Thursday, March 30, 2006

...Painted Black

Even 37 years after this photograph was taken racial stereotypes still taint people's perception of reality. No, this isn't a hold-up. This was taken inside John Ek's Seminole Gun Shop. Ek got his start making custom fighting knives during World War II, big hand forged knives that held an incredible edge. After the war he continued making knives, and expanded into the retail gun business. The man with the rifle in the forground was a customer, a regular at the shop. In the left rear, pointing an automatic pistol up towards the ceiling, is my friend John Patteson. He was attending Dade County Jr. College and working after school at the gun shop at the time. I don't know who the gentleman on the right was. Just there, I guess.

A few years later John Patteson opened his own gun shop, but then got involved working as an armorer and doing special effects for the Miami Vice TV show. An armorer is someone licensed to handle and account for all the weapons and ammuntion being used on the set, and in this case "special effects" means blowing things up. As far back as I'd known John he always liked to see how big a crater he could make with a cherry bomb. My back yard had a bunch of them made on Fourth of Julies and New Years Eves. They've long ago been filled in again. Since the original Miami Vice series ended he's worked on about every movie made in South Florida where weapons and explosives were employed, and he's done a lot of location work elsewhere in the world. He's also pretty damned good on the 12 string guitar. Shot with a Leica M4 and a 35mm f/1.8 Canon lens.


The Great Hurricane of 1938 devastated the coastal areas of southeastern New England. Back then they didn't give them names. They didn't have weather sattelites to track them or hurricane hunter planes to fly through them measuring wind speed, atmospheric pressure, and temperature gradients. The storm made landfall with little warning and a ferocity perhaps not seen before or since. It was the middle of the Great Depression, money was tight to nonexistant, and little immediate reconstruction took place. World War II followed and everything remained on hold.

As a little kid in the mid 1940's I remember the woods were still full of downed trees and there was a miles long row of empty foundations along Horseneck Beach in nearby Westport. Acres and acres of once wooded lowlands near the bay were now simply dead white leafless skeletons, having been killed by the saltwater flooding the formerly freshwater marshland.

A few blocks from my grandmother's house in New Bedford was Buttonwood Park and the municipal zoo. A lot of the buildings were destroyed and many of the animals were lost. I was told that these rock walls had once been the basement of the monkey house. Cindy wanted me to photograph her so we wandered around the park looking for interesting backgrounds. We both loved the texture of the granite rock walls in the cloudy bright conditions that day. Ms. Brody preferred some tighter shots, but I alway felt like here she appeared to be communing with the spirits of all the animals that had lost their lives here 27 years earlier.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Boys Will Be Boys

Stephanie and I moved from Boston to New Bedford in 1965. That was where I was born and spent my childhood. Back in the eighteenth and nineteenth century it was considered the whaling capitol of the world. Whale oil, baleen, and ivory made the town wealthy. The great sailing ships would go on voyages lasting from two to three years in search of whales, from the artic to the antartic, and put into ports in China, India, the Azores, and elsewhere, so all kinds of exotic trinkets, jewelry, porcelain, and art were found in the houses. The ship owners and captains became wealthy men.

On the hillside overlooking the downtown and the well protected harbor beyond were large elaborate houses. Many were topped by an extra story consisting of one tiny room with lots of windows. These were called "widows walks" for the wives who'd spend their days up there looking out over the harbor to Buzzards Bay beyond, in hopes of catching sight of their husband's ship returning from a voyage. Many didn't. Some did, but bearing only the sad news that a husband had died. The last whaling ship that still used sail left the harbor in 1918. Thomas Edison did away with the need for whale oil as lamp fuel, celluloid and changing ladies fashions did away with the need for baleen for corset stays, and whales were becoming scarce.

By mid twentieth century many of those old houses nearest downtown, essentially the oldest ones, had been subdivided into apartments as the buildings had been upgraded with indoor plumbing and central heat. We rented a one bedroom apartment at 195 Cottage Street for $40.00 a month including heat, water, and electricity. The bathroom was huge, as big as a small bedroom really. It was probably used for something else before the remodeling. There was plenty of room to set up a table for an enlarger and some trays.

