From Legal Cases to Camera Lens

The sun shines behind a tree on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Lawyer Ed Shaughnessy enjoys helping people and capturing the beauty of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail.

Ed Shaughnessy is a nearly lifelong resident of Easton. He’s operated his own legal practice for the past 34 years, with offices in Easton and Bethlehem. He’s also an active board member and former board president of Greater Easton Development Partnership; vice president of Easton Area Industrial Land Developers, which lends money for business development and improvement projects; president of the Pomfret Club (“If you know me, that’s really shocking because I’m much more liberal than most of the people there”); and a board member of Safe Harbor Easton, which operates a homeless shelter and daytime drop-in program.

Easton Public Market is displaying over 350 of Shaughnessy’s photos of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail through April 6. Sales will benefit KSAT and future EPM exhibitions.

Get to know KSAT’s newest board member better through this interview.

Head shot of lawyer and photographer Ed ShaughnessyHow long have you been in Easton?
I came to Easton when I was one or two years old. I was born in New Hampshire when my dad was getting his master’s at Dartmouth. We moved to the Lehigh Valley, where he got his Ph.D. at Lehigh. My father taught at Lafayette College for 15 years or so, and my mother was a nurse at Easton Hospital for 50 years. 

What do you like most about being a lawyer?
Helping people. No one ever comes in and says, “Things are awesome; can you make them more awesome?” People always have a problem. I’m always solving problems and helping people out, which is very satisfying. Also, in a law practice, there’s always something new, which keeps the mind fresh. Laws change, people are different, and situations are different. It makes life interesting.

What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened in your legal practice?
That’s a hard one to answer because there are many things that are funny and strange, but we do have the duty of confidentiality … One of the most interesting cases involved the drummer for the band Berlin, who was in a car accident and had trouble drumming afterward. I represented him, and we had a big screen with him drumming and a video of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis because he did the drumming for a song in the movie Top Gun. There were clips of him on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. It was a really fun trial because of some of the exhibits.

What about photography appeals to you?
Having a different perspective on the world around us. It’s a way of making people think about how they might look at the world. 

What’s the story behind your photos at Easton Public Market?
I’d been on the arts trail many times and liked it. It’s literally 5 minutes from my office, so if I walk 45 minutes from one end to the other and back, it’s almost exactly one hour. I decided that I would try to walk the trail every single day in 2021 — for physical fitness mostly — either early in the morning, later in the evening after work, or on a break during the work day. I had my iPhone, and I got the idea in the first couple days to take photos and post on Instagram each day the one I liked best. I was thinking about what was visually interesting on the trail, what caught my eye, so I wasn’t just walking with stressful thoughts of the day. I did it every day except for a one-week vacation in California.

A selfie photo of Edward Shaughnessy with the pavement of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail behind himHow did you get connected as a volunteer for the Karl Stirner Arts Trail?
I got to know [KSAT Executive Director and Curator] Jim Toia a bit when we were serving together on the board of the Greater Easton Development Partnership. And when I would see things that were messed up on the trail, like graffiti or garbage, or something broken, I’d take a photo and send it off to Jim so he could ask the city of Easton to fix it. He asked me to be on the KSAT Arts Advisory Council, and more recently he asked me to be on the board.

What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?
It would be nice to get more long-term funding sources, and I’m hoping that I have some contacts to help with that. I’m not sure yet. I’d also like to just help keep the trail as a wonderful community resource.

Who’s the unsung hero of KSAT?
Dave Hopkins and the city of Easton’s parks department. People don’t realize how much work goes into the maintenance of everything. When I was walking on the trail every day, it’d be amazing how often I’d see city of Easton employees working, whether it was plowing snow, tree maintenance, cutting the grass, taking care of shrubs and plantings, or cleaning things up. It seemed to me that they did a lot and didn’t necessarily get the recognition for it.

What’s something not many people know about you?
I learned to surf when I was 18 but didn’t continue with it. I’m deaf in my left ear. I broke my leg in law school when I was sliding into second base. I still have a metal plate and 15 screws. That killed my skiing career.

Talk about a life-changing experience.
I was on a vacation in Egypt when the revolution occurred, and the army brought hundreds of tanks into Cairo. All the people in Cairo were running into the street and cheering on the army for coming in and taking over. We ended up in a hotel close to the presidential palace of [Hosni] Mubarak. There were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. It was really fascinating. 

We had taken a tour that night with a guy we met in Giza where garbage was piled up 20 feet high. They didn’t have simple trash collection. You could tell by talking to people that they felt they weren’t cared for, like they were nothing. You could see the anger at the Egyptian police in Cairo, then how people were so joyous to have some hope. It made a big impression on me.