Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward...

Another year gone by, quicker than the last one which was, until this one, the quickest year of my life. Yes, everything my elders told me as a child came true, time does indeed seem to go faster the older you get. With that bit of stating the obvious out of the way, 2015 by and large was a pretty good year for us. For starters, no one close to us died. I know that's setting the bar awfully low but after last year it was quite a relief.

My son graduated from elementary school and got into his first choice of high schools. He made the freshman baseball team and has been amazing us with his perseverance in keeping up with his new rigorous schedule including three grueling afternoons per week of sports conditioning. My wife had a magnificent exhibition of her ceramic art in the form a site-specific installation piece on the site of the old Peabody mansion in Oakbrook, Illinois. Our daughter, now in third grade, continually amazes us with her insight and remarkable capacity for compassion and empathy. Just today at lunch with my mom, she reprimanded me for a mildly disparaging remark about someone, leading me to comment that she was my conscience.

There were no great milestones for me this year but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that something I did late last year turned my life around, I bought a smartphone. For a long time I resisted the temptation to indulge myself with what I used to consider one of the scourges of society, see this. In some ways I still consider cellphones a scourge but me criticizing other cellphone users would truly be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, just ask my mother. Turning me into just another rude, obnoxious lout with a smartphone isn't what turned my life around, as I already was a rude, obnoxious lout. It was the image-making capability of the device and the ability to take a camera with me everywhere I go.

You see, photography was my first passion and that passion for the medium and my work was once the driving force of my life. Then I got married and started a family, and my work took a back seat. There hasn't been one second of my life when I regretted that decision as today it is my family who keeps me alive and vital. I never actually stopped taking pictures since my son was born almost fifteen years ago, it's just that it became harder to justify and motivate myself to spend time away from the family, especially countless hours in the darkroom. Digital photography has eliminated much of the need for the darkroom which is a mixed blessing; it has put still photography and film making, another passion of mine, into the hands of people who never would have been able to master the specialized skill sets of the two media or afford serious equipment. Of course image making involves more than access to gear and knowing how to use it. Just like owning a computer with a word processor does not make you a writer, owning a digital camera and a copy of PhotoShop doesn't make you a photographer, at least a good one.

Unfortunately that point has been lost on many companies (including newspapers), who used to employ professional photographers and no longer do so because they believe any employee can take acceptable pictures with their cellphone. Consequently the profession has taken a beating.

OK I've gotten myself off track which is another thing that happens when you get old.

It was the cellphone that got me back to photographing on a regular basis. The device I have, an iPhone 6, has a very sophisticated on-board camera. I wouldn't attempt to make huge prints with files produced with my iPhone, but it's perfectly suitable for reasonably sized prints and great for images viewed on a computer screen. Still I don't feel like a serious photographer when I'm out and about taking pictures with my cellphone. After all, the thing is designed for making calls (actually I spend way more time taking pictures with it than making calls), and to me at least, it still doesn't feel right as a camera.

So I got myself a real camera, and my New Year's resolution is to use it and my iPhone to get more than my feet wet in the medium that has been so important in my life. Another resolution (actually a plan that has been in the works for sometime but not fully realized), is to populate this blog with more images on a regular basis.

That said, here are of what I consider some of my best images from the past year, my top fifteen
if you will:

Going back to my past, photographing in black and white in the parks again, this for a post about what will be lost if the Barack Obama Presidential Library is built on public park land.

This photo was taken from one of the top floors of City Museum, in the words of a good friend, "St. Louis's greatest gift to the world." I cannot disagree.

On the day of the official opening of Chicago's 606 Trail, I made this photograph of a family on their front stoop in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, where residents fear the new trail will bring unwanted change to the community. 

Unaware at the time that the platform upon which I was standing would soon be history, I made this, one of the best photographs I ever made in Chicago's Loop.

Exercising my formalist side, this was made in the Bowmanville neighborhood of a factory building I've always admired.

Italianate facades dominate this shot of the Randolph/Wabash elevated station, also not long for this world.

My wife Beth Iska's installation piece at Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oakbrook, Illinois.

This is the view my mother gets to wake up to every morning. 

More formalist exercises, this one at the Adams/Wabash El stop, here,,, 

...and here. 

Octogenarian Coach Harold giving some pointers to one of my son's teammates.

This was made on a foggy way to work last week.

For a soon to be published post on what may be the next addition to the endangered architecture of Chicago list, this is the James R. Thompson Center.

I'm a strong opponent of texting while driving, but not making photographs while driving. I once took a picture with a twin lens reflex camera while driving over the Williamsburgh Bridge in New York City.  It was a pretty good picture too, but not as good as this one, made on the Clark Street Bridge over the Chicago River.

The first good picture made with my new lens.

And so it goes. I hope to be posting more work very soon but now am struggling to stay awake until midnight to greet in 2016.

To all of you I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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