When we arrived home yesterday, my wife cimmediatelty called me to the window. We’ve seen a fare share of fog and haze since we moved here, but somehow, it still grips us like a good horror or better yet, slasher film will. While I’m sure there will come a day when the site at my window or balcony won’t send me diving for the camera will come. I feel somewhat of a reward still feeling that rookie glow. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Back when I was giving my studio photography an overhaul. A mentor and close friend who was going over some of my old sessions. Adding, “What did a shadow ever do to you?” It was something I had heard at an International Center of Photography workshop but wasn’t sure how to correct it. However, once I learned, it was as if an entirely new world of depth and creativity opened up. Just aa I began adding what I learned to my studio photography, I found myself adding shadow to my landscape photos. To add definition to my landscapes and interiors, partly and considerately more to put shade and add anonymity to the people, often strangers in my photos. It’s helped me in a lot of ways, including sales.
It’s also made me think of myself growing increasingly introverted and wary of close contact with others. Below are a couple of images I took before exiting Gas Works Park this afternoon.
Looking back, I’d say my journey as a photographer began during my early days in Hell’s Kitchen. Though I had been fascinated with taking pictures since my teens. It wasn’t until I was occupying a one-bedroom in the heart of the west midtown area of Manhattan that my then boss gave me his old Nikon EM SLR along with some film and a couple of photo books that my hobby turned into an obsession. I quickly began documenting my surroundings while graduating from one-hour photo chains to professional printing services such as Duggal and B&H. Within a short time, the towels and sheets that fit neatly in my apartment linen closet were displaced by boxes of photos and trays of slides. My trips to places like Duggal and B&H quickly quadrupled. From my eight years in Hell’s Kitchen to my married life in New Jersey and Washington state. My passion and obsession for photography never waned. My need for living space grew, and the number of photo boxes, enlargements, and ane studio gear morphed. Quickly realizing less is more, I used the premise of moving to digitize all those negatives, slides, photo boxes, and albums before tossing them in the garbage.
As I begin to get the digitized photos back, I can see the vast progress I’ve made over the years. Kicking myself, in a sense, for holding on to the past for so long. Undoubtedly, many photos accurately documented the time and people. Most of it, unfortunately, was junk. Luckily though, there were a few that jogged some serious memories. Photo’s that still show a measure of intent and purpose.
Taken on 48th street and 10th avenue shortly after a snow storm. You can hopefully see the emphasis on the reflections the puddles give. You should also get a rare view of a traffic-free New York City street. Not bad for a photo I took more than twenty-five years ago.
Earlier this afternoon we closed the doors to our apartment at Angeline by dropping off the keys. Angeline was, without a doubt, the best rental experience I can remember. Everything from our apartment, the staff, our neighbors, and our neighborhood was fantastic. We enjoyed having a library next door to us during the almost three years we were there, a city park behind us, a historic movie theatre across the street, and a healthy grocery store just under us. After our dropoff, we picked up some fresh cookies at Colombia City Bakery, did some food shopping at QFC, and even got to say goodbye to the panhandler who stands at the end of the grocery store parking lot. As good as our time there was. We had to decide to either go back East or stay and buy a home in Seattle. Choosing the latter took a lot of thought, but in the end, I think we’ve been happy here.
After more than two years, (closer to three) of trying to convince, not only my wife, but myself, I’ve managed to convince the both of us that staying in Seattle is the right answer. Though Seattle has more than it’s share of problems, they’re nothing we weren’t able to face and overcome back east. As someone who’s lived the overwhelming majority of his life in New York. Moving out west has offered as many rewards as challenges. Luckily, on our first day out, we found a place we loved, made an offer, which was accepted within hours and as they say, the rest was history.
I have a habit of overthinking. When I get something in my head or get passionate for something, I go all in. Being that I’ve suddenly decided I wanted to get back to taking pictures, (Not that I ever really stopped.) I’ve been spending a lot of time watching videos about composition, lighting and long exposures. So, as I lay in bed last night, I began to think of that box of matches we have. The ones we use to light candles when our farts are particularly foul. There I was, unable to sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted to capture those matches. So, after I got up this morning, showered and enjoyed my first cup of coffee, I got to work. After a few, less than satisfactory attempts, I finally captured the matches as I had imagined as I lie awake the night before.
Over time, I began to include a few pictures of the crowds expressions, participation and overall reaction to particular acts, sets and song. For as long as I’ve attended shows and gone to concerts, every act with little to no exception, had a particular song that the audience knew every word, hook and breakdown. While it was always a great opportunity to capture the moment when a singer reaches his emotional halcyon or time the moment when the guitarist launches in the air. It might also be the perfect opportunity to catch the reaction to the crowd. The images to your right were captured about eight years apart. The above captures the crowd at a Revelation Records showcase at CBGB’s. While the one below shows the emotion of the crowd during a set by the band Thursday at Atlantic City’s House of Blues.
