Posts Tagged ‘pictures’

I fancy myself a burgeoning photographer. Not the kind who transforms weddings into memories. Not even the kind who captures the zeitgeist of an ordinary moment and makes it extraordinary. I just want to be someone who takes pictures I enjoy, and that others can enjoy. I blame Instagram for this, for the idea that everyone and anyone can be an avant garde photographer, that everyone and anyone can do what so few have done exceptionally well throughout the course of history.

But it’s not just Instagram, if I’m being honest with myself. When I was a kid I remember getting out the chunky old camera, loading it up with film, and heading out to the backyard to see if I could catch worms doing what worms do. I didn’t like pictures of myself, preferring instead to be behind the lens, figuring out how to perfect the scene. I still like figuring out how to perfect the scene.

Four years ago the Utica Public Library started a photo competition, wherein 70 (or however many) photographers chose their own scenes to share with the community. The entries were judged in one or more of several categories and winners of each category announced after three weeks of hanging in library’s main gallery.

It took me FOREVER to decide what picture I wanted to enter, because we could only enter one, but I was more than certain I wanted to be included in the inaugural contest. For some reason I was enamored with bridges that year, so one day when I was driving past one I had passed many times before I stopped. It was raining out, so I wasn’t about to get out of my car. And I didn’t have my camera with me, but I had my phone. So I took one shot through the windshield, in between the wiper blades swiping away the rainwater, and it came out just as I hoped it would.


There was just something about it that spoke to me, and speaks to me even now, even with the rainy windshield in between me and my subject. Somehow it got entered into the “Social Commentary” category in the contest and won honorable mention. I was honored.

The next year I wanted to do something completely different so I decided not to take just one picture and let it be. Instead I decided to head to Herkimer and do an authentic photo shoot. Only, I had absolutely no clue what I would end up doing, what subject I would end up picking, or how the picture would turn out. I only knew I had two weeks until the contest entry was to be submitted and I still had nothing.

Herkimer led me on some strange paths the day I went down there with my camera and hopefully also with some imagination in tow. Nothing stood out to me, however, even though I took over 20 photos that day. As I was driving out of town, though, inspiration struck hard enough to make me turn around. There was just something about the school buses slanted in their parking spots that hit me. So I took a photo, and after fooling around with my photo editing software, this is what I settled on…


I called it “Flamingos.”

Keeping with tradition I received another honorable mention, this time in the category of “Striking Use of Color.” But I just wasn’t satisfied with all the standard static shots of inanimate objects. I decided for the third iteration of the contest I would photograph something animated. So I studied the cats who live here and I took various pictures of them. Yet they just weren’t cutting it. That’s when I came up with my brilliant but daunting idea.

I would have a photo shoot with a human being, something I had never done before. Once I had it in my mind, though, I couldn’t get it out. However, I didn’t have much time once again, once I had finally decided I would have a human subject. Luckily for me I work with someone who fit the exact profile of what I wanted for my human subject, and who was also available for a block of time to shoot.

We met at the Utica Train Station on a cloudy Tuesday morning. I was a little worried about the rain, but it had helped me before, so I wasn’t too concerned with it that day. I told myself I would take as many pictures as I could, in as many poses as I could, and I would pore through them later until I found the exact right one to submit to the photo contest.

And 55 photos later, here’s what I decided on:


I called it “Looking Glass.” It was a totally unexpected shot from the enclosed crossover bridge connecting the tracks going Eastbound and Westbound. I just told her to stand there and look out at the tracks and she delivered, the reflection kind of ghostly in the window, and the architecture of the building evident through the glass. Producing it in black and white gave it a stark realism that I loved from the start.

I received honorable mention in the “Black & White” category.

And now it’s one year later. I’m not really sure what I’m submitting yet. What I do know is that I’ve already taken whatever picture I will eventually submit. I’m leaning toward the “Nature” category, something I decided shortly after I found out when submissions are due, because I had never tried it before. We’ll see if I end up going that way after all because I have a few “Architectural” photographs that I might decide on.

