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"PHOTOGRAPHY AS CONNECTIVE TISSUE"
Photo by Genghis
TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK NYC 1969: Country Joe & The Fish
(Nikon F with 50mm F/1.4 Nikkor.
Gossen Luna Pro handheld meter.
Tri-X Pan processed to 1000 ASA in Ultra Fine Grain developer.
Kodabormide grade 4 paper.)
NEW YORK CITY 6:39 A.M.
Nine inches of snow in Central Park so far. I've closed our office (I'm the practice manager---and retinal photographer---of an ophthalmology office) because of the storm and called Doris our Ace Secretary, to advise her to stay home. What to do on a snow day like this? A perfect opportunity to ruminate, to wax philosophically on the whys and wherefores of the importance of photography in my life. And by extension, the whys and wherefores of the importance of photography in your lives. Make no mistake: Photography is of paramount importance in your life, or else you wouldn't be reading this.
I could trot out the obvious whys and wherefores regarding the creative urge, and discuss how photographers see the world through an artistic filter. I could attempt to hold forth poetically regarding photography in our lives as a profound cultural pursuit. Yes, I could do that if I were a truly cultured person, but man, that's far from the truth. I'm just a knuckle-dragging greaser on a loud and old Harley-Davidson with a Nikon swingin' from my neck---a neck that's had a Nikon swingin' from it since I bought my first Nikon in 1962 from Willoughby's on 31st Street in NYC. I still have that Nikon F, and Willoughby's camera store is still there. Willoughby's was established in 1898, so the store has it over me in terms of historical longevity. The point is, photography has always been a pithy artistic pursuit for me, but this ain't what this article's about, baby. Photography for me, has always been connective tissue in my life, to my past.
In the human body, connective tissue is a fibrous material that helps to keep us functioning and moving.
It in effect, connects our limbs via our joints, so that our musculature can motorvate us down the road with ease and elan. In short, this collagenous tissue helps to keep us together so that we can keep on keepin' on.
Photography as a type of connective tissue in our existences, doesn't just keep us whole spiritually, though our endeavors to compose and create images that inspire and move the human sprit.
Photography also connects us with our past. Photography as connective enablers, acts as a thread that runs through the years of our lives like a spiritual lifeline, not allowing the disengagement of our components.
I feel it is fundamentally necessary for people to stay true to what they were, and therefore are. The person that you are today, is based on the building blocks of what you considered important in your life, early on.
These blocks were then meticulously laid to construct the person that you are.
The person who forgets who he was, has no idea who he truly is, for he has lost his essence.
I photograph, therefore I am.
You and I are people made up of different facets of our existences. We each, every single one of us, are made up of numerous moving parts that define who we are. There are our jobs. These definitely define us. For example, I've been a retinal photographer professionally for 39 years now, and have been quite successful at it. I'm garnered some satisfaction in literally training thousands of ophthalmic personnel in this craft through lecture and workshops. I'm also a husband and father. However, the groundwork for what lies underneath all those compounded facets of my life I've mentioned, has always been the sustenance provided by the triad of photography, cars and motorcycles.
Cars came before the bikes. I have been a certifiably fanatical car guy since the age of 13---specifically Chevrolet Corvettes. I was afflicted by Vette Fever by the age of 13, devouring knowledge of these fantastic cars, and ardently following racing coverage of them, as well as other brands. Formula One, the Indy 500 and NHRA ruled, man.
Locally, there was watching street drags at Connecting Highway, doing burnouts on 32nd Avenue and doing 110 on a desertedf Triboro Bridge at five in the morning--earning me a speeding ticket and a fast track to a suspended license.
I started to save money starting at the age of 13 to buy a Vette, and that day came six years later when I bought a second-hand Vette at a used car lot on Queens Boulevard.
These cars have been important to me my entire life. To me, cars and motorcycles are living entities, with rich histories and overwhelming presence.
I've only owned two cars in my life, and they were that '64 Vette and the '1972 Vette I have the privilege to own. Where I grew up in Queens, there was a heightened car culture that I was immersed in.
This created one strain of connective tissue that has sustained me all my life. One line of the Connective Tissue Triangle had been formed.
My entry into motorcycles is perhaps a bit more complex, for the biker subculture that I entered into in 1968, is a more involving culture than even car culture. The moniker of "biker" is a greater signifier of a person, than "car guy." A biker is a biker for life. A biker has his identity as such formed early on in life, and Harley 60 weight runs through his veins forever. Man, talk about "connective tissue." The biker subculture puts its indelibale stamp on ya, and no amount of solvent ever removes it, or eradicates its meaning in your life if you're a biker.
The biker subculture is intense and long-lived, having a tradition that dates back to the 1930s. The influx of the outlaw ethic into the culture during the '30s through the '60s, gave the biker subculture a depth that went beyond mere hobbyism. To state that my motorcycle "Mabel" who is a 39 year old Harley 74, is the centerpiece of my life is no mere understatement. I cherish this 'ole girl. The beating of Mabel's 86 cubic inch motor, is at the very heart of Me. The second line of the Connective Tissue Triangle, is My Harley.
I've only owned two motorcycles in my life. They were my '68 Harley XLCH Sportster, and my current and forever ride, Mabel. I have been initmately entwined with the life for over forty years now. Bikes, and the ideals of the biker subculture are the backbone of who I was, and who I am.
However, before motorcycles came along, photography---which is the final and third line of the Connective Tissue Triangle of my life---and Corvettes grew concurrently to dominate my subconscious.
As a adolescent, I went through the parking lots at Jones Beach on Long Island with my Kodak Brownie camera, looking for Vettes to take pictures of. It was photography that acted as the vicarious gateway into dreaming about the Vette I would someday own, by looking at those little photographs of the Vettes I'd shot at Jones Beach. I couldn't wait to take those rolls of Kodacolor to be processed at Brite Pharmacy on Northern Boulevard.
It was a symbiotic relationship.
Photography has through the years---as cars and bikes have---acted as this connective tissue to my foundation as an individual. Of course, photography has taken on deeper meaning for me---as it has for you---beyond the mere means of making exposures of a favorite brand of car at a beach parking lot. For me, it blossomed not only into an intense interest in creating and composing meaningful street photography, but it also guided me to a professional path that has paid the rent for forty-plus years. In the bigger picture, photography has been the glue that helps to hold my personality together, to define me.
The Collagen of Photography keeps all the rest of me connected. The fibrous issue expands and contracts. It unwinds my days, and tightens up the years like a sinewy rope made of kevlar. It allows me to breathe and to dream, and to create images of dreams that begin in my head and are transmitted through the film plane and digital sensor, into living and breathing moments in time, captured statically, but moving in spirit.
Looking through the viewfinder to define my world, is as natural to me as looking out my window now to see the falling snow. The world as defined by the borders of a photographic image---frozen in time forevermore---are as essential to life for me, as that mushroom and pepperoni pie that I ate for nourishment last night. Photography as Connective Tissue, keeps me alive.
I photograph, there I am whole.
NEW YORK CITY 7:42 A.M.
Looking out my window on the twenty-first floor of my apartment in the Lower East Side of NYC, the snow still falls, shouding my view of the Empire State Building. What a wonderful day for ruminating. Am I connecting with you? Later.