…and the oppressive heat wave that is strangling the city continues for another day.
The only good thing about weather like this are the afternoon end of the world thunder storms we get. The sky gets this greyish black color, the wind starts to blow hard, and the temperature drops briefly.
And then boom. Fat drops fall from sky. Thunder booms through the air and the entire world lights up with a crash of lighting. The drops fall faster and faster until everything is covered in a solid curtain of rain. Some people run for cover, others dance in storm. In minutes though, it’s gone. The storm clouds move on, and the heat returns. The puddles that were formed only a little while ago on the concrete dry up and disappear. The trees and plants do all they can to hold the precious water they just harvested. Tiny drops sit on their leaves and petals. To a flower, it’s a matter of survival, this tiny drop of water provides what it needs to make food, to grow, and to make it until there’s another summer downpour.
Outside it’s so hot, the sidewalks are melting into a puddle of goo. I’m sitting protected from the disgusting inside my apartment, breathing in recycled air-conditioned air, listening to the hum of the machine in the window that’s keeping things bearable.
This is what summer in NYC is like. We have miles of shore line where we can play in the spray of the ocean waves and substitute a breeze coming off the water for the AC for awhile, but getting to them are the hard part. The roads are choked with traffic, and are twice as hot. Once there, good luck finding a small sliver of real estate in the mass of humanity there.
So yesterday as the thermometer began to explode, we tried to seek relief in whatever form we could – namely a handful of water balloons and a few buckets of water. It didn’t last too long, but it was a delightful escape for a little while.
Stay cool everyone.
PS … Don’t forget to vote for me in the 2011 PDN One Life Photo Competition!!
For my friends. I have no words. Just know I am with you during this time.
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge – myth is more potent than history – dreams are more powerful than facts – hope always triumphs over experience – laughter is the cure for grief – love is stronger than death” – Robert Fulghum
What makes a person take a photo? Since the invention of the camera, people have been choosing what moments to immortalize on film, or in my day and age, in a million pixels. Sometimes its an easy choice, a birthday, a wedding, Johnny coming home from the war, a moment we want to remember every single detail of, no matter how minute, so we press the shutter and save it for eternity.
Maybe it’s our way of beating the system. It’s our attempt to stop our kids from growing. Its our way from keeping our loved ones alive. It’s the only way possible to stop the sun from setting on that magical day we’re having.
But what if there is no birthday cake or bride and groom or happy child running through the daises? What if it’s just a field of wildflowers? Or a tricycle? Or swing set next to a tree? Then what makes a person take a photo?
I was asked this question, and I had no answer. Instead I went back to taking photos of that swing set, because I had this nagging feeling something was there, but for the life of me, I had no idea what. So I kept shooting thinking maybe I’d find it.
I was lucky enough to escape the city for a day with friends to a country home which was only 3 hours away from my front door but felt as if it was on the opposite side of the earth. My cell phone didn’t have signal, there was no internet connection, and to be honest, I didn’t miss either. We spent the morning working replacing the beams under the house, crawling around in the muck and the mud, and finished filthy but proud of our work. The massive amount of grass was mowed after the tractor was fixed twice. I built a bonfire, flashing back to my years in Boy Scouts, and I’m bursting with pride that it went up with one match. I fed the fire to a tremendous blaze, and as noticed by my friends, I raised the tempature of the entire Catskill Mountains by nine degrees for the night. My real goal, however was the get it big enough to be seen from space.
Despite all the technology that was left behind, my shiny Nikon D90 seemed grossly out of place. Even so, I gripped it tight as I strolled through the grass and woods. Through my lens, I saw more than the grass and the woods, something harder to describe. The country house I was brought to was a special place, just an ordinary house to most, but to my friends and their family, it was home filled with memories of laughter, love, all those moments that make life worth living. I felt an odd pressure as I shot, a challenge to capture that spirit, and maybe that’s why I took so many photos of the swing set, maybe that’s what I was seeing.
Or maybe it was just shadows on a rock that caught my eye. I really don’t know. But as long as I have friends who love me enough to take me up to their magical country home to try to capture it’s spirit, and – dare I say it – fans who want to see the results, I’ll keep shooting.
Spring is our yearly second chance.
We die through the winter, everything becomes cold and bleak, and even a fresh white blanket of snow eventually turns to a ugly gray eyesore piled up on the curbs of New York City. The wind chills you through to the bones, and I at least, make my way through the streets muttering “There is no reason for weather like this…” and usually a profanity or two.
But soon, the winds die down, the sun peaks from behind the clouds a little longer each day, and you’re not so pissed that you forgot your gloves at home. Winter has left us, and spring has arrived.
