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Life and Death in the Cemetery

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Only when you accept that one day you’ll die can you let go, and make the best out of life. And that’s the big secret. That’s the miracle.”― Gabriel Bá

So first a couple things to preface this post. One is that I really like cemeteries. Okay, “like” may not be the correct word, but I do enjoy them. I find them peaceful and soothing. This said, Buffalo has an incredibly great cemetery, Forest Lawn. It was founded in 1849 and covers a vast 269 acres. It is smack in the middle of the city but because of its vastness it is an unintentional wildlife refuge of sorts (hence the title of this post). I stop here at least a couple times of year to pedal and coast silently through, to stop and contemplate, and to take photos of monuments, gravestones and wildlife. 


Anyhow, I hadn’t been there in a while and thought I’d stop by and take photos. I always love when I see deer there. They are so graceful and there is something about seeing them walking among the gravestones that makes them seem even more graceful, it really is a surreal sight. 

Last year I had heard about an albino fawn that was seen in the cemetery, and on two occasions had gone there specifically to see it, but to no avail. To be honest I thought it may have been an urban legend of sorts. Today I didn’t go there looking for deer, I simply wanted a slow cruise through this shady sanctuary on this incredibly hot summer day (90f/32c). 

As I was coasting down one of the rolling curvy roads I caught a glimpse of a deer off in the distance between some of the stones (the photos above and below are chronological). So I parked the bike and grabbed my camera and began to sort of tiptoe up to it. As I got closer I could see there were a few deer, maybe four (turns out there were a total of six). They saw me but didn’t move. I walked very slowly and snapped a few photos. Then, wandering out from behind a stone comes the albino fawn. I’m pretty sure I gasped.

After snapping a couple photos and walking closer two buck came trotting in. The one was so large I actually heard him before I saw him (see the third photo below). He was definitely the alpha of the herd. It really startled me because I was pretty close, there was no one else around, and the animal was large. He saw me immediately and began to walk towards me then stopped, putting himself between me and his family. I did not want to even raise the camera because I didn’t know what Papa Buck was thinking. As graceful as they are they are prone to charge, especially if they feel their young are threatened. Anyhow, to make a long story short, I sort of backed away and Papa Buck led his family in another direction.

To see some previous postings of Forest Lawn Cemetery, with photos, click here.

 

The Second March Moon…what’s in a name?

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Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.
~ Mark Twain

The above photo is one I shot last night from the sidewalk in front of my small and disheveled Allentown (Buffalo, NY) home. The moon was 99.7% full last night and tonight it will be 100%. I took the photo last night while I had the chance as it is supposed to be overcast this evening. 

Anyhow, this is the second full moon this month, which makes it a blue moon. Some Native American tribes refer to this as the worm moon because it is the time of year that the ground softens enough for earth worms reappear, which then brings birds. The early American Colonists referred to this moon as the sap moon because it was at this time of the year that maple sap really began to run. It is also sometimes called the Lenten moon, because it signifies the end of the Christian period of Lent.

This brings me to the next brief topic, and some of you may already know this, but this moon is also the reason that the date of Easter changes each year. Easter is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, which of course shows the early Pagan roots of Easter and Christianity (please don’t send me hate mail or try to “save me,” this is fact-based information).  Anyhow, this is pretty interesting stuff, I think. But I’ll get off my little soap box now.

Urban Simplicity.

The Element of Texture…

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“The photographer has almost as much control over his subject matter as a painter. He can control light and shade, form and space, pattern and texture, motion and mood, everything except composition.” ~Andreas Feininger

Due to foul weather (yep it snows every once in a while in Buffalo) the opening has been changed to Friday March 23.

Here’s a last minute plug for a group show I’m part of, which opens this evening. I’m one of, I believe, eight artists. I’ve seen some of the work of the other artists and it is going to be a really interesting group of art. The show, which is part of the First Friday Gallery Walk, is at Parables Gallery on Elmwood Avenue (click here for a map to the location). The show focuses on the elements of texture; the two photos pictured are two of seven or eight of mine that will be hanging in the gallery. The above photo is of Little Italy, NYC, and the below photo is of my neighborhood just after a heavy snow a couple weeks ago (click either photo for a slightly larger view). The show is up for the entire month of March, but the opening is tonight from 7pm-9pm. Here’s a link with additional info provided by the gallery owner. I hope to see you there.

