When I started this blog, I had the intention of posting photos of hearts I discovered in my path and creating a forum for strangers around the world to share their heart discoveries with me. However, the blog has long ago become a words-dominated forum. I, on the other hand, continue to find hearts – and they find me. Last year, even in the midst of an intense 365-day writing project, a random February walk through Times Square led me to this! Also, I doodle hearts compulsively, in every medium – but I especially enjoy watercolors. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, here are some heart doodles … because as long as I create them, I’m guaranteed to find them everywhere!
I was born in the Soviet Union in the mid-70s, which in photography standards was equal to 1950s America. My father, my first photography inspiration, snapped all of my childhood photos on black and white film and developed them in the tiny bathroom of our one-bedroom apartment in Kiev. I was the muse and subject of his never pursued, dormant love of photography. In those preschool Soviet years, the camera lens had yet to have a piercing effect on me. I appear naturally happy, almost go-lucky in those images of me blowing a daffodil or flying high on a swing.
My earliest cognizant memory of being in front of the camera is a male family friend taking my photo. I was about five years old and new to America soil and my mother had cut my hair into an ugly short hairdo. I wore an itchy, polyester red dress whose neckline choked me. The man, who professed himself an amateur photographer, positioned me against a stark green lawn and I stood there, a Russian Jewish immigrant, looking like a Dorothy Hamill Christmas card. I didn’t know how to pose for the camera; this was three decades pre-selfie when cameras came out for special occasions. The man made me stand, lean, and finally sit on the sidewalk, which was uncomfortable because I had to focus on keeping my legs closed. The worst part, though, was his constant reminder to “lick your lips” because apparently a five-year-old’s shiny lips are imperative to the success of a photo. In retrospect, this seems perverted and I wonder if this contributed to my lifelong preferred position: behind (the lens).
The camera lens feels like a microscope of my imperfections. I do not come alive; instead, I retreat into my invisible shell. I am better behind a keyboard or a lens than in front of one. I can’t comprehend the “make love to the camera” thing, duck lips, and when my husband says, “chin down, head out,” I resemble a bobble head rather than a supermodel. The flicker in my eye which ignites when I’m passionate about something is instantly extinguished with a camera. I hold still long enough to say, “are you taking it already?” and consequently my mouth will be open in the photo. I will tell my husband he doesn’t know how to take a good photo of me (he’s a professional photographer) and he attempts another time, but I act more paranoid this time, stiffer, with an unapproachable aura. I stand there wide-eyed, thinking, “how long do I have to stand in this pose before he clicks?”
My photo avoidance created a complication in the first five years of my relationship with my husband, who is not only a professional photographer but also a professionally-trained actor. Before me, he had photographed plenty of naked models and for years, when the camera went up, I froze, thinking I’m not possibly as beautiful as all those naked models. Why would he want to photograph me? (I’ve gotten over it.) He, on the other hand, thrived in front of a camera as much he did being the photographer. He knows exactly how to stand, how to hold his head, which direction to point his chin, where to focus his eyes, what to think about when staring back at the lens, and his Blue Steel is dead on EVERY TIME.
Yesterday on a walk through Times’ Square, we ran into a Zoolander 2 promotion. They took a photo and printed it on the white foam of a cappuccino. My husband wasted no time getting in front of the camera. Within two minutes, the coffee emerged and his photo was headshot-worthy! Excited to try, I followed suit. Only my image came out faded like it was hesitant of the image it wanted to project. My insecurity permeated to a frothy free coffee topper. (Too much real life imitating art irony here.)
I’ve gotten much better at being the subject in the last five years. I review old photo albums and realize how young my eyes look without the crow’s feet framing them. I’m the youngest I’ll ever be right now, the most alive I’ll ever feel. As I’ve realized, my good ole days are now so I better smile and immortalize.
I was drowning in digital photographs long BEFORE I got an iPhone, but now I’m buried in them. They exist on my computer, on my phone, on portable hard drives (yes plural), on the Time Capsule, and now, of course, ON THE CLOUD (wherever the fuck that is). Now when I stare at clouds, waiting for them to morph into unicorns and amorphous hearts, I half expect to see my pictures from our family vacation to Mexico.
I’m making myself sound older than I am. I am completely computer proficient; I just exist in a perfection-driven paralysis which prevents me from efficiently organizing – or doing anything – with these photos. Perusing through these digital memories is spectacular: the road trip to Seattle and Portland, my daughter’s first recital, my son’s graduation from elementary school, our wedding! Only I don’t get to flip through the pictures, spread out through my catalog of devices; I just imagine I could. Truthfully, I would prefer to flip through a good ole fashioned photo album, crinkled plastic sheets and all.
A few weeks ago my cousin came over for breakfast and confessed to not having completed her yearly chronologically separated and meticulously curated family photo album. It had been haunting her every night since the turn of the year and finally a 60% off coupon from Snapfish motivated her to spend the week finishing the painstaking design of the book in time for Mother’s Day. I laughed. The last album I made was when my almost 6-year-old was 1. I’M HALF A DECADE BEHIND IN DIGITAL PHOTO ALBUM ORGANIZATION. The task seems too hefty to tackle. I’ve stepped into the mind of a hoarder for a brief second – there are just too many. I can’t delete them, but can’t deal with them either. I just can’t. I step away.