Though I was still very much into straightedge and hardcore music during the nineties, I only manged to see New Jersey’s Mouthpiece several times. The most memorable are pictured below at New York City’s Wetlands and the legendary CBGB’s when I tagged along with Wendy Eager of Guillotine to conduct an interview with the band’s singer Tim McMahon. I also did an interview with Tim in Princeton ten plus years later over by the Record Exchange. You can order the band’s discography Here Musically and lyrically, Mouthpiece were heavily influenced by bands like Minor Threat and Youth of Today. Ultimately, carrying the torch into the 90’s and beyond. I also did an interview with Tim in Princeton ten plus years later over by the Record Exchange.
Here’s another photo from that Staten Island VFW show. Though I could be wrong, I believe this be the Aaron Lazausk of the Rockville, Connecticut emo/noise-core band Cable. Like I said in my earlier post featuring an image of Three Steps Up, there were some really amazing bands on this bill. At the time, the band had a split ‘7 inch with Staten Island’s Malcom’s Lost (also on the bill) and were just about to release ‘Variable Speed Drive’ on Doghouse records. An eight song powerhouse that I would come to know the band best for. When I think of all the now highly regarded bands I saw in basements, cavernous clubs and VFW halls, it gives me somewhat of a rush. Almost as if I was on to something long before all the squares got a hold of it.
Though my mom and step dad’s move to a New Jersey suburb was partially due to an attempt to provide a better and perhaps, safer environment for us, it also offered windows to many other unforeseen dangers. One being, somewhat unsupervised weekend back in Queens where I originated. With my dad having moved to Staten Island to be live with his soon to be wife, it was up to my grandmother to not only host me but act as a parental force.
My grandmother, God rest her soul, was an angel in every way imaginable, yet with all her intelligence and grace she embodied, she lacked when it came to her role as a disciplinary figure. A weakness that gave me the free reign I sought on the weekends as a sixteen-year-old looking to find his freedom by sampling everything on the menu.
On one particular night, I met up with two good friends in search of alcohol and whatever else we could find. I remember the night air being cool but not cold, leaving us warm enough to cover a lot of ground and stay out late. Being the lightweight, I always was when it came to drinking. I had a heavy buzz after just three beers. So much so, that by the time we reached our final destination at the local public school steps, I was eager to sit down and share a blunt with someone I had met before but didn’t know that well.
Noted, though I never got into hard drugs or even smoking cigarettes, I did enjoy marijuana and the occasional joint and enjoyed the harmless buzz it provided. Doing so with someone I didn’t know, and trust was an epically bad idea, one that I would quickly regret.
Though what happened on the ten-block walk from the schoolyard is clouded by a combination of alcohol and drug intake, I completely flipped out and recalled being slammed on the concrete after attacking one of my friends. The next thing I remember is getting dumped on the steps in front of my grandmother’s apartment. Within a few minutes, I was able to find my keys and make my way inside.
Imagine the surprise and flat out shock when my father stood waiting at the top of the stairs. “Sorry, dad. I’m pretty fucked up.” I slurred. “I can tell,” he remarked. “Go take a shower and get some sleep.” “We’ll discuss this in the morning.” By then, his soon to be wife would often throw him out when he broke curfew and came home drunk from the bar. It only seemed natural to run back to his mom’s place.
There was a short period between making my way from the living room, through the kitchen and onto the bathroom where I must have blacked out. My father tells me he heard a loud crash. When he found me, he tells me I had collapsed before I had made it to the shower. He often remarks on how my entire body had turned gray, which made him think I might be dead. My father had made some phone calls to some of the people I might have seen that night. I recall being flanked by two of my close friends with my father standing in the doorway.
The night finished with me sending a barrage of curse words and insults at my father. “Fuck you!” “What are you looking at?” “You’ve never done anything for me.” “You knew we were struggling. Why didn’t you ever pay child support.” Mean, vile things that I have apologized for and will always regret. When I woke up the next morning, I remember my legs feeling weak and needing time to find my balance. Dad and I had a long talk, during which I apologized. I remember him laughing and saying, “You had a rough night. I hope you learned your lesson.” Before taking me out for breakfast, he added, “I don’t see any reason to bring this up with your mom.” If he had, my punishment, constant lecturing, and threats of not paying for rehab would have lasted much longer than one night of incredibly bad decisions and judgment on my part. In the end, I learned that the joint I smoked contained PCP. A drug that I’m sure some of my friends could handle. As for someone who never did more than smoke a little grass, it wrecked me.