Word and Image

Archive for February, 2012

Golden Horseshoe Award

We had an old Argus C3 ‘brick’ that I once used – once! No lessons, no clue, and the results were over and under but never exposed properly. Even my amateur eye could see that the developed negatives had no images. I just played with the buttons for one roll of black and white film on a trip to Charleston, West Virginia to receive the Golden Horseshoe Award. The award was a pretty big deal given to three students from each county after a competitive exam each year. As a minority student winner, I was placed front and center next to the education commissioner in the official photo taken on the steps of an official looking building. That’s me to the right of the ‘old bald headed’ guy. Racism was still present in the state. I know, because my parents were turned down for membership in the local country club. The father of one of my co- winners was on the board that turned down my parents. Times change. I don’t know and haven’t bothered to look to see if the award is still given. I’ve moved on. They said that poverty was high and education among the poorest states in the nation. It wasn’t.


Christmas 4 years old

Well, here’s a rare photo of my childhood. As much a photographer as I am now is probably because my family had a laissez faire attitude about pictures from my youth. Or, it’s too emotional for me to go back and look for the old snapshots. There are some formal baby pictures but mostly we have very few photos from that time. We had an Argus C3 (see next post). And my first camera, now long lost, was a Kodak Instamatic 100. It shot 126 size cartridge film and had no settings and a rudimentary flash. At least I think it had a flash. Nonetheless it was my first camera purchased shortly after we moved back to NY from West Virginia. I had purchased it with my mother in Astoria on Ditmars Boulevard. Somehow the Kodak advertising had appealed to me through the Walt Disney TV show. I first used it at the World’s Fair 1964 to 1966. As it turns out my wife lived in Flushing a few blocks from the house that I lived before my family moved to West Virginia. She used to beg her parents to go to the Fair, and only rarely got to attend. My first real camera was an Exakta around 1971. After that I finally got a Nikon Ftn and the rest, as they say is history.


Organ Grinder

Sometimes you don’t have the traditional monkey handy and available. Maybe the monkey had the day off. Wally and Smartie, are street performers, from the London street fair scene many years ago. Who was who? You don’t see folks much like that in New York. But then we have our own characters.


One Man Band

What do you say? – ‘A One Man Band!’ There is a lot to criticize about this photo and then there is the simple snapshot of it all. It was another photo from the London street scene. Johnny was there to earn a living and I sure hope he was successful. More than 30 years ago, I wish him well.


London Street Fair

This is another outtake of photos from London street fairs. I had my favorite among my very early posts. (9/14/11) Here the color of the old slide has given a certain patina that my daughter recognizes on sight. Kids riding on Dad’s shoulders are easy targets. They are relatively immobile and they have an excellent uncluttered background.

 


Monkeys and Parrot

In my early years with much less technical expertise, I shot a series of early street shots when I visited London. It should probably be in photocriticism.com my other blog. Notice the two monkeys, one parrot, and the smiling face. Of course you did, didn’t you? Maybe it’s not a great shot. But it did catch my eye and made me set it aside when editing recently.


History lesson

2/23/12

Here’s a historically interesting photo from an era similar to the times as in the previous post. It is a street fair from the ‘80’s with a rock band performing. The background is interesting in the political posters for Mario Cuomo, the father to present New York governor, Andrew. Who knew how history would repeat? Everything old is new again.

 


Stuyvesant High School

I attended Stuyvesant High School a long, long time ago. During that time I was on the swimming team. It wasn’t too hard to join the team. Most kids in New York City don’t swim well. Well at least it seemed that they didn’t much in those days. My daughter’s high school team and her league had excellent swimmers.

I also did the low hurdles because no one else did. I even won the Manhattan Borough Championship meet and was mentioned in the NY Times Sports section. Who knew? I was pretty full of myself until I showed up for the City Championship Meet at Randall’s Island. There was a high school in Brooklyn called Girls and Boys High. They were African American. The hurdlers from that team were nine feet tall (I exaggerate) and could step over the hurdles like a speed bump. I came in last to them.

