Spring-The Return

Spring-The Return

Hello again good people! After 6 weeks or so of not thinking about writing, 6 weeks of not thinking about blogs, or worrying that for the past year maybe I was thinking about both too much I feel I am ready to start back up again. Before I get into that I wanted to mention that I really appreciated the support I received after my last post announcing the break. It meant a lot to have people tell me in comments or in private that they appreciated my words and photography. I realize I may have scared a few people into thinking I was going silent for good. Writing these words now is the proof that I have not. Thank you to all of you who reached out. I’m still working things out on the personal level, but it feels right to be doing this again now.

I did spend some time thinking if I wanted to do a rethink of this space along the lines of changing the theme and color scheme again. I ended the last post with the realization that I needed to find out what has been missing for me in putting these words to the computer. To find the ways to feed creativity again. This is a tentative step back today, and I am unsure what and where it will lead me. But I realized something important during this break. In lamenting the state of blogging today, I forgot the crucial part. Being myself. At its peak I was heeding the advice of others-writing often to build an audience. Writing shorter posts so as not to lose an audience. Tagging, doing weekly features, trying to copy what more successful bloggers did.

Don’t get me wrong-that does work and I will no doubt fall back into it again on some level. But not at the loss of being myself. So if I don’t reach a goal of a post a week I am not going to stress it. If I write something that takes longer than 3 minutes to read, I don’t care if that is a blogging no-no. If I publish on a Friday or a Tuesday night at 11:47 PM I will no longer worry about the consequences or loss of potential readership since that is also frowned upon. I started thinking back to the reasons why I started this in the first place-to meld my love for music and photography together, hopefully in a unique way. And that is precisely where we will start off again this time for this return. For those of you who have been long time readers you can skip the next paragraph if you so choose.

Hello-my name is Robert Doyle, an almost 50 year dude currently living in Queens, New York City. For over four years I have been writing Soundtrack Of A Photograph, a unique space ‘Where Music Meets Photography’. I do this by thinking about the key ingredients of each. Music expresses joy, sorrow, exuberance. It makes us want to sing, to dance, to feel the flow, to go with the groove. Photography expresses many of the same emotions, but often we feel trapped by the boundaries of the photo. Photography freezes a time and a place forever in silence. Be it a wedding photo or an artistic monochrome one, the physical movement is trapped. The notion behind this blog from day one has been finding the right musical match for particular photos. Thawing it from the freeze, releasing it from the trap. Movies typically rely on music for pivotal moments. My idea was to give a still photograph a sense of motion-of flow and groove just like with a movie. A soundtrack to the photograph. And so this is where we will start this off again.

‘Dance in the joy that is yours and mine in spring returning’

It was perhaps inevitable that I would start this back up again in the Spring. The season is all about renewal and brightness after all. Trees you walk past everyday that have been bare since November are suddenly bursting with color. On cue with the early sunrise, birdsong becomes more noticeable and incessant.  Grass and flowers suddenly abound and we feel the energy in the fragrant air. Inevitably my mind also goes towards songs that are filled with this sort of imagery. One of the things I want to work on in this return is to feature more artists I have not previously written about. And how except for one of my Christmas themed posts I have not written about the sublime Maddy Prior I cannot understand!

Maddy has been one of the leading figures on the British folk scene since the late 1960’s.  She has recorded numerous solo albums, two memorable albums with June Tabor, but especially as lead singer for the folk-rock group Steeleye Span. Despite several early personnel changes, Steeleye went on to have some decent commercial success in the 1970’s and are still going strong today. In 1993 during a hiatus from the group Maddy recorded the first of a series of albums with a general theme, usually with a song cycle. This first album was simply called ‘Year’ and was well received. The album starts off with a short song called Snowdrops/Birth which sums up the welcoming of spring we all feel the need for.

