Those who have followed my blog know, by now, that I approach photography in an opportunistic way. Seldom do I plan a shot in advance. When I see something of potential interest, I take it and move on.
Most definitely, I am not a portrait photographer, even if this post focuses on individual people. Mine are not posed shots. My hope is simply to capture, in the moment, some revealing aspect of personality. In nearly every case, my subject is unaware (or pretends to be unaware) of its imminent capture. Were I a portrait photographer, I would need to develop a very different relationship to my subject and pay much more attention to lighting.
The following 38 photographs were selected from images I took over the past nine years. I searched my digital files for images that “spoke” to me in some meaningful way. Then I organized these images into three categories relating to rather arbitrary divisions of activity: Unwinding (think ‘hanging out” if you prefer), At Work, and On The Town.
Mariyamou Drammeh studies Sociology and public policy at NYU, lives in the South Bronx, and is researching African immigrant communities in New York City.
Four young members of our local Masjid Ebun Abass mosque, celebrating the end of Ramadan and the breaking of the fast, known as Eid al-Fitr.
Community organizer, Mychal Johnson, is a major player in the efforts to protect the health and welfare of the people and the physical neighborhoods of Mott Haven and Port Morris. As a co-founder of South Bronx Unite, he has most recently fought to protect the health of the area from excessive air pollution and to convert a large, abandoned building into a Health, Education and Arts center.
Daryl Cheang is an owner in our Condo building on East 140th Street. Trained as a graphic designer, although no longer practicing, he remains a stickler for detail. He is also the building’s grill-master and chef par-excellence; a Cuban Cohiba and a glass of good, small batch bourbon is all the encouragement he needs to whip up a feast.
Carlos, whose last name I don’t know, emigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico twenty-five years ago. After a few years in Delaware, he came to New York and has been a fixture and regular greeter on our block of 140th Street. His usual greeting to me opens with “Hey, papi, you OK?” I answer with “Estoy bien, y tu, Carlos?” That may be all, or we may go on with some mix of English and Spanish.
Vic Cabillis owned a sign shop on 3rd Avenue in the Bronx. He also was an amateur painter who often made copies of the works of masters, as we see him doing here. A fixture of the South Bronx, Vic is still fondly remembered by many locals six years after his death. I refer you to my earlier blog post on him: “IN MEMORIAM: Vic Cabillis (December 9, 1926–July 21, 2013).”
Lee (Emilio) Gravagno flies his kite on the Jersey Shore. Lee, who died at 82 in September 2016, was best known as a double bassist with the Philadelphia Orchestra for four decades, but he also played in many other musical gigs, both classical and jazz.
If you wish to hear him play, I select two links. The first is from 1994 (YouTube 55:05), where he plays and discusses the music of Bach, Beethoven and Schumann; I recommend that you advance to his playing of the Busoni transcription of Bach’s Chaconne in D minor, 12:08-18:34.
The second is from fifteen years later when Awadagin plays before the Obama White House (YouTube 11:59). Open this link even if only to see what Awadagin is wearing–it’s one of many reasons why I love this man!
Composer, singer and violinist, Carla Kihlstedt, is here seen during a radio interview at the Ojai Music Festival in June of 2016.
Carla teaches Contemporary Improvisation at the New England Conservatory, and NEC has put out this link with a nice biography as well as a video of her playing one of her songs, Hush Hush (5:27).
Jeremy Flower is a multi-instrumentalist and composer of both acoustic and electronic music. In July of 2016, he performed in Bryant Park’s In/ter\sect program which features both jazz and classical performances, or to be clearer, features performers whose work challenges the strict boundaries between the two genres. In this instance, Jeremy played with the group, Rabbit Rabbit Radio.
Arthur Okazaki was my graduate school roommate during our years as students of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania. We cultivated a ‘certain reputation’ back then, and our house–3420 Sansom Street–was a launching place for many Philly adventures: if only the White Dog Cafe knew what & who preceded it!
Arthur is an emeritus Professor of Art at Tulane University. Because he lives in the Big Easy, luring him up to the Big Apple takes some work. Fortunately, his son, Miles Okazaki, lives in Brooklyn and is the lure to bring AO north.
Gabriella Ratay is Hungarian. She came to America as a teenager in 1957, in the wake of the Hungarian Revolution. She is a mathematician by training, taught the subject in colleges here until she retired. She now swims with several of us at the 92nd Street Y, after which we adjourn for coffee at the Corrado Cafe.
Bunny Rubin, married to Judge Ted Rubin (see below), is a painter. I would have preferred to get a picture of her in her studio, to show her among some of her works, but she was too energetic and I too slow on the draw!
Judge Ted Rubin is a major author and expert on juvenile justice policy. He served two terms as a member of the Colorado House of Representatives before becoming a judge.
Joe Wishcamper, fisherman, hunter, and “nationally-recognized leader in the field of affordable housing” as a real estate developer, here relaxes in his house in Maine.
How can one resist a smile like this? I was fortunate, and quick enough, to capture my lovely wife while we were having lunch at the Morgan Library. Andrea Kihlstedt is the founder of Capital Campaign Masters and the co-founder of Capital Campaign Toolkit.
I took this photograph of Yusef Lateef in the spring of 2013. He died in December of that year. Yusef Abdul Lateef was a major figure of American music and one of the first to use the oboe as a solo jazz instrument, even as he may be better known for flute and tenor saxophone. He was born William Emanuel Huddleston; his father then changed the family name to Evans; and he changed his name again, in 1948, when he converted to Islam.
Kendra Ross is a dancer. choreographer and community organizer, living in Brooklyn.
