweet, odd imagery, but they did so using a full spectrum of media: crayon, marker, watercolor, collage…

And then, for the first time ever, I worked on one of my own fotoplay pages. Honestly, in all the days of sharing this work with other people, of creating, printing, and giving out my pages, it never occurred to me to do one myself. I used a small foam stamp, one of the other exercises/projects we did that morning:

I’m really pleased that I did:

*Please note:

fotoplay is a trademark of the Marcie Jan Bronstein art studio.

Please email me if you’re interested in publishing this work for commercial purposes.