As to the photograph, I took this last week on an unseasonably chilly, gray morning. But the vibrancy of colors is what mattered to me the most. In posting this on Instagram a few days ago I mentioned that I purposely chose to take the photo a little out of focus, to get a sense of movement. In the days since I realized that the story this photo was telling me was about coming out of the darkness of winter, of color gradually fading in once again. I also realized that it was telling me to get these words flowing again…to feel that my ‘step is bright in sunshine’ once again. It feels good to be back. Until next time!

Snowdrops/Birth-Written By Maddy Prior

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The Voice Within

 

For the first time in a long while I honestly had doubts about whether I wanted to publish this post. You see, in my life I have constantly lived with doubts of one kind or another. I suppose we all do. It is a natural thing of course and my doubts are not new. But in this case I worried about expressing myself so deeply and personally. True, I have gotten personal here before but this time feels different. More on that in a moment though.

I have been noticing a gradual slowdown in the blogging world in the last year or so. Friends who I have followed for a long time have disappeared from the scene. Some have just lost interest or cannot write due to time factors, new jobs, or family issues. Others don’t seem to reciprocate as much as they used to. What was once a vibrant community seems to be more individualistic lately. I can’t tell you the last time I had a meaningful string of comments about something I wrote. I think eventually that weighs on you and you begin wondering why you try so hard.

I hear what you are thinking-well Robert, that means you aren’t writing like you used to and people are losing interest in you and your blog. Maybe you need to trim down your posts even more than they are now. Maybe you should do this…maybe you should do that. That might very well be true but it wasn’t that long ago when that did not seem to matter. It was exciting and my WordPress Reader would be constantly open on my desktop anxiously waiting for new posts from talented people expressing their views on art, music, travel, science, poetry and fiction. Everyone doing their own thing as part of a big community.  I hear you  saying to me again…Maybe you should find some new bloggers to follow to keep that feeling going. It is still a big community and maybe you need to get yourself out there again. Which also might be true.

Last year around the time of my fourth anniversary of blogging, I spent some time going back through old posts. Looking at projects started with full intention of returning to again some day-Photo Shuffle, Fictional works, Research driven posts. They all seem to have gone by the wayside. Maybe they were mostly ‘one-offs’, ideas that seemed great at the time but not so great now. Monochrome Mondays has been maybe the strongest idea out of all. It was born out of a time of some writers/ideas block when I wanted to stay in the game every week, without necessarily writing about music. For awhile I was doing both types fairly consistently, but it seems lately that there are more Monochrome Mondays posts then music ones, and that was never how I wanted it. I’m writing this now after purposely deciding  for the first time in months to not even bother posting a Monochrome Mondays yesterday. Not for lack of photos, but because I realized I really needed to get this post you are reading out.

Now to get back to that more ‘personal’ thing I mentioned at the start. For a few months now I have been going to see a therapist. The specific reasons why I will not reveal, suffice it to say they are NOT for reasons of depression, trauma, or abuse. But the result is me going backwards and forwards in time, connecting the dots in my life that I never knew were related before. Seeing threads that were scattered in random directions joined together.  It isn’t always an easy realization, and a few times I have left a session and thought ‘god dammit’ why didn’t I ever see that before. It can be a little unnerving, yet after some time can also feel satisfying in its own way.

I have said right from the start that one of the reasons I have enjoyed expressing myself here is that writing unleashed a lot of the jumble in my head. Random thoughts, random people, places, and objects that I took a photograph of that relate to a song which is about other random people, places, and objects. It is very much like some of my therapy sessions now in fact. So much so that I realized that for now I am going to temporarily give myself the space to rectify the two. Despite everything I said about my view on the state of the blogging community, I will not, cannot stop when there is always a new song, a new photograph to take. Last year I changed the slogan for this blog to ‘Where Music Meets Photography’. A simple idea that should have come to me years before perhaps. But it is still an idea worth exploring to me. That means something to me. And which is why I will not be stopping anytime soon. The photography side will always be there too, for that is what came first as a creative outlet. But it was the melding of ideas that brought me here.  For the time being new posts might be a little few and far between (and that is going to include Monochrome Mondays for now at least). But there will be more I promise you.