Whatever I choose, though, I think I’ve found something that will last a lifetime, even if it’s just a hobby. Even if the only thing I ever submit photographs to is this contest once a year. I’m just excited to be behind the lens.



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I have photographs, many of them. Some are in old, dusty albums that sit on a shelf until I deem them worthy again. Some are printed out in envelopes, and under papers, and stuck in books as markers. Some are on my external hard drive, thousands and thousands of them from years of taking digital pictures with various devices. But the vast majority of the photographs I have taken over the past two years live on my phone, in folders I put together in a hodgepodge fashion. And I have absolutely no idea what I will eventually do with all of them.

14991962_10211103393045845_3195557822219860074_nIt used to be that photographs were rare because of the time it took to set up the camera, to take them, and to get them developed. I recall waiting in line at the pharmacy while the men in white behind the counter flipped through folders to find those gems from family vacations, from family weddings, and from family reunions. Back then photographs were all about family.

Now we take pictures of our food and post them to Facebook. Just because. Now we take a million selfies and utilize something called duck face. Just because. Now, just because we can, we take more pictures than a few, and we share them with just about everybody. I was talking with someone the other day about their family and they started to tell me something about their life, and I realized I already knew it. Because I had seen all of their pictures on Facebook, because I had seen it all chronicled on Instagram, because I had the type of access absolutely no one had when I was growing up.

And we don’t develop anything anymore. We don’t have to. We probably end up “trashing” more pictures than we keep, because we can. Because in this world where everything needs to be perfect, or as close to perfect as possible, why keep photographs we don’t absolutely love? I remember probably about 10 Christmases ago, before we got a digital camera, we took about a roll and a half of holiday photos because we hoped that when we got them developed at least one would be usable. We had absolutely no clue what any of them looked like when we took them. Then, when they came back we laughed our asses off because so many of them were so useless.

944691_10209820887584010_4635596514194234540_nBut that was the glory of the non-digital age. Now we are raising children who have to see every single picture we take and who veto any that they don’t like. The second the picture is on our phones we can manipulate them and turn them into masterpieces that would have taken true professionals to achieve even fifteen years ago. With all these photo editing apps it’s crazy what a picture can end up looking like when we are done with it. All the spontaneity has been sucked out of the process.

Don’t even get me started on Snapchat.

My point is that photographs used to be treasured for their rarity. When asked the question of the one thing we would save in the event of our house burning down, the answer used to be unequivocally the photo albums. Because those were our memories, our precious links to the events chronicled on their glossy pages. But what millennials have physical photo albums anymore? Maybe some were passed down through their families, but more often than not they’re like me. All of their photos are in their phones, decorating their Facebook pages, and being used as wallpaper for their tablets.

A photograph is no longer special because we have been saturated with our own pictures for so long now. And the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is simply no longer true. Because we now have a thousand pictures where there used to be just words, and they just don’t say as much.



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Dear Journal,

I’ve had this overwhelming need lately to capture moments on camera. I was going to say “on film” but there is no film in either my camera or my phone. There are about a million photographable moments during the course of my day, so many places that merit inclusion in my photo archives, and apparently I’ve just now finally noticed them all. So, I’ve been doing my best to take those pictures when I have even a moment’s time, and posting them to my Instagram account (is it a wall, a board, an account, or something else?), for all to see.

Here are some of those photos…


An abandoned building across from Nicky Doodles caught my eye.


I think maybe this jeep’s owner forgot a few things.


I pass these mailboxes every single day, and one day I stopped to take this photo.

It always fascinates me when photo opportunities come up, but I certainly don’t fancy myself a photographer, or even a “weekend photographer.” I’m just a guy who likes interesting images and sometimes takes pictures of them. Occasionally I fool around with the filters that Instagram provides, but more often than not I just leave them as they originally are. And there are so many others that I see and don’t take, either because of time constraints or because I can’t seem to get the right angle at the time. Those I store away for later.

