Away from Home are some and I…

That looks nothing like my house.  I don’t think that looks anything like anyone’s house. It looks a little structurally unsound to me and there is an entire lack of curb appeal, probably due to the lack of curb.  You can’t blame the artists though, no one tells first graders to be more realistic during art class. Here is my actual house:

Thanks google maps!

That is the only picture I can find of my house.  I have never taken a picture of it, and until now I have never felt that I was lacking.  I see this picture and I know it is my house: It was my address in google maps, the house, the driveway, the detached garage, and the backyard patio are all mine, too.  I recognize these things as being parts of my house but I’ve never looked at them like this.  This way, this birds-eye, property view is not the place I recognize.  This picture looks like my house, but this picture does not look like my home.  My memory of home has nothing to do with the property lines or floor plans.  To me my home looks like this:

Come to think of it my home looks like this too:

What? You don’t think there’s a beach in central New Jersey?

You caught me.  There isn’t a beach in Morristown and that picture wasn’t taken there.  Actually, none of the places in the second crop of pictures are actually at the house depicted in the google map – but they are all still home to me, although they don’t take place at my actual home.

When others look at the pictures the only constants are the familiar faces that carry over from photograph to photograph.  While you can see these faces, and hairstyles and heights change over time, the pictures all have the same basic formula:  it’s me and some of the people who are important to me beaming (and sometimes blinking) at a camera.  They are obligatory pictures, but we are all happy to oblige.  The truth is I have been taking these same photographs for years and years.  Every part of the year has a specific place for me- and that is my home for that time and event.

Over the summer we take the picture of all my cousins on the beach.  Later, just my sister and I go back to the beach to take pictures for our holiday card.  Before the first day of school or before going to temple on the high holy days my sister and I take pictures by the bush in front of my garage.  On the first night of Hanukah we take a picture of my sister standing in front of me while lighting the menorah in the dining room.  At Christmas we take a group picture of everyone in our living room with my grandpa in the middle.  On St. Patrick’s day we are at my Aunt Patty’s house in Florida and take a picture by their pool of everyone wearing their resounding green.  At Easter we take a picture of the cousin on my Aunt Gina’s front steps right before the egg hunt. By spring the bush in front of my garage has leaves again and I can take more pictures in front of it – just in time for prom.  The cycle repeats itself over and over.

My life is a series of repeated photographs.  Most people’s are.  Who doesn’t have first day of school photos? Holiday photos? Vacation photos? Birthday photos?  This process repeats and all of the sudden you feel like that guy who took a picture of himself every day for 8 years (http://jk-keller.com/daily-photo/).  You may do this with more time in between your pictures but you do it for about 18 years.  I did, at least.

Then it was time for this picture:

And by August I was off to a new place that I only new as this:

or this:

I recognized Vanderbilt, like I recognized an aerial picture of my Morristown house – I knew it was where I would live, but it did not look like my home. I couldn’t even imagine being inside, the way I can imagine my own house.  I didn’t know what the inside of the building would look like and more importantly I didn’t know how I would look on the inside of the buildings.

The first thing that started to make me feel at home was actually a photograph.  Before I got to my future room, my future roommate put this picture on facebook:

She captioned it “our own little hall”

She tagged me in that picture and thus the picture of the door technically became the first picture of me at Vanderbilt.  One little picture kicked off four-years of living and taking pictures in my new home.  It clicked that here is where I’d be instead of in NJ.

Because I go to school so far away from New Jersey I cannot be in all of the pictures that I used to – there is no first day of school picture of me in my driveway, or pre-egg hunt in my pajamas, and a few others I am missing from as well – but that hasn’t stopped me from taking new pictures of my new experiences with new friends.  Every one of the iconic photographs that I perpetually take with my family started with a single picture.  Then we decided we liked it, all of it – the day, the moment, the people, and the picture – so we decided to do it again.  Over time, these moments and these people are no longer just a snapshot in time, but the repeated experience makes it our home.  Home is the place where the things happen that you want to repeat.

Some people get caught up thinking that home is simply where you start from, but home is really the places you establish as you go throughout your life.  There’s no limit on the places that you can make your home, it is only a matter of finding places and people that you keep wanting to come back to.

On the pin board in my kitchen there is a picture of my mother and her friends on their graduation day from nursing school, and here they are at Judy’s son’s wedding many years later.

They have a reunion every year, wedding or not, and have always found a way to come back to one another.  Now that I have embarked on my own college experience they are my inspiration for finding people who I want to surround myself with, who I want to see year after year.  I look forward to turning new places and people into my home away from home.  There is no limit on the place that you can call home, but it is not a matter of just finding them, it is a matter of keeping them and making them a part of your tradition.  Live. Smile. Photograph. And repeat.

a bit homier now

Favorite Place

Think of a place.  Your favorite place in the whole world.