Every year around this time I watch the ground. Yes, contrary to what some people think, there are actually patches of ground here in New York City. I’ve always had a piece of it right outside my back door, well, my parent’s back door. Its a small section of property that we here in Queens call “The Yard”. My parents have always taken pride in their yard, it’s a mix of a quiet place to eat BBQ – or actually any meal cooked in this household between June and September when it’s not raining – and a small slice of nature that my parents tend to, consisting of a few flowers, some tomatoes plants and lots of ivy. There’s also a cherry tree that my brother Mike somehow picked up, I don’t remember the story, and remnants of the old magnolia tree that I spent countless hours playing on in my youth.
In my mind, it’s the most beautiful yard in the world.
It’s also the yard that I’ve watched the winters of my life fade away, and the springs sneak in before the summer heat.
What a perfect place to go with my new camera, right? Only one catch, of course, I hate taking pictures of flowers.
I told this once to someone I love once. They bore me, I said, not moving, giving you all the time in the world to frame it, switch lenses, get closer, work on that really nice shot. She said to me, that I should look at it as a thing all photographers need to do, and every really good shot of a flower as one step closer to never having to take a photo of a flower again.
So hopefully these will get me closer to that goal. And if not, I’m not too worried, because no matter how hot the summer gets, and how cold and nasty the winter winds blow, I know all I have to do is wait for spring to return home, and I’ll get another chance.
Andrew Wyeth passed away this morning at the age of 91.
Growing up, my parents had a copy of his painting, “Christina’s World”, hanging on the dinning room wall. Sitting here, I couldn’t even begin to count the number of meals I had looking at that painting. If I close my eyes, I can see every detail, the wagon wheel tracks leading from the house, the decaying barn, and the part that always held my attention the most, the part which I most often wondered about; the fact that Christina is in the tall grass, not the patch of mowed grass just a few feet away. I often wondered if she chose that area, if she was more comfortable amongst the weeds than the softer surface where she could have been placed.
Wyeth presented that scene and told the viewer nothing more about it. Christina’s back is turned, her face is not in the painting, so all you see is all you know. As I got older in life, I learned more about that painting, more about Christina Olsen, and more about the entire series Wyeth did on the Olsen family. What I learned, the details, changed the way I looked at the painting, and unfortunately it became hard for me to look at that painting the same way I did when I was a younger.
I’m not going to tell you anymore about the painting, if you’ve found this blog, then I’m sure you know how to google. If you’re curious, I’m sure you can find the whole story.
Or, you can take what Wyeth gave you and live in that second. You can stand still, hearing the breeze in the grass. You can gaze at the barn, the house and the wagon wheel tracks, and of course, at Christina. You can know as much about her as every person you see from behind, passing on the street, glimpsing in the next subway car, or ahead of you on the check out line. Draw your own conclusions, complete the story in your mind, who’s to tell you you are wrong?
“Christina’s World” and what I’ve learned about it was the sole reason I was against starting this blog in the first place. Now please – I am by no means comparing myself to Andrew Wyeth – but I always thought, and still feel that art is to be interpreted by the viewer. Who I am to tell you what you are supposed to see in a photograph I have taken?
My favorite pastime is talking to people about my photos. I know that’s probably the most conceited sounding thing ever, but it’s not meant to be. Nothing fascinates more than hearing what others see, I could give a crap less about the “It’s great.” or “You’re so good.”, those comments churn my stomach. Do you like it? Yes? Why? What do you see in it? I love the answers – and more often than not I am shown something even I didn’t see. I wonder if Wyeth ever felt that way.
So I’ll keep blogging, and keep sharing, and please, keep commenting. Actually, it’s what keeps me going in the first place.
Well… I’ve painted myself in a bit of a corner, so to speak. This is supposed to be a photo blog, not a yappity yap blog, and now I’m not sure what photos go with what I’ve been yappity yapping about. So I’ll do something I’ve been resisting the urge to do for awhile. I’ll share with you the photos I’ve taken, that I like. My favorites. The “OMG, I took that?” shots.
Here are a few, I’ve got more on Flickr if you’d like to see.
(in no order)
The worst part of autumn is rain.
Autumn rain brings wind, and wind rips the leaves from the trees, stripping away the rainbow cloaks they get to wear for a brief time. The streets of New York City become carpeted in fallen leaves, now soaked and heavy with water. Shortly after the rain stops, doors open and out from the warmth and comfort of their homes come people prepared for battle, armed with rakes and shovels. They quickly begin their work of clearing away the wet mess left strewn across the sidewalks and lawns, stuffing wet colorful piles of leaves into black garbage bags. The bags get tied up and placed at the curb where they’re thrown into the backs garbage trucks and promptly disappear.