These boys were riding their bikes and goofing around on the steet out front. They spotted my camera and shouted the familiar "Hey, Mister! Take my picture!" We've all heard it and when I did I usually obliged. I still do. Obviously I didn't set up a carefull posed picture. I joked around with them for a few minutes, getting off maybe a dozen frames. I was using a 35mm f/1.8 Canon lens on either my black dial III-f or my grey III-ck body.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Window To The Future Unknown

Another Coconut Grove photograph here, this time Jerry Weisberg's office. In the forground is my friend John Patteson wearing a tie dyed shirt. We'd always stop at Jerry's office when we were in the Grove, mostly because the coffee pot was always full and he had packets of hot chocolate mix to boot! There's nothing like chocolate when you get a bad case of sweet tooth. I have no idea what the secretary's name was.

John, about 22 here, possibly younger, was attending Dade County Jr. College (now Miami-Dade College) and carried his 12 string guitar everyplace. He wrote, composed, played, and sang hoping to get a recording contract and make it big. It never quite came together. His other big pashion, besides girls, was guns and blowing things up. They didn't quite fit into the anti-war peace movement of the folky set.

Eventually he got a job at a gun shop, even had his own gun shop for awhile, and then Miami Vice came to town. They needed somebody with the expertise (and licenses) John had in weapons and demolition, and he signed on in charge of "special effects". Since then he's mainly worked in the motion picture and TV industry. Patteson is the correct spelling. There's no "R" in his name.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Girl in the Bamboo Grove

Sometimes a whole bunch of life's situations all lead back to the same place. There was a big old 1920's vintage Spanish style house in Coconut Grove owned by Jerry Weisberg, an attorney. It wasn't exactly a crash pad because all the people who lived there were gainfully employed, but there were a bunch of peole calling the place home. I guess that I first met Jerry through a photographer, Bob Greger, that I'd met at one of the Wilson Hicks Photojournalism Conferences at the University of Miami. Then my best friend, John Patteson, was using him for some legal work. A few years later a young lady who worked for Charlie Johnson Public Relations, the firm that had the City of North Miami account, turned out to be one of the residents also. Since I was doing the photography for North Miami I'd go there on occasion to deliver pictures.

The landscaping around the house could be described as lush, tropical, overgrown, and perhaps even a bit unkempt. The back yard had this nice stand of bamboo. This young lady wanted to get some photos of herself and we went out into the back yard. It was a nicely overcast day. She was illuminated by the sky from one side, with the house blocking the light from the other, giving a soft but very directional effect.

It was taken with my Leica M4 and a 35mm f/1.8 Canon lens. The scan is off a vintage print, probably on DuPont Varilour paper.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Girl on the Grass

This was one of those 8x10 prints hiding in a box for I guess 35 years, and I still really like the image. Strange how the memory works, because as I looked at it last week slowly the name "Carol" worked its way up throught the murkiness. Today, when the image first came on screen my first thought was "she's British" then "Nathan" popped up. Carol Nathan is her name!

And now a bunch of details have shown up, seemingly out of nowhere. I'd gotten an assignment to shoot a story of another young woman who was an active member of the Church of Scientology. I'm trying to rememberher her name but can't. I do remember, though that I attended some sort of meeting and took some photos. The light was dismal and I was shooting with a 19mm f/3.5 Canon on my M4. I used the little Leitz tabletop tripod pressed up against the ceiling to shoot at maybe 1/4 or 1/2 second. I should look for those negatives. They're in one of the boxes marked "1971".

Anyway, through that contact I met Carol. She was a few years older, maybe 34 or 35 at the time, and called me to say that she wanted me to take some photos of her. I shot a few rolls of 120 in my Minolta Autocord, very conventional pictures, and then she said that we should "do something different". We went out from beneath the shade of the ficus tree in my back yard so I could get some strong shadows. She was the one who wanted to get down on the ground. The pose was pretty much her idea. She liked this one best out of the 12 or so I shot out in the sunlight. I guess I ran into her a few more times in the next year or two, then lost touch.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

We Were So Much Older Then, I'm Younger Than That Now

This was shot in Gainesville, Florida back in 1969. I was still in my twenties and thought nothing of driving the three hundred plus miles up there from Miami for a concert, then turning around and driving back again after a night of partying until dawn. Sometimes I'd stay a day or two. Wouldn't want to end a party too soon!

My friends were in roughly the same age bracket, but it was a wide age bracket.. Some younger, some older. Our Great Country was fighting an unwinable war in Viet Nam, and a lot of formerly gung ho kids were coming back to the U.S. after going in the army straight out of high school and enrolling in college. Veterans' education benefits were generous and jobs scarce. Kids from working class families, people who normally would have worked construction or taken a factory job, were now getting degrees. The structure of social class in this country was undergoing a major change. They'd also brought back a taste for better quality pot than was available here before and many opted to major in agriculture.