What are you imagining?

You’re probably thinking of the good times you had there, the people you shared your time with, the time the weather was perfect, those funny jokes that were made amongst your friends or family or something equally enjoyable.

You’re probably not thinking about that turbulent plane ride or cramped car ride you took to get there.  I don’t think that time you got thirsty and cranky during a tour and fought with your family came to mind.  That terrible jellyfish sting wasn’t involved in your memory of your favorite place?

Our favorite places have a way of doing that to us.  The good memories drown out the bad ones.  Not so much that you forget that they happened but just enough that you don’t mind them when your making your decision to go back.

It is because of this that I connected most with Pamuk’s description of his visits to Bosphorus with his family during his childhood.  He explains traveling to Bosphorus on Sundays with his family and starting to growing weary of these trips especially the car rides and quarrels with his brother but it never actually taints the picture of Bosphorus in his mind’s eye.  He explains, “In later years, when I would see other noisy, unhappy, quarrelsome families in other cars on he Bosphorus road… what impressed me most was not the commonalities in our lives but the fact that, for many Istanbul families, the Bosphorus was their only solace” (61).  Although he realizes that there are unpleasant experiences associated with Bosphorus he still remembers it as the place he enjoyed.  It’s a place he can go when everything else is wrong, a place that is always good even though circumstances around getting there or sibling interactions are not.

Long Beach Island is my happy place.  It is where I want to be when I’m not there.  It is where all my favorite memories with my family have happened.  Experiences of being forced to frantically clean before the company arrives, fighting with cousins about what movie to watch, and a few debilitating sunburns fall by wayside when I call to mind images of my favorite place.  “Life can’t be all that bad, I’d think from time to time.  Whatever happens, I can always take a walk along” the beach (61).

Opposite of Boltanski?

This is a series I did in response to Christian Boltanski’s work.  The people are all in shadow and appear similar because they are all photographs taken in the same place and were subsequently displayed all together.  However, I did – my series to celebrate the individuality of each person by showing their personal signature and trying to reveal their personalities through a unique pose that also clearly shows their bodies.

Photo Keys

 

Image

I have no problem admitting that Sebald’s use of photography in “Max Ferber” completely confused me.

 That was until page 221. 

 On page 221 he offers up a picture of two keys that supposedly would open the gate to the cemetery.  However, “When [he] reached the gate it turned out that neither of the keys fitted the lock, so [he] climbed the wall” (222).  Reading this, I realized that the keys that can’t unlock anything are the perfect metaphor for the pictures in the story.  The keys look like they are the answer to unlocking secrets.  Just as you expect the keys to unlock the gates to the cemetery and help reveal information the narrator is looking for, we expect the pictures in the story to reveal things the text could not.  But it both cases, it is more likely that we have to rely on ourselves to find out the information we seek.  We have to jump over the real or metaphoric fence and look for the things we hoped we would have more clues to find.

Pictures are supposed to reveal the truth, and show us the things that happened and confirm things we’ve heard about.  But in this story, it seems like every picture only looks like it is going to reveal something when in reality it is just a skeleton key. 

Model Behavior

Once I was walking up the Spanish Steps in Rome, camera in hand, when a woman in a red dress caught my attention.  Not only did she capture my attention (as a women in an evening gown is apt to do in the early afternoon), but she caused much of a stir as the tourists bottlenecked around her and her circle that the photographer and the photographer’s assistant created.  Of course!  She was model (the only thing that could explain such inappropriate midday dress). But the attention she garnered from every passerby made it near impossible to notice anyone in street clothes, including her posse.  She had a glow about her, which was more than likely an effect of the assistant with a reflector, but a glow nonetheless that alerted everyone that she was the most beautiful person we would see that day.

And at this moment I must admit, I stopped foot traffic with the worst of them.  I couldn’t compel myself not to take pictures when such an opportunity presented itself but at the same time I also couldn’t bring myself to stop on the Spanish Steps and get the pictures I actually wanted.  Instead I slowed to that awful tourist pace, took four quick, unsatisfying, snapshots of the model and her crew staring unhappily at the gazing and picture-taking sightseers that ruined their photo shoot.