 

Urban Simplicity.

Lake Effect!

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Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.”
― Vesta M. Kelly

 So the other day it snowed. Hard. Lake effect snow. I had the day off so I went for a walk and took a few pictures. If you have never been to the east of any of the Great Lakes during the winter, or you are not familiar with the term “lake effect,” this page can explain it. Anyhow, click any picture for a slightly larger image.

Urban Simplicity.

New Orleans in the Summertime (notes on a show)

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Red, White, Blue, and Pink

 

She had understood before she had ever dreamed of a city such as this, where every texture, every color, leapt out at you, where every fragrance was a drug, and the air itself was something alive and breathing.

~Anne Rice, The Witching Hour

So here’s some info, and a last plug, regarding a photo showing of my New Orleans portfolio. The show is at a small gallery at 1027 Elmwood Avenue called Parables Gallery and Gifts. It’s a cozy little gallery with a gift shop in front and small gallery space in the back. It’s between Potomac and Bird on the east side of the street, here’s a map.

 

The photos will be up and for sale the entire month of November, but the opening is Friday, November 2nd and is part of the First Friday Gallery Walk from 7-9pm.

All of the photos that are hung are brand new and have never been on display or for sale before (albeit, a bit of shameless self-promotion on social media). What’s different this time, and this really makes sense to me, is that the photos are matted but not framed. By doing this I am able to cut the cost of the selling prices by two-thirds. The photos are 11 x 14 and matted to 16 x 20. They are all selling for $50 each, if framed they sell for three times this. (You are not obligated to purchase anything as I would simply love to see you and for you to see me and view my photos, but of course sales are nice). This way, if you were to purchase photos, you simply purchase a frame that speaks to you and slip it in. The gallery owner will have a limited supply of very simple frames available.

There will be wine and non-alcoholic beverages available as well as Gumbo Z’Herbes (super-delicious vegetarian gumbo), and a few other things to snack on.

Anyhow, I hope to see you there.

Peace,

Joe

A few things I saw while riding my bike this past week…

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“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” — Arthur Conan Doyle

I shot all of these photos over the pasts week. Some in the early morning on my way to work, while others were in the evening. Some are from when I was running errands or getting from point A to point B. Still others are from a quick jaunt to the waterfront. They are not in chronological or any other order. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity

A Week Without Color…

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I think it’s because it was an emotional story, and emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Color is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn’t necessarily reach the heart.”

~Kim Hunter


Last week I was invited to take part in black-and-white photo “challenge” on Facebook. The rules were simple…a black-and-white photo every day with no people in them. I usually carry a camera with me so this was not much of a challenge for me. Some of these photos were shot either to or from my way to work, others while I was on my bike on a day off. It’s interesting, I think, in that last week was not a great week for me. Nothing major, just one of those weeks where I was feeling down. In a sense I was seeing life through a colorless lens, so I really think it came through in these photos. In some ways, I believe, photography–like any art form–can me a type of therapy, I know it is for me. Anyhow, the photos are not in a chronological order, they are arranged simply the way the computer uploaded them. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Patience in Black and White.

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The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”

~  Paulo Coelho

This photo is an example of patience, or more specifically one that showed me patience…which is something I am often sort of supply. But I’m jumping ahead.

Yesterday someone invited me to take part in the week-long black-and-white photo challenge on Facebook, meaning you post a photo a day in b&w. I gladly accepted. Today was day two and I thought I’d stop by Kleinhans Music Hall (pictured) on my way to church this morning and snap a photo. When I arrived at the said location it was somewhat breezy which caused ripples in the reflecting pool and not offering the reflection I had hoped for. I was running late for worship and feeling impatient so I left without taking a photo. To make a long story short, when I left church feeling rejuvenated I thought I’d stop by the music hall again. When I did the wind had subsided enough to snap the above photo. The thing that was missing when I was there the first time was a bit of patience to see what was right in front of me. Click the photo for a larger view.

