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.
Having seen my share of iPhone and Samsung commercial spots talking up the wonderful images you can create with their new technology and reading various articles predicting the beginning of the end of SLR’s as we know them. I’m somewhat surprised by how well I was responding and reacting. After hearing “Do you think you can set up a studio in this room? Or “Do you think all your photo gear will fit in this closet?” during our years trying to buy a condo. That and the fact that I’m holding on to a dozen or so film cameras. I found myself feeling more relieved than stressed.
And why not? How often have we wished for a magic wand to clear away all the clutter and extra stuff that takes up our closets, our shelves, floors, the space under our beds. Forcing us to foolishly rent storage space and make hard decisions about what stays or goes. Though I haven’t gotten into the disease / disorder that, as it progresses, wrecks havoc on my balance and ability to walk. The practice of carrying around a camera back full of gear is becoming a major issue. What if all of that could fit in the back of my pocket? Times change and the media we use to create art changes with it. I clearly remember the resistance I had when switch from film SLR’s to Digital. And though I put up a good fight. I was and still am feeling the rewards. More and more these days I’m reserving my camera, the myriad of lenses and my add on flash for more demanding moments. While keeping my iPhone handy for when my wife texts me or I see something like what I’ve posted above to capture for future consideration.
Since our arrival in Seattle, we’ve found a number of neighborhoods we’ve grown quite fond of. Pioneer Square with it’s reminders of New York’s once edgy Lower East Side was our first love. While the International Center, Capitol Hill and pockets of Queen Anne have all spirited our first months here. That said, there has been somethng special about Georgetown that keeps us coming up with reasons to visit from one week to the next. Having moved to Columbia City just over a week ago has brought us even closer to the somewhat quiet pocket of Seattle that often reminds me of the out of the way area known as Red Hook Brooklyn back in New York. It wasn’t until my wife mentioned how much she loved the area and her desire oi buy there, that I realized just how similar the areas seemed.
For it was during what seemed like an endless search to buy a condo that fit our style and needs that we found an off the beaten path area in Brooklyn known as Red Hook. In just a few visits, it felt as if the area would become our desired location for us. The problem, however, was that after we attended to underwhelming open houses. We didn’t anything else appear on the market. Short story long, we gave up on the area and rarely ever returned afterward.
Fortunately, Georgetown has all the charm of the aforementioned East Coast destination with a closer proximity and easy accessibility to where we currently call home. Who knows if we’ll find a place in Georgetown or if we’ll even stay in Seattle permanently. (With all the talk of what we miss back East. It’s hard to decide, yet.) Regardless, we’re having a great time getting to know the area.
I was talking to a friend about a recent excursion that really made the hairs on my arm stand on end. A little over a month ago, I came across a spot that was as scary as it was intriguing. That day, I spent a matter of minutes exploring the area just adjacent to the old, abandoned automotive parts/repair shop. At the time, I peaked through, before briefly entering the side door. When returning a few weeks later, I found an obscured front door and entered with as much caution as I had curiosity. Almost immediately, I could feel the hair on my arms stand on end as I had entered a dragon’s lair of graffitied walls, random garbage and the remnants of a recent visitor, or worse, occupant.
As I stepped cautiously through the debris and squalor. I couldn’t help but feel the tortured spirits of those who may have preceded my visit. As I moved from room to room through hand carved holes in the walls. I couldn’t help but feel that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. The random needles, paint cans and emptied glue containers served as evidence of recent hardcore drug use. “You’re too old to be doing this. You should be enjoying a plate of eggs and hash browns with you wife right now”
As creepy as my visit might have been. I had no inkling as to how weird things were about to get. While carefully opening one of the container doors. I unveiled what seemed to be a living space, complete with mattress. Though not the unveiling of a colony of brain thirsty zombies or bat wielding crack heads I spooked myself into imagining. It quickly served as the hair-raising moment that told me “Times up. Get your ass back in the car” Thankfully, I was in complete and total agreement with that inner voice. Until the next time.
We live in an ever-changing world where we are constantly in perpetual movement. Very few, if anything holds permanence. While not a bad thing per say. It’s one of the founding principles that influenced my becoming a photographer who felt it important to document my surroundings.The need to explore and document things that may soon be gone is one of the key factors in what originally drew me to photography.
