Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Bronx celebrity - Chazz Palminteri

I don't think there are a lot of Hollywood celebrities from the Bronx?

Chazz Palminteri

Calogero Lorenzo "Chazz" Palminteri is an American actor and writer, best known for his performances in The Usual Suspects, A Bronx Tale, and his Academy Award nominated role for Best Supporting Actor in Bullets Over Broadway

See that bottom shot? I thought he was going to shoot me.  LOL, But I've learned that when shooting for a newspaper, one must be assertive. At least i'm not stalking him and/or chasing him in my car while he's driving like the paparazzi do. He was quite good, telling jokes, relating some Bronx history and best yet, auctioning himself off for lunch with 6 people and got a winning bid of $10 grand! which will go for scholarships to Bronx students.

That's what I call an expensive lunch!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Meet Tyler, my neighbor's baby boy. My wife babysits for him a few days a week. As a subject for a photographer, babies can't be beat. They are irresistible and always  attention getting. Look at many front pages of smaller local, community papers and you'll see babies and animals. Larger "dailies" will have celebrities and criminals. Which do you prefer?

At this age, they are intrigued by cameras - at least Tyler was. But trying to get good candids sometimes gets tricky. But these shots I think are cute. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Life is short folks and you only get one

I was speaking with a doctor this afternoon while I was waiting to do a shoot of a ribbon cutting for a new medical clinic. We were talking about medical practices and the business of medicine both in this country and in Europe. When I related some of my experiences and some of my European friends with socialized medicine, he then asked me about my trips and experiences traveling abroad.

After I related my experiences I asked him about his. I was surprised to find out that he hasn't traveled abroad. Doctors make good money so I figured he'd have traveled more than me? "Why, I asked?"

"I'm too busy running my practice and opening up new clinics." Life is short I told him as if a doctor isn't aware of the varied contingencies life throws at us. He paused, looked at me sheepishly and admitted that I was right. In my mind I'm thinking, "money is controlling his life"

I guess the older I get and watching how money walks and everything else talks, I appreciate little things more and try to max out the rest of my shortened life.

CHANGE YOUR LIFE - it's the only one you have.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Art begets art

This is a photo I'd like to have taken. Maybe I'll get lucky while visiting one of the many museums in NYC? This little one is copying a pose ("strike a pose, girl") Which one is art?

I've asked myself this question when photographing art. Are any of my photos art? What defines something as art? Is the replication of something considered beautiful art? Then what of a replication of a replication?

Maybe only things created by the hand of man can be called art? Whereas my camera just catches light and transforms it into images. The only thing my hand does is click the shutter.

So, we have 3 levels of reality here: a painting, a girl, a photograph

You tell me - which is art?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

He worked the 1980 Moscow Olympics

Meet Michael Datikash, a photographer for "Jewish Week" newspaper who used to work for TASS, the nationally backed news Russian news agency. We met at a local synagogue shooting a Purim celebration. Meeting him was meeting history firsthand.

I love talking to these old school photographers with tons of experience and years of shooting different cameras, lens and yes, that thing called "film." He met and shot Nixon, Brezhnev, Khrushev and a host of other notable dignitaries. But most importantly, he was a Jew working in a very anti-Semitic Red Russia. When I asked him about this, he replied, "I simply had to be better that everyone else and they needed me."

But what was most interesting for me was what was it like to shoot the Olympics. He was in the international pool of photographers and had access to all venues, athletes and even their changing rooms. With all this freedom came State Security. He was always watched and when he traveled out of the country, there were 'watchers' some easily identified , others not. What he still doesn't understand to this day, is why were there two armed guards outside his hotel room when he was shooting the 1980 Moscow Olympics?

I shoot the news. He shot history.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

a concussion?! let's try a stroke

This man is pissed off. He's the chief admin of a youth football league and he's expressing his disfavor with pending legislation that would ban young children from playing tackle football. This was expressed at an awards banquet that I shot for my paper. In this moment pictured, he is speaking about the hypocrisy of this certain legislator who used to attend these functions and now has stabbed them in their back, so to speak.