The reason why it will go on can maybe best be described in the lyrics to the song for this post. I urge you to listen to the clip (never mind the early 1980’s fashions!). I think I just need to ‘go back to school’ and find what has been missing for me. I wrote this post not out of anger and resentment. I  need to work on me and find that creative space again for everything to fall in place again. I am determined that it will! See you all soon!

The Voice-Written By Justin Hayward

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Monochrome Mondays

 

Here we are again, and yet again, I have to admit that I don’t have much time to discuss the photo for today, but there will be in a day or so. For you see, for the first time, I am cross-promoting my posts. Let me explain…

I am currently working on a new music themed post built around a New York landmark. I just have to work in some time to take a few more photos and do a little tidying of the writing. I did go on Friday to take a few photos of this particular landmark. A few of them may work their way into the post, but I wanted to take them in the clear light of a sunny day, and it was almost dark by the time I made my way over there. As soon as I have that sort of day to take the photos, I will publish the post. In the meantime, while there I could not resist taking a few monochrome shots. It seems to lend itself to the history of this particular landmark, like an old black and white newsreel or an image from a coffee table type of book. So what better way to build up some suspense for this forthcoming music post than to give you a teaser of what is to come! Now I posted this photo on Instagram the other day, asking if anyone knew what landmark site this is. One person correctly answered. So I’ll do the same thing here and ask anyone who saw the IG post to keep it to themselves for now.

Thanks and stay tuned for the followup in a few days!

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Monochrome Mondays

One aspect of monochrome I have not touched base on too much is the effect of shadow or silhouette. When you think about it in photography you can take a photo with no adornment whatsoever. Just see something and click it. Or maybe there is a cool reflection or a beautiful sunrise or sunset to make it appear a bit more interesting. But sometimes, a simple shadow can be a really satisfying element to capture, and it happened to me in a flurry of activity the other day.

It has actually been a great, but very hectic last month. Once the Holiday season was over we had in succession-our 10th Wedding Anniversary, my mom’s 80th Birthday, and just the other day, my wife’s 40th birthday. My own 50th birthday lurks ahead in the summer. So there has been much celebrating, laughter and fun. But also slightly hectic in the planning of it all or in the going about from here to there on cold winter days. The other day was no different, and I was in a different neighborhood picking up some stuff in celebration of Jennifer’s 40th. It was late afternoon on a brutally cold day. I wasn’t really planning on taking photos, nor did I have a lot of time, but while crossing the street, I saw the shadow of a water tower set against the clean wall of another building. It was that late afternoon ‘golden hour’ time when light is especially pleasing, but the combination of cold and not having time made me decide to just take the photo in black and white. Some of you will recall I did a post last year about my love of water towers, so I always have my eye out for interesting photos of them. I loved the end result of the waning sunlight cast against one of my favorite urban subject matters.

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Monochrome Mondays

Sadly I do not have much time today to write about today’s photo. But sometimes a photo doesn’t really need much explanation after all. I took this on Friday night after work. I had a long and frustrating work week and headed out for a few ‘beverages’. Of course I brought my camera along and it was while passing Queensbridge Park I thought, hmm it is a nice clear night, maybe I can take a photo or two.

There is a promenade right along the river with stunning Manhattan views as well as the Queensborough 59th Street Bridge. For once I refrained from taking a bridge photo! For once I saw this bare tree set against the skyline I thought it might look interesting. And that is what you are looking at now!

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In The Garden

In The Garden

Well after a few weeks off I am ready to dive back into some new music related posts for all of you. During my little break I thought about the origins of this space, about what made me want to combine my own photographs with music in the first place. I was also thinking about how in some ways I slipped away from ‘owning’ this idea of mine recently.  I can now see  how ideas evolve and grow over passage of time. As my photography continues to evolve, so too does my writing.  The things I write today are quite different from what I wrote over four years ago at the start. Sometimes though things can unintentionally go off course. I realized during my break that I had always intended this place to be so much more than just writing about a song. I wanted it to be a creative space, linking words, music, and imagery all together as one. Finding connections between them all. In this coming year I plan to get back to that and I have some ideas for making this happen.