I think to the future – the day I may need to do a slideshow. I have slideshow PTSD nightmares. For my grandparent’s 60th anniversary, the daunting slideshow task fell on me. I was damn good at it – but what a behemoth of a project. I collected images from relatives and photo albums and in the end scanned in over 800 and somehow miraculously compiled them into a 17-minute historical parade of family portraiture set to tunes of “Yiddish Mama” and “Sunrise Sunset.”
I didn’t think anyone would watch 17 minutes of an ordinary family’s life, but somehow it played out extraordinarily well. Pictures and music do that for humans, they send us on memory head trips and forgotten emotions flood right along with them. We witnessed my grandparents first days as husband and wife in Kiev and later, as a new family with my mom and uncle as children. Life moved as the pictures faded from one into the other revealing family vacations, then coming to America. How one life evolved into a second life with a new language, a new flag, new freedoms.
I’ve always believed in the power of images. I’ve taken photographs most of my life as a passionate hobby. It’s quite common for a writer to also be a photographer because we scrutinize life; the way we tell our story is the way we frame our shots. We choose where to put the square around a moment in the same way we choose the words we select to tell our tales.
So I continue to take pictures, just like everyone else, to over-document my life – special moments equal to ordinary ones. Deleting will have to wait – as will the photo albums. For now, I’ll count on the cloud to suspend my memories in a dream-like vault until they need remembering or reviving.
While the rest of the country was shoveling or digging, we were quite warm on our cozy rug. We did an impromptu mini photo shoot to commemorate the happy moment.
Then we made a photobook on Shutterfly. Voila. (You don’t need to be a member of Shutterfly to view this; you can just click View photo book on the bottom left.)
The last blizzard of 2010. New York Stock Exchange on Broad Street. NYC.
Jake in the snow in front of our building.
Stomping through the evenly plowed masses of snow near the stock exchange; Wall Street kept the streets clear for business.
In front of the New York Stock Exchange with the Christmas Tree. Pretty crazy that this is our neighborhood.
Jake is playing dead after a snowball / icicle adventure. In front of Hanover Park a block from our apt in downtown NYC. This was the same park the Queen of England visited this summer.
I’ve always loved capturing images in sepia. It’s nostalgic, classic – almost like a little black dress. Whenever my pictures don’t seem to convey what I’m truly seeing with my eye, I switch to sepia and it transports it to a peaceful interpretation.
Central Park, NYC
Same Bench – Central Park, NYC
Flower in Central Park, NYC
Belvedere Castle, Central Park, NYC
Central Park, NYC
Flower with Sunlight, Central Park, NYC
Central Park, NYC
Fountain outside Tarrytown Castle, Tarrytown, NY
I haven’t posted anything in over 5 months. I’ve even written posts about not posting and haven’t posted them. I have plenty written – all in back posts but never posted.
All photos by his awesomeness hammermania.com
This summer I went on a 10-day road trip through 9 states in the North / Midwest. All new to me — this piece of the country was laden with gorgeous serene landscapes that left this city girl hungry for more air. I sat in the car staring out the window for hours; never tiring of the passing grass, hay, barns, life outside my window.
The air in Montana and Wyoming was the among the sweetest I had ever tasted; I’m convinced the oxygen factor is way higher there. (Then again, maybe it’s just substantially lower in New York; I do live above a taxi idling block…)
I’ve been meaning to blog about this life-altering, memorable trip where we spent upwards of 8 hours in a car each day. It wasn’t anything like we did growing up in this neck of the woods. (I was a New York City borough girl; road trip was to New Jersey.)
I chronicled the journey in over 4,000 snapshots and countless words that are typed on pages in my mind and scribbled in fragments in a tiny notebook buried in a stored-away luggage. But the task of going through the photos, editing them down and organizing them into a publishable format was so collosal in my mind, I put it off or almost two months.
My sister, on the contrary, went on a 6 week trip to Europe and has all thousands of her photos up on facebook flickr blog. I hung my head in shame.
Luckily a few hours to myself and the laptop this morning allowed me to do some editing. I don’t think I’ll post the hundreds of pictures to the blog, but slowly I’ll populate the blog with images of the northwest. .
In the meantime, these random group of photos were taken in a Fireworks Warehouse store in Cody, Wyoming. While I love watching fireworks, I just learned not to be scared of lighting a match a few years back. I’m just not cut out for lighting things that explode.
When I walked into this explosion haven, my head didn’t know where to turn. This was, as my 7-year-old now says, “off the hook!”
There was a blow up-able for any taste. Lady bugs, cobras, even Osama bin Laden exploding heads. The best part was that we ended up flying home and had to somehow send these under in our luggage. So we checked our luggage thinking if they find the explosive devices, they would just remove them. Well, luckily security let the fireworks right through and they didn’t accidentally blow up in our luggage causing our entire plane to crash.
Moral of the story is that you can probably smuggle fireworks in your luggage but don’t tell them I said to do so.