A walk in my neighborhood…

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All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Yesterday evening was so nice, and I was feeling somewhat stunned from some meds I was on but still needed to get out of the house, so I went for a walk. I have always loved to walk in cities. I may walk a bit slower than I once did, and it may take me longer to get to a destination, but still I love to walk. Walking in cities is always inspiring to me, and I am lucky enough to live in a historic neighborhood where the architecture itself is inspiring. Anyhow, I simply meandered the streets like a tourist in my own town and snapped a few photos. Here’s a few of the things I saw. Click any for a slightly larger image.

Stalking Bellocq.

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 “We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”

— Ralph Hattersley

So I just returned from New Orleans. Well, two days ago. But in many ways the city is still with me. The uniqueness of the place has not fully sweat from my pores. This was my fourth or fifth time to New Orleans. The first time I was there was the late 80’s when I lived and worked there for a very brief time. But I haven’t been back in almost twenty years. I’ve also never been there during August. I was expecting the heat and humidity but nothing could have prepared me for it. As one local commented on the heat, “Yes, it pretty much sucks the oxygen out of the air.” I had gone there for a bit of relaxation, and to take photos and drink beer. I accomplished all three.

Whenever  I find myself in an old historic city I can feel the ghosts of those before me (metaphorically, not literally). And  sometimes I’ll create my own sort of walking tours. In Greenwich Village, for example, I did a bit of research and walked around to places where Khalil Gibran lived, worked, and drank. In San Fransisco I hunted the old beat hangouts of Kerouac. And thus on this trip I stalked E.J. Bellocq.

Bellocq worked as a commercial photographer in New Orleans about 90 years ago, mostly in the French quarter where he spent his entire life. But he also had a secret side to his life in photography. He kept secret that besides his day job as commercial photographer he also photographed the prostitutes of Storyville, which at the time was a legalized red light district.

This at first may seem a bit pervy…a guy photographing prostitutes and not telling anyone about it. But it is the contrary. Yes of course some of the models are shown unclothed, but many were partially or fully clothed. He showed them in the places the lived and worked. In short, he showed their humanity. And it is beautiful. Keep in mind that while prostitution was legal having these photos at the time was not, they would have been considered pornographic and could have resulted in jail time at the very least, and even worse in many ways, personal and public disgrace. Click here to see a good representation of his work.

It’s interesting to note that his photos were never developed in his lifetime. Plates of his photos were discovered in an old slave’s quarters on St. Peter Street behind the Preservation of Jazz. Many of the plates were water damaged and some even had the faces of some of the models intentionally scratched away. There is a great article written at Exquisite Corpse that goes into this in more depth, to read that story, click here.

The morning after my arrival to New Orleans I headed out to St. Louis Cemetery #3 as this is where I had read that is remains were buried. I thought I’d pay him homage, but to no avail. On this day the temperature peaked in the mid 90’s and at the cemetery there was no shade. It hurt to walk around. I often visit famed cemeteries in historic places and was surprised to find that not only was there no office to offer information there was no information to be had anywhere. There were a few tours going on and I interrupted them to ask information but no one could offer any. Seeing a worker’s van down one of the long rows I approached it to find a man sleeping in the air conditioning. After startling him awake he did offer me general advice but nothing concrete. I approached another worker, this one spoke broken or at least heavy accented English. I am usually pretty good at picking up an accent upon hearing it but could not place this sweating and jovial man’s language. It wasn’t until he spoke into his walkie talkie that I realized he was speaking a form of French…Cajun French. But alas, still no info.

The cemetery is vast and as aforementioned has no shade so I began walking back towards the road to seek the shade of a tree. But not wanting to give up I googled additional info as I walked. Sweat was literally dripping from me and onto the screen of my iPhone. I emailed a person who had posted a picture of Bellocq’s grave and surprisingly she emailed me back right away. Unfortunately she could not remember the exact location but only general area. I did go back and look again but to no avail (though I did find the family tomb of Chef Paul Prudomme). At any rate, with the risk of severe sunburn or heat collapse I left the cemetery but  know that I had likely walked right past his grave as they all look so similar.