Music had morphed into a new form of rock. People like Dylan had blended country and blues into the new rock music forms of British groups like the Rolling Stones. It was exciting times.

I don't remember the names of these people. They were friends of friends, but I crashed there for a night or two. I was shooting with a Leica M4 and a 35/1.8 Canon lens.This was scanned of one of the prints that I have in that collection of envelopes, file folders, and enlarging paper boxes packed in my office. It looks like it was printed on silver rich DuPont Varilour paper.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I'm a Cowgirl...On A Real Horse I Ride

There had been a pony ring in North Miami as far back as I can remember. It was located on West Dixie Highway but by the late 60's it was replaced by high rise apartments. The rides were relocated to where the ponies and horses were stabled, a wooded area on N.E. 135th St. and 16th Ave. No more twice a day parade of ponies being led through the city streets from stable to ring and back again. No more free fertilizer for the housewives who loved it for their rose bushes, conveniently left for the taking along the edge of the road.

135th St. had become a major east/west road connecting U.S. 1 and I-95 so plenty of drive by traffic now went by the wooded pony ring. A few years later the City of North Miami passed a bond issue to preserve the oak hammock as a city park but the ponies were allowed to stay.

My daughter Elena loved the pony rides and would get excited everytime we'd drive by. 1974 was the year she turned three. This was her favorite pony. He was gentle enough that he'd just plod around the ring without being led by one of the teenagers who worked there, and Elena could imagine herself riding off into the wilderness.

She had beautiful blonde hair as a child but for some reason known only to her she'd take those round nosed little scissors at the nursery school and cut it off when no one was looking. It wasn't until kindergarten that she took an interest in having pretty hair. She still has nice hair. Now she's a tax attorney in Atlanta.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lucy In The Sky With Confetti

The old village of Ojus, an unincorporated area just outside the jurisdiction of North Miami Beach, had plenty of old rundown storefronts and apartments. Tito rented one of the stores, a feestanding building actually, and opened the first head shop, The Mushroom, around. What's a "head shop" you ask? A place that sells al the trappings but not the dope, not the actual drugs themselves. Rolling papers, pipes, roach clips, rock concert posters, incense and incense burners, perhaps some American Indian jewelry or tie-dyed T-shirts. A magnet for teenagers eager for the latest rumor on exactly which groups would be playing at the next rock festival

It was enough to strike fear into all the parents of the area's teenagers. But Tito stayed just within the law. No drug use allowed anywhere around the shop.

I don't know what motivated this young lady to put confetti in her hair. It was briefly fashionable with the teenager girls who went around leaving a trail of little pieces of colored paper wherever they went. This one was particularly proud of her hair style and asked me to take her picture. We did these against the south exterior wall of The Mushroom on a heavily overcast day. I was shooting with a 35mm f/1.8 Canon on my Leica M4. I have no idea what ever happened to the young lady. The Mushroom stayed in business for a couple of years.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

On The Street

Lately I've been going through my old negatives and contact sheets, still neatly filed in old 500 sheet 8x10 enlarging paper boxes. I've got them going all the way back to 1961 when I first got interested in photography. I just wish that I'd kept better notes about my subjects and the stories that they told.

I was living in Boston in 1965, and as I was walking downtown I ran across this man who was visiting from, I believe, Czechoslovakia. We got into a conversation for probably 15 or 20 minutes. We probably each smoked two or three cigarettes while we chatted. He had a thick accent but was really quite fluent in English. Those were still the days of "the cold war" and it was very unusual to run across a tourist from a commuist country. I forget the reason he gave me for being able to travel to the United States. I shot a few pictures as we chatted and I suggested a few places he might want to go see while he was in the Boston area. I never saw the man again.

Back then I had a grey Leica III-CK with a 35mm f/1.8 Canon lens, and rarely carried anything else with me beyond a spare roll or two of film. When I first developed the film this image popped off the contact sheet shouting "ME! Print ME!" Looking at the contact sheet now it's still the best picture on the roll. I've always liked it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Office Party

It was the late 1960's and I was shooting for a couple of so called undeground papers. Nowadays we'd call them alternative newspapers. I had an official press card from the Dade County Police Department. I also was getting backstage passes to all the rock concerts and festivals in the Miami area.

An outdoor amusement park in Hallandale called Pirate's World had a major rock group every weekend. Life was good!

I think this was in the office of The Daily Planet, an underground paper named after the newspaper that Superman's meek alter ego Clark Kent worked for as a reporter. It was founded by a guy named Jerry Powers. Try using the name Daily Planet today and you'd likely get sued. Back then it was mellower times. Less lawyers too, I suppose.

