Monday, December 29, 2014

All That Work...And It's Over

After Christmas Day dinner, I overheard a family member comment "All that work and it's over." This Christmas season I think I took more pictures than I have ever taken. An afternoon in Chesapeake City, an evening on 34th St in Baltimore, plus documenting every decoration in my own home has filled my December picture file. None of my pictures are particularly wonderful. I've seen far many more that I liked. One of the sites on Facebook to which I belong says to post your best picture on the 31st. 

I don't know what my "best picture" would be for others. In my photo club, I chose four pictures as representative of my favorites. One of them was of a colorful carwash in Philadelphia. Nobody liked it. It could be because we live in an area that is still semirural in spots. When I said to one of the members that I much prefer city photography, she was surprised. 

My vision of what I find compelling is changing. I still like rural settings, but every time we go back to the city I feel invigorated and interested in everything around me. My favorite coffee shop is a tiny place in what was an old row house on 9th Street near Christian in south Philadelphia. I met the owner 18 years ago when we spent some time talking as he described his vision of what he wanted to create. He's done a great job. Then there's this food truck. I loved the colors. I would have loved to hop out of the car, but there was no place to stop. We also went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the Paul Strand exhibit. He was a photographer who inspired so many photographers after him. It was a fascinating and wonderful look one person's legacy.
This is another photo that most people wouldn't like. I liked the juxtaposition of the old Chinese setting ( a room in the Philadelphia Museum of Art) with the modern kid checking his cell phone. In the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," the author talks about Chautauqua. Before movies, television, and the internet, traveling groups would go to different towns to present plays, music and lectures. Lectures! How many people go to lectures anymore? The author talks about what we've lost - and the original book was from 1974. I'm only part way through the book, but I decided it was one of the books I had to make my own. It's on my Kindle. I'll finish reading it for my book discussion group, but I'm going to probably talk about this more in other posts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Light In The Darkness

A blog that I follow was a bit sad this month. The writer talks about her despair at this crazy world. As photographers, she suggests, we need to show some light. So here's a start. 

It's December. The days will get shorter and shorter until December 21st. Then, slowly but surely, the days will get longer. It isn't really that noticeable until February - at least to me. Right now I find myself looking at the clock at 5:00 and wondering why I feel sleepy. I'm very much a day person who responds to light and warmth. We're not getting much of either lately with so much rain and clouds. 

Winter celebrations go back probably to almost cave man days. People needed to find the light in the darkness. The story of Hannukah is all about lighting a candle in the darkness. Christmas, Winter Soltice, Yule - they're all about bringing the light. 

So I'll probably get more into light this month starting with these pictures. Every year the people of one block of 34th street in the Hampden section of Baltimore light up the block. Every house is ablaze. One house has a hubcap tree, wheels and more. The houses sit very high so there's lots of room to decorate. They all have porches too. The very first picture is the end house that decorates with not just lights but trains, stuffed toys and music as well as a video showing the story of 34th street. 

Crime has been a big problem in Baltimore. A resident of 34th street was assaulted on his front porch. Some people there threatened to refuse to decorate their homes. However cooler heads prevailed. Thank you, 34th Street for not giving in to the darkness.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cooking and Reflecting

It's funny how your mind works, isn't it? Today is the day before Thanksgiving. My contribution to the family meal is manicotti. I made it with crepes rather than pasta. Suddenly, I found my eyes tearing up and I was missing my Dad. He's been gone for a long time. He would be 98 years old if he were alive and probably not happy about it at all. 

He was the principal cook in our family. It must be a genetic thing because he said his father did most of the cooking AND his grandfather. My brother and my son are both awesome cooks. Holiday dinners were huge in our family. 

There was almost always extended family although that shrunk a little as the years went by. There would be a big pot of "gravy" (yes it's GRAVY not sauce!) with meatballs, sausage, and a small roast beef or pork. Dad liked to get a BIG turkey. 

My mother thought it was a waste of money, but somehow it all got eaten. I have always liked the turkey the next day anyway. For me, I'd rather have the pasta! 

The New York Times had a great article complete with recipes that could be considered trademark dishes for every state. Pennsylvania got some kind of bacon. Seriously? I don't think so. NJ got manicotti. Must be the Sopranos influence! 

I have made it on and off over the years. Their recipe was more basic than mine. I filled my Le Creuset baking dish with fat rolled up crepes stuffed with ricotta, spinach and pecorino romano, covered them with my home made marinara sauce, sprinkled it with some more pecorino and baked it for a short time. Now the bechamel sauce fragrant with saffron and nutmeg has cooled. It's going over the manicotti. When we get to my brother's, I'll pop it in their oven. 

