Monday, November 25, 2013

My First Obsession

Once again it is time to link up with Kerri Sackville's Life and Other Crises blog. This week's theme is My First Obsession.

When I was growing up, my Aunt Carol was the family photographer. She had the ubiquitous Kodak Brownie camera - with that huge flash. Oh how I hated being in front of that flash!

My dad had an 8mm (silent of course) movie camera but no one in my immediate family had a snapshot camera, so for my eighth birthday, I made it known that was what I wanted.

The year before I had wanted a new fangled transistor radio for my birthday, and my aunt had gotten me one. That was a big deal back then - they were what all the "cool kids" had. It had lousy reception and was only AM (no one listened to FM in those days - I am not even sure there were any FM commercial broadcasts yet). So when I wanted a camera, I naturally asked my aunt.

She came through for me, and I received the camera I wanted - but not before she teased me a bit by giving me a tin toy camera, which - when you pressed the shutter button - opened the lens and out popped a spring snake! Once I got over that, however, she gave me the actual camera. Today, almost 53 years later, I can still remember the excitement of opening the box and taking the camera (and flash!) out and loading my first roll of black and white film! (I would take my first roll of color film at the 1964 NY World's Fair!)

From that day on you would hardly ever see me without a camera around my neck. In 1968 and 1969 I traveled across the US and Canada and had two cameras with me ... the Ansco Cadet Reflex and a Polaroid instant camera which I surreptitiously bought with my profits from delivering newspapers. Here you can see it around my neck at Universal City in California. Obviously my mom was using my other camera to take this shot.

Once I got married and had a steady job, I felt the need to move up to a 35mm camera. Naturally I needed the best, and at that time it was a Contax RTS - with a motor drive! 

It was during this period that I went from my snapshot phase to more artistic photography. (I also purchased a few other cameras along the way, but I won't mention all of them here.) My kitchen turned into a darkroom at night - while my wife watched TV in the bedroom with the door closed, so I could have the apartment as dark as possible. I worked mostly in black and white, though I did dabble a bit in color ... mostly slides. I entered a few contests, and won a few, saw my work displayed on TV during the US Bicentennial celebration, and had my work displayed in photography magazines.

Then it all changed ... our first child was born! The kitchen once again became a place to cook food, and the type of shot I took were more the shots that proud parents show which makes all their friends find excuses to be somewhere else. 

Life continued, the children grew up, left the house, and I retired. Digital photography was now the norm, so I naturally had to have a digital SLR and get back into my photography! I purchased a DSLR and thought I could just pick up where I had left off all those years ago. I was so wrong! There was quite a learning curve! Although I knew the basics of photography itself, I had to learn all about the new things I had within my control in the digital age.

Today I shoot with a Nikon D7100 and while I still take the snapshots of my grandsons, I am still very proud of my work in other areas.

After more than 50 years, my obsession with photography is not only going strong, but is perhaps stronger than ever. I have continued to win contests and even sell a photo every now and again.

I have met a number of local photographers and go out to find something to photograph at every chance I get.

Of course, photography is meant to be shared, and of course in this electronic age, there are ample ways to do this. Some of my favorite photos can be seen on my photography website, Gathered Images, and I invite you to come visit and I hope you enjoy some of my work. Click on the video below as well for a quick look at over 60 years of photos (yes, the second pig from the right is me!).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My First Moment of Terror

Once again it is time to link up with Kerri Sackville for another "My First". This week her topic is My First Moment of Terror. This took me a while to decide what to write about since so many of the moments I picked were well short of terror. Was the time my aunt was babysitting for me and my brother and sister, and she got us all - herself included - scared about sounds outside a true moment of terror? Scary maybe, but not really terror. Or how about my first camping trip when I woke up in the night and the tight confines of my sleeping bag and the tent gave me a moment of severe claustrophobia until I realized where I was? Possibly, but it was over almost before I knew it.

No, the real moment(s) of terror came in the summer of 1977. It became known in the press as The Summer of Sam.

It had actually started in 1975, although we didn't yet know that we had seen the beginning of the reign of a serial killer.

His targets at first had all been young women, in their teens. Each had been returning from an evening out and each were killed in what were generally considered "good" neighborhoods, not those you might expect to have to worry about walking home at night.