Over the course of the next few evenings I did what I came here to do…walk around and take photos. The temperature would dip to about 80F in the evening so it was still rather stifling. As I  walked I’d make a point of stopping at addresses that were once home to Bellocq’s studios…Rue Conti, Ursulines, Burgundy. And I’d try to  imaging what it must have been like to haul that heavy photography equipment of his day through this heavy heat.

As I walked I also thought about all the places I have been where I myself have walked at night with my camera on one shoulder, tripod on another, and a belly full of beer. In many this was a sort of deja vue as I had walked these same streets thirty years prior with a camera and tripod. In those days it was with my old 35mm camera, whose prints of that time are mostly lost or packed away in some box in an attic or closet in which I cannot find. When I was here during that time I was so young and had no idea of all that lay before me. I have done so much since then…have changed so much but at the same time am still very much the same. And it occurred to me as I walked that I was not only stalking the ghost of Bellocq but also that of my younger self.

To read a very nice article written about Bellocq for the Smithsonian, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

The Angels Were Bowling.

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I woke with a start.
Early morning thunder.
I didn’t get out of bed.
I lay there and listened.
The angels are bowling, I thought.
That’s what my mom would tell me.
A few more crashes.
And then the rain came.
In buckets.
I lay there listening to this, too.
After breakfast and coffee I went out.
For more coffee.
It had stopped raining.
For now.
And the air hung heavy.
So did the clouds.
Off and on, it rained.
For most of the day.
Droplets cover everything.
Drawn up to the clouds.
As a mist.
From far away.
Then released.
And here they are.
Droplets everywhere.
Nourishing, rejuvenating.
Beautiful
.

Flesh on Flesh, the Yam Cutter, and other Photos…

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The above photo is one of mine which will be on view and for sale at this weekend’s one-night-only photography popup. The photo is titled, “Makin’ Bacon,” or alternatively, “flesh on Flesh.” I’m one of 10 or 11 photographers displaying their work. All photos are unframed and for sale at a mere $25.

Here’s a brief description from one of the co-organizers…

“The photography pop-up series is intended to exist outside of Buffalo’s mainstream art scene,” says Molly Jarboe, co-organizer. “The pop ups are never at a gallery, sponsorships will never be accepted, and work will always be sold at or below cost. This is a people’s art event.Here’s a brief description of the show from one of the shows co-organizers,  “The photography pop-up series is intended to exist outside of Buffalo’s mainstream art scene,” says Molly Jarboe, co-organizer. “The pop ups are never at a gallery, sponsorships will never be accepted, and work will always be sold at or below cost. This is a people’s art event.”

All the photographers are showing people at work in Buffalo, I chose to do mostly closeups. Here’s a bit of a description describing my series…

“This series is a departure from his usual work in that he shows close up views of kitchen life and the juxtaposition of beauty and grotesque, both of which are present in the image of the butcher preparing a pork belly for bacon. The flesh of his hand is pressing down into the flesh of the pig, restraining it but in a way communing with it. Though you’d likely recognize some of the names of the hands in these photos, Joe has chosen to keep them nameless in honor of all the line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers who often toil unnoticed behind the kitchen doors. For some, who have never worked in a kitchen, they may have the misconception that it’s like a television show and all glamour. In snippets it can be, but mostly it is the day in and day out routine of the job. Some days you’re cutting meat, some days vegetables. It’s always hot. And then some days you’re simply buttering toast, lots and lots of toast, for a Sunday brunch.”

To see the official Facebook page, which describes the popup more fully, click here. To see the show profiled at Buffalo Rising click here. To see the show profiled, along with sample photos, at the Buffalo News, click here.

This should be a fun show, I’m really looking forward to it, and I hope to see you here. Oh, and one more thing, I’ve been told there will be free beer courtesy Community Beer Works.

