I’m not much of a gambler, but I’ll try my luck at the slots when it’s convenient. More and more casinos are popping up everywhere so it’s more and more convenient. I better watch myself. I don’t mind losing money to Native Americans, though. I’ve got a tiny amount of Choctaw heritage on my mother’s side and am proud of every bit. I admire the casino operators’ enterprise. It means jobs for tribe members and other opportunities. I’ve been to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, which is lavishly decorated in Native American motifs. It occupies a mall-like structure at the base of a 34-story glass skyscraper in the middle of the woods and is stunning in every way. I’ve also been to the tiny-by-comparison casino the Kickapoos operate in the suburbs of Oklahoma City. It’s in an air-inflated dome with decor that’s just a step up from a fast-food restaurant. The night I visited the big TVs in the restaurant area were showing the Oklahoma Thunder pounding their way toward a national championship. The beer bottles were clinking and the burgers were tasty. And I even won a jackpot on one of the low-bets slots that predominate in the little casino. I thought a photographer with artistic pretensions winning 24 bucks on a slot machine with a Rembrandt design and a made-in-Australia plate affixed to its side was worth being memorialized with a photo. I also took some a shot of a nearby line of slots decorated with the “Sopranos” logo and violent imagery; had to bring that home to Jersey, capiche? That was before a nice woman casino worker tipped me that it’s against some law to photograph anything inside a casino. Later, I worried I might have busted someone’s copyright by photographing the machine’s vivid graphics. I learned in a search that Rembrandt’s Riches is one of the most popular slot machine games in the world. They’re apparently everywhere. You can even play, for free, on your PC. I printed my souvenir photo on metal and it was part of the “Lucky” show in the spring of 2013 at the Trolley Car Bar & Grill in the Riverview Arts District here in Jersey City.
Something traditional but different in a winter holiday image — that was what I was after here. Good cheer and hospitality, but no holly or Santa or snowmen. No red, no green. How about black and white? How about a picture that wouldn’t seem out of date on Dec. 26? Something decorative that would have some appeal until at least early February, when Valentine’s Day gets us thinking of glittering red hearts? So I put together and shot this still life in my studio, uploaded it to a faraway printer to have holiday cards made, and showed it later in the winter, printed on metal, in the “Shine” show at the Trolley Car Bar & Grill, one of the landmarks in Jersey City’s new Riverview Arts District.
Jersey City has a large and growing Egyptian community, established over the past several decades. About half are Muslim, the balance are Coptic Christians. A festival is held every year, usually on the plaza at the Journal Square Transportation Center. This dancer was whirling slowly to music, his costume constructed with wire or some other support to maintain the flare. I find interest in the many clothing styles visible in this photo, the expressions on the onlookers’ faces. I didn’t want to be considered a gawker, so I didn’t linger. But I got the shot. “The World Comes to Jersey City to Live Together” was featured in the “City of Life” show in April 2013 at The Distillery Gallery & Art Space in Jersey City Heights.
They’re kind of funny looking, but a praying mantis will eat just about any bug in your garden. So I was glad when this one dropped in and posed on a rose.
I’ve always loved the Statue of Liberty. It was not yet in New York Harbor when my father’s family immigrated from England, arriving in Marblehead, Mass., in 1801 in time for the birth of his great-great-grandfather, but the statue welcomed my father when he and several thousand other troops sailed home from England on the Queen Elizabeth after World War II. I have lived within easy sight of it for more than 40 years now, and a glimpse still gives me a thrill. My father saw it up close from Liberty State Park when he visited Jersey City in the 1980s. I still have the tiny replica he bought as a souvenir. When the statue’s centennial was celebrated in grand style on July 4, 1986, we were watching the fireworks on a television in a motel in southeastern South Dakota. We and the rest of his surviving family were visiting his tiny hometown and birthplace, which was having its own centennial celebration.
