There was a good coating of snow on everything in Freedom this morning. The kids were excited thinking there'd be a snow day and anticipating ski season. All of a sudden it's looking like the holidays!
The First Christian Church of Freedom Freedom Village, NH
Jay Maisel is a master and revered among photographers. I love to hear him talk and he is imminently quotable. My personal favorite is "If you want to make more interesting pictures, become a more interesting person." Many folks not in the photography community may not be familiar with him. His best known image is from the cover of the Miles Davis album "Kind of Blue".
Jay bought the Germania Bank Building in 1966 for $102,000 when the neighborhood around190 Bowery was in decline. It has been his studio and home ever since. New York Magazine said this "maybe the greatest real-estate coup of all time" as the building was estimated to be worth over $30 million in 2008. Built in 1898, the 35,000 square foot building has six floors and 72 rooms. Over the years he has rented space to other artists including Roy Lichtenstein.
Last week, I had to be in New York and one of my commitments was to attend a dinner at Sammy's Roumanian Steak House. I won't get into that here, let's just say they had Kettle One frozen in blocks of ice, a schmaltzy lounge act and a waiter fond of the F word. As I walked the two miles from my West Village hotel to the restaurant, I was following the directions on my cell phone and turned right from Bleecker Street onto Bowery. The building in front of me said it was 350 Bowery and my wheels started turning. I knew that Jay Maisel's studio wasn't far. A quick google search comfirmed 190 Bowery as the address.
Two blocks later I stood in front of the house of Maisel. A temple to color, form and the secret ingredient to all good photographs that Jay calls "gesture". Some day I'll get inside this building and see the treasures it holds. In a video tour I've seen, Maisel shows off a large room dedicated to things he's found on the streets... neatly organized by shape... circles, squares, etc. There is also a gallery space. He holds four day workshops here about three times a year. Someday when I have an extra $5,000, I'll learn from the master.
In the meantime, I have this photo of his amazing building. I didn't have my DSLR with me on this dinner outing and it was very dark when I made the image but the best camera is the one you've got and my iPhone never disappoints.
Here are a couple of videos that will help you understand why Jay Maisel is the man...
This morning, I was thinking about a Veteran's Day post and reviewed some images that might be appropriate for today... American flags, a cemetery and some photos of Americana that sum up why I value the sacrifice that Veterans make for us everyday. While I don't always agree with the politics of the situations our country is involved in, there is no doubt in my mind that people who serve in uniform are real-life super heroes. We owe them so much.
Then I ran across a series of photos that I made five years ago while roaming through the California surf town of Ocean Beach. I had an interaction with two homeless veterans that night that continues to be a profound experience for me.
I did a blog post at the time that included a black and white image of the men and a description of our encounter. I'm re-posting this today because I think we need to remember gratitude should extend to not only the military folks who wear medals, but also those who wear scars from being a veteran... both physical and psychological.
The original post is below and I encourage you to read about my interaction with these vets. I've also reworked two of the files as color images that I want to share today for the first time. I hope these guys have made it through to the other side of whatever placed them in the situation they were in.
TECHNICAL NOTE: The original images were made with a Nikon D300 and 24mm f/2.8 lens. It was dark, so I was shooting at ISO 3200 at 1/60th of a second and f/2.8. There is quite a bit of noise in the original file. A black and white rendering made good use of that noise so that was what I used in the original post. Five years later, technology has advanced and a much more acceptable color file is possible. I used Lightroom 5 and the NIK suite to create the two color images. While still showing signs of a photo made at an ISO higher than could produce optimal quality, I think they tell story better.
Here's the original post...
Monday, December 1, 2008
Don't Tread on Me
Wandering around Ocean Beach and soaking up the California vibe, I stepped back to get a picture of a couple of kids running through traffic wearing wetsuits and carrying surf boards. Then I realized I was about to step on something. I quickly realized it was actually a someone.
“What are you taking pictures of? Take a picture of the homeless. Tell a story about the homeless”. “Dude, get a picture of the 13’s”. I made a picture and thought of my exit strategy from what might be a difficult situation. Instead, I ended up in a 15 minute conversation and heard tales of six year hitches in the Navy and Marines with tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and hurricane clean-ups.
Marine vet says “They used to want me when I was willing to go do their shit. Now they don’t want me around and don’t respect me. I used to make $3,600 a month plus hazardous duty pay and now they offer me $242 a month. Who can live on that? I eat out of dumpsters.”
Navy vet says “Dude, you slept in a dumpster last night. They shut me out of VA benefits and I paid into the GI bill. I’ve been this close to papa Bush and I should have did to him what he trained me to do."
“I’ll tell you what, Obama is going to change this shit. I used to hate hippies. I’d beat one up whenever I could, but they were right. They were right man.” Navy vet breaks open a cigarette to re-roll it into two. “Dude, take another picture.”
I walked away wondering if they had the number 13 tattooed on themselves to try to conjure up good fortune or as a black mark symbolizing their horrible lot in life. There's always more to the story... who knows what they have really been through. Either way, I’m glad I didn’t accidentally step on one of them. It seems like these guys have been stepped on enough.