I was seriously worried that he was going to suffer a stroke which I rank higher in severity than a concussion. More people survive concussions than strokes, especially at his age. But he had a point in condemning how the government wants to control our private lives to a small degree where, as he said, parents can choose to allow their children to play or not. besides, Americans have been playing football for a long time. Only now they become concerned? How about jungle gyms in playgrounds, gymnastics, "heading" in soccer, ACL's in basketball?

As a former teacher, I always wondered what factors affected my student's "native" intelligence? genetics, culture, poverty, food, but rarely thought about brain damage from concussions.

Anyway, this older gentleman survived this moment of anger, calmly announced that everyone in attendance were present to glorify their children - didn't the Brits say that character was developed on the playing fields of Eton?

I took his picture, then shook his hand while children were praised for their athletic endeavors - a good night.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Scientific minds at work

High-fivin' at a science project competition? Well, this young lady and the Boro President are doing just that. It's about time that young nerds get recognition for their smarts. And let it be a happy time like this one is.

I was joking with them as I was taking their pictures that nerds don't know how to "chill" when they pose for a camera. They're too staid, too self-conscious, just too damn smart. LOL But surprisingly, the catalyst that opened them up and made them feel relaxed was the Boro president. He asked good, probing questions (which revealed his science IQ) and demonstrated a very authentic concern for their projects and their academic futures.

It was a joyous occasion. Who would have thought so - in a scifest no less?!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A "garden" grows in "da Bronx"

This is a fully enclosed, climate controlled rooftop hydroponic garden. It's energy efficient, sustainable, healthy, artistic and community focused and it's in the South Bronx. For too long the Bronx has had to live with many negative stereotypes and finally it seems to be turning the corner and getting some good publicity.

Events like these that celebrate positive infrastructure growth gives me a nice warm, fuzzy feeling because for 30+ years I taught in a high school (Jane Addams) just 3 blocks away and saw firsthand the devastation that identified itself with the Bronx and for many people still does today.

It's cool to come back here (I retired from teaching in 2004) and see positive stuff like this through a different critical lens - that of a news photographer.

 . . . and God made a garden in Eden . . . maybe the Bronx is a New Eden?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Preacher power

If you want to make an impact while delivering a political message, use a black Baptist preacher. This was from African American Heritage Celebration. I've always admired the preaching and gospel singing in Afro-American churches. Their vocal intonation, their rhetoric, their histrionics and body language make for inspirational and entertaining listening.

For a mainly white audience to appreciate what it's like to be black in this country, just listen to a balck preacher, they'll let you know - succinctly yet powerful.

Preacher power - preach it brother!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Old Chancellor, New Chancellor

This pensive gentleman is Dennis Walcott, NYC Chancellor of Education. He is the second Chancellor I've seen in person even though I worked as a teacher for 35 years in NYC. This new one I happened to see because of a photo assignment and the first one (Ramon C. Cortines) saw me teaching a class in summer school.

So, I saw him seeing me in action, in a t-shirt, shorts and sandals, my bike and bike clothes draped out the window to dry. Obviously, he liked what he saw if his big smile was an indication of what he thought about my teaching. Having seniors in the class who liked me helped a lot because they played their parts as eager to learn students.

Mr. Walcott I like because I found out that he is an endurance athlete - right up my alley and he worked in the system as a teacher, not some political flunky with little or no teaching experience. Lastly he understands from personal experience how violence in the community affects both education and the social network of our communities. He had a son who was a victim of violence.

He knows of what he speaks. From what I heard and saw - I like him.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I've always wondered about this

In the 43 years I've lived in my neighborhood near this object, I've always wanted to know what it looked like inside. This object is the bridge tender's house on the bridge that crosses the Hutchinson River on the Hutchinson River Parkway near Section 5 of Co-op City.