One wall of the office was covered with photographs floor to ceiling. It was Christmas time and we had a Christmas party. Everybody was feeling good. I don't remember this young lady's name, but before you get all excited picture the sixty-something grandmother that she most likely is today, not the sexy twenty-something secretary that had a bit too much wine and whatever...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Wheel In The Sky Keeps On Turning...

Both photos (c) James Mitchell 2006

James Mitchell was in town a couple of weeks ago with his friend. The truth is that she likes Monkey more than she does James. I think he knows that, too. So everyplace we went we took Monkey. She carried him around in the mall and the parks and the restaurants (he doesn't eat much) and women everywhere were enchanted with this little fuzzy 62 year old flirt. Waitresses, students, store clerks, and passersby alike. If they were female they wanted to hold and cuddle Monkey, and hear all about his story.

We stopped off at the nearby Starbucks for afternoon coffee. All the people who work there, as well as the regulars, already knew Monkey. These two Hatian girls were sitting at the next table in the outside patio. I'd seen them there before but never had Monkey with me. He got to sit in his own chair as we enjoyed our drinks. The two girls were extremely curious about him, and James wanted to try out his new 90mm Macro Elmar lens. The black and white shot was with his Leica M2 and a 35mm f/1.8 Canon lens. He had no trouble at all getting them to pose for pictures with Monkey, then we traded addresses with them and promised to send them not only the photos but Al Kaplan T-shirts like he and his friend were wearing that day.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Seminole Indians on the Brighton Reservation

There were three Seminole reservations, Hollywood, Big Cyprus, and Brighton. The Brighton reservation is just south of Lake Okeechobee, in the heart of Florida's cattle country. The Seminole and Miccosukee Indians are really one people, although for political reasons they became two seperate tribes. Janice Huff was the oldest daughter of my friend Bobby Tiger from the Tamiami Trail Miccosukee Reservation but she married a Brighton "cowboy" Seminole. My wife and I stayed with them for a week or so in the early 70's. My wife Stephanie loved horseback riding and got to do quite a bit of it while we were there. I keep trying to remember Janice's husband and son's names but I'm drawing a big blank. While their friends and relatives on the other reservations wore a lot of the traditional patchwork jackets ("shirt" they call them) and patchwork skirts in bright colors the Brighton residents dressed pretty much the same as their non Indian neighbors, complete with cowboy hats and boots. They also seemed to eat more "supermarket" food and less of the traditional things.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's Sold!

When my friend Jim split up with his wife I was splitting up with my lady of a dozen years. The two of us rented a house together from a mutual friend. That lasted about a year, until everybody was convinced that there was no way to put the relationships back on track. I moved back into my old house and Jim moved in with his new lady friend. I don't know all the details, but Jim and his now ex-wife decided to sell the house that they still jointly owned. I met Jim for breakfast one morning when the real estate agent called to tell him that the house was sold. After we finished eating he wanted to go by there and take a look. We got there before the "Sold!" sign went up, but he was ecstatic. This shot was not posed, and that big grin on his face was real! The south Florida real estate market has been crazy the past few years, REALLY nuts. I had breakfast with him again this past weekend. I thought about the fact that if he still had that house, about a year later, it would be worth another seventy-five or hundred thousand dollars. I kept my mouth shut.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Very First "Self-Portrait" With My 15mm Heliar

I couldn't wait to get a 15mm Heliar when they hit the market! I missed my 19mm Canon, which had been stolen a couple of years earlier, but those are difficult to locate. For the duration I made do with a 28mm Elmarit, but it never seemed wide enough. When I finally got the 15mm lens I was surprised at just how wide it really was! For the next several weeks I spent a lot of time just peering through the finder, sometimes just carrying the finder around with me in my pocket even when I had no intention of doing any shooting. I also must have shot 20 rolls of film with it in that first month or two. I'm a firm believer that you need to really know your lenses, exactly what they'll cover, so you already know what the picture includes before ever raising the camera to your eye. Here I was at a Sunday afternoon concert at the park. Mayor Joe Celestin and Miss Black Florida were walking with me over to the fountain for some pictures. I like to get photos of myself with various people as much as the next guy, and I often just hand the camera off to somebody to shoot one, but I wondered if perhaps I could just shoot it myself now that I had such a wide angle lens. I just got off the one exposure as I hadn't yet perfected the technique of winding and firing one handed, especially with my left hand. The M body in the lower right has my 85mm f/2 Nikkor on it, in case you're wondering.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My Zippo's 50th Birthday Party