But, I digress. NY City High Schools by and large did not have swimming pools and Stuyvesant was no exception. Hence there were very few swimmers among the 704 students enrolled per class. In order to workout we would swim either at Evangeline Residence or at the 23rd St Bathhouse. Evangeline was a Salvation Army residence for women on about 12th Street in Greenwich Village. It had two lanes in small basement pool, was overheated, and very humid. No women, we were an all male school at the time.

The 23rd Street Bathhouse is still around from the early 1900’s. It was indeed a bathhouse for poor folks to take the occasional bath. The pool also had two lanes. There was a gargoyle at one end spewing out ‘cold’ water so that swimming in one direction was against the current. And this pool area was not heated much. City budget, I guess. In the winter you could see frost on your breath and the few blocks to walk to the subway invariably froze my wet hair.

The point of this picture for me and teammates in the years that preceded and followed, was this figure. It sat in the window of a shoe repair shop. Even at that time this was an old display. Yet in all of our collective psyches,’ this became a symbol of our trudge in the cold to workout and then leave to freeze our hair. It was an iconic waypoint in the life of our swim team.


Silly String

During the parade, aside from poppers, folks also used silly string. They would spray the cars – a big clean up mess. But after the parade, this pair of women was out of targets and turned upon one another. Good shot!


Child

I told you kids are great subjects. Here this child was on a float and soaking in the spectacle of everyone looking at him while we looked back. Spiked haircut and thoughts unknown.


Roller Blades

If I had the whole picture you would see rollerblades. She appeared right in proximity to the Latin dance group. A spectator appeared next to her and tried to drag her down the parade route. She kicked him off her. And then, she proceeded with her dancing. Ok now I’ve seen about everything. At least she has a dragon kite.


Mexican parade group

2/19/2012

About three quarters of the way through the parade here’s a group of Latin dancers. I could be wrong about Mexico and perhaps it’s another South American group. It was just an incongruous group in the middle of everything. Don’t get me wrong they were fun, but…


It’s good luck

It’s good luck to touch the dragon. Mostly I see white, red and black dragons. This is the first that I recall to be blue. You can see all the hands that reach out as the dragons pass by. Some of the white ones are a bit dingy from all the touching. I guess that it’s impractical to throw it into a washing machine. And it’s probably bad luck to retire the costume. They’re very superstitious, those Chinese.


Yeah, it’s really free

It doesn’t really matter. “It’s free!!” Look at how happy the crowd is and how animated. Maybe it was because it was so cold that they were happy to be moving about. Even the adults were engaged.


Pale Rider

Yes, it was the title of an old Clint Eastwood movie. Here it was so that the child could see over the crowd. One enterprising vendor walked around handing out these balloons. After the child had it in hand he would turn to the parent and say, “One dollar, please.” That is ingenious salesmanship. But if you’re a hardened New Yorker, “No thanks. Take it back,” which is exactly what the woman behind me did. No mercy.


Roses

Well, as the title of my blog says – “story.” It’s a bit long and also a time long ago – 2003. One Saturday night about a week before these photos were taken, I had the brilliant plan to invite three families for dinner that same evening. It would include their kids, two each, of about 9 and 7 years old. Doing the math this would be dinner for sixteen including my family of four. Mind you, I had never entertained, much less cooked, for such a large crowd. My wife has always been the social director. Somehow she agreed and I made the calls. Everyone was expected at 7:30PM. I was going to do it all – shop, prep, and cook.

Soon after the invitations, I got a phone call from the hospital. A young man with an acoustic neuroma had been admitted. The tumor was pressing upon his cerebellum and brainstem and he was quite ill. With the help of Don, my trusted PA, we went to work and eventually removed this tumor. Time passed and of course so did dinner prep and then dinner hour. I did have one of the OR nurses make a call around 7PM to let my wife know that I was still in the OR – really! The nurses had all rolled up their eyes, having heard my plans and then the late hour of my call. When she returned the Pat (Ginny corrected me) said, “No problem.” And she followed with, “She (my wife) made reservations.”

Well, the operation finished at about 8PM. The young man was fine and would recover quite well. In the recovery room I explained to the family how we had saved their loved one. And I also mentioned that I had missed preparing dinner for sixteen. I could still make it for dessert. But ever the coward, I was afraid to go home. Don and I had dinner at a local diner. When I arrived home, my wife was a bit annoyed but otherwise cheerful in that she had quickly adapted and had entertained the crowd in my absence.