Another thing I realized is that sometimes I hear a new song and know exactly what I want to do with it.  More often than not however, I might know a song for years but do not feel like I have the right photo that pairs up with it in a satisfactory way…because I have not actually taken it yet. Once I find the right one though it reminds me of why I started writing in the first place. Why I wanted to ‘create’.  I can listen to a song and nod my head in agreement with the story or sentiments of the song. I can look at a photo and remember the moment I took it.  When I first started this all off I chose a song by Ralph McTell for my first post.  As I recall the origins of this blog I thought a return to his music might be a good idea. And an idea formed  when I looked back on some photos I took of a butterfly last summer.

The older I get I sometimes think about why things are the way they are in the world. Why is so much of the money and power in the hands of such few? Why does  poverty, starvation, and war still exist? I have no answers myself, but  I wonder if the answer actually lies in us not understanding HOW we  think as individuals. Not what we think…but how we think. Some people are incredibly savvy and quick witted with solutions and answers ready instantly, their brains hard-wired to assess and respond. Others need time to develop those answers because their brains are wired a little differently. The thoughts might be there but the words do not form so readily.  Others still may not be able to answer yet that does not, or should never be perceived as not understanding. In many ways, they might be the wisest of all. That is what Ralph McTell’s classic song Michael In The Garden is about. Perceptions and awareness heightened in the mind of a young boy most likely with autism of some type.

The brilliance of the song is in placing not just a mental wall between Michael but also a physical wall between the adults in the building that inhabit his world. They spend their days making judgments ‘in their wisdom’ while Michael sits in the garden observing things that no one else does. The lyrics take you inside both worlds, but it is the realization that Michael sees so much, hears so much…feels so much that pulls you into the song. How they call his name inside the building but he does not respond. Instead he hears each leaf as it falls. I might sit and enjoy listening to the wind in the trees with a cup of coffee on an autumn day, but to have the ability, the patience to listen to the sound of a single leaf falling would be an astounding feat. But that is part of Michael’s world, along with observing the broken wings of a butterfly dying.

Last summer not long before going out for the day, my wife pointed out a single butterfly darting between the flowers on our window boxes on the balcony. It was so beautiful to see that I grabbed my camera and took photos through the glass on the balcony door so as not to disturb my new friend. There was stillness. There was motion. There was beauty in the butterfly’s movements and flight.

When I looked at these photos again the words of Ralph’s song came into my head. I thought about how the appearance of a lone butterfly on a warm summer day made such an impression on me. How watching it for a scant few moments (even through the lens of the camera) elicited such a response. I thought how so much of my life is spent ‘inside the building’ struggling to organize and verbalize the words in my head. Fighting against those that by virtue of being quicker on the draw are perceived as being smarter, successful and more in control. Worrying about so much beyond my control that is actually rather silly when you really stop and think. The last verse of the song really drives that point home. Even when I think about those worries, about bills and work and other realities, it would be nice to see what Michael sees in the garden-

“Oh Michael sees all
Behind the high walls
Surrounding his kingdom
Whilst we in our wisdom
Still trapped in the spider’s web
Far from the flow and ebb
Of life in the garden
But Michael has pardoned
us for he sees
That really he’s free
And there’s nothing to mend
For his wings are not broken”

 

*A note on the version of the song I used. In a career of over 50 years writing, releasing albums and performing great songs, Michael In The Garden stands as one of his very best and most popular. As such there are many recorded versions out there. I chose this live version from my favorite album of Ralph’s. Why? Because it is honest and real. There is an ever so slight ‘off’ note on the guitar. There is also a lot of emotion to his voice that makes this version more special to me.

