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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Monochrome Mondays

The Fog

Fog. Foggy Morning. In From The Fog…

I  have wanted to capture a photo in dense fog for quite some time. Call it bad luck on my part or maybe an unwillingness to jump out of bed early in the morning when it is most likely to be at its peak, but after 16 years or so of taking photography more seriously, it really has not happened with the desired results yet. But the other morning it did. I had a little more time walking to work on Friday morning. When that happens I like to deviate from the shorter walk to the subway. Walking along the river only adds about 5 minutes or so, but I tend to leave it for the walk home. In any case, as soon as I reached the pathway I noticed sheets of fog rising from the East River and at times making Manhattan on the other side disappear.

As I was walking south towards the subway, I pulled out the camera even though there was a slight drizzle. I tried a color photo at first, but it did not seem to really capture the mood. I switched to monochrome.  Once the 59th Street Bridge came into view I hoped the fog would continue drifting in the same way because I sensed a really good photo forming in my mind. You can imagine that the bridge dominates the view from that pathway, and it takes a few minutes to get to the vantage point I took the photo above from. I took another photo, hoping the movement of the fog would stay in place and not dissipate so the structure of the bridge and nearby buildings were visible.

Then it happened. Out of the corner of my left eye, I saw the Roosevelt Island Tramway come into view. Instinctively the idea formed in a flash because there was a large concentration of fog near the bridge tower, where the tram would be passing in a scant few moments. I looked ahead briefly and saw there was a point where the pathway jutted out on the river. I knew this would give me a better panorama of the river and bridge. I just had to get there. It almost didn’t happen because in my excitement, I very nearly took a spill on a patch of ice I had not seen. Undaunted, I gripped the camera tightly and ran with my eye on the Tramway’s movement, hoping it would not move too far ahead. It all happened so fast, but in a few moments I deemed my position to be good enough. My settings were satisfactory since I had adjusted them earlier. I planted my feet firmly and pressed the shutter, knowing I had to be quick…and then a bird swooped down as if on cue balancing the middle portion of the photo out.

It was one of those moments when I was really excited by what had happened. The buzz of having an idea formulate so quickly and to have it come out the way I wanted is a great feeling for a photographer. Let me know what you think!

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Monochrome Mondays

Hello and welcome back for the first time in about a month to Monochrome Mondays. It is also the first new post of 2018 so without further adieu, here we go!

Big Allis, Queens

As I write, New York City and much of the east coast of the U.S. has been in deep Arctic freeze. Brutally cold temperatures and wind chills. Winter still has a long way to go of course, but I sincerely hope we do not get any deep freezes that last as long as this one has! Partly because it has kept me from wanting to head off walking around taking new photos. Yesterday though I did a bit of writing in a coffee shop and took my camera along. On Saturday we were doing some errands when my wife pointed out the smoke belching out of the nearby power plant known as ‘Big Allis’ not far from our apartment. I did not have my camera, but I took a shot with my phone of the smoke set against the blue chilled sky. Yesterday I saw the same sight (the smoke stacks dominate our neighborhood and can be seen from practically any angle ) but instinctively switched the camera over to monochrome to see what that might look like. Now, I am not thrilled  in environmental terms that those smoke stacks are doing that of course, but there is no denying that it made for an interesting monochrome photo.

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

*Photo Shuffle is a new, very short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.

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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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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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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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