The killing continued through the summer of 1976, and all of them had taken place in the NYC borough of Queens. The entire city was on alert and fear of the night was rampant. By the summer of 1976 the profile of the women he was killing had become those in their mid 20's. My wife and I did not visit any friends in Queens if we would be there at night.

Then, in the summer of 1977 two things happened which changed things for my wife and myself. The first Son of Sam (as the shooter was now being called as well as the .44 caliber killer) attack that included a boyfriend, and a killing right in our own neighborhood in the NYC borough of Brooklyn. All Son of Sam attacks up until this point had been in Queens, so there was a measure of safety in the fact that we lived in Brooklyn. That was no longer the case.

We lived at that time in an apartment building, so when we would return home we would always have to search for street parking, most often within a block or two of our building. While we avoided returning at night if we could, life doesn't always cooperate, and one night, days after the shooting not far from our location, we found ourselves having to walk about a block from where we parked the car to our building. Did I mention that my wife and I fit the killer's victims profile almost perfectly? To this day, that walk on that particular night is still sharp in my memory - as is the terror of what normally would have been a short, hardly noticed walk.

Happily, it was not too long after that time that late in the summer, David Berkowitz was caught, and today is serving 6 life sentences.

An ironic footnote to this moment of terror, is the fact that when a movie was made in 1999 (entitled, Summer of Sam), David Berkowitz was played by Michael Badalucco, an actor with whom I went to college, and had performed with in my final show in school. (Of course he was the lead and I was in the pit.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A new challenge

I was reading a friend's blog the other day, and she issued this challenge ...


Today I am starting a new Blogger Challenge
Because all of us bloggers need ideas.
Because all of us readers want great content.
Because it will be FUN.
And because I really want to read what you guys have to write.

Each Monday I will be writing about a First. I will choose the First (first kiss? first drink? first fight? first phobia?)

I will post the topic here and write my own little piece about it. And I will invite YOU to write about your own First (Insert Topic Here) on your blogs anytime during the week. If you have never done that particular first, write about why not. And how you feel about that.

Then link to your piece in the comments below, or on my Facebook page
Also tweet it under the hashtag #MyFirst.

 Ready? Let's begin.

Today's First is 



So I had to think back to remember my first act of rebellion. I am not sure if it was a testament to my mother and father's parenting skills or just my desire not to get in to trouble, but until I got to high school I can't even think of an act of rebellion that I perpetrated. But in high school I once smoked a cigarette while waiting to get into an ice skating session. Not much to write about there.

However, you need to remember that my high school days corresponded with the war in Viet-Nam. It was a very polarizing time in the U.S. and I was on the side of those who wanted us out immediately. (Also I did not want to be drafted and sent there against my will ... Hell No We Won't Go!)

In my senior year in high school there was a well planned march on NYC City Hall as well as the individual Borough Halls. Thousands of us left school and took part ... I was one.

But can this be actually considered an act of rebellion if there was no consequence to the participants, and the school system actually (and officially) sanctioned it? No!! For that we skip ahead a year to my college days.

Cambodia had been invaded and the students were taking action. On Friday night we took over the school's administration building. It was not much of a takeover as the building was unlocked and security basically handed it over to us.

I found myself in some professor's office, calling my local politicians for statements that we could use ... today we would call them soundbites. I found myself calling three very prominent politicians of the day ... Congresswoman Bella Abzug ... Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ... and Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman ... all three active supporters of the anti-war movement.

Amazingly I actually spoke with Ms. Abzug and Ms. Holtzman (who would - in a few years - be the speaker at graduation) and got a quote from Ms. Chisholm through a spokesman in her office.

That same weekend, I took part in a shut down on the New York State Thruway - a major highway with high volume of traffic. The state police showed up and started arresting those of us who were sitting in the roadway, blocking traffic. Shortly before they would have come for me, however, the vehicle they were loading protesters into was filled, and they stopped "collecting" us.

By Sunday night, we had peaceably "returned" the administration building so that the offices could be used by their rightful owners come Monday morning ... and we all (?) returned to our normal routine of classes.

For what it is worth, I became more rebellious as I got a bit older ... just ask anyone who has worked with me over the years!