2017 In Photos-Part 2

Following on from yesterday’s Part 1 of my favorite photos I took this year, I give you Part 2 now. Click and view them large screen to really get the best view. Let me know what your favorites are in the comments below! After this post I will be taking a week or so off from all blogging commitments for the Holidays, but rest assured I will be back very soon with new photos, and new music to write about.

Soundtrack Of A Photograph-Where Music Meets Photography.

 

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2017 In Photos-Part 1

Well here we are again. Another one of those end of the year summaries. Last week I presented you with some of my favorite music related posts I wrote this year. This time I present some of my favorite photos I took this year. We did not go on any vacations this year so most of these were taken in and around New York City and a few other locations. Despite the lack of destinations, I feel really good about my photography these days and this year in particular. Necessity caused me to get a new camera and together with a new zoom lens I was able to use those new tools and hone my skills. In some ways I think part of my inability to write as many music driven posts here this year has been a result of my growth as a photographer. Next year I hope to balance that equation out but until then, here are the first batch of my favorites. There will be a Part 2 tomorrow. Some of these have been in previous posts, some may be new to those of you who follow me here. Word of advice…open them up full screen and view them large, the way they are meant to be seen. And if you are so willing, please share this if you can to anyone who likes a good photograph of (I hope) interesting subjects. Let me know your favorites in the comments below!

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Monochrome Mondays

I seem to have a thing for lights recently. Something about the contrast of light and darkness utilizing monochrome is really striking. The lights are not technically ‘white’ but the appearance they give makes them look that way. Combined with the black of night and I could probably ramble on for a 1000 more words about all the ways this is significant and representative of society or even my own life. I could…but I won’t this time! I am keeping this post short today because there is a lot going on right now-work, holiday rush, and other things are cutting into my creative time right now. However that is not going to stop me from sharing this photo out to you which I took recently. I had walked past this building a few times, but never at night and the pattern these lights cast was too alluring for me to resist!

And I want to also mention to keep your eye out in the next few days for my own ‘Best Of’ Photo selections for 2017. Honestly, I have so many, that I’m going to do it in two posts, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can catch up on some of my favorite music themed posts of 2017 right here.

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Top Posts Of 2017

A sure sign of the year being almost over are the inevitable ‘Best Of’ lists that start popping up everywhere you look. For the last few years here I have added my own top posts of the year. Not in terms of the numbers of views or comments, but top because I feel best about these posts in particular. Don’t get me wrong-at this point four years into writing, I am happy with everything I post, but it is probably inevitable that some become more meaningful and special.

It is also a useful time to take stock of where I am with this blog. Last year to add a purely photography side to it, I added Monochrome Mondays. Ironically that had started as doing just a short blurb about the photo chosen, but lately I seem to find more to write about on each photo. I thought about culling through some of those to possibly add here on the Best Of, but decided to leave them as a stand alone section instead. For those of you who have followed me for awhile, I have to say I regret not continuing with the ‘Photo Shuffle’ series. I squeaked out two of them early in the year, but I hope to resurrect this section again in 2018. For now though, here are my ‘Top Posts Of 2017’ in no particular order-

The Architecture Of Art -This was essentially a Part 2 to a post I wrote last year making the case for calling myself an artist. After spending a lot of time thinking about it, I defined this idea further. Featuring a song by Ani DiFranco.

Happy Landings Amelia-The true explanation for the disappearance of Amelia Earhart may never truly be known, but two great songs from a classic album by Plainsong will live on, together with the mystery.

Why Do You Listen? -One night coming home from work I had the realization that I know why I listen to music, but what about other people? I posed the question on Facebook and had an amazing response from friends. The answers were all personal but quite meaningful. Featuring a song by Roger Glover that seemed to sum it all up.

Mexico-Color & Passion– I wanted to write a post about my love of Mexican culture. The food, the beer, the art, the music. I love it all and have only really scratched at the surface. The musical side to this are two wonderful songs by Lila Downs.

Lark Rising-A Tribute To Flora Thompson-In this post I wrote about my favorite book-Lark Rise To Candleford and used music based on the book by another favorite group-The Albion Band.

Light Study-I chose a Water Tower on my street to do my own version of a ‘still life’ the way painters use a fruit bowl. I took photos of the same water tower at different times of day, in all different kinds of light to see for myself how a subject matter changes. With a song from the early days of R.E.M.

Musical Laughs– I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes my posts are a little serious, or thought provoking. Which is why I thought I would do something to lighten the mood a little featuring various musical comedy sketches. I think I will be doing a Part 2 of this post in the future!