Urban Simplicity.

After the Parade, and a Few Other Things I’ve Seen Recently While Walking or Riding a Bike…

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So a couple things. One is that I’ve begun carrying my camera with me again on a regular basis, hence the photos. It’s therapy for me (seriously). The first three photos (the one above and two below) were shot today just after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (Buffalo recently ranked the #1 city for this event). I didn’t see the parade but as I live very close to where it happens I snapped a few photos afterwards. While the above shot–which is one of my favorites–may seem a bit snarky I don’t mean it to be. It’s three drunk people stumbling along and holding one another up (if you saw them in person they sort of swayed in a synchronized motion as they walked). Anyhow, I thought it was nice how they all held one another up. Years ago (many years ago) that may have been me. This rest of the photos are in no particular order. They were shot over the past week or so, where we basically experienced every season (except truly hot summer) within the course of the week. Click any photo for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

N.F., ON, CA.

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So I’ve had the past few days off of work, on a sort of staycation to save money. But I wanted to do something out of the norm and took the #40 bus to the Falls. It picks you up in downtown Buffalo and drops you off in downtown Niagara Falls, one city block from the Rainbow Bridge. And all for the whopping price of $2 (here’s the schedule if you are interested). Anyhow, I wanted to be at the Falls as the light changed but when I arrived I was a bit too early. So I walked up the very touristy Clifton Hill and had some pizza and a truly over-priced beer. Thus satiated, and it approaching dusk, I walked the mile or so down to the overlook on the brink of the Horseshoe Falls at Table Rock Center. After negotiating my way to the perfect spot, I set up my tripod, put the camera on it, and snapped a shot. I then took the same shot every 15 or 20 minutes. These photos are the result. After the first shot, because of the light change, I had to use a slower shutter speed (which I love), and that results in the sort of smooth look the falls take on in the remaining photos.  Click any photo for a larger view. To see a series of photos from this same spot from about 2 years ago, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Three Photos of Three Buildings…a few things I saw while walking today.

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Firstly, I would like to say that these are all iPhone shots, with of course some post upload editing. Anyhow, that out of the way, I was downtown this morning and am still so much in awe by the architecture of Buffalo. I never tire of it. These are just three examples as they were buildings I happened to be in this morning. The first (above) is the current home of Erie Community College City Campus. This incredibly beautiful building was originally the Buffalo Post Office. I had a meeting there and when it was done it was lunchtime, so I thought I’d head to my favorite downtown Greek diner, and on the way I took a shortcut through the Ellicott Square Building (first photo below). I climbed one of the staircases to snap the photo and just stood and admired the building for a moment. And lastly, as I headed to the diner I also passed one of my favorite downtown churches, St. Paul’s Cathedral (bottom photo). Knowing that the doors are always open during business hours (which is sadly a rarity for a church these days), I stopped in for a brief 10-minute respite. I was the only one in the grand sanctuary and I just sat and listened to the old building creek and groan in the wind. It was beautiful. Then, after having my spirit filled with all this beautiful and inspiring architecture (and all within a 5-minute walk from one another), I carried on and went and had my stomach filled. And these are just a few of the things I saw this morning as I walked home through the City by the Lake.

Urban Simplicity

I went for a bike ride on New Years Day and here are a few things I saw…

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Yesterday morning, being New Years Day, I woke feeling somewhat introspective as I’m apt to do. So I went for a bike ride and brought my camera. The streets were dead quiet. I rode to Buffalo’s East Side which is an area of the city that has not seen any of our area’s resurgence. If you have any ancestral lineage in Buffalo, chances are you have ties to the East Side. Both sides of my family, in years gone by, have lived on the East Side. Pedaling and coasting through these deserted streets on New Years day was really meditative in a way; I felt as if I were in some sort of post apocalyptic movie scene, but I wasn’t. Many people still live here. The images of the bombed out looking building below are of the old Buffalo Central Terminal train station. My dad, along with countless other young men, departed from this station on their way to WWII. It’s said that the train station is haunted, and on this day I could feel their presence. The photos are in no particular order. Click any for a slightly larger view. To see photos from previous bike rides through these neighborhoods, click here, here, here, or here.

