The two “I’s” – iPhone and Instagram

A parent of one of my students once said, “Whatever camera you have with you right now is the best camera you have.” I took that to mean that if you see a picture, capture it any way you can.

For the past several months I have been shooting primarily with my iPhone. It’s portable. It’s simple. I like the distortion. I like shooting square format, and I can do that with the iPhone. I like the color. There are times when the final outcome is somewhat disappointing, but, honestly, that happens with my “real” camera too. I don’t like the pixelation that occurs when I zoom in. So I rarely zoom in.

I also like the convenience of the cloud. Every photo I shoot winds up there and is readily accessible. Since we all “converse” visually via Instagram, a lot of steps are eliminated using iPhone and the cloud. Both of my fancy cameras have wifi capability, but when I’m on a *serious* shoot, using that feature is distracting and drains the battery power.

One other thing: shooting with the iPhone takes away the pressure of “the shoot”. It’s a kind of daily record of my travels, my walks and explorations. It’s like how a writer takes notes of her observations and later culls them into a story. My iPhone pics (and I feel fine calling them that) sometimes lead to an idea that becomes a “series”. And then I turn to my big camera as the writer sits at her laptop to begin to put together her story.

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The Lansdowne Theater

When I started photographing these abandoned places I was most interested in the dark side: the ugly underbelly of society turned beautiful by the camera’s eye. I photographed Pennhurst – an abandoned children’s asylum – with great excitement. The idea of exploring a place where so much life had gone wrong filled me with a strange power, perhaps akin to that idea of wrestling with our own demons. But afterwards I was reluctant to share the photographs. The empty, sheeted bed with the peeling walls behind it was so incredibly sad – and the bed itself a kind of relief map of those who had used it. I was almost embarrassed by bearing witness to the stark devastation of this place; not just the walls but the human spirits that seemed to haunt Pennhurst.

Photographing this theater is at the opposite side of that experience spectrum. The paint is faded, yes – the artifacts sit in silent storage. But they remind us of an era of opulence. The portrait of the projectionist hangs on the wall above his private sink in the projector room, celebrating and honoring his life. The machinery of the then state-of-the-art projectors is cheery with its red and yellow lettering, the bakelite knobs. And the theater is owned by a non profit organization that is actively restoring it as a music venue – hope abounds.

I don’t know if the experiences of photographing these two places and my responses to them are a map of my own psyche or not, but I’ve learned a lot about what moves me as an artist, and I’m looking forward to exploring that more.

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New Orleans

These are all from a trip to New Orleans a friend and I took this past week. The vibrant color is real and aptly represents the positive energy of the neighborhoods we visited. Most of these were taken in the Bywater, some in the Warehouse District.

 

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Last week I wrapped up another road trip. We drove form NYC to Florida to visit friends and relatives, and to get some relief from the cold. On the way we stopped for lunch at South of the Border. It wasn’t how I remembered it – but my first visit was on one of those a dark, rainy nights where the world is all but invisible..

I was here only once before, years ago. My parents were stationed in Orlando, Florida and I was going to school in upstate New York. After freshman year I accepted a ride from an acquaintance who lived in Miami. He had a van, long hair, and he drank a lot of coffee and smoked a lot of cigarettes between Annandale and Orlando. I was feeling crummy the whole trip – the last night at school had been celebratory and I probably smoked two packs of cigarettes along with whatever we all drank at the final party of the year. So I quit. I’d been smoking since I was eleven, I was addicted, but that was it – I just didn’t want to ever smoke another cigarette – so I didn’t. Still haven’t.

My driver wanted to go straight, without stopping, all the way to Florida. He mentioned dinner at South of the Border – something to look forward to. Other than that he didn’t say one word to me the whole ride, and, since he was a graduating senior on his way to law school that fall I was too intimidated to start up a conversation. I remember it was raining – dreary. Finally we pulled into the small metropolis that was SOTB and walked into a shabby little building where you had to order at the counter then take your food to a table nearby or out to the car. It was crowded.

After several minutes on line my companion stepped up to the counter and ordered for both of us. A woman at his elbow received her order but told the counter attendant to take it back. “He breathed over my food” she said. Loudly and glaring in our direction. I steeled a sideways glance at my companion. He was looking down at the counter, his cheeks reddened. After some back and forth the lady was brought a new dinner – the styrofoam container sealed shut. We stepped aside to let her pass.

We took our food to the car. We ate in silence. My friend drove. I slept a bit after that, and when we arrived in Orlando he helped me to the door with my bags, said hello to my parents and went on his way.

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Round 2 – Catskills!

Cheryl, Cris and I spent an hour or so looking for Tamarack Lodge, a former vacation spot in the Catskills. The Lodge started out as a B and B and evolved into a resort that almost, but didn’t quite, rival Grossinger’s and Kutsher’s. The resort has passed through several lives in recent years, including one as an Indian Casino. It’s now owned by the local Yeshiva, and seems to be in line to become a condo development, but that remains to be seen.