Presenting: Toli Nameless– I have made a lot of connections and friendships with some of the musicians I have written about on here. I love them all, but this one is about my dear friend for years now who sings, plays trombone and other instruments, dances, writes, and just about anything else you care to mention. Featuring two of my favorite songs of hers.

‘Live’ Elements– For each anniversary, or ‘blogoversary’ I always try to do something special to mark the occasion. This year I imagined being an observer from start to finish for a live concert, shifting between all the different characters one might expect to see. The music comes from my favorite live album of all time, by one of my most favorite singers-Bob Seger.

It Ain’t Enough– A song by Alan Doyle (no relation) reminded me that when I am in a photography rut I need to move forward and fine new inspirations and ways of taking photographs rather than staying where I feel comfortable.

Terra Firma– One of the most popular tags for photos on Instagram these days is ‘cloudporn’ because people really just like photos of clouds, myself included. A photo I took one day reminded me of a topographical map and this post with wonderful music by the multi-talented composer Nitin Sawhney was the result.

Flying– I realized at some point in the year that I had not been seeking out new music much, which is surely one way to keep inspired and keep doing what I do here. Once I heard the guitar driven songs of Jackie Venson I was hooked and knew I would have to write about her.

Honorable Mention here for two of my favorite posts this year that I did NOT write. The blogging community consists of some amazing people from all over the world. I was completely honored that two bloggers, one from India, and one from the U.S. wrote fictional stories based around photos of mine. I wanted to include them here for you all to have a look yourself. Thank you Aakansha and Kaleya!

https://grimscrypt.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/the-change-part-1/– Make sure you read Part 2!

https://akansha1104.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/an-evening-at-coney-island/

 

Stay tuned next week for Part 1 of my favorite photos of the year!

Photograph By Carol Amezquita

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Monochrome Mondays

Smile For The Camera!

I have been reading an autobiography of Paul Auster, a favorite writer of both my wife and I. Actually in clever Auster fashion he has written two ‘autobiographies’. The first-Winter Journal which I have not read is described as a second person look at his physical self. Report From The Interior is the one I am currently reading and it is a recollection of the inner workings of his development from an early age. For fans of his work it is a revealing look at some of his earliest fascinations in life, interspersed with true stories about growing up. All I can say in describing it is that it is unlike any autobiography I have ever read. One of the reasons I like it is because at the end of the written part of the book is an ‘Album’ which tells the same exact story of his life through the eyes of cartoons,  vintage photographs, magazine advertisements, newspaper stories, and even motion picture stills. I found myself skipping back and forth to see the visual side of what he was writing about. Surely one reason for this device in the book is because at one stage he laments that as a result of moving a lot he lost a lot of mementos and photo documentation of his youth. Surprising because he mentions that in the postwar U.S. every family was gripped by ‘shutterbug’ fever.

It made me think about the times we are in now, when everyone is seemingly a photographer. From masters of the selfie to Instagram accounts with thousands of followers, everyone it seems is representing their life in a ‘visual’ way. The difference from what Auster described is that though cameras may have been readily available, the means of sharing them to people was not. I am old enough to remember the dreaded ‘slide shows’ your neighbor might invite you over for to see of their trip to the Grand Canyon. Other than that, photography was either commercial-family portraits, newspapers, magazines, etc or artistic. The lines did not really intersect with one another but they sure have now. This blog would not exist if they did not intersect after all. The question I wonder about is-does having so much visual representation  harm the more thought driven way we used to think? Instead of describing how awesome the pizza was at a restaurant to a friend, we show them a photo we snapped of it on our phone. Instead of describing a cool exhibit we saw at a museum, going over the high points we tend to rely on the visual.

By no means am I above this, but sometimes I like to take a step back. To ‘think’ about photography rather than doing it. When I saw these figures standing on a hill on Roosevelt Island with the Manhattan skyline behind the figure to the right above, I thought it would be interesting to take a photo of people engaged in the act of photography. Photographer and subject matter together. I could describe to you in detail what was behind that figure on the right. What buildings would be in view, what color the sky was, that sort of thing. And sometimes I think that is actually more interesting.

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Monochrome Mondays

Late Night

Well depending where you live, the cooler days are already with you or on the way. Here it has been a bit of a see-saw requiring odd combinations of jackets, gloves, scarves and hats to compensate. One recent Friday night the temperature dropped rather quickly and surprisingly. Which if you take a minute to observe people usually means the hands go in the pockets, the jacket gets zippered all the way up the head gets scrunched down into the marginal warmth of the coat. You also tend to walk briskly between points. On this particular night I ventured deep into a part of our neighborhood I hadn’t ever really been to before. Certainly at night I had not.

