“New Jersey Christmas scenes are the stuff of Home magazines!”
January 14th, 2017
Ok for starters, I don’t like the headline “2017:2” either, but it is there while I try to come up with something better. Last year was my attempt at doing a daily blog, so coming up with titles was easy. (I failed to complete anywhere near 366 blog entries; however, I think I received most of what I was hoping to get from the project.) This year I want to come up with a new title scheme that is somewhat different. Maybe. I don’t know- but I am open for suggestions.*
The house above is one of my favorites along the Third River as it flows through Kingsland Park in Nutley, New Jersey. It is not the largest, nor the newest, nor the best in the area… but it has maintained that perfect charm through every season and through each decade of its existence. Every time I walk by this house, it has some detail that makes it so perfectly fitting to its environment at that present time and season.
If you told me Martha Stewart lived there… I’d believe you.
Does it look any different in this photo? No? I’ll get to that.
North and south views of the trail with a little bit of different processing style. The top is more true to life, the bottom is more faded.
Ok so as we get into the swing of the new year, there has been a number of things on my mind about how I want to spend the time. In regards to photography, I’d like to mention that one of the two pictures of the house with yellow shutters above has been taken with a “professional” camera (*cough* *cough* link)**. The second was taken with a tiny point and shoot camera that fits in my pocket.
The same goes for the second pair of photographs.
So which is the better camera?
I do not have the answer, but I am beginning to feel the question posed has an answer that reaches far beyond the equipment…
Is photography making me a spectator of my own life?
I have felt a little depression lately that initially seemed to stem from the idea that I may be getting bored with photography. I tried to rationalize the feelings as nothing more than winter blues, but then I began to research the opinion and learn that it is part of a larger question: Where do I want to store my memories? In my mind’s memory bank or on a computer’s memory chip?
With he camera in my hand, I subconsciously go into “photog mode” and it becomes necessary to find something to photograph. The downside to this is that I might not notice the great taste of a meal when I am trying to photograph it. I might not notice the vibrance of the people in Times Square when I am busy trying to find the perfect “juxtaposition.” In other words, I might not see the forest for the trees.
On the other hand, though, without the camera I might miss the forest and the trees. I might not have the desire to walk the streets of Manhattan for no reason whatsoever. I might not explore different parks around my neighborhood. I might not vacation in British Columbia to see the Rockies. (Well, I would, because my wife is awesome with vacation ideas)
The point is yes… at times I will be a spectator while everyone else is having a great time. The acceptance of that is something I must make a decision about.
My insatiable desire to document… is it normal to live like this?
I took the above picture because I thought it was interesting or neat or… simply something that the same type of tree was planted evenly spaced down this block in the West Village with the exception of the streetlamp that had to be planted among the sequence of trees. The streetlamp tries to blend in, but really, we all see it for what it is.
Does it matter? Does this picture even matter? Is it worth carrying around some expensive equipment to document these little details that make my city the way it is? Doesn’t this exist in every city? Does anyone care about the thought and planning that went in to designing this street with a little more character than the simpler option of concrete and asphalt with zero features?
What of the woman? Does she need to be documented as she relocates from one shared apartment to the next? (Yeah… moving in NYC as a young person generally involves a rolling suitcase. No room for much else.) Should her relocation be documented? I mean… not her as a individual because we do not see her face… but the mere fact that living from week to week in apartment shares listed on craigslist is a way of life here. Should we remember this?
Do we really need to remember all the details?
If I ask you to think of the Statue of Liberty… you will have a picture painted in your mind about what it looks like.
Does it include the plastic coke bottles bobbing up and down by the marina landing where the ferry docks to bring tourists from the island back to the mainland? Probably not. Does it include where people have defaced our National Treasure by writing their initials in the paint on some of the handrails within the statue? Probably not.
So while my previous post talked about the beauty of the details that make life worth living… does a photographic record of the world remember just the good details, or all the details? Because some details are bad.
The photo above is of the Comedy Cellar’s second location in The Village. Let’s say we went to see a show there last night. Great! Great times, lots of jokes, plenty of alcohol… it was a great time. We made memories.
But the photograph includes not only the bar, but also the second floor which seems to be inundated with garage and trash and boxes from floor to ceiling.
Do we need to have a permanent record of the fact that there is a whole lot in the way of planning, props, ideas, trash, excess, and stress involved in putting on a good, clean comedy show on stage?
. . .
A lot of energy has been invested in this desire to record and remember my sliver of the world as it unfolds in front of me.
It has become, like, a job.
Is it my job to photograph the world?
No. It is not my job.
But if not me, then who?
I am not the best. I am not a professional. Heck, I’m probably not even an “artist” because my style, subjects, use of color… it changes like I change my socks. None of that matters.
Everything we see is worth remembering. That is my mantra.
I have no idea what will change from day to day. Some things today will not exist tomorrow. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. So I better do whatever I can to record them now. Otherwise, how could I possibly sleep tonight?
This is my life, it is the one I will get, and in a few years I am going to want to look back upon today in the same way that today, I have just looked back upon the last few years.
The discipline to record lies upon my willingness to put it on a public forum. In that regard, I am the same as a library.
The need to have a library full of books is more important than whether or not the books are presently desired by anyone else.
We simply must be ready when, or if, that future desire manifests itself.
Why am I saying all this?
Primarily, because if I didn’t put fingertip to keyboard… I’d probably just fall into a deep seasonal affective disorder depression that would only be temporarily rectified by selling all of my camera gear and throwing the computer int he trash. (Not kidding) But asking these questions “out loud” has helped me focus on what my opinion actually is…
Secondly, as I have said in the past… I fear for those out there who are documenting their whole life on their cellphone cameras.
If those photos are not backed up somewhere, then you are simply a “whoops” away from losing a generation’s worth of personal history.
Be careful at the volume of precious memories that you keep on you at all times… which are subject to the elements, accidents, loss, theft, or corruption of data. Back them up. Print them out. Make albums that someone will enjoy flipping through one day as you talk about how great it used to be…
*Other than coming up with a unique name for every new post. As personal history has taught me, I can spend a fantastic amount of time staring at the blinking cursor on the ‘Title’ bar with absolutely zero forward momentum. So I’m hopeful for a sequence scheme where once I have the style set, then it is just simple math for what each subsequent post title should be. i.e. 2017:1, or 2017:A, 2017:XXI, et cetera.
**I am being wildly sarcastic. Over the years, I have gone from a respect for those who self-promote themselves as professional photographers to contempt for those that treat artistic expression as a profession. …Especially when measured by the outright expense of the equipment used.