Zippo lighters have two endearing features. The first is the ability to light and stay lit in the wind. The second is the guarantee. If the hinge ever breaks (which it will eventually), or even if you run over it with your car, just mail it back to Zippo. If it's a special model, or has custom engraving, they'll solder in a new hinge and likely just replace the entire insert containing the striker wheel and flint with a brand new one then mail it back to you with a few extra flints, all for free. If it's a standard plain Zippo they mostly just send you a new one. I bought this one second hand for about a buck maybe thirty years or so ago. It's been back to Zippo twice for hinge replacement since I've owned it. How do I know it was fifty years old? It was a commemorative lighter for the annual Soap Box Derby ( and had the date of the race in 1955 engraved on it. Today you'd never get away with giving out cigarette lighters at an event designed for young teenagers, but back in 1955 it was a different mindset. You'd either lie to the clerk when you bought cigarettes that you really were 14 or 16, depending on where you lived, no I.D. required, or tell him that "Mom sent me". Zippo sales must be way down these days with almost everybody using disposeable butane lighters and less people smoking. You hardly ever see book matches anymore either. But when the wind kicks up nothing beats the good old Zippo! A few weeks after taking this photo I lost the lighter. I looked everyplace I could think of. Finally I just bought a new one, but it's not the same.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Mall - A Thing Of The Past?

That fabric roof and white tile floor was the attempt twenty or so years ago by the open air 163rd St. Shopping Center to modernize into The Mall At 163rd Street. The newer bigger nearby Aventura Mall still lured away the major tenants, the big department stores, and a motley array of small mom and pop shops weren't doing all that well, no matter how nice the place looked. A spacious food court catered to the kids from the high school and middle school located just a block away, but the hords of teenagers didn't encourage older patrons. Essentially Aventura Mall did to this mall what this mall had done to the nearby downtown shopping district thirty years previous. In the past couple of years one end of this mall was demolished and replaced by a big modern Wallmart Superstore. Whether that's good or bad for the smaller tenants only time will tell. The place sure seems deserted. The nearby K-Mart and Target are also feeling the competition though. In the meantime the area's downtowns are experiencing a revival, with art galleries, cafes and trendy shops moving in.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

We Don't Need No Education, We Don't Need No Thought Control...

There used to be two bookstores in downtown North Miami, The Arts and Sciences Book Store and The Bible Book Store. The latter morphed into more of a general merchandise Christian store, and the Arts and Sciences I guess could no longer compete with the major chains who opened spacious new stores on U.S. 1 just a few miles to the north in Aventura. Books of every description and magazines for every taste. All served up together with a cafe where you can sit and read while drinking a cuppa exotic joe from Starbucks. For a guy who remembers when Modern Photography Magazine jumped from a quarter to thirty-five cents it takes some getting used to, this laying out of $7.95 for the latest copy of B&W - Black & White Magazine For Collectors Of Fine Photography. A friend insisted that I should go check out the latest issue at Barnes and Noble, so I drove up the road the three or four miles, but Borders came first. I stopped, parked, went inside, and spent an hour or so wandering around. It had been a few years since I'd last been in a book store. So here I am with my 15mm lens about to go bravely inside the twenty-first century. Next time I'm going to take Monkey.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Strange Brew

I guess it was maybe 20 years ago that my friend Leon Finklestein told me about a new lab in the neighborhood. Leon had a wedding and portrait business, but about 10 years ago packed it up and moved to Texas. Mike Rifai was the guy with the lab, but he did some shooting also. He was just a couple of blocks from Leon's studio. With Leon gone Mike moved into a larger store and added a camera room. After all, somebody had to shoot all those weddings and bar mitzvahs in the neighborhood. I'd shot for Leon when he got overbooked, occasionally worked with him on large affairs, and when he left town I started doing the same with Mike.
Then a few years later Mike bought a computer, followed by a digital Canon body to use with his Canon glass. He was in love! For a couple of years he seemed willing to scan my negatives if I shot for him, then suddenly he announced that if I was going to shoot for him I'd have to go digital. Fat chance of THAT happening. Keep in mind that this is a guy that still has a complete and operational "wet" color lab! But he'll only shoot digital weddings, and delivers digital prints. He loves to custom crop and tweak the color and contrast of every image that he shows the client. We used to go out for coffee or lunch once a week. Now he's usually hunched over his keyboard. I miss the old Mike. The top photo shows me in front of his studio, Sans Souci Photography. In the second photo he's hunched over the keyboard showing a client and his son some previews on the monitor. We rarely see one another any more. On a rare occasion I'll have him make some color prints, or for reasons I can't fathom he'll ask me to soup a few rolls of Tri-X, perhaps even make a contact sheet while I'm at it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Reverand Ralph Abernathy