And then fall is over.
The weather gets colder. The friendly nip of the wind develops into a vicious icy bite. The once magnificent trees are now nothing more than bare skeletons. Night falls earlier, and it always seems to be dark and cold.
Christmas comes quickly, and for a brief time the winter is almost lifted by the twinkling colorful lights hanging in windows. The cold is almost chased away by the warmth of the holiday spirit. Before you know it though, the holidays are over, and New York City shivers through a few more months of winter.
I hate winter. I hate the cold. I hate autumn rain because I know winter is right around the bend.
So despite my dislike of the current situation and my tendency to worry about the future, I decided to walk out my front door and see what I could see. What I found is that the rain had stopped momentarily and the wind was gently blowing through the trees. I strolled down the colorful blocks of Queens as leaves slowly fell from their lives on the branches to their death on the sidewalk. I felt as if Mother Nature herself was throwing me a ticker tape parade.
It was beautiful. For an afternoon I didn’t think of the winter ahead, I just enjoyed the autumn rain like I had never enjoyed it before.
I first noticed it as I drove along the LIE from work back home. It was late, past midnight, but just as I drove over the Maurice Ave overpass I could see a huge spray of water from the street below. Thankfully, my new camera sat next to me, barley less than a week old.
I drove the next exit and quickly doubled back.
There at the the corner of Maurice Ave and Bordon Ave there was a huge jet of water shooting into the air. Confused and amused Con Ed guys stood around, waiting for someone to arrive to shut the water off. The water came from a freshly dug hole in the street, I guess by the guys who stood around it now, which was on the side of a gas station.
My camera was new to me, and I knew the images weren’t going to be great but I had to try to capture this. This was the life moments I had so desperately wanted an SLR for!
No cops were around, and the Con Ed workers didn’t seem to mind me, so I crept closer and closer to the hole. It was by far, the coolest thing I had seen in a while…lol.
Suddenly, I became aware of the sound of tiny ricochets, and the Con Ed guys began looking a little more worried and less amused. Through my lens I could see the side of the hole which was contained a layer of tiny pebbles had begun to slide into the jet of water. As soon as the pebbles came into contact with the power stream, they shot into the air and rained down on the area around us. Tiny mortar rounds fell the gas station roof.
By now the police had arrived and begun to close off the area. I snuck around for a better vantage point and took a shot before they guys who knew how to shut off the water arrived.
A few minutes later the water was off and whatever work they were there to do continued. The police moved on, and eventually so did I.
I raced home to see what I had captured, thirsting for my next adventure.
It’s a difficult thing to go most places with class of children on the autistic spectrum, but the Queens Science Museum was probably one the most ill-conceived and poorly executed trips I had ever been a part of. To expect five to seven year old autistic children to be even mildly interested in concepts that quite frankly bore older mainstream children was simply ludicrous.
But like the say, when handed lemons, right…?
So we ate lunch in the cafeteria, which was a timed affair, BTW, since there were so many schools there that day. The teachers huddled and all of them saw this as going south really badly of we were to stick with the museum plan. I was called in because I was the only one from the area. I suggested a few ideas, but then someone noticed a small playground across the street. We were all in agreement, so once the children were done eating, we all marched out the museum doors (“No return admittance!!”) to the playground.
The rest of the day was spent forgetting about the science of the how and why and just living in the reality of a sprinkler, jungle gym and slides. Since there was already one teacher or para for every child (and me) all the kids got individual attention. It was so warm out that soon almost all the children were in the sprinkler. I played with James on the jungle gym where he climbed to the highest perch like the monkey he is. We rested at the top and I began shooting.
I took several shots that day, most of which can be seen here in slideshow form.
The shot though that most consider to be the shot of the day is the one I call “Joy”
This one, as in all of the shots of that day, is of a child experience the unique summer time fun that seems to fall away when you grow older. Something about a child and water just leads to pure happiness.
To me though, the real joy in that playground that day was the fact that for a few hours they were just kids. For a short time they had broken the chains of autism and were speaking in the immortal language of just having fun.
I’ve been asked if the subject in the photo above had autism and the answer is yes. I saw him at school awhile later and he was having such a rough day he had a pressure vest on. He was screeching and wouldn’t get on the elevator. He was lost in the sucky world of his condition. However, I knew somewhere inside him was the same joy that was on his face that day.
Maybe all he needed was a sprinkler.