I consider Reverend Billy (William Talen) the most important performance artist of our time because of his dedication to social justice and ecological salvation, and for the creative manner in which he makes us all aware of these issues. Billy’s artistic role is that of preacher, but the font of his creative performing is music: the Stop Shopping Choir.
My caption title comes from a statement Billy made about the importance of music in March, 2019 (see 2nd video, 1:50): “With the earth dying and fascist governments rising everywhere, and a policeman behind every tree, 70 million people wandering, looking for a home, we’re at that moment now, [it’s] a moment when music is ultimately serious,…it’s what it does to you as you are en-route to committing a crime to live.”
Armin Mrkanovic, a.k.a. the Bosnian Prince, is a cruiserweight boxer, a light-heavyweight kickboxer, and a middleweight mixed martial arts fighter. He trains regularly at Gleason’s Gym and has found time to own and run an organic juice bar in Queens.
Jihad Abdul Aziz won the Golden Gloves in the state of Indiana in 1988. He is one of several trainers who works at Gleason’s Gym in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
Daze, or Chris Ellis, is a well-known New York graffiti artist and muralist. Here I found him working on a new mural for the collaborative Welling Court mural project. Also of possible interest is this podcast by Steven Sulley (36:54) on a new project by Daze.
Actor, Rya Kihlstedt, sometimes finds herself on the other side of the lens, even if only in her spare time. Here she was actually making posed portraits of a friend (while I took my usual opportunistic advantage of the moment).
Although this Wikipedia link cites her birthdate and birthplace inaccurately; the rest seems fine. However, you will find this L.A, Mediaworks link more interesting and revealing, as it offers a set of movie and TV clips (7:24) of her at work.
Gerhard Frommel earned two Master’s degrees in art from universities in Vienna before coming to New York, where he teaches school and continues to paint. He has no web page, but has been featured in several New York Galleries. Here, the Aysa Geisburg Gallery offers nine images of his work, which clearly show his compelling and sensual mix between geometric and gestural abstraction.
Gabriel Yaari served as head designer for three major Boston architectural firms before retiring and moving to Amesbury, Massachusetts. No longer does he design large and complex institutional buildings, but on occasion he may accept a domestic project. Here he is discussing design ideas with a client in Columbia County, New York.
Clemens Kalischer died in June of 2018. From 1939-1942, he was imprisoned in France and subjected to forced labor. He emigrated to the United States in 1942 and became an art photographer and photojournalist. He opened his gallery in Stockbridge, The Image Gallery, in 1965. This web site provides a good selection of his own work as a photographer.
I couldn’t resist this photograph of a Museum Guard ‘holding up the wall’ of the Patio from the Spanish Castle of Vélez Blanco.
How aware is he, I wonder, of the conflicting ‘dialogue’ between the two sculptures behind him: the statue of one of the four cardinal virtues, Temperance, looking on from the far distance towards the (attempted) rape sculpted by Battista di Domenico Lorenzi in 1570, Alpheus and Arethusa?
Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum, with its balcony terraces, outdoor stairwells and, as we see here, large-scaled east and west windows, frames and embraces the city beyond its footprint as few museums have ever done.
Samuel Gluck, of Global International Menswear, is among the last of the old Jewish merchants on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
I love olive oil, good olive oil, and–believe it or not–the best I have had comes from three blocks away from where I live in the South Bronx. Eight months ago, I read this article by Florence Fabricant in the New York Times about Steven Jenkins. After my wife contacted Steven, he invited us to his warehouse, and we have been hooked ever since then on the most delicious oils (and vinegars) we have ever tasted.
You needn’t come to Mott Haven to purchase your oil. Very few do this, in fact, as Olive Oil Jones ships anywhere in the contiguous United States. Go on line. Sign up. Read his blogs, and prepare for a real treat.
I can’t imagine the web sites for the New York Subway system will provide any insights for this photograph, but maybe I can. If you are still on the stairs leading down to the platform with a train about to leave, run to the forward half of the train. The conductor in the middle car–who operates the doors–always looks towards the rear first and closes those doors. Only then does he/she look to the front to close those doors. In these few extra seconds, you may have saved a wait for the next train.
Pete Miranda is the custodian for the Damien Family Care Center on our block. He is a kind soul and a good neighbor. Several times last winter, for example, I found that by the time I went out to clear the snow off our sidewalks, Pete had already done the job.
Kyle Davis is a military veteran who has taken it upon himself to stand witness in front of the doors of the 40th Precinct Police Station, as he is doing in this photograph. He sometimes verbally confronts the police officers, demanding their appropriate behavior. On the back of this jacket (and on whatever he is wearing on a different day) are the letters: R P M. They stand for “Restore the Integrity, Preserve the Dignity, Maintain the Respect.”
We might consider Kyle to be the Jiminy Cricket of the 40th Precinct–its unofficial conscience–albeit a lot more confrontational than the Walt Disney character.
On The Town
Miracle Edwards is a young Bronx girl who lost her mother and, on occasion several years ago, my wife or I would take her for an outing into Manhattan. I took her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she was fascinated by the Greek and Roman collections.
If I recollect correctly, Brian was doing some form of percussion performance on the High Line and he had come here from Sierra Leone.
Gene Reynolds was a middleweight boxer active between 1949-1950.
Rya Kihlstedt, whom I pictured earlier in this post, is sitting in the West Hollywood Library, completed in 2011 by the firm, Johnson Favaro. She looks across San Vicente Boulevard to the Pacific Design Center and its newest addition (also 2011), the Red Building, by Pelli Clarke Pelli architects. These two buildings set up an important architectural dialogue that should energize WeHo (West Hollywood).
Mark Oliver is another of the owners in our building. Every so often, he goes to the casino and sometimes hits it big. We are among the first to know.