The photo above is the closest thing I could get to the picture I wanted of that model.  I wanted to have a photograph to remember her as I saw her – the tall, stunning, luminescent, statuette that she was – but instead I got an interrupted shot, including the people I did not mean to fit in the frame.  She would not pose or pout for me, but would rather wait, absent of expression, for me to pass.  Perhaps it was so that neither I nor the hundreds of tourists that passed could steal away her essence before her photographer could capture it.  Perhaps the model only had enough energy to satisfy the lens of one photographer.  Perhaps she was simply annoyed at the continuous stream of gawkers.  I will never fully know, I can only guess.  But regardless the picture I have is not the image I want to or do remember when I think of that day.

I have a picture of this model in a behind-the-scenes moment.  Her photographer instructs her and the assistant holds the reflectors away from her.  That is how the moment of the photograph actually happened, that is what I technically saw, and it is what my camera captured.  But in my memory I see a glamorous woman in a red gown on the Spanish steps striking a pose as a normal part of her glamorous day, as common and less glamorous people pass by.  I would bet that that was the picture that the photographer hoped to get and I’m sure she achieved that goal.  It was also the picture I wanted. It was the memory I wanted to have on paper.

I am glad that the photographer has this photograph whether it is in a magazine or a portfolio or somewhere else.  I am glad that on paper she may have the photography I never took, but the memory I have anyway.  My memory may not be realistic (as my photograph proves) but for that photographer its possible she got to see that through her very lens.  I am only unhappy that it could not be me that could make the vision and the reality coincide.

Athleticism

Above is a picture of my sister playing field hockey at her club team tournament that took place in Arizona over Thanksgiving break this year.  She wears her captain band around her shin guard and is looking to do a pull move to thwart the defender who tries to steal the ball from her.

What strikes me the most is how confident she looks.  Her muscles look strong and lean, she has composure with her dribble, and her hair is so tightly pulled off from her face with a headband and a braid.  She looks serious.  And it is not just that she looks serious in this moment, but you can tell that she has treated camps, preseason, school field hockey, and club practice all with the same amount of importance in order to get to this tournament.

I never looked this way when I played field hockey during high school. I figured out that my talents lie elsewhere and so I take pictures from the sidelines.

In Georges Perec’s book he includes a novel about the island, W where, “The survival of the fittest is the law of this land; yet the struggle itself is nothing, for it is not Sport for Sport’s sake, achievement for the sake of achievement, which motivates the men of W, but thirst for victory, victory at any price” (Perec 89).  And it made me think back to the nature of sports themselves.  I’m not sure that Sport can really exist for Sport’s sake or that achievement can exist for achievement’s sake.  The only thing you can ultimately achieve in sports is the victory, and any other minor achievement is minor on the way to a win (improvements to become a better player hopefully lead to victory).

The people who play sports, ultimately become a self-selecting group because people don’t just participate in sports for the participation, they participate to win.  It happened with my sister and me.  I never played on as many teams as she did and I quit as soon as my senior season is over.  She however plays on three teams a year and hopes to play in college someday.  Athletes continue with their efforts, only because they still have a chance to achieve victory.  Victory is the only and ultimate goal.

 These two pictures are both of the same place, they were taken moments apart, and yet they look entirely different.  The only difference is the change that a camera can make.

I went outside at about midnight hoping to take pictures with my camera flash that would reveal what I could not see in the darkness.  But I have to admit, I did not stray too far from my dorm realizing I become scared of the dark after 12 am.  The thing is, all the buildings are illuminated during all hours of the day and night and there are light posts everywhere.  While you cannot see as well as during the day, there is decent visibility in the Commons area.  However all those lights cat shadows all over the freshman campus.

I stopped by some stone stairs and the shadow of a handrail on the wall because It struck me how all of the straight lines intersected each other.  But I forgot to turn off the flash on my camera before the first shot, and so the image was returned to me without the shadows that I wanted to capture.  I turned off the flash in order to get the picture I actually intended to capture and saw that the images were even more different than I thought they would be.  It wasn’t just the shadows that were changed by the flash, every color was altered by the artificial light brightening the picture.

In part XVI of The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, Walter Benjamin states, “In most cases the diverse aspects of reality captured by the film camera lie outside the normal spectrum of sense impressions” (Benjamin 118), but after I took these two photos, I cannot be sure that that is true.  What is the normal impression I get of these stairs that I see every day?  I cannot tell if it is more true to my senses to see the shadows cast by artificial lights in the middle of the night or if the flash of my camera can imitate the brightness of a normal day.  Are the bricks more reddish or washed out; are the stairs lighter gray with multicolored stone or darker with lighter colored stones.  Before I never cared enough to take notice.  The pictures even with different amounts of technology employed (flash versus no flash) revealed to me details beyond my normal perceptions.