There was this old abandoned diner in Poland that I always wanted to photograph. It had just the right touch of old history, with a large window in the front that had DINER painted on its glass, and a little table underneath that sign, with two dusty chairs underneath it, as if its occupants had just stepped out for a moment. But every time I passed I thought, “that was probably forty years since they got up, and they’ll never return.” Then one day the diner was gone, demolished, all that history erased by a bulldozer. And I missed the photo opportunity that had presented itself so many times before.

That’s when I decided not to let other moments pass, and I’m glad I did.


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Every picture I’ve ever seen of myself tells a story. Sometimes that story is a wonderful one of redemption and joy, but other times it’s the story of a boy fighting against himself, trying futilely to get somewhere. Still other pictures bring back memories of times and people that have been long gone. Some names I don’t even recall, but their faces ring true all this time later. We had that moment. We shared at least the amount of time necessary to seal that memory behind glass for the world to see.


Me and my big sister.

Out of all the people I’ve taken pictures with, the one who appears the most in those photographs with me is my sister. We are only 15 months apart in age, and many people assumed we were twins back then (much to her chagrin — she’s the older one). But we took a host of photographs together, many that still exist to this day. I think it’s because our parents (but mostly our mother) decided she wanted to chronicle our growing up years. Isn’t that why most parents pick up a camera in the first place?

I have pictures of us from Florida, with huge Mickey ears plastered to our sweaty foreheads. And there are pictures of us at Dutch Wonderland, posing next to Barney Rubble, looking like rubes. Still other pictures are random ones from around the house in Southwest Philly, us posing by not posing. Mixed in are also the stock photographs we would take every few years in the back of the grocery store where the picture people would set up shop. I wore ties for those. I am smiling in all of them. I love my sister, and it shows through even back then when I tried to be mewed up to my heaviness. (more…)

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This was me. Then.

It’s amazing to me how much traction this whole idea of “Throwback Thursday” has gotten, but I guess it shouldn’t be that shocking. We spend the entirety of our youth trying to grow up too fast, and the entirety of our older years remembering the “glory” of our youth, and wishing we could go back. I pull up my Facebook newsfeed on Thursday mornings and I’m transported back to the ’70s (an era I don’t even have personal recollections of) or the ’80s, or the ’90s.

Some people should honestly be embarrassed by those pictures of yesteryear, but everyone seems to have embraced it, no matter how horrible their hair was, no matter how revolting the clothing choices were, and despite how fuzzy it all looks from this far away in time. They have all dug deep into those archives to find arguably the worst possible pictures of themselves to share. And then it hits me that nostalgia works that way. We see things a lot differently with distance.

I’ve fallen victim to it too, posting some less than pristine photos of my younger self during different awkward stages in my life (who am I kidding? I’ve always been awkward at every stage). And the responses on those photos is incredible. So many people don’t even recognize me, like in this picture here. Or they remember me during that time period and only then, like in a lot of my high school pictures. People who haven’t seen me in a long time fit into this category too, and I know I do that with other people and their older photographs when I haven’t seen them in a while.

We embrace those memories and those pictures because they show us at a point when we were still forming who we were going to be, where we were going to end up. And now that we have perspective in our rear view mirrors, it’s good to look back on where we came from and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Just imagine how we’ll be in another 20 years looking back on today’s pictures and memories.


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This is the historic Stanley Theater right downtown on Genesee Street. I saw Jason Mraz here two years ago, and it was fantastic. The theater was renovated and enlarged a few years before that.

Tones of home. This church is right next to the Utica Public Library, and I think it’s ironic that the sign is in English when the church is predominantly a Spanish-speaking one.

This statue graces the newly constructed traffic circle downtown. I love the smaller statues that make it up.

I imagine this candlelight park lit up at night with the light of a thousand candles scattered throughout. It stands beside the Planned Parenthood clinic.


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