My destination was a taproom I had been meaning to go to for some time and it was a very long walk I don’t mind telling you! After staying for an hour or so I headed out and crossed the street. It was there I noticed that on the other side just before the taproom was this sheet metal fence protecting some sort of commercial yard. Immediately I had the idea that it would make an interesting backdrop for someone walking past, but I would have to do it in monochrome. Unfortunately due to that chilly night it was awhile before I saw someone. I took a few test shots of the fence itself and then waited across the street leaning against a tree. Finally someone walked past and I took my shot. It is inherently an urban photo with the fence. As I thought about it more you also seem to sense the chill in the air when I took it.

Well at least that is what I thought as I was taking it!

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Flying

‘From the ashes something new grows’

By my recollection this is the third bird related post I have done up to now. I’m actually not much of a nature photographer. That requires lots of patience. Because I do a lot of landscape shots, birds inevitably work their way into my photos…whether I want them to or not. The truth is I am truly fascinated by birds of all shapes, sizes and colors but my restless nature with photography makes me avoid time setting up and waiting for the mere chance of a great photo of them. I prefer going with the flow, capturing things on the go without a lot of fuss.  But lately in an attempt to really go outside the box both in my writing and photography and trying new things, I realize that I may need to learn some of that patience. I also realized recently that something I said on social media was really true. I have been lamenting the fact that I actually haven’t written about music as much here this year. I decided to fix this in two ways.

Recently I spent an afternoon taking photos with my friend Carol in Long Island City, Queens. We went to a few spots and though I was happy with the end results, I decided that first I needed to return to small scale with my photography. Instead of the big sweeping vistas I seem to have gravitated towards recently, I want to return to something more simple and less ‘big picture’. Of course there is plenty of room for all types of photos and I find that the best photographers have a diverse portfolio, utilizing both large and small scale. But maybe a deliberate focus shift will steer me back towards finding more ideas for writing about music.

The next and probably most obvious other solution is to listen to a lot more music. To find inspiration from artists both new to the scene and new material from established ones. I used to read about music a lot. Used to listen to alternate sources of music as a way of discovering something fresh sounding. I seem to have gotten away from that in the last year or so, and as I look back on my posts during that time, they tend to be from artists I have been familiar with for some time. Combined I hope both of these things will push me into new territory to get back to doing what feels right. The reason I am writing this now is because sometimes someone suddenly and unexpectedly comes into view who you swear has been there forever and pushes you in that direction.

‘See where I am going, and I’ve seen where I have been’

A month or so someone liked a photo I put up on Instagram I hadn’t heard of before. Like most people do, I clicked on the name to see who it was. Maybe a fellow blogger or photographer, or maybe someone from my neighborhood. Instead it was someone by the name of Jackie Venson out of Austin, Texas and on seeing her account, it was obvious she was a singer and guitarist. But what kind of music was it? Off to YouTube I went. And I have to say that weeks later, I’m still digging through the huge number of clips of Jackie has recorded over the last few years. I also have to say that I have not heard a bad track yet. Not only is she a soulful singer but she is one amazing guitarist. I mean truly. There are a lot of them out there, but sometimes you come across one where the guitar seems to be naturally forged into the player’s hands, as if it was meant to be there right from the start. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Jackie Venson, and I’m telling you right now-remember this name.

As I started digging through clips getting a sense of how her music and career have evolved I was astonished to learn that she really has only been playing the guitar for just a few years now, after playing piano since childhood. Then you add in that soulful voice, the songwriting and above all, her exuberance as a performer and you have one irresistible  combination. Jackie is out there touring pretty much nonstop, and I hope to catch her soon myself. I also knew I had to buy some music of hers, and I started with an EP released earlier this year-Transcends. The first track is the catchy ‘Flying’ with a pop soul groove throughout before Jackie takes the song off into another hemisphere with that dynamic guitar. Transcendent indeed.

While watching the video for Flying  I had the not so original idea for the photography side of this post. But I’m okay with that actually. I’ve always wanted this blog to be about finding connections between photography and music. Sometimes obvious, sometimes ones that require a bit of explanation and a lot of introspection on my part. Both types are driven by the song. And as I thought about Jackie’s song I realized that in the one line quoted above she was inadvertently telling me about the past and the future of this blog, about where I want to go, and where I’ve come from with it. I can’t think of a better way of going forward than ‘flying and spreading my wings’ than with this amazing guitar slinging Texas woman. Tomorrow, next week, who knows where it will come from? But the ideas will come from being flexible, just like those magic fingers of Jackie Venson.

Jackie has a prolific presence across social media, so follow her on your platform of choice to stay up to date on her music.

Flying-Written By Jackie Venson

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