This photo was taken in November 2013. The western sky was exceptionally clear that early evening and the light seemed to go on and on. As I moved around Battery Park, at the tip end of Manhattan, the last of the day’s tourists were coming off the ferries that had taken them out to Liberty Island. Areas in the park were still fenced off and restoration was ongoing more than a year after Superstorm Sandy damaged so much. Some of the enormous office buildings nearby were still being powered by noisy generators parked in the streets. The long sunset allowed me to shoot the statue from several vantage points, and of the 14 frames that I’ve saved from the shoot I like this one best. It was taken as I left the park, stopping every 20 feet or so to turn back and take another shot. I had it printed on canvas, 36 inches wide, and in March it was featured in BROAD VIEWS: Landscape Photography in 2014 at 58 Gallery in Jersey City. “November Sunset” will be presented to the New York Civil Liberties Union later this year for permanent display in its offices, where our liberties are claimed, defended and fought for every day our nation’s courts are in session.
Drawing inspiration from such disparate works as Ingres paintings from the early 19th Century, a poster I remember seeing all over New York 40 years ago for a Joffrey Ballet production, and those pulsating hippie light shows of the Sixties, I shot all these photos in a single session. I wanted in each to merge my model with a projected image — but do it my way, no Photoshop — to create a modern image with classic beauty and some sense of mystery. Perhaps at first glance one thinks “How was that done?” but the perceptive viewer will see the images for what they are: photographs made with photographs. And proud photographs, not paintings.
It was a delight to find when they were exhibited in the 2011 edition of curator Tina Maneca’s Exquisite Corpse, an October show that opened during the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour, that each photo was a favorite of at least one visitor to the show. Of course some in the series drew positive comments from many people, but it was nice to know that each had at least one admirer. All were printed on metal, with glossy finish and ready to hang with no frame, and “In Her Realm,” below, is my largest such print to date — 45 inches wide.
Below is “Recognition.” It’s printed 24 by 24.
“Sosei,” below, is also 24 by 24.
Below is “In the Garden,” printed smaller, perhaps 15 inches wide.
“Forest Dawn” was not seen in Exquisite Corpse, as the print was damaged by a worker taking down the previous show in the space.
Fire? Ecstasy? Cherry blossons? Wagner’s surging music? All there. “Greeting Spring” is large, about 36 inches wide.
“Aspiration” is perhaps 20 inches wide.
“Discovery” is about 20 inches wide, too.
“Peace” is 20 inches square, and was used in one of the many 3-artwork assemblages that curator Tina Maneca put together.
Below is “Peace” and the works shown with it. Each assemblage in Exquisite Corpse has a “head,” a “torso” and “legs.”
My model visited the show. In her realm, indeed!
I’m pleased to be having my second solo show, less than a year after my first, at Made With Love Artisan Bakery & Cafe in Downtown Jersey City. Included in Actualities II are my portraits of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, Liv Ullmann and Judy Collins, taken in the mid-1970s when I was a young journalist.
I was lucky to secure the 9 a.m. slot to interview John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands the morning after “A Woman Under the Influence” — many consider it to be the greatest of the films they made together — debuted at the 1974 New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. The interview was done in their hotel suite on West 58th Street, and they were still waking up when we began. He appeared first, and soon she came into the room and he presented her to me with admiration and pride in his voice. She seemed shy, almost fragile, and was even more strikingly beautiful than when acting on screen. At the end of the interview, I pulled out my Minolta 35mm film camera and took a few pictures without missing a beat. Having chatted for the better part of an hour, they were comfortable, weren’t asked to pose, and I didn’t use a flash. There was plenty of soft incandescent in the room and morning light was coming through the curtains. And so I captured the images of the director now remembered as the father of independent film in America, as well as a fine actor, and his actress wife, who is still beautiful and still making interesting movies today.
Judy Collins welcomed me into her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to discuss a film, “Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman,” which she produced and Jill Godmilow directed. The 1974 feature documentary tells the compelling but not widely known story of Antonia Brico, who in 1938 was the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic.
Born in The Netherlands, Brico grew up in California and was an accomplished pianist when she left high school, and already had experience in conducting. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1923 and in 1927 entered the Berlin State Academy of Music, becoming the first American to graduate from its master class in conducting. She debuted as a professional conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1930. In 1934, back in the States, she was appointed conductor of the new Women’s Symphony Orchestra, which in 1939 became the Brico Symphony Orchestra after it admitted men. She conducted at the New York World’s Fair. But there were discouragingly few opportunities.