For many of those 43 years, I've run across this bridge towards the wooded trails in Pelham Bay Park. How does it feel like inside under varied weather conditions? Does it have sleeping quarters? Is there a level below the level I can see through the windows? What kind of communication equipment is inside?

If I was granted permission to enter, could I take photographs? Or would this be a no-no due to the nation's heightened concerns about terrorism and homeland security? Since there are large signs below near the water level warning against entry into the waterway that happens to be adjacent to the Co-op City power plant without permission, that's why it might be harder to get access now than it would have been years ago?

Take a look at the photo. There's snow on the roof but some of the windows are open. Why?  So many questions. So much curiosity. maybe I should do what my wife suggested: "Why don't you just knock on the door?"

Guess I'll stay curious until I make that fateful knock.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Shooting the weather

Ever try to catch raindrops? Probably don't have to since they'll hit you first. How about running between the raindrops? Fuggedaboutit!

But how does a photographer photograph raging wind, a thunderstorm, a blizzard, a hurricane etc.? The best way it seems is to film the after-effects or like in the picture above, people holding umbrellas which means it's either very hot and they want to protect themselves from the sun's rays or it's simply raining.

Catching the mood of a weather event is another thing altogether. That ominous howling the wind makes outside your window at night. The impending fear one has seeing a tornado spout. The quiet before a storm.

Look at the photo above. It's a loch in Scotland. What lies beyond? The mystery that some kinds of weather presents us with is abundant in foggy conditions. Just peer into the mist. What lies beyond? It's a metaphor of our lives. Each day brings promise but always tainted with uncertainty. That's what makes life interesting.

But can I capture this with my camera? We'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My 1st front page

This was the photo that made my first front page shot.

The shot I wanted was a young male but his face was turned away from the camera. It's not easy to not only get the shot but to have it composed as well. Even using the burst mode (10 frames per second) doesn't guarantee you'll get the shot when fast moving sports are involved.

My boss wants kids or animals on the front page, preferably from the Bronx. Makes sense. That's what the everyday reader is attracted to. The larger dailies (my paper is a weekly) lean towards celebrities and crime. This brings to mind a question: should a newspaper be about news or about entertainment?

I bet that most of the more popular dailies in most countries are popular because they entertain more than they present the news. Even on TV, have you noticed that most news broadcasts rarely ask the "hard' questions and rarely delve into the substrata of the events being spoken about. And the common complaint spoken by a few is "why is the news always about negative/bad stuff? How about talking about the good stuff?"

Gee, that's simple to figure out. Good stuff is boring. I want to be titillated, seduced by evil thoughts, witness death or near death, suggestive sexuality and esthetic eroticism - don't you?

Besides, isn't this very stuff that qualifies itself as news? Hmm . . . just what are the Kardashians up to today? The inquiring mind wants to know. One mustn't disappoint the public.

So much for the digression. Kids and animals (especially young ones) make for good front covers. Mine did and it made me proud and happy both.

Friday, February 15, 2013

One thing leads to another

I have my 1st commercial shoot next week. I met someone on a newspaper assignment, took their pictures and they liked them and since they own a business, they referred me to one of their clients and it's a done deal.

Going on a few assignments where business people and politicians mix has opened my eyes to the interesting interfaces between the two. Money drives decisions and money makes money. The more people you know who have either money or influence or both is the engine that drives capitalism. And it seems to work quite well.

This parallels my growth as a photographer. First, just a hobby, then as a freelancer, now doing independent jobs. I don't have plans to run a small business, just want to use my skills to help people and make a little money on the side.

One thing leads to another.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"A rose is a rose is a rose"

This rose is not simply a rose. It's a rose in the Alhambra (Granada, Spain). What we think we see isn't always what we see. 

I'm constantly amazed by what I see in pictures when I upload them to my computer and crop them at 100% and look at them closely. There always seems to be an intriguing face, an out of place object, doleful eyes staring into my lens that I didn't see when I clicked the shutter. An alternate reality that only my camera could perceive?