The following Tuesday during my office hours, a dozen peach colored roses from the grateful family were delivered to the office. The photos have no scale due lack of photographic foresight on my part. The buds were the size of your fist. I mean to say that they were bigger than any rosebuds I had seen except in a botanical garden. Large! Get it?

So I did what any husband might do under the circumstances. I took them home and presented them to my wife in apology. I have brought home flowers before, red roses for Valentine’s Day and so forth. (I neglected to mention that they were from the patient’s family). These were so impressively huge, that I was instantly forgiven for my transgressions days before. Hugs and kisses were given all around. Since I photograph just about everything, these photos were pulled this morning and scanned.

My office staff and my nurses all kept the rose story secret until Christmas. Then at the office Christmas dinner party, my wife was surprised to find roses at her place setting. You can guess the rest. If you want to keep a secret never tell a woman. Or, as the pirates say, ‘dead men tell no tales.’


Mom

It’s my Mom’s birthday today. Happy Valentine’s Day. If you don’t know or are unfamiliar, Valentine’s is a day in which everyone gives cards, candy, flowers, and takes their special someone for a romantic candle light dinner. Get the picture? It’s a big Hallmark (cards) day. Flowers – especially roses  – are double the price. Tomorrow, the day after, roses are back to the same price once again. Anyway, I am scanning thousands of slides at the moment. This shot was back in the ’70’s. I checked it out with my wife before posting. It’s not your usual shot for mom. I have obviously caught her by surprise in a totally unguarded moment. While the smile is genuine, there’s also something a little disconcerting for me. I guess I’m just not used to seeing Mom smile that way. I didn’t do any manipulation, color change, sharpening etc. It’s just a slide from another era.


Child

She actually had the flag sticking out from her ponytail. What can you say to the innocence of a child enjoying the festivities? I always try to include candids of the kids in any street photography event. Their joy and wonderment is always worth capturing.


Dragon

Yes. It’s lucky. And I guess it’s especially lucky because it’s the year of the water dragon. There are twelve animals on the Chinese zodiac. I just found out that there are also elements to consider – air, water, fire, earth. When the two mesh it is especially propitious. I have many shots of the dragons, which are stretched out for 50 feet or more and carried along by 10-12 dancers. I like this shot because of the angle and dynamic appearance. Woe to the tail guy who’s just trying to keep up with a wildly gyrating train of dancers.


Little Red Riding Hood

With the red hood she looks like… The dragon has passed into the background. The young girl is handing out red envelopes, which traditionally impart good luck. Traditionally they contain money. Here the envelopes usually have advertising. It doesn’t stop the enthusiastic reaching of hands from the crowd.


Smile

Smile – if you’re happy and you know it…. Sometimes you just catch someone with that unmistakable spontaneous smile of joy. It can be hard to capture. Lucky me and him.

 


Chuck

2/10/2012

Politicians march in every parade. They usually walk on their own with their separate entourage. John Liu, City Controller, had his entourage about two minutes behind him. Maybe he was in a hurry. And then they conveniently put a sign in the background so you know who it is. It really does help for some of the less well-known politicians. ‘Chuck’ Schumer Senator from NY is clearly enjoying himself. He turns out to be pretty personable. I wouldn’t let him kiss my baby, but personable. At the Columbus Day Parade a few years back, I watched a background crowd marching in step with Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo providing signs and wavinf people as though they were marching among a crowd of enthusiastic supporters. Yes, it was staged! A movie director couldn’t have done it better.


Foot pies

Parade spectators peeked from windows with a vantage that I envied. It would have been swell to be above the crowd and at the level of the floats. These women were indeed very happy. Note the cell phone camera. And what, pray tell, are “foot pies?”


Dragon

It is the year of the Dragon. Red is lucky. This dragon is symbolic of the holiday. It is said to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. The dragons are brought around to all the shops and noise (firecrackers banned) mainly from loud drumming gives you good luck all year. Here in the parade people put money (red envelopes) into the mouth of the dragon as an offering. I guess the envelopes in the dragon dancer’s mouth is money, as is traditional.