The photo of Rev. Ralph Abernathy was shot on the campus of the University of Miami to a mixed race audience. I was shooting Ilford HP4 in a double stroke M3 with a black 85mm f/2 Nikkor, a great lens I always regretted selling. A few years ago I found a clean chrome version and just love it. The M3 was in continuous use until a couple of years ago when I sold it because I'd gotten a near mint one out of an estate.

There were very few blacks attending the University of Miami at the time, and frankly not all that many students attended this. The event was widely publicized, though, and a lot of people from the community showed up to hear him speak. He was a powerful speaker, in a way that only ministers seem to be, and the audience listened with rapt attention. He sure got their interest and held it!

The TV guys back then were all shooting film, a Bell and Howell DR with three lens turret for silent fill-in footage and usually an Auricon, sometimes an Arriflex, for sound, equipped with the them amazing Angenieux 12 - 120 f/2.2 zoom lens. They needed LIGHT for that ASA 125 color film, and set up their lights accordingly. It was nice to know that if the TV guys were at an event, and you were shooting 400 speed film B&W, pretty much the standard then as now, then 1/125 at f/5.6 was the correct exposure. They'd already taken a jillion readings from every angle with their Norwood Super Director incident light meters. If they'd done something out of the ordinary, lighting-wise, they'd tell you. In turn, you'd stay out of their shots and NEVER shot off a flash while they were filming. When video cameras chased film out of the TV stations this kind of shoot became a major pain. Suddenly they were doing a lot of available light shooting, and when they did set up lights you'd never know how bright without making your own readings.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Che and B.A.M.M.

B.A.M.M. stood for Black Afro Militant Movement. It was a rather radical Black Power group, a Hate Whitey sort of thing that was springing up as blacks' expectations weren't being met fast enough by traditional protests and freedom rides. The laws weren't changing and the jobs weren't materializing. Black people were still struggling to get to the bottom rung a century after the slaves were freed. Groups like this were springing up around the country, Che and the Cuban revolution their hero and ideal. Uncle Sam and the white middle class weren't exactly happy about this turn of events. Some feared major civil unrest and armed confrontations. So I get a call from the editor and he gives me a contact name, a time and an address. Nine PM in the seediest part of black Miami. I showed up on time with a couple of Leica M's and was greeted at the door with a "Whatchoo doin' here, honkey?" (honkey was black slang for a white person at the time) "I'm here to shoot some photos for an article. They said you were expecting me" I replied. We went back and forth for a few minutes, they asked me why I wasn't acting scared, finally they let me in when I told them that if they wanted the article about them to appear in the paper we needed the photos. Take it or leave it! So they reluctantly let me in, we chatted a bit as I set up the cameras. This shot was with a 50/1.4 Nikkor on my M4 with Ilford HP4 film. Things did start changing, the movement lost momentum, and we never did have an armed insurrection. Today when I chat with young blacks, college students mostly, who are often the children of college grads themselves, they have no idea about what things were like just two generations ago.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Diner

It was a very popular type of restaurant at one time. A few booths and a long counter. The coffee was as likely to be made in a huge urn as in smaller pots. A griddle was often out in the open against the wall behind the counter, where burgers, or eggs and hash browns, could be cooked, next to a small steam table for grits or vegetables depending on the time of day. It was a socializing force on the community. A booth would acommodate several people who already knew one another, perhaps came in to eat together, or even just planned to meet there. With a counter you never knew with whom you might be sitting. You'd sit next to people you'd seen but never met, even total strangers. Conversations might be startedwith a simple "Please pass the sugar" but there was no telling where they'd end up, anyplace from sports to politics. Such casual meetings often led to life long friendships. The waitresses had names and you knew their kids' names too. They remembered how you liked your eggs, and knew all the regulars by name. There was a sense of community that you don't find today. Nobody was a stranger. Not for long, anyway!