Can you imagine a camera that not only would see alternate realities but could also reveal the subject's thoughts? A look into the platonic confines of ones mind. A picture that's worth more than a thousand words but a myriad of alternate realities. 

Sometimes what we see isn't what we see.

(Oh, by the way, that's the real me but not now - I've reinvented myself)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Some people are just "beautiful"

See this beautiful woman? She was the mistress of ceremonies at a Black History celebration event where loads of politicians showed up. She is the daughter of the 1st black mayor of Cleveland and the anchor on WABC-TV Eyewitness News (NYC)

I've always seen her on TV since I prefer her channel for news and thought she was attractive but seeing her in person was a very favorable experience. What is it about celebrities and popular politicians and their good looks?

Do their good looks lend themselves to their popularity? I bet it surely has a modicum of influence. Who do people vote for? Tall, sexy and handsome/beautiful, that's who.

Look at this guy. Know who he is? The Bronx Borough President, that's who. Another attractive, very personable man. But, then, one must remember that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, so it's different strokes for different folk.

I don't know what your opinion is but I was "shooting" beauty tonight and I liked it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Are you connected?

Everything is connected to something else. Otherwise everything falls apart. Sounds like the great second law - the law of entropy which basically says that when things are left alone, they fall apart. That's why we have to maintain, maintain, maintain.

It seems that this new job of mine has helped me get connected (job wise). I got my first commercial job offer because someone I did a favor for recommended me to their client. As they say, "it's not what you know, it's who you know". Not saying I agree with this but it seems to make things work.

So far, this job has put me in the company of lots of local politicians and business people. For them being connected is crucial. But isn't crucial for everything? Our world and our lives are all interdependent on something else to keep it going.

". . . and the world goes round and round . . ."

I'm (getting) connected. Are you?

Monday, February 11, 2013

I'm senile and didn't even know it

This is the mental image most get when they hear the word "senile". (Photo by Ron Terner)
But this is really about what happened today when I went for my annual checkup. I was concerned about a growth on my back but when my doctor saw it, he said," That's nothing. It's "senile keratosis"  Senility is just around the corner for many older people but I intend to hold it at bay for as long as possible.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Does this photo look like senility? What does senility look like? Top photo or bottom? LOL

The mind is a precious place. How do we care for it. Do we control it or does it control us? Can we really "lose our minds"? I'm looking at you looking at these words. When words lose all meaning, then we're in trouble. And when that happens, will we even know?

Look at me. I've been senile for quite awhile and didn't even know it. LOL

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Into the woods on a snowy morning

Two paths diverged in the woods this morn. I took the one most snowy and forever wild.

This morning was a test for polarizing filters and lenses. Between the very bright cold sun (nice juxtaposition here, eh?) and crystalline clear white, white snow, glare on the water and reflected light caused problems for my camera and lenses. My paper might use some snow pics from various Bronx locations, so after I shot spots in my neighborhood (Co-op City), I decide to go out to my favorite hiking/running spot, Hunter Island (north end of Orchard Beach in Pelham Bay Park, Bx., NY)

This new job is putting me into situations where I end up doing things I haven't done in my whole life living here. Pretty cool, I say. Even though I know these trails like the back of my hand, I had to stop quite a few times to see things differently that I've seen many times before. Exactly what do we "see" when we "see"?

If you didn't know, Pelham Bay Park is the largest park within the confines of NYC. With its unique ocean shoreline and Eastern woodlands forest, it's a hidden jewel in the midst of urban cluster and confusion.

So, I've taken the path less traveled by and (so far) it has made all the difference.

Thanks Robert F.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Are you in the light?

Light is the photographer's best friend. Without it, there would be no photographs. When you're in the light, I can both see you and take your picture. But are you really in the light?

One tenet of good photography is to always try to get the eyes in sharp focus. People see your eyes first when they see you, then other things come into view. And if it's true that your eyes are the windows to your soul, shouldn't you have clean windows?