Michael In The Garden-Written By Ralph McTell

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Waves

Waves crashing in…waves crashing out…

Funny thing this. Last year at this time I remember thinking once my best of the year posts were published, I would take a few weeks off and recharge the batteries for the new year. But I felt I had to write one more post in the week between Christmas and New Years. Once again I think… I feel I need to do that once again this year. Maybe all the pressure about shopping and gifts and visiting people that comes this time of year freezes me up from finding space to write about a topic and once the New Year is upon us I find it again. Maybe I do just need to tell myself-shut up Doyle, as one acquaintance famously said to my wife and I once in a lighthearted jab. In any event on Christmas Eve I took a few photos that seemed to sum up my year on many levels.

This year seemed to be defined for me by one word-waves. Waves along the river where I enjoy walking. Ocean waves at Rockaway Beach where I visited twice this year. Waves at Coney Island, on the shore of Lake George, on the New Jersey shore, on Long Island. That rhythmic push/pull of actual waves seemed to define my year on many levels.

For whatever reason I have not taken advantage of taking photos from the roof of my building but on Christmas Eve I did because I saw a particularly epic sky looming in front of me. But instead of skylines and colors what I saw was a pattern that looked like waves crashing over the nearby buildings. And it made me think that maybe I should work on one more post. And it would involve that so simple yet so meaningful symbolism of waves.

Waves crashing in-new friendships made or rekindled, old friendships continually strengthened.

Waves crashing out-friendships lost out to sea for various reasons.

Waves crashing in-physical health of those nearest to me in good shape

Waves crashing out-mental health of those nearest to me not in such good shape

Waves crashing in-good things to look forward to in 2018

Waves crashing out-2017 not a particularly good year personally for no particular reason

Waves crashing in-this place, my creation doing better than ever yet…

Waves crashing out-audience and friendships seem to be drifting out to sea for reasons I cannot define.

Waves crashing in-feeling that my words and art are becoming more defined yet…

Waves crashing out-wishing it could be so much more

Waves crashing in-continually inspired by the art of others but…

Waves crashing out-struggling to capitalize on that inspiration in my own voice

Waves crashing in-learning after almost 50 years to speak up for myself

Waves crashing out-wondering why the fuck it took me so long to do it

Waves crashing in-having ideas to break out of this introvert cloud

Waves crashing out-seeing those ideas collapse because of it.

Waves crashing in-happy with the growth in my photography this year

Waves crashing out-wondering where I go from here with it.

Ideas like this are not really new or unique of course, and I’m sure most of us play this game in our minds. I truly did have some good times this year and shared a lot of laughs and quite a few glasses of beer or wine with my wife and friends. But there just seemed to be a fog, or malaise over 2017 as a friend of mine recently pointed out. Politics, economics and news cycles may play a part, but I’m not sure it is the only cause. The temptation is always to say “I’m going to start fresh in the new year” with promises of losing 30lbs, changing jobs, travelling the world. Great if you can manage to do a few of those things, I am not so cynical to say it will never happen. But life gets complex sometimes and for some of us, the best we can manage is one or two of those goals. And that’s okay too.

Earlier this year I wrote a post about how when I get in a photography rut that it helps to do the opposite essentially and I used a song lyric to prove that point. It actually did wonders for me. And as I sat in an amazing new coffee shop just now trying to come up with a way to end this, I realized that I need to do the same thing with life this coming year. Turn it all around and where what I wrote above starts with the positive and goes negative, waves crashing in and crashing out, I need things to go in the opposite direction. Waves crashing out taking away the negative. Waves crashing in bringing the positive. And that cycle that continues every day, every month, every year will bring good things with it.  Now how about a happy little song to close this year out here at Soundtrack Of A Photograph? Here is a song from Thea Gilmore’s excellent album ‘The Counterweight’ released earlier this year. Happy New Year everyone!

 

Sounds Good To Me-Written By Thea Gilmore

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