Love Hurts

My newly cut hair looks great in this shot from the beginning of October. I didn't get it cut again until mid February. Fifteen years ago I met a beautiful woman, Vivette, the owner of the shop. She loved to fish and her younger son Craig, then nine, loved fishing as well. After several months we started living together, but the older boy never quite accepted me. Finally about 5 years ago, at her suggestion, I moved out. The older boy won. I'd always expected that he'd grow up and be the one to move out. Didn't happen that way. Early in our relationship she used to tell me that she'd gone to see the Obeah (similar to voodoo, but as practiced in Jamaica) man to get me to fall in love with her. I thought she was kidding, but sometimes I'm not so sure. She certainly never went back to the Obeah man to release me from the spell. She'd call every few days to see how I was doing, remind me that I was due for a haircut, refused to take money for the haircuts, "Just bring me some fish next time you go", and I did bring her fresh fish. About a year ago I mentioned to a mutual friend that Vivette still had loads of pictures of me in her shop, fishing pictures and pictures of her in evening gown and me in a tux, and everything in between. Pictures of my kids too. Small prints and 8x10's alike. It was obvious that any man coming into the shop would assume that she was in a relationship. It hurt every time I went in there and saw the photos displayed like that. The friend got her to take down the framed 8x10's, but still it bothered me. Finally, after the October visit, I decided that I just had to stop going there. My hair grew for four months. I was considering a pony tail when a last minute call to shoot a wedding had me trying a different shop. Now a heavy burden has been lifted, and I finally feel free to move on with my life, to love another woman, to be happy for a change. It feels good.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Pelicans, Looking For A Handout

George Helker built and owned Helker's Yacht Basin at the North Miami end of Broad Causeway. It was a really pretentious name for what it was. There was a gas pump selling Gulf Marine White gasoline for a dime more than regular at the gas station up the street. The fill dredged up from the basin, and the channel leading to it, was used to build the other two sides, the natural shore and the causeway fill completing the surround. A rickety wooden dock ran along two sides with pilings out in the water to secure the bows of the boats. Then there was the bait shack where you could buy live shrimp as well as frozen shrimp, mullet and balao. The coffee pot was always full and beer, soda, and an assortment of munchies were available. Jack worked at the bait shack. He had a glass eye and he was known to pop it out and place it on the counter staring at anyone who got into an argument with him, then he'd just walk away leaving the staring eye to complete his "say so". Tenants included a drift boat (party boat), the Lady Lou with Capt. Jerry German, a small charter boat, and a New Jersey sea skiff of about 28 ft. that a retired couple would take from New Jersey to Miami every winter. They commercial fished for striped bass in the summer and for kingfish in the winter, trolling with rod and reel. Lots of fun and it paid expenses. Dozens of pelicans would arrive every afternoon to gobble down the fish scraps as people cleaned the day's catch. Helker also had half a dozen 16 ft. rental skiffs for people who wanted to fish for sea trout in the bay. When I was 14 I got a job there after school and on weekends, cleaning the rental skiffs and working the gas dock. I also got invited to fish with the Jersey couple and aboard the Lady Lou. I was in heaven, being a kid who loved fishing more than anything else in the world (I hadn't discovered girls yet). Helker added a boat ramp and started building a second basin just before Hurricane Donna struck in 1960. That was the end of the whole thing! The boats, the shack, everything, and he never rebuilt. Eventually the city bought the property for a park, cleaned it up, and built a wooden walkway around the basin. There's a place there you can fish but no boats. The pelicans still come around looking for handouts but it ain't like the old days, either for them or for me. Here I'm out on that walkway and the pelicans are hoping somebody will catch a fish or leave their unused bait behind when they pack it up and go home.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Boy and Dove