"Beauty is truth and truth beauty" Keats said but couldn't we replace 'truth' with "light"? Light is fecund with rich metaphors and symbols. I even believe the Gnostics understood the significance of light because "gnosis" can be understood as light revealing knowledge? And for them the highest form of gnosis was ephemeral and took on spirit like qualities.

The Platonists too understood. For them reality existed first and foremost in ones mind. That's the cerebral home for light. It shines within us and emanates outward - we then take on the cloak called "charisma" People in our vicinity are blessed with our charismatic qualities (we hope)

Now comes the big question: can my camera catch your light? Are you so much in the light that my camera's exposure meter reads your light? Do you know what you know?

Are you in the light?

Friday, February 8, 2013

A milestone for me in my new post-retirement career

I'm very happy about the progress I'm making as a press photographer albeit it's just a small local paper but every milestone accomplished gives one a nice "fuzzy" feeling. Not only did a get a front page photo but a full page spread (p. 32)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Am I a thief?

When I take your picture, am I stealing your soul? Take a look at the photograph above. Someone is inadvertently stealing someone else's joy. Not intentional for sure. (I know because I asked) but nevertheless darkness trumps joy here.

But how about your essence captured in a photograph? Just a memory that can easily be deleted or stored for perpetuity? Aren't there some cultures that even believe there are small people inside the camera body? Foolish for us but in a culture bereft of science, superstition and mythology rule the day. Hmm . . . sounds a little bit like religion, doesn't it?

Can I steal something from you when I take your picture? Maybe it's quite ineffable, maybe metanoic, maybe just something beyond our ken. When I push the shutter, I've caught you. I can post-process you, manipulate you, even make you disappear. But all of this is just illusory, right? just like our "real" existences - completely tangible, physical and "real"

Think about it. Are our lives but just a dream. Jung and Freud loved examining the dream life. Wouldn't it be nice to have cameras that could take photographs of our dreams? Or would that be a frightening prospect?

Have I caught you in my camera? Am I a thief?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meet the Mayor

Know who he is? The Mayor of NYC (Michael Bloomberg) who just happens to be a billionaire. I shot this pic on an assignment I am forbidden to divulge according to the fine print of the contract I signed, but this could be a generic wire image photograph, right? Anyway, I like him . He's very photogenic and my camera agrees. So far, he's the highest ranking local politico I've shot. Wonder if I'll run into any others?

You know what's interesting about him in my personal opinion? He's always less pompous than all the other politicians who follow in his entourage. What's that Biblical saying that "even though he was the son of God, he took upon himself  a humble position". That's hard even for the mediocre among us. I especially have this problem. Am I fated to take pics of people who mirror my character? Is my camera a sophisticated mirror?

Here's the "new" me

Guess what? I'm now a retired teacher working as a part-time freelance newspaper photographer. What a better way to combine my new hobby of photograph with a part-time job. It's with a local paper, the "Bronx Times Reporter" which is part of the NYCNG (New York Community Newspaper Group) which includes the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.

Anyway, let's get to the heart of the matter. Politicians are interesting people. There's this sense of importance that they wear that's like a strong perfume. Even if they don't want to put it on, it stays with them wherever they go. They just love to have their picture taken but it's to be expected, right? That's why their politicians. They ideally strive to help people by participating in "good" government but really . . .? But what lies at the heart of the ineffable entitlement that shrouds their characters? Hmm . . . ? I'll say more about them as this blog progresses.

Now - why do people love to have their picture taken? Except for ones like the lady in the street this morning that asked not to have her picture taken because "No, not me. I might be wanted for something".

Other press photogs are also interesting. Most have been helpful to me the newbie but a few barely utter a word to anything I say to them. Do they feel threatened? It sure isn't an occupation with a great salary. The only competition I can think of is for those solo sports photography positions with pro teams. But just google their blogs and see the crazy workload they endure. Shooting the Olympics or the Super Bowl or World Cup is much more work than sporting enjoyment.

That's all for now. Still learning on the job - for me, the best way.