Tomorrow morning I'll be up bright and early to help register runners for the Y's annual Turkey Trot. I'm bringing the camera. Yes, it's going to be COLD and icy, but that's what boots, hats, mittens and warm coats are for, right? It promises to hit the 40's and be sunny tomorrow, so most of the ice and snow in our neck of the woods should hopefully be GONE. 

Yeah, it's gonna be a good Thanksgiving! 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Give Thanks For......

I like to take photos based on photo prompts. Currently I'm working with a site called Capture Your 365   as well as two sites on Facebook. It can be hard to do a new photo a day so I tend to dip into the archives sometimes. Today I had three: one was a favorite photo (not shown here), one was dessert (at the top) and the other was non profit/thanksgiving. I had to think about that one for a while. Then I remembered that I volunteered to help out at the Turkey Trot for our local Y. It's a big fundraiser for the Y. Last year it was cold and there was some black ice here and there. This year we're expecting some snow. It promises to be only 1" or so. I have to be there at 6:30AM!!!! I'll be bringing some coffee and my camera!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Birds of a Feather Or Pursuing Your Passion

We went to the annual Bald Eagle Day at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland. We didn't see a lot of eagles that day, and the event was really crowded. However, we did get to see these amazing and beautiful birds with the people who care for them. I've been thinking a lot about the whole concept of following your passion. It's easy enough to suggest that to a young person, but let's face it: it's just not always feasible. More and more of the arts seem to be viewed as secondary, something that the producer of that art should be willing to share at no cost. Photographers joke darkly about people who say "We would like to use your photo, but we can't pay. We CAN offer you "exposure." Musicians are offered this "exposure" as are painters and other artists. Nathaniel Hawthorne tried to make money from his writing, but took a job at the Salem, MA Customs House. Artists have often depended on having a "patron" to take care of them. There are people and places that do this today such as artists retreat organizations, awards such as the McArthur Prize. Still, in the end, most artists will have to go it alone. Maybe in the end, it's better to "keep your day job," i.e. find something to do that isn't really awful, and try to pursue your passion on your own. That probably doesn't sound very optimistic, but I'm a realist in the end. So get out that with your camera or your paintbrush or your collage materials or your chisel and go for it. Or do what these folks did in my photos - educate the public about something. It's not going to pay the bills, but, just maybe, your spirit will be refreshed for another day. 

The McArthur Awards

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Final Stages

I started getting interested in photography in a big way abut 7 or 8 years ago. Now I rank myself as an enthusiastic amateur. I have been told I have a good eye by more than one professional which pleases me. Maybe it's because of my love of art - something I discovered in a big way in high school. However, looking back, I think I always loved art and pictures. I always noticed things. People I knew thought I was strange when I said that the air smelled sweet or wasn't something that some deemed insignificant as pretty. This year I became a part of a website called Capture Your 365. We get a daily "prompt." So this is my response to today's which is Final Stages. 

My husband and I were visiting nearby New Castle, DE a couple of weeks ago. One of the things we noticed in this historic town was how many mailboxes were still around. The mailbox has become more and more scarce. Of course mail is more and more scarce. Companies who bill want to send out paperless billing. People pay their bills through their bank website. When we DO get mail it's generally a card or a catalog or some unsolicited junk mail. 

The book Shooting With Soul actually talks about photographing your "good mail." I've had a few - a lovely thank you card from a bride and groom, a pretty postcard announcing an art fair, a cheerful catalog with a retro picture of Santa Claus. 
Most mail goes into recycling, but I do take pictures of the good stuff! This rather sad mailbox - rusting away, desperately in need of paint, but still being emptied on a regular basis - was for me, a good example of Final Stages - at least for the way we used to live. 

Christmas In July

When I was growing up in Philadelphia - many years ago now it seems! - Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving. Santa Claus would appear at the end of the Thanksgiving parade, go into Gimbles which was CLOSED that day, signaling that tomorrow began the Christmas Season. Now Back to School supplies are in the stores in JULY, Halloween displays are set up early in September and by the time Halloween is over, the leftovers are rubbing shoulders with Christmas displays. Most stores will be open Thanksgiving evening at 5:00. So Thanksgiving dinner will either be forced to become Thanksgiving lunch. Yes, many younger retail workers won't particularly care, but more and more retail workers aren't that young. They have families and would like to be with them. When I see people in tents outside a store, I can't help but wonder where the priorities lie. I like nice things as much as the next person, but shouldn't there be a time when the commercial world slows? Just for a day or two? My husband and I lived in Germany in the 70's. On Sundays and holidays, most shops were closed, not just in Germany, but everywhere. Only restaurants and shops that catered to tourists were open on Sundays. It was nice to see people out and about with their families. We've lost that in this once great country of the United States of America. We're that much the less for it.