Knowing full well that changes would soon come to one of my current favorite local photo destinations. I took a ride with the wife to see what had developed since my last visit. As we drove closer. The unwelcoming sound of barking dogs echoed in the distance. The immediate question “Could that barking be coming from indie the construction site?” and if so, “Where those dogs chained up or were they loose?” Knowing the answer would soon reveal itself. I proceeded with extreme caution.
Just as predicted. The incessant barking was coming from two Pit Bulls inside and thankfully, not roaming around awaiting their next meal. While it always pains me to see such beautiful animals being chained or caged. I was greatful to feel a bit safer while I quickly got what I came for. Noting the projects progress, the precence of trucks and of course the guard dogs. I relized that this was in all likelyhood, my last visit here. And while we were happy to see that the dogd had plenty of food and water. We made it a point to report the siting to both the lacal Humane Society and Police.
It’s not every day I find such gold within spitting distance from my home base, but when I do, it’s just as much of a thrill, if not more than having to put it in the time and mileage often required. And while I’m thrilled to share some of the bounty from today’s excursion. I’m going to remain tight-lipped and secretive about its location. Hopefully there’s someone out there that enjoys this type of thing as much as I do.
As we were celebrating my brother’s 21st birthday over a couple of tasty lobsters yesterday. I wanted to share with him the little wisdom I still had to offer. For the most part, we talked about school and the new baby our other brother had welcomed into the world just a day earlier. Though I wanted to speak as few words as possible and listen to the words of someone in the throes of becoming a unique and very intelligent adult. He seemed more interested in the city I grew up in years before he was born. My brother’s curiosity and curious nature had me on the hot seat.
Speaking in the most positive way this old coot could muster. I explained that much of the city I grew up in was gone. Yet my own personal experiences and stories kept it alive in my heart. How, while the drastic changes to the both the cities landscape and overall chemistry did not appeal to me. There was no reason they should deter him from finding his favorite corners, nooks and destinations. Change is inevitable and an integral part in our growth process. Without movement and change, we become stagnant. For me, or anyone else for that matter, to expect things to remain the same would not only be selfish. It would be downright foolish. And as much as I find myself shaking my fists at tourists and the franchises that have replaced many of my old haunts. I’m finding new and exciting things that appeal to my senses.Later that day, just blocks from the Bleeker St. corner where we enjoyed our meal. I came upon some pretty eye-popping street art. A convenient reminder how change brings possibilities. As I get older, I’m coming to realize it is not healthy to live in the past or worry about the future. To live in the moment. To enjoy the now. That’s my happy place.
In my last post “Sometimes it’s better to go it alone.” Here. I mentioned going it alone when operating as a street photographer. While that thread may ring true in many cases. It can’t go without saying that she is both my greatest inspiration and a damn good lookout and second set of eyes. Often watching my back when I’m shooting in more risky areas. While also serving as a second set of eyes when it comes to security related entities.
Where as today was scheduled to be a very laid back day with a short trip to Ikea for an area rug. We spent much of our day exploring much of Newark, Elizabeth and Harrison. While not dangerous by any means. Select areas might have been a bit private and or restricted. So to my wife, a hearty thanks for being my lookout when it came to shooting and our late lunch in East Newark. I really enjoyed sharing a seat at the counter and getting to know some of the regulars.
As much as I love my wife, family and small circle of friends. I find that when it comes to certain things. It’s best to go it alone. And as much as my wife inspires and supports my love of all of the different aspects of what I shoot. She is without a doubt “The worst case scenario’s” most vocal advocate. So much so that I’d sometimes leave certain excursions as well as elements of my work to my own special me time. For, after an hour or so of “What if we’re trespassing?” “Are you sure we can go here?” “What if we get a ticket?” or the best one of all “What if he kills one of us?” I’m ready to trade in my camera for a book on bird watching. While it’s often a good thing to have a second set of eyes. Sometimes the additional voice in you ear is enough to make you want to go it alone.
We were all set to head out for a day in Toms River with my Dad when our plans were suddenly changed due to some post shoulder surgery crankiness my Pop was experiencing. Not having a solid backup plan. We decided to make the most of our early morning and head to Brooklyn in search for the perfect slice. With lessons from my last trip over the bridge learned. I headed out in better spirit and a lot less tension. The day itself is somewhat of a blur. A long walk through a number of Brooklyn neighborhoods. Followed by a panic free walk over the bridge back into Manhattan for some delicious congee on the Bowery and a lot more walking. Overall, a long rewarding day that left us exhausted and fulfilled. You really can’t ask for more.