We finally found the site and walked in to begin photographing. There was abundant decay, but in among the rubble also evidence of good times. It looked like it was once a really nice, peaceful retreat.

These are just a few of the images captured that day.

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The Elevator Shaft
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Bathroom Tiles
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The Pool
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The Pink Room
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The Blue Room
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Seen through the Air Conditioner Slot
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GasBoy: No Smoking
Passageway
Passageway

 

Headboards
Headboards
Poolside
Poolside
Overview
Overview

The Flight 93 Memorial: Stoneycreek Township, PA

I traveled out to western Pennsylvania for a workshop and found the Flight 93 Memorial on the way. I decided to stop and take a look. I had experienced the the devastation of the Trade Center towers up close, and the experience of reliving the events of 9/11 through the eyes of those who witnessed the path of flight 93 offered a new and sobering perspective.

It’s a long and winding road up to the site of the crash. I was immediately impressed by the landscape; the area looks different from everything around it, as if it was designed for a specific purpose apart from the farms and small towns surrounding it.

 

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The topography was reminiscent of Montana – not how one envisions Pennsylvania.

As you drive in toward the site, you are greeted by rows of trees planted in honor of those who perished on flight 93:

 

trees_72Next, the parking lot, flanked by a series of placards with historical information and describing the layout of the memorial and the plans for the 2200 acre site:

 

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since911board_72The memorial is a simple but powerful design, and it involves a journey. You can begin at the assembly area where docents tell the story of flight 93. I arrived too late for the lecture, which was fine with me.

 

Theater_72Visitors walk along a long, low, black granite wall that was designed to follow the path that the plane took once it hit the top of the hill. The plane had taken off from Newark, bound for San Francisco after a 30 minute delay. Because of this delay, some of the passengers learned of the attacks on the Twin Towers by cell phone around the same time the hijackers stormed the cockpit. They surmised that flight 93 was meant to be part of the attack, and realized the flight had taken an abrupt turn off course, toward Washington, DC. They rallied, forced their way into the cockpit themselves and brought the plane down to avoid reaching the terrorists’ target.

This is the path the flight took after turning upside down and hitting the field at 563 mph:

 

walkway_72Tourists like to photograph their loved ones at this site. Others leave offerings to the memories of the victims in niches along the way:

 

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If you look closely you can see a golden boulder out in the field beyond the wall. This marks the point where the plane came to rest, in pieces strewn all along the path.

 

boulder_72The wall ends at a series of marble panels about 8 feet high. Each is marked by the name of one of the 44 victims. Visitors leave flowers and artifacts here, too.

 

beamer_72Walking along the black wall, envisioning what happened that day, witnessing the sobriety of the other visitors, and their silences was a powerful experience.

There is a lot of construction going on at the site. A museum is going up at the top of the hill, at the point of impact, seconds after local residents spotted the plane flying upside-down. At the bottom of the hill they are building a walkway. I’m not sure where that leads, or what purpose it serves, but maybe I’ll return one day and find out.

 

future_72One of the more striking aspects of my visit was that the day was so similar to September 11, 2001. Clear, warm and beautiful – it brought back that day with startling clarity.

A Few More Photographs from Grossinger’s

Outside Looking In
Outside Looking In
Full View Natatorium
Full View Natatorium
Broken Glass
Broken Glass
Chaise x 3
Chaise x 3
Red Apple Rest II
Red Apple Rest II
To the Locker Rooms
To the Locker Rooms
No Trespassing
No Trespassing

Our Trip to the Catskills

Cheryl and I took a wonderful day trip to the Catskills last week. Our first stop was at our favorite roadside restaurant. After spending the better part of an hour enjoying the peeling paint, signage, barbed wire and grapevines we headed up to our favorite resort. There we visited the greenhouse and potting shed, spent some time at the indoor skating rink and in the game house. We moved on to the natatorium where we relaxed and whiled away an hour or so by the pool. Finally we wound our way up to the hotel and visited several rooms. Not much happening there so – back outside to explore the grounds a bit before heading home. I love the Catskills!

 

the Red Apple Rest
the Red Apple Rest
Looking In
Looking In
The Greenhouse
The Greenhouse
Blue Gloves in the Potting Shed
Blue Gloves in the Potting Shed
Skating Pavillion
Skating Pavilion
The Shallow End
The Shallow End
Diving Board
Diving Board
Window Splendor
Window Splendor
To the Hotel
To the Hotel
Piney Mattress
Piney Mattress

 

     

Abandoned Zoo

This trip was the perfect antidote to the children’s asylum in the previous post. Beautiful weather, full access to the grounds and a very positive vibe at the site all contributed to a great day to explore and photograph. Plus I met a baby wallaby. I didn’t photograph her; she was very shy and I didn’t want to frighten her.