Urban Simplicity

Manipulating Light…9 Photos of Fireworks

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So last night at about 20 minutes to midnight, after a couple glasses of red wine, I rode my bike downtown. Then I set my camera on a tripod in the midst of thousands of New Years Eve revelers and focused my camera. I had to grip the camera and tripod pretty tightly as it kept getting smashed into and tripped over. When the fireworks went off I snapped a bunch of photos and hoped for the best. These are a few of them.

Urban Simplicity.

The view from my handlebars…

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Okay. So these were not taken while I was actually on my bike, I had to get off the bike to kneel beside them for the shot. 


Anyhow, I haven’t taken that many photos this past month because I’ve been incredibly busy, so I made a point to carry my camera with me this morning. On my way home from church I had stopped at a stop sign and looked down and these were right beside me. As I knelt down to take these photos it reminded me of two things. One is that beauty is all around us and right next to us, always. And it also reminded me how therapeutic it is for me to take photos. With that said, I thought I’d share them. Click either for slightly larger views.

Urban Simplicity.

Thoughts on gratitude…

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Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

~Psalm 139:7-8

In Your Midst

There is so much,

just so much to be grateful for.

But some days I don’t see it.

Mind-made problems cover me in fog.

Asleep.

Mind narrows.

Heart hardens.

My world becomes small.

Some days,

even in your midst,

I don’t see you.

But I catch glimpses.

The veil is lifted.

However slightly,

and briefly.

And then I remember.

I am humbled,

and tears well.

In gratitude.

Beauty overwhelms.

I have everything.

You are closer to me than I can imagine,

closer than my very breath.

There is so much to be grateful for.

In the midst of everything.

In the midst of you.

Every day; every hour.

Each second.

Right now, in fact.

All I have to do is look.

Urban Simplicity

Aren’t you embarrassed by that little thing? A few words and a few photos.

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So a couple things. Firstly, I likely got your attention enough to click this link by the silly heading. But more on that in a minute.

I was in NYC the last few days. Just a short get away. I always love the energy of that beautiful city. I shot nearly 200 photos in three days, and it could have been many more if I didn’t refrain myself.

Anyhow, in an effort to travel light, or at least lighter, I recently purchased a small travel tripod for my camera. It is nice; it’s heavy duty but really easy to carry as I walked around all day. But the drawback is that it only extends to about 18 inches. So I tried to find something to set it on…a garbage can, mailbox, anything so long as it is steady. But if nothing was available I’d simply sit on the ground; this wasn’t the first nor the last time I’ve done that. Anyhow, I was doing just that when taking the photo of McSorley’s Ale House (below). After stopping in for a couple beers (they are always 2-for-one) I wanted a photo of the place but there was nothing to set my teeny tripod on. So I sat down on the curb. And as I was taking photos a women walked past. She stopped for a moment, looked as if she were going to keep walking, but then questioned, “Why are you sitting on the ground?” Motioning to the camera, I explained to her that I needed the camera steady for a night shot but my tripod was small and there was nothing to set it on directly opposite my subject. She sort of smirked a bit, and before continuing on her way, she replied, “But aren’t you embarrassed by that little thing?” I laughed out loud, sitting on the curb. So did she as she walked away.

And then a bit later, after walking over the Washington Square Park, I thought I’d take a picture of the arch (bottom photo). I did find a few things to set the tripod on but I wanted a shot off to the side. So I went over to the edge of the common area and sat on the ground. And now I started to feel a bit self-conscious…maybe I shouldn’t be sitting on the ground taking photos.

It was unseasonably warm, but because of the time of year it was dark even though it wasn’t very late, and the park was relatively crowded. And when I looked to my left there was a man in black tights and cowboy boots doing sun salutations. All I could do was smile and go back to my photo-taking. This was, after all, Greenwich Village…magnet to every eccentric on the planet. It was ok to be taking photos while I sat on the ground, and my teeny tripod was just fine. Click any photo for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

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