This is one of those "nothing" photos that I've always been partial to for all of the thirty plus years since I shot it. I like the juxtaposition of the boy and the dove, the relationship of them to the timbers of the cage. the white bird is against the shadowed side of the wood while the boy's dark hair and shirt contrast with the light colored wall. Everything just sort of falls into place. The dove looks bored, totally ignoring the two of us, and the boy looks a bit too serious, like he's concerned about something. I love the range of tones in the photo. This was the kind of assignment I used to hate. "Wild art" was what the editor, Jim Kukar, called it. Sort of human interest to fill space in the paper on a slow news day. Somebody had called the paper to tell of this neighborhood kid who was raising doves, and she thought it would make for an interesting story. I went over there and the kid was really into his birds, told me all about them, and I shot maybe an entire roll. This was the one everybody agreed was the best.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter had been elected and the Democrats were in control. Everybody figured that at last they'd finally legalize pot. I guess the drug dealers were as afraid of that possibility as the Republicans had been. Time to switch to the next drug, the one less likely to be legalized. Bales of cocaine replaced bales of marijuanna as the favored contraband aboard planes and boats alike. Jimmy was a likeable kind of guy, very down to earth in person. Here he was speaking at the Gwen Margolis Commuity Center in North Miami. Mayor Howard Neu with a sylish shag haircut is a bit out of focus on the right. The secret service guys got really antsy as I picked up my "big gun" to get some tight shots. I had a Leica M with a Visoflex II, which sported a 150mm f/2.3 Astro Tachar, a really huge lens in black crackle finish. They made me remove first the lens and then the Visoflex and examined each piece carefully. They were familiar with Leica cameras and your standard run of the mill Canon or Nikon SLR, but the Visoflex rig was new to them. Finally they decided that it wasn't about to explode and let me get ready for the president's arrival. The photos I made the most money with were all the shots of various people shaking the president's hand. Anybody of importance soon had a framed 8x10 of themselves smiling next to Jimmy. This shot was the one I liked best and appeared in a couple of publications at the time. About 10 years later both the 150 Astro Tachar and my 19mm Canon were stolen. My two favorite lenses! I really loved the bokeh of the Astro Tachar although the term wasn't used outside of Japan back then

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tip O'Neill

I get requests to post some of my older photographs as well as my current work so here's one from a print I had on hand of Tip O'Neill, long time speaker of the U.S. House of Representitives. I did all the public relations photography for Barry College for a couple of decades. This photo was at a college graduation in the late 1970's and Tip was the commencement speaker. I probably shot it with a 180/2.8 Tele-Elmarit on my Leicaflex SL while standing right up against the edge of the stage. Tip was without doubt the best orator of anybody who ever spoke at a Barry commencement during the years I was there. It was a real pleasure to have met and photographed him. No, he's not the one who gave me the secret of keeping a full head of hair.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

After Wilma, Life Continues

Katrina's eye came right over North Miami but didn't do anywhere nearthe damage that Wilma did a few weeks later. Wilma's eye passed well to the south but we seemed to be in the area with the highest winds, and supposedly there were some small tornados imbedded in the hurricane, with still higher winds. Months later and we're still cleaning up, fences and roofs being fixed, and still cutting up branches and tree trunks to put out for pick-up. My ex, Claudia, had her electric on two days after the storm but I was without power for nine days. We're still good friends so I was able to go over there for hot coffee and a shower each morning, and she froze water for me so I could keep ice in my cooler at my place. This is her back yard. I shot a couple rolls of color film showing the broken limbs, uprooted trees, her destroyed back fence, and damage to her roof. As usual I photographed myself in black and white with the 15mm lens on the Bessa as I went about taking pictures with the Leica M2 and a 35mm Summicron. Here it is three months later and just this past week her neighbor behind her house was finally able to get somebody to cut up and remove the huge downed ficus tree back there. Its roots pulled up a large area of Claudia's yard and destroyed the rear fence. Now the last of the ficus tree is finally gone. The problem is finding a fence contractor with less than a three month backlog of work lined up. She still hasn't found a roofer either, but a big blue tarp nailed in place keeps the rain out. You still see a lot of houses with blue "roofs".

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Elena and Gabrielle

This photo of my daughter Elena was taken when she first got her new puppy. It was love at first sight for both of them. Elena's favorite teacher at school, actually the day care center at what was then Dade County Junior College, was named Gabrielle. Elena insisted on naming the puppy after her. I think that we got the puppy from the pound, but in those days they didn't automaticaly "fix" every dog that left their establishment. For a couple of years they were inseperable. Gabrielle couldn't wait for Elena to come home every evening. She seemed so happy to greet her and then they'd go out in the yard to play together. Some days Elena would walk her around the block on a leash. They slept together at night. Elena fed her and changed her water every day, and once a week or so gave Gabrielle a bath. She held and comforted her when the vet examined her and gave her her shots. Our yard is surrounded by a four foot high chain link fence and Gabrielle couldn't climb over it. She looks small here together with a three year old girl, but really, she never got all that much bigger. Another dog must have jumped the fence, though, because Gabrielle got pregnant the second or third time she came into heat. She got quite heavy, with a full sagging belly and ate double what she'd normally eaten. She started to give birth when she was home alone during the day. She must have been impregnated by a much larger dog. When we got home poor little Gabrielle was dead. Her single large puppy was only half out of her, and he was dead also. Elena was heartbroken. We buried Gabrielle and the puppy in the garden. Elena will soon turn 35 and is a tax attorney in Atlanta.