In 1942, she settled in Denver, Colorado and spent the rest of her life there, founding several local musical groups, conducting the Denver Symphony Orchestra, playing a major role in the city’s cultural life. She also taught piano, and this is where Judy Collins met her. She was one of Antonia Brico’s piano students.
I think it was extraordinary that Judy Collins, whose own musical career was going full swing in 1974, invested time and money in making a film tribute to a woman who was a hero in her life and who, she felt, had not gotten the artistic recognition she deserved in a field that was, and still is, predominantly male. And Judy Collins made sure the film was done right. “Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman” was nominated for an Academy Award in the documentary category. Antonia Brico died in Denver in 1989, at age 87.
After our interview, I photographed Judy Collins among her houseplants in her south-facing living room. Our visit was a particular thrill for me, of course, for hers was and is one of the great voices of my generation, and that interview was done only seven short years after her album “Wildflowers” was on every turntable in every college dorm room in America, including my own.
These photographs were taken in San Francisco, a city I dearly love. “In the City of Saint Francis” is on the right, a sepia-toned rendition of a single image. I think it has some feeling of the movement of the bus I was on when I took the exposure. I knew we would soon pass Mission Dolores, a tiny adobe church built in 1791 and the city’s oldest surviving structure, and I wanted to ready to snap it. I was shooting wildly, wondering what images I might get, kind of priming the camera. It turned out that this was the more interesting shot, a lucky shot totally unplanned. It’s a bit off-putting in color, with a phantom red digital zipper of words running through the middle, but when I took the color out and saw it in black and white I knew I had something. The lower left section of the image is the reflection in the bus window of the line of bay-windowed apartment houses across the street. The large church building with the cross on top is the modern basilica of Mission Dolores Church. Altogether, it is a vision of the city as it has looked, in this spot, for more than a half-century.
The subject is popular media in the photos at left, which are printed on metal and “float” on the wall, their corners as sharp as any print. Artists working in all mediums are fashioning comments these days on the supposed end of the print era, and these are mine. The relatively benign movie magazines from the 1940s and ’50s and the paperbacks with eye-catching covers displayed below them in the top photo were in the window of a used book store on Post Street. The magazines in the lower photo promise us, in January 2010, the latest “misery” in the lives of Jennifer and Brad and Angelina, none of which seems to have come to anything. I guess news was slow that week, the competition as cut-throat as ever. Whether such pages will still be viewed in one’s hands in 10 years time or will only be seen on screens I do not know. But I’m sure celebrity culture will continue to serve up the same formula “inside” exclusives. Inquiring minds will always want to know.
I’ve always been deeply ambivalent about the real place called Hollywood and about Los Angeles in general. When I first flew out for a visit, about 1970, I had a window seat and during our low approach to LAX I looked out over mile after flat mile of superblocks divided by major streets, all viewed as if through a light chartreuse filter. This was before clean air laws and mandated emissions controls on cars. The air burned my eyes on two occasions during my week-long stay, and I wondered how so many people could live there seemingly satisfied with conditions I could hardly tolerate. Fast forward about 40 years and I’m still not in love with L.A., but I do manage to have fun when I’m there.
This photo was snapped in February 2007 during the week before the Oscars were handed out. Hollywood Boulevard was closed to traffic for many blocks around the Kodak Theater, creating snarls and backups on all the other major roads, but I was able to find and park in one of three lots adjoining the back of the Hollywood Wax Museum so I could attend one of the screenings in a festival showcasing new Italian films at Grauman’s Chinese, on the same crowded block as the Kodak. When I got back to the car, night had fallen and the lights were on, and I knew I had to preserve this vision of Hollywood, a company town where billboards touting new product seem bigger and more numerous than anywhere else in the world, and where every actor hopes to achieve the immortality of John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin. I was especially taken with the way the museum’s mural incorporates the utility lines on the sides of the building. Nothing gets in the way of promotion in Tinseltown.