Category Archives: New York

Frames vs Snapshots

I went on my second Urban Photographers Walk last weekend. Via the Meet Up app, it is hosted by the energetic, immensely talented and delightfully hospitable Ron Louis. I learned about it from my favorite cousin in law last year. It’s a group of photographers at all levels shooting with SLRs, film and cellphone cameras called together by Ron once a month to different places in the Tri State area to take and make pictures. It’s a great thing to be able to do something you love in community. I met a guy there who lives in my building! And he’s an amazing photographer! I would never have known.

This particular walk was in Soho one of my favorite places for taking pictures on perhaps one of the nicest days we’ve had in NYC since Christmas. We visited several photo galleries as part of the walk, the first of which was a framing gallery.

Ron talked about how we should think about printing and framing our own photos and displaying them in our homes. This is something my dad has done for years. Photography has been his passion since before I was born and though it took me years to get the bug myself (I’ve been serious since 2008) I’ve never really taken seriously the idea of framing my images in any but the most generic ways, you know like small frames on my desk or the home coffee table. It made me think about what images I’ve taken that I would consider worthy of large scale framing. This is not me saying that snapshots are not frame worthy. I love snapshots and photos taken on the move. Good street photographers are dope as hell and galleries are full of amazing images that would not have been considered for framing decades ago. But that’s the thing that I’m curious about. Understanding that the process of taking tons of photos may be necessary in order to find two incredible ones is integral for me. I truly believe that among the many, there really are only a few that can tell a story in a way none of the others can. And it’s one of the many things about photography that’s kept me engaged and curious for so long.

Thanks to smart phone technology, the number of people with the capacity to take photos is at its highest and camera phone technology will only continue to improve.

We will take gazillions of photos that we will never even see, let alone look at more than once. But always with photographers, is the fact that on assignment, self given or commissioned, we can take hundreds to thousands of photos and only a small handful will meet the standards we seek or capture what we sought to capture or accidentally reveal something we never even imagined.

Many years ago I did dabble in self publishing photo books from my images at the time but after the Soho walk I created a “Print” album in my phone of images I would consider getting framed.

I have a total of 28,735 “Recents” in my phone album. Presently I have 18 images in my “Print” folder.

This also makes me think more about how I want to be shooting in 2020, for what purpose and also what human subjects I like to photograph and what they inspire in me. I want to think more about what it means to photograph things in a way that I think is  frame worthy. And I want to focus on finding particular spaces and people to shoot for the entire year. I want to give myself more rigorous assignments and push myself more to see what else is there in me besides curiosity.

Spring Snow

I was near Central Park at 59th street very early this morning for a Dr’s appointment and the first thing I saw when I emerged from the subway was the magical winter wonderland of Central Park all covered in snow. I was early so I took the time to cross over and walk in just far enough to see how breathtakingly beautiful and quiet everything was.

When we lived in Harlem, during Winters where it snowed heavily, I would pack my camera and my dolls, take the local to 110 and walk all through Central Park, all the way to 59th street. It was so magical, relaxing, creative and playful. It just made me breathe deeper. I loved seeing all the families and kids sliding down the steep hill next to the conservancy and all the funny, sometimes haunting shapes the snow would make after accumulating in fluffy chunks on top of things we see every day like benches and trash cans, steps and water fountains. Snow just kind of takes over and transforms nature for a brief time into a kind of abstract version of itself. And somehow after it snows it feels like anyplace quiet is extra quiet. You begin to be aware of the sounds of small things moving, falling, melting, and dropping.

CP Snow

I know that Spring just started and that this snow is not supposed to be on the menu but somehow I still feel the Spring beneath it all. It doesn’t even feel cold. It just feels like a different way to usher in Spring. Now check back with me in a few weeks and see if I still feel the same pending another Noreaster. LOL!

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For right now, I just felt blessed to have been able to tromp around like a child in the snow taking pictures and exchanging smiles with a few other people who were feeling the same Central Park snow joy. I really just wanted to keep walking deeper and deeper into the park and just lose myself in it all. It felt very meditative and I haven’t had moments of peaceful stillness like that in some time. So I’ll take whatever I can get. All signs point to Spring beginning. Even magnolia buds covered in frost are a promise.

Rock’s “Top Five”

Top Five Subway

I don’t want to give away any spoilers for Chris Rocks new film, “Top Five.” It’s not due for release until December 11th. But I saw a screening of it last Friday night with a friend of mine and I really liked it.

From the trailer I’d only just recently started to see last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m glad I saw it before reading or even hearing anything else about it because I would never have expected what I saw. I’ve already been let down by “Dear White People” and “Interstellar” so I tried to keep my expectations at an even keel.

“Top Five” is a film I know I have to see again because I was sort of thrown off by what is clearly being promoted as a haha funny comedy, but which has some surprisingly sober and contemplative moments. I was hooked immediately, not just by the story and the performances but also the editing, the score, the pace, the choice of New York City locations. As a native New Yorker, I love good New York movies. I’ve been to absolutely every location in New York that “Top Five” was shot in and some of those places hold very fond memories for me so already, I’m engaged on an emotional level. Even the courtyard of my old High School in Spanish Harlem had a quick split second cameo.

Ever since SNL, I’ve always really liked Chris Rock so I’m always rooting for him even if I don’t always love everything he does. The last movie he did “Good Hair,” which was a documentary, fell short for me. I appreciated the attempt but I think he could have cast his net a little broader with regard to testimonials, research and approach. But he’s Chris Rock and he does things the way he does. His interests and experiences as a man with regard to the issue of “Good Hair” and women of color were slightly different from mine.

Watching “Top Five” though, I can tell that Rock has begun to selectively incorporate into his writing and direction much of what he has learned from other films he has worked on and loved and finally made them his own. It’s clear how determined he is to break out of a one dimensional shell of projections, and depict himself as a man with a deep undying passion for the craft of comedy and the truth that it reveals about life, celebrity, social issues, racial politics, music and more.

He basically plays a character loosely based on his own celebrity and though this may sound like Rock was just turning the camera on himself I think it’s actually very challenging for an actor to elevate a self-referential character study beyond a reality television framework for the sake of sensationalism alone. And he nails it. I think that playing a famous Black comic allowed Rock to bring himself to the character in a way that stripped him of the need to hide behind a performance and reveal complex parts of himself instead. I didn’t feel him acting. I just felt him period. He called on his best resources, his life experiences, his talent and created something memorable, sentimental, raw, hilarious, and even sweet.