Monday, August 25, 2014

On Board The Mitzvah Tank

When the Mitzvah Tank bus is parked at the corner of 57th street and Fifth avenue, one or two of the people from the Tank stand outside and query passerbys if they are Jewish. Used to be when I couldn't be bothered with them I'd say 'No', and continue on my way. Not so anymore. If anyone answers 'Yes', they're then asked if they had put on Tfilin yet, and invited into the bus to partake of the 'mitzvah' (blessing) of doing the ritual. When I saw the bus this past week I stayed and celebrated the daily afternoon prayer 'mincha' which takes about ten minutes to go through. There's a wonderful feeling of community afterwards. And a chance to get some interesting shots.

The light was not great, dark on the bus, and bright sunlight outside, and I was too lazy to change lenses to my fast 14mm f2.8 lens. This next Wednesday I'll plan better. It's the first day of the Jewish month of Elul, and in preparation for the coming of the new year Rosh Hashana, the shofar is sounded every day. More on that after Wednesday.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Just For A Change .......

I love animals. Lived with dogs my whole life, and currently am owned by two parrots (I've been their slave for about 20 years), but I have rarely photographed them, only when I'm testing a new piece of equipment. So for a change of pace I visited the Central Park Zoo today. It seemed so much more civilized than the streets of Manhattan.

I was especially drawn to the pair of yellow/gold macaws. One was behind glass, but the other was out in the tropical garden. Wisely, no one was brave (or stupid) enough to try to pet this guy. He would have loved the chance, every time a hand came close his beak opened invitingly. He did, however let me get in really close for some photos. This guy loves cameras.

And there was Mr Llama, who was nice enough not to spit at me:

And the sea lions. I think this guy was the bull, he was almost twice the size of the others, and loved to play to the crowd:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unblocked, Finally!

I spent some time at the Mitzvah Tank which was parked on 57th street and Fifth avenue on Wednesday afternoon. Just sitting and talking with the rabbi about my work and what I was trying to say with it seems to have loosened the cork a little. After I left him to walk back towards Penn Station, images just popped up in front of me. Just like my old self again. Feels good!

Three shots from around 59th street and Fifth avenue:

And more from the Diamond District, 47th street:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Still Blocked But Working On It

I'm trying everything. Going to neighborhoods that I'm familiar with, neighborhoods that I've never been to before, using different lenses, etc., etc. Ideas are tickling the back of my mind, but they're not quite breaking through. A friend of mine, whom I know for many years, always reminds me that when I'm faced with a problem or a difficult situation, 'Run towards the canons!' I could sit at home and read nice books, or look at photo books to try to get inspired, or a host of other things. But to be honest, the only thing that's worked in the past, and I'm sure will work now, is to do as my friend says. Get off my ass, pick up the camera, and shoot.

One of my favorite blocks to walk is 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It's the Diamond District of NYC. The retail jewelry stores that front the street are just the tip of the iceberg. The real business is in a few office buildings, behind closed doors. And probably 90% of the people in the business are Jewish, quite a few are Hasidic, most are at least very observant. There's an interesting flick on YouTube of a bunch of idiot Palestinian demonstrators who marched through the district to stage a mini-demonstration, but was met with everyone pouring out of the stores and office buildings to counter demonstrate and swarm the idiots. I felt like cheering after seeing the clip.

I've been on that block a few times in the past week to try to break the block, and plan to visit again tomorrow. Here's a few shots:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ten Day Rest

I needed a ten day hiatus from writing posts for two reasons. Firstly, writing anything has always proven to be the hardest creative thing I ever do. Books, magazine articles, this blog - words just don't come to me as easily as sounds or images. I've been preparing some text for a submission for which I still have a ways to go, but I've also been shooting so I have stuff to post. And secondly, as anyone who is friends with me on Facebook knows, I'v been kind of preoccupied with the problems Israel has been having with the scumbags that call themselves Hamas. I still am, but as I said, I have stuff to post. Getting out to shoot has been somewhat cathartic, but it's been a struggle too. I feel blocked up, as any artist does periodically in the course of his work. The only way to get unblocked is to get out and do that which is blocked. Hammer away at it until the clog unblocks. The effort hasn't been fruitless, just seems to me to be a bit unfocused (no pun intended). Some street stuff, some Jewish stuff. Here's the street, shot yesterday on a walk around Chinatown and Canal St.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

More of A Solemn Day

The streets of Williamsburg on Tisha B'Av were, as expected, quiet and for the most part empty. As the afternoon wore on people began to come out, some to do food shopping, others to take their children outside for some exercise. But Bedford and Lee Avenues, usually bustling with traffic and pedestrians were quite empty. Except for these folks:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Solemn Day

Today's date in the Jewish calendar is the 9th day of the month of Av. In Hebrew, Tisha b'Av. It's a special holiday in the calendar, the most solemn day of the year as it marks the date of the destruction of both the first and second temples built in Jerusalem. The first was destroyed by the Babylonians, the second by the Romans. Each destruction has its own special significance for Jews. Although carried out by armies, it is believed that the demolitions were the result of the will of G-d. In the case of the first temple because of the worship of idols by the ancient Hebrews, and in the second because of the internecine fighting and killing between the various sects of Jews.

Yom Kippur is also a solemn day in the calendar, but there is a sense of redemption and renewal - through repentance, acceptance of our less than perfect humanity, and promise to try harder in the coming year. For Tisha b'Av, at the end of the day there's no feeling of uplift. Just a relief that the day of mourning and fasting is over.

I went to Williamsburg in the afternoon to get a feel of what the neighborhood would be like on such a solemn day. I expected to see the streets empty and the stores all closed up. They all were for the most part. Some grocery stores and bakeries were open late in the afternoon so people could have fresh food for the breaking of the fast. As I walked along Bedford ave. the driver of a van parked by the curb rolled down his window and asked about why I was taking photos. I struck up a conversation with the three men. If I hadn't taken one good shot for the afternoon, that conversation would have made the whole day for me. Here's the three amigos: