Thursday, August 31, 2006

Our Dining Room, Shot With Paul Dana's 8x10 View Camera

Eight by ten has such a different meaning when you're talking about a camera rather than a print. Our friend Paul Dana, recently retired from the airlines, Pan Am I think, in the early 1970's, had to have his toys. A Leica M4 and then an M5 when they hit the market, an assortment of Leitz lenses, a Hasselblad 500C, an assortment of Zeiss lenses. Then one day he went into Browne's Photo Center and spied a new arrival, an old 8x10 field camera, a folding flat bed, not a monorail, complete with half a dozen varnished cherry wood film holders and a 14 inch lens. He bought it.

I suppose the camera had been varnished mahogany when new, but it had been painted white by a previous owner, bellows and all. I guess it kept things cooler in the Florida sun. Well, one day Stephanie and I were visiting Paul and Louise and I was fooling around with the camera. He offered to lend it to me for a week and I took him up on it. Come Monday morning I was off to buy a 25 sheet box of Ektapan. I already had a massive tripod that I could use with the camera, actually an old wooden motion picture tripod with a silky smooth pan head by F. & B. Ceco. That night I photographed Stephanie sitting at the table in our dining room.

Ektapan was about ISO 100 film, and the lens needed to be stopped down a few stops, so exposures were on the long side. This negative was probably exposed for about 15 seconds. The film was developed in a tray in total darkness. I quickly discovered that schlepping a twenty pound camera on a thirty pound tripod, and being limited to six film holders each holding two sheets of film, wasn't my style. Plus every time you pushed the button it cost at least a dollar. I don't think that I even finished up the entire box of film before giving the camera back to Paul.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Antique Toy Ferris Wheel

For many years my daughter Elena was my favorite model. She was equally adept at both playing to the camera and acting like the camera didn't exist. She had a sixth sense for knowing exactly which clothes to pick out for a particular shoot, just how much make-up to wear so she didn't look made up, and she was adept at styling her own hair by age six or seven, a complete change from her early years when she'd take those little rounded nose childrens' scissors and cut off most all of her hair in a helter-skelter fashion because "it gets in the way". Years later she majored in drama at the University of Virginia and went on to study law at American University.

She'd turned eight in 1979 when this photograph was made. I remember that we needed to take pictures of a whole bunch of antique toys, but I don't remember if it was for Miami Magazine or a Christmas exhibit at one of the local malls. Back in that era I was doing photography for several Miami area malls from Kendall Town & Country and Dadeland in the south, and working north through Westland Mall, Omni International Mall, The Mall at 163rd Street, to Aventura Mall at the north end of the county. Actually, I don't think Aventura was open yet at that time and Omni might not have been either.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Those Kaplan Ears...

...that my children have didn't just come from my side of the family. This 1965 photo of my wife Stephanie with my father Donald certainly illustrates that point nicely! I don't know whether her ears come from the Brundage lineage or the Snowdon, but just out of the shower with still wet hair you can plainly see one of her ears poking through her waist length hair.

My dad was 48 at the time and I took the photo in my grandmother Kaplan's side yard with a Minolta Autocord on the original Ektacolor film. The scan was done from a faded 3.5 inch square print, but Todd Frederick did a yeoman's job in making it look "believable" without going overboard with too much contrast and garish colors. I just love the way that old Rokkor lens renders the out of focus areas so smoothly. Today we call it "nice bokeh", using the Japanese terminology.

It's obvious that a nice thick head of hair, no receding hair line, also runs in my genes. When my dad died 25 years later at age 73 it was barely starting to get thin on top and still mostly dark brown.

Monday, August 28, 2006

My Grandmother Fannie Kaplan - 1965

In the summer my grandmother liked to sit out on her front porch in the evening after dinner. She was born in Poland around 1890, but only because her mother decided that she wanted to have her first born child "back home". When I shot this photo she'd already been widowed. She was fastidious about keeping kosher and lighting the Friday nite sabath candles. My grandfather Samuel had always gotten up early, put on his yarmulke, tallis, and tfillen, then stood by the bay window facing east in the living room saying the ritual prayers. They always walked, not drove, on the Jewish hoidays. By today's standards you could say they were pretty orthodox yet they belonged to the less rigid Conservative congregation in New Bedford.

A few years earlier the family was rocked by scandal when my oldest male cousin, Teddy, married a Catholic Italian girl. By the time I married out of the faith things had calmed down a bit and Grandma Fannie planned to teach Stephanie all her prized recipes. Stephanie had grown up with a lot of Jewish friends in Bethesda, MD, and already knew quite a bit about Jewish cooking and customs. It was more like an exchange of recipes.

A couple of years after I made this photograph I was in New Bedford one summer and visited my grandmother. She was now quite ill and living at the New Bedford Jewish Convalescent Home She showed me the room that she shared with another woman. On the wall between the two beds was a large crucifix! I remarked about it but Grandma calmly explained that since the home received government money they weren't allowed to discriminate on who got to stay there based on religion. They put the woman with Grandma because she was about the only one there who didn't seem to mind having a Catholic room mate. Grandma died in her sleep about a year later.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

My, What Sharp Teeth You Have!

When I was a young teenager in the 1950's I discovered a book, "Florida Fish and Fishing" by Phil Francis, that I devoured, read, and reread. When my mom announced we were moving here I must have been the happiest 13 year old kid on the planet. The very place that book was written! Phil always said that a plain sparsely tied bucktail jig was the most effective all around lure, and I still think so, although now 50 or so years later he and I might get into some heated discussions about what color is best for which fish under various conditions.

This little barracuda couldn't resist trying to eat one, but he was soon back in the bay nursing a sore jaw. Supposedly, little barracuda caught in shallow water are delicious and perfectly safe to eat, but I've never tried one. Larger ones caught on the reefs can give you ciguaterra poisoning. It seems they pick up a toxin from eating certain reef fish, and it gets concentrated in their flesh. The bigger the 'cuda the more likely it'll poison you. Best to just not eat 'cuda I always figured.

Here's another one of those old prints of me fishing that I ran across recently. It should be credited "photo (c) 1967 Stephanie Brundage" I suppose, although we were still married then and her name was Kaplan. Looking back through the old fishing photographs there was a certain consistancy to them. Me with small fish, Stephanie with big fish. As an aside, today is Stephanie's birthday. Happy Birthday, Steph! I'm not sure if this was shot in the Keys or along the shoreline of Biscayne Bay here in North Miami. We'd often go over there to fish for an hour or two before it got dark. Most of that shoreline is now full of expensive houses with seawalls, and fences of course, but the city managed to acquire the old Helker's Yacht Basin property just south of Broad Causeway/123rd Street and made it into a bayfront park complete with a little fishing pier.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick!

This lttle jack crevalle of maybe a pound and a half was going to be the bait. The late 60's found Stephanie and I fishing in the Florida Keys a couple of weekends each month. The 12 foot boat was on top of the VW Microbus and we'd drive the hundred and something miles to the vicinity of Craig Key between Channel 2 Bridge and Channel 5 bridge. We cooked on a Coleman stove and slept in the van, driving down one of the many unpaved little roads running off U.S. 1 into the woods. At first light we'd make coffee and launch the boat.

Amberjack, which get quite large, 50 to 75 pounds being common, usually live offshore on the reefs in fairly deep water near the Gulf Stream, but occasionally will come in closer in search of food. Lately, we were told, they were moving up into the channels between the ocean and Florida Bay where the water was maybe only 12 to 15 feet deep, chasing schools of mullet and the much smaller jack crevalle.

I rigged a 20 lb. class outfit with a heavy leader and a big hook. Soon I'd caught a jack crevalle on a bucktail jig, and l impaled it on the big hook. Stephanie took this shot of me with her Leica III-f as I prepared to catch The Big One! I did hook one amberjack but couldn't control it and he soon wrapped the line around a bridge piling and broke off. Exciting while it lasted, though. Another jack crevalle was soon jumping clear of the water, not something they usually do, before disappearing in a spectacular splash. Line peeled off the reel and a four foot barracuda leaped into the air, only to cut through the 80 lb. test monofilament leader with his teeth. It would be another twenty-five years or so before I landed my first big amberjack, a 54 pounder. Photo (c) Stephanie Brundage 1967

Friday, August 25, 2006

On The Highway To Hell...

Leon and I became good friends although the relationship started out strictly business. He was managing the portrait studio at Richard's Department Store in downtown Miami, and he needed somebody to shoot some weddings. I honestly can't remember who it was that introduced us to one another about thirty years ago. He lived not too far from me in North Miami, maybe ten blocks away, and when he decided to open his own studio he opened it here in the upscale Sans Souci neighborhood. About ten years later he suddenly decided to move to Texas.

Another North Miami photographer, Mike Hoban, who did a lot of dance photography, and his girlfriend Penny introduced me to Mia, the young lady in the photograph with me. A ballet teacher, she was pretty, personable, and still childless and single at 29. I had two children and joint custody with my ex who was attending medical school at the time. The kids spent a lot of time with me. Instant family! Instant kids! Mia seemed to love it and acted the role of the perfect stepmother. After living together for a year I asked her to marry me. Her dad was a U. S. Air Force colonel, so we got married in the chapel at Homestead Air Force Base with Father Philemon Payiatis, my good friend from the Greek Orthodox Church here in North Miami officiating. Leon shot the photographs, from the engagement shot in this old yellowed newspaper ad, through the ceremony and reception. Mia seemed thrilled, I knew that I was happy, and the kids seemed to love her. Everything was great!

One morning several months later I was sitting in my chair in the living room, smoking a cigarette and sipping my first coffee of the day while reading the morning paper, and suddenly Mia was there, standing in front of me, hands on her hips. As I looked up at her she announced "I just realized something. I don't have to pretend I'm happy anymore! I HAVE a husband!":

I guess that was her goal, a husband before she turned thirty, and she'd achieved it. Now everything changed. No more loving wife, no more doting stepmother, no more delicious home cooked meals...and her dad was moving her stuff out a couple of weeks later. I filed for a divorce. I never saw her again.

A few weeks later one of my clients, a gourmet French restaurant in Bay Harbor Islands, called. Could I run right over (it was 11 PM) and take a few photos? Sure, I said. It was an after the ballet dinner and he wanted some photos shaking hands with Mikhail Baryshnikov for publicity. I got a shot with me shaking his hand also. I asked him if he would please autograph a ballet program. He said "Of course, what should I write?" It ended up saying "Dear Mia, I was so dissapointed that you couldn't attend the ballet tonight or come to the cast party afterwards" over his signature. I mailed that to Mia along with an 8x10 of Mikhail and myself shaking hands. I never heard back from her.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Long Road To The Library

Photo of Craig Hoehne (c) Darryl Smith 2006

I first met Craig on the Photonet Leica Forum a few years ago. We've exchanged several Emails but never got together for coffee. I'm in Florida and he's in Australia, not exactly next door! Then a week or so ago I got the following Email from him. Craig, I'm honored! Thank you very much.

G'day Al Well Al, you’ve made it into the annals of Australian photo history! Some background as to how this unlikelyhood happened. Over the last few years (well since 2001 actually) I’ve been researching a little known Australian photographer who worked during the 1930 and 1940s. Whilst living in Macao during the mid 1960s he also did some street reportage, where he took a total of 50 or so rolls of film. You may recall a while back I started a PN survey thread on film consumption. Well I referenced your productivity against my photographer. I recently sent bound copies of my research essay to the Australian National Library and the New South Wales State Library. I thought they would simply add my material to their internal files for this photographer. Nope my essay is being formally catalogued by the two most prestigious libraries this country has on offer. So its official... Al Kaplan is now formally part of Australian photographic history. Funny huh. ATM I’m putting together an html version with clickable links to online recourses so we shall have a link to your blog also.

That hat my friend… is an AKUBRA! An Australian national icon. Made from rabbit felt. Cheers Craig Hoehne

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Portuguese Guitarra

I'm getting towards the end of all of those old prints I found a week or two ago. I guess my ex wife Stephanie Brundage still has the negatives for the photos she took of me, just as my files have the negatives of the photos that l took of her. She took this one during the winter of '65/'66 when we were living at 195 Cottage Street in New Bedford, Massachusettes, probably with her black dial Leica III-f.

The instrument is a Portuguese guitarra. It's flat backed and a little larger than a mandolin, with six courses of double strings. The tuning head seems unique to the instrument. Every other stringed instrument seems to use pegs, some gear driven and others not, and the string wraps around the peg as it's tuned. Here there are 12 screws with knurled knobs, which make nuts with little hooks ride up and down slots in the face of the head, tightening and loosening the strings as they move. The strings need a loop on both ends. The thinest strings aren't pre-made. The wire comes on a spool, and you make up your own strings with it.

New Bedford had a large Portuguese population, harking back to the days of the great whaling ships that once filled the harbor, and they've had a big influence on both the city and the city's cuisine. I bought this instrument at a pawn shop but never became very adept at playing it. I did have fun though.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Just Hangin' Out On A Saturday Night

My house always seemed to be the "hang out place" in the late 60's, weekends bringing together an assortment of friends to discuss everything from photography to world events. Even the room doesn't look all that different these days, with the same tables, lamps, and wing chair in pretty much the same places, but the sofa was replaced with the one that had been my mom's, and the lamp shades were also replaced. The floor length drapes are gone, and my son now has the Portuguese guitarra that's hanging on the wall. I have a new grey cat, Baby, that prefers sleeping stretched out straight.

Jim Kukar on the left now sports a full beard but is back working as a copy editor for the Herald, this time at the Broward bureau. Stephanie, my wife at the time, is remarried and is a doctor in South Carolina. That's me with the huge head of hair in the center. I'm not 100% sure but I think that's Nathan Benn in the wing chair. He's now living on the west coast. I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago. On the right is Al Olme. It's been a couple of years since we've talked, but he was still living in Minneapolis where he'd moved about 30 years ago.

The daylight Ektachrome slide is suffering from the wrong color temperature of light, color shift from age, and probably some reciprocity failure from a long exposure on the tripod. The lens was a 12mm f/8 Spiratone, neither full 180 degree circle nor full frame. The camera cut off the top and the bottom. It was revolutionary in its day for its price of only $39.50. Of course that would be about $200 in today's dollars. It wasn't very sharp at f/8, as you can see, but at f/16 it really wasn't all that bad.

I know it was Saturday night because that's the early edition of the Miami Herald on the floor in front of Jim. Some things never change.

Monday, August 21, 2006


I've always liked this photograph of Stephanie. Only a photographer would proudly display a framed photograph of a former spouse nearly forty years later. She was my wife back in 1968 when I made the photograph. We had two kids, a girl and a boy, and then divorced about a decade later. Back then I was going through one of my experimental stages in my photography, trying various techniques and different cameras, even a huge 8x10 view camera on a massive tripod. I was doing a lot of double exposures both in the camera and in the darkroom. Most of the in camera double exposures were made with a Minolta Autocord on 120 film. The Autocord had a button making recocking the shutter for the second (or third!) exposure easy to do.

This photograph was a darkroom creation. It wasn't done in the camera. This is a print made using two angles and magnifications of the same image on one sheet of paper. The original negative was probably made on Kodak High Contrast Copy Film using dilute developer to try to retain some tonality while still giving a stark high contrast effect. Stephanie was lying on the grass in our back yard, positioned so it looks like the sun is illuminating her from below. I'm not really sure what camera and lens I was using, but it was probably my old black 85mm f/2 Nikkor on my brand new Leica M4.

P.S. Want an archival quality print of this or one of my other photos? E-mail me at for details.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Self-Portrait With A Black Eye

I was flipping through a stack of old prints and ran across this "self-portrait" from 1967, which reminded me a bit of my recent series of self-portraits, but more so it reminded me of the photographs my son Jonathan took of me this past January when a bunch of guys from a well drilling company working next door jumped me and beat the crap out of me.

Stephanie and I had barely finished moving into the house we'd just bought, the same one I'm living in now, when I developed another sinus infection. After being examined by a few doctors it was decided that I probably had polyps growing in the sinus cavity, and surgery was in order. I was in St. Francis Hospital on Miami Beach for three days or so. When I came home I was full of pain killers and antibiotics, and had a tube coming out of my nose and taped to my cheek. "The black eye is normal" I was told. So was the pain I suppose, but I had plenty of those happy pills.

The polyps were removed and never grew back. It never occurred to me that if only I waited long enough I'd get a second chance at being photographed with a black eye. In that drugged up state not much of anything occurred to me, but I did decide to load up the old Minolta Autocord with a roll of 120 Gevapan ($15.00 for a box of 100 rolls at Fotomart), and get few shots in the mirror by bouncing the Ultima 40B off the ceiling. It's not the best lighting possible, but direct flash straight into the mirror would have been a lot worse.

P.S. Want an archival quality print of this or one of my other photos? E-mail me at for details.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Sense of Wonder

I was the happiest man on the planet when Elena was born. I paid no mind to the naysayers, the ones who'd say "Oh, I bet you wanted a son." I wanted a child, and child is what I got, bright and loving and adorable, eager to explore the world, eager to learn. That little tree was about the same age as Elena, two perhaps, and the tree became a casualty of a hurricane a few years later. Just as well I suppose, because the other trees in the yard have grown over the years. About 20 feet away there's an Australian Pine that was planted as a seedling at the same time as this tree, and it's now about 60 feet tall.

Here Elena is looking up at new little leaves sprouting on the branches. Everyplace we went she asked questions, always finding new things to wonder at. A few years later Jonathan came along, her little brother, and Elena loved being the teacher, telling him this or that, answering all his questions as best she could. Eventually she became an attorney and now practices law in Atlanta. Jonathan is working on a doctorate at Harvard. His wife Deb is pregnant and in five weeks or so he'll have a little girl, his own. I really wish they lived closer.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

It was tough work but somebody had to do it. Year after year for perhaps 20 years I photographed the Miss North Miami Pageant. In the beginning it was sponsored by the city, but later it was taken over by the North Miami Chamber of Commerce. The city had a bigger budget and the public relations director had me spend a bit of time photographing each girl, twelve in all, often at one of the local parks. Then there were the posed shots, head and shoulders portraits with studio lighting at the armory where the pageant was held, and shots of the girls rehearsing the pageant itself. Plus the actual Pageant and the coronation ball. It was quite a bit of photography in all.

I can't remember this girl's name offhand, or the exact year either, for that matter. I suppose next time I'm at the Chamber office I'll take a look. It was back around 1980 when AC/DC had their big hit Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. I actually did shoot those pageants dirt cheap, but that was mostly because it was fun and I more than made up for it with selling prints to the girls. Many of them aspired to be models, actresses, dancers, and such. One Miss North Miami, Sandra Santiago, went on to star in the Miami Vice television show as the female lead detective.

This was about the time that I decided that I wanted to start getting into some of these celebrity shots by handing off the camera to whomever was handy. We took two pictures. In one we're both looking at the camera, but I like this one better. It really exemplifies the sort of dirty deeds expected of us poor photographers.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wheels Within Wheels

I've been thinking a lot about the past the last few weeks, as I went back through envelopes filled with old pictures that were packed away for years and continued going over my old contact sheets looking for images worth printing. This is the Russian woman I met at the Aventura Starbucks last winter, the one who asked me if perhaps I was the photographer that knew her brother at the 135th St. Starbucks. I was. She went on to say that she sometimes went there also.

Since that day eight or nine months ago I haven't run into her brother once, nor have I seen her again. But as I was straightening out the mess on my computer table a few days ago I found another print of the photo. A sign? And almost at the same time as I heard from people that I haven't seen in nearly forty years, who found me through this blog. People appearing, people disapearing. People reappearing. It made me think of the name of a science fiction book I'd read years ago by F. Paul Wilson. I went back to look at the contact sheet. This picture just kind of "popped" off the page compared to the others shots in the series, screaming "ME, ME, ME" so here it is again.

P.S. Want an archival silver gelatin print of this or one of my other photos? E-mail me at for details.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Damn! It's Been Forty Years? Already?

Going through old negatives and contact sheets is fun but finding an envelope of vintage prints is exciting! What made me keep this one? Why did I print it in the first place? Why did Stephanie photograph me that day sitting in front of my mother's apartment?

Lately it seems like I'm really living in a link between two eras, even three, a never never land neither the past that was or the present that is or the futures that might be. Lately I've found replies on my blog and received emails because of it from people that I know and correspond with, but I've also gotten a few from people I haven't seem or heard from in 35 years or more, people I didn't think would even remember me, yet they took the time to write.

One woman who lives in Orlando was actually trying to find out the price of silver. For real. Thank you Google! She was curious and stumbled across this blog, explored it a bit, and ran across some photos of people she knew back when she was 15 and living in Miami, way back in 1970. She sent me an email. I remembered her. She has four grown sons, a couple of grandchildren, and a 17 year old daughter interested in photography. She's about to remarry, this time to a newspaper photographer. Today we spoke on the phone for half an hour, and I promised to look for some photos that had her in them, from way back then! Thanks, Deb!

And today's picture? It was 1966 and my mother had convinced Stephanie and me to move to Miami from Massachusettes. We stayed at her place for a few weeks until we rented an apartment at 76th St. and North Miami Avenue, right across from Mae and Helen's Deli, where big thick heaped high roast beef sandwiches were 69 cents and a 12 ounce bottle of ice cold pop was a dime. Steph took this shot in front of my mom's place on Normandy Isle. That was her landlord sitting in the background. From the angle I think it was taken with the Minolta Autocord. I loved that corduroy jacket and wore it 'til it was so thread bare that new leather elbow patches wouldn't help.

Photo copyright Stephanie Brundage 1966

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Spuds Last Ride

Spuds was a cute little dog that Mary found wandering around a few years ago. People are always coming and going at the trailer park where Mary lives, and sometimes pets get left behind. She fed him and cared for him, she made sure that he had all of his shots and was properly licensed. For his part of the bargain he barked menacingly at all who came to the door, and put up with living with way too many cats. Mary is a Cat Lady, without a doubt! She has the four cats the law allows, maybe half a dozen more that are "still just kittens, really! I'll find them homes! Just give me time!" And then there are the Outside Cats, neighborhood strays that hang around her trailer because she feeds them, and makes sure that there's always plenty of fresh water to drink.

Mary's vision isn't what it should be and she had to give up driving a couple of years ago. She's 83, a Libra soon to turn 84. When Spuds needed his annual shots and check-up at the vet so that he could get a new license tag I took the two of them. He always looked so alert and excited when he got to ride in my truck, even though I suspected that he knew a shot was part of the day's adventure. As long as he could sit up high enough to look out the window he loved going for rides. I suppose it was also a welcome respite from being the only dog in a house full of cats. Fresh air for a change!

A few weeks ago I answered the phone too early one morning. Mary was crying, all upset. I asked what the trouble was. Spuds wasn't moving. He was just lying there. He was dead. By the time I got over there Mary had already dug a hole in the yard and buried Spuds. It was all over. Even the cats seemed somber. I had a cup coffee with Mary, we smoked a few cigarettes, and we chatted. We talked of Spuds, how he loved the cats and how they loved him. I made plans to take Mary to the grocery store later that day and drove home.

P.S. Want an archival quality print of this or one of my other photos? E-mail me at for details.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Haunting Visage of a House

My hometown of New Bedford, Massachusettes was awash in wealth during the latter part of the 19th century, extending into the early years of the 20th century. It was a major whaling port, going back to colonial times, and somehow managed to transition itself into a mill town transforming bales of southern cotton into cloth and clothing. The wharves once full of barrels of whale oil were full of cotton bales, and the steam engine which revolutionized ground transportation also mechanized the spinning of thread and the looms for weaving it into cloth.

Many of the seafaring folks went from whaling to cod fishing on the Grand Banks off of Newfoundland, Canada a few hundred miles to the north. Then after World War One, called The Great War in those days, along came Prohibition making it illegal to posess or sell alcohol. It was still available in Canada, though, and many of those boats coming into port had barrels and bottles of whiskey under all those codfish packed in ice.

When I was a little kid there was a photograph on the wall of the front hall. It was my mother's father holding the reins of the horses as he sat in the wagon full of barrels of whiskey. It was legal whiskey, before prohibition. He had a wholesale liquor business on the main street between the docks and downtown. He made good money and bought several office buildings with a partner who also had interests in the fishing business. During prohibition, of course, the store was "closed" and the country sank into The Great Depression, with millions of people out of work. Strangly My grandfather made more money than ever. When prohibition ended the store "reopened" again.

In the late 1960's I was back there visiting and shot a few rolls of Kodachrome II of some of those fanciful old houses built in the late 1800's and early 1900's. I don't recall the address, but this was a few blocks west of downtown and I loved the way it had the round tower incorporated into the design.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mellow Yellow? Not Hardly!

A few years after Stephanie and I bought this house Mrs. Corrado moved out of her house three doors down. She had two sons, and and the younger boy was about to graduate from the University of Florida. The boys, men really, were going off on their own. Edith no longer needed the big house. Her sons were perhaps 6 or 8 years younger than I was, and we enjoyed the same rock music and mind altering substances. The Doors and Cream filled the air. Then suddenly we had new neighbors!

The Whiteheads had three kids, Shirley, James, and Phillip, ranging from about 9 to 14. Their father, John, was a union electrician, while their mom was one of the last stay-at-home mothers I can remember. It was different times then, and the fact that I had long hair didn't seem to faze them at all. We were all friends and we got along nicely. All the neighbors frequently got together for barbeques or an after work beer or coffee.

Our daughter Elena was about to be born, and all the women and girls around us were excited. Shirley was always coming by to see and play with the new baby. The boys were more likely to be over at Cagni Park playing the sport of the season or riding their bikes and doing wheelies in the street. Then one day they were gone. The Miami area had gone through another complete cycle of booming construction, work had dried up, and John was off to the next place, Orlando I think. I never saw any of them again.

This is a shot of Phillip that I made for no particularly good reason other that perhaps to finish off a roll of film. I'd yet to buy a Leicaflex with a 180/2.8 Elmarit. Back then I had a Pentax SV with a 200mm f/3.5, a Tele-Rokunar I think. No, it wasn't made by Minolta, although I suspect that the company wanted to make people think that there was some connection to the Minolta Rokkor lenses. It really was a pretty decent lens for the money! Today we'd say "nice bokeh!"

Friday, August 11, 2006

Whaling Days

As a little child growing up in the old whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusettes it was a Saturday morning ritual to take the bus downtown with my mother, do some shopping at at both specialty shops and Star Store, the local department store, visit the five and ten, have lunch either at a downtown restaurant or the lunch counter at Browne's Drug Store, and then go to the library before visiting the beauty parlor to get her hair done. There was no television to distract a bored child in the beauty parlor so books were my salvation.

The New Bedford Public Library was an imposing granite structure a block north of the main shopping street downtown. Like many public buildings there it was largely constructed with donated money from people who'd grown extremely wealthy in the whaling industry. Today's stark and sterile public buildings don't have the quality of construction and materials, and they lack the multitude of sculptures and oil paintings that gave these places such a feeling of warmth and hominess. On the lower floor was the childrens' room, a place of wonder filled with books both old and new. As I got a bit older I was especially interested in a series of volumes consisting of bound copies of the magazine The Boy Mechanic from the 1930's, full of interesting ideas and step by step instructions on building everything imaginable.

In front of the library was this bronze statue of a harpooner in the bow of a whaleboat, posed to thrust his harpoon. The back and base of granite was inscribed "A Dead Whale Or A Stove Boat". I was confused by the term "stove", always picturing the one in the kitchen in my mind's eye. It was only when I was maybe nine or ten when I realized it also meant "crushed", and referred to what would happen to the boat if the whale managed to slap the boat with his great tail.

A Place In The Sun

A couple of weeks ago I'd sent Todd Frederick a bunch of vinyl pages, each with 20 color slides, old faded slides who's colors had shifted since I'd shot them. He's as good as it gets when it comes to scanning and trying to get the colors back to a semblace of reality.This morning I'd told him "Pick one!". When I got home I found an Email saying "I just posted another old lady. Go for it."

As the image loaded on the computer screen I was confused at first by what I was seeing. "Old lady"? Not hardly! But then I realized that the photo was made back around 1970, perhaps a bit earlier, and she was probably in her early twenties at the time. Now I know a lot of women who are pushing sixty, and I'd be taking my life in my hands were I to ever suggest that they were old ladies, but this pretty young blonde is most likely a grandmother these days, using a rinse to keep the grey at bay and perhaps a perm to put some body back in her hair.

I can't remember her name but I recall liking the way the sunlight was coming through a space in the trees overhead, almost like a spotlight. I was shooting with a Leicaflex SL and trying out a Vivitar 105/2.8 T4 mount lens, the one with interchangeable adapters. I ended up buying the lens.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Got The Blues, A Nice Mess Of Blues

My new wife Stephanie had never fished before she met me, but she sure learned to enjoy it quickly enough. We were living in Boston but most weekends we drove the fifty odd miles down to New Bedford and stayed at my grandmother's house where my dad lived. We fished the shores of nearby lakes for largemouth bass and pickerel and by summer bought a 12 foot boat and 5 horsepower outboard motor, allowing us to fish the harbor.

We mostly used light spinning tackle with 4 lb. test line and never used natural bait. We fished with 1/4 oz. bucktail jigs which are still my favorite all around lure. For a couple of weekends we'd found small striped bass in the two to five pound range by working the edges of the channel, letting the jig sink to the bottom and working it slowly back to the boat. My grandmother was thrilled to have all the fresh fish and made some of it into gefilte fish, boiled balls of ground fish served cold with horse radish. We'd catch the occasional small cod or pollack, and sometimes a few Atlanic mackerel also.

One morning shortly after daybreak as we were still running out to the channel the water around us turned white with froth, gulls appeared out of nowhere diving down to grab baitfish as the school of small bluefish attacked from below. In maybe ten minutes or so we managed to catch six bluefish. Then it was over. Try as we might we never did locate any striped bass that morning.

This was shot on Ektachrome 120 with my Minolta Autocord. Kodak used to make duplicate slides from 120 that were reduced in size so they'd fit a standard slide projector and this was scanned from one of those faded but still contrasty duplicates. The fish shouldn't look that yellow.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Legend of the Florida Skunk Ape

I was still smoking Camel regulars in 1973 even though they'd just wiped out the penny difference between regulars and kings. Paying 28 cents a pack wasn't a killer. I met a guy named Darrel Seideman and his friend Buzz, probably at the local fishing tackle shop, the House of Snook. They were looking for a photographer to go with them to Charlotte Harbor on the lower west coast of Florida. We'd put the boat it at Placida and then go across the shallow (mostly two feeet or less) bay to a large shell mound island where we'd camp for a week. They were hoping to get photographs of a skunk ape, the legendary big ape-like creature that supposedly inhabits the Everglades. They said that there had been some sightings over there.

Darrel had a 14 ft. Woodson tri-hull with a 35 H.P. Mercury and I had a 17 ft. Mohawk fiberglass canoe with a little electric motor. We only had to journey a bit over two miles from the marina to the island, no big deal. My friend John Patteson joined the expedition. We packed several coolers with supplies, took tents and sleeping bags and lots of mosquito repellant, and I took a couple of Leicas equipped with flash units as well as a couple of "baby" Graphics because they're easy to set off with trip wires across a path, yet used standard 120 roll film.

When we got to the mound, actually a midden about 100 yards long by 50 yards wide, and easily 20 feet high in many places, we set up camp. It was made up of thousands of years worth of shells, animal bone, broken pieces of pottery, and whatever else was left behind by the Native Amercans (we called them "Indians" back then) who'd occupied the site. It was covered mostly by fairly large trees, everything from live oak to key lime, with mangroves around the edges. There were a couple of clearings with knee high grass, some fairly recent excavations from people looking for "pirate gold", and a network of well worn paths criscrossing the island, far more worn than you'd expect from the occasional visitor.
The "soil" consisted mostly of broken shells mixed with a little rotted vegetation, hardly ideal for giving clean footprint impressions, but we did manage to make some plaster casts in a few places. Someplace packed away I still have a cast, along with a grainy cropped black and white flash photo of something staring back at the camera through the trees, one hand holding an overhead branch. For now I have this Kodachrome of a footprint. You can vaguely make out the toe indentations and edges of the foot. I had this sketch of the foot print tucked away with the slides

That area was once inhabited by the Calusa tribe, supposedly wiped out and enslaved by the Spanish who shipped the survivors to Cuba. The Seminoles and Miccosukees who live in Florida now are no relation, having come down here from north Florida and Georgia fairly recently. So how is it that a tribe who've only lived in the area a hundred years or so, starting long after the Calusas were gone, know about this creature? They even have a name for them, iwashakee, which means "man who is not a man" in the Creek dialect that they speak.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

That was the name of a hit Broadway show back in the 1950's when I was a kid. This little blonde was just so cute and loveable that I couldn't resist her charms. She really had a winning smile. She was the local poster child for the March of Dimes that year, but I can't remember her name. I guess she'd be in her early thirties now. This was about the time when I'd decided that I wanted to start getting in the shots with the celebs, not just take pictures of other people in the limelight.

The March of Dimes had recently located their South Florida office into a local bank building here in North Miami, mere blocks from my house. I guess I'd met their public relations director at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He was looking for a photographer who could cover the occasional banquet and their annual golf tournament, as well as being able to run over to their office at times, sometimes on short notice, for a fast shot. I took on the account because it was close by and I knew I'd get to meet a lot of potential clients. I rarely billed for much more than expenses. I made some great business contacts though.

Eventually, as the center of population here in South Florida shifted north into Broward County, they moved their office also. Between staff changes within the organization and the inconvenience of servicing an account twenty miles away, at some point I stopped doing their photography. I often wonder what ever happened to all of those kids that I photographed back then. Where are they now? What are they doing?

Monday, August 07, 2006

...Glory Days!

As I was driving home this afternoon I had the local classic rock station on the radio as usual. I often get ideas for the blog listening to lyrics, and sometimes it seems that a bunch of things just come together at once. I'd already decided on using this photo today, one of a bunch of photos of me with various other people. I ran across an envelope full of black and white 8x10's a few weeks ago during a another futile attempt to make order out of chaos in my office. I had no idea how I was going to lead in to the story, or what I should title it. "Glory Days" was the refrain that kept coming through the speakers, and it reminded me of yesterday when I was at Jim and Linda Kukar's reception. Jim and I and bunch of other newspaper people were indeed " boring stories of glory days". Jim is the one who first got me interested in politics.

This is North Miami Mayor Howard Neu a bit over twenty years ago. He'd dragged me deeper still into the political process, first appointing me to the Planning Comission, then chairman of his re-election campaign. Here we are in his office in city hall, no doubt breaking some law or another about drinking alcohol in city hall, but the returns were comming in and enough precincts had reported that it was obvious that Howard had won the election. The champaign cork was popped, the glasses were filled, and I found somebody to hand the camera off to as we shook hands and raised the glasses in celebration. Glory Days!

A few years later I suggested to a young female attorney, Christine Moreno, that she might consider running against the unopposed Howard Neu. She won, but that's a story for another photograph and another day.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Staying The Course - Full Speed Ahead

This is one of my "self-portrait" series from sometime in the last year, part of a still ongoing project. I thought of using it today as I was driving home early this evening from about as far north as you can go in Broward County, still charged up from having this blog chosen as a Yahoo! Pick of the Week and from all the excitement of attending Jim and Linda Kukar's reception this afternoon. They actually got married a bunch of months ago, but today was the party, the celebration with family and friends, and I just had to be there!

I'd never met Linda before, not beyond the occasional few words on the phone after saying "Hi Linda, this is Al. Is Jim there?" Strange really, when you consider that Jim and I exchange Emails all the time and try to get together for late "breakfast" when Jim gets off from his job as a copy editor at the Miami Herald. When I say late I'm talking 11 at night, not morning, but we usually meet at an IHOP and breakfast is their specialty.

Jim and I go way back to about 1969 when the Herald hired him to edit the Norh Dade Journal, which is now called Neighbors North and isn't the paper it was then. I got introduced all around to Herald people with whom he now works, we told stories back and forth about our adventures together over the years, about how he'd rented a house from Linda Lovelace and her boyfriend not knowing at the time that they were off making a movie called "Deep Throat". He bragged about the talent he had working there, form a young photographer named Nathan Benn who went on to a succesful career with National Geographic and finally headed up the New York office of Magnum, the international picture agency, to Jim Kerr who moved on to writing TV sitcoms and created Married With Children.

This is a town where people come and go, and journalism is a field where "moving up" oft times means taking a job clear across the country. It's kind of a unique situation, two guys who have worked together for a variety of publications over nearly forty years, and developed a friendship like we have. Thank you Jim. Linda, take good care of him.

P.S. Want an archival quality print of this or one of my other photos? E-mail me at for details.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Keep Your Eyes On The Road, Keep Your Hands Upon The Wheel...

It's been an exciting couple of days since Yahoo! told me this blog was their Pick of the Week. It's caused me to do a lot of thinking about what this blog means to me and what direction I want it to take. I was riding home earlier this evening with the radio tuned to the local classic rock station when I heard the words "Keep your eyes on the road, keep your hands upon the wheel..." with "wheel" drawn out into two sylables.

That was The Word, the message telling me to stay on track, that I was doing just fine the way things were. I spoke with Jon Sinish about it. He said that the draw was the very fact that you never knew what you'd find on Thepriceofsilver from one day to the next. It could be something I shot in the last week or two, something from twenty years ago or perhaps even forty. Rock singers to presidents, and a story to go along with it. Places I've been and people I've known, strangers and family alike.

Lately I've been posting a lot of older stuff from my files, but I'm still shooting. I'm going to get busy and print up some of the recent things. Tomorrow I'm shooting a party for an old friend, a newspaper editor. He and I have been working together on and off for a variety of publications going back nearly forty years. I've got plenty of pictures of him over the years. I remember his 27th birthday party. He just turned 64. Hell, Monkey was only 25 back then!

P.S. Want an archival quality print of this or one of my other photos? E-mail me at for details.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Yahoo! Chose This Blog as a PICK Of The Week

Yahoo! Picks
It was a complete surprise yesterday when I got the Email from Yahoo! telling me that my blog was a Yahoo! Pick. I'd noticed a jump in traffic, and the traffic just kept climbing. I have a friend who says that he averages less than 50 hits a day on his site, and for the past six months I've been getting about 100. Right now I'm 902 hits over the same time yesterday.

I'd like to thank all of you who Emailed your congratulations, as well as those who posted them on the Leica Forum on Photonet. I even got a few phone calls. Big thanks to Jon Sinish and Todd Frederick for figuring out how to post the link to Yahoo!'s little symbol on the blog. Yahoo doesn't make it an easy task, at least not on Blogspot software.

I got curious about where there might be links to the blog and started Googling around. Links appear on some blogs and websites in lots of other countries, from Europe through the far east and Australia, and back to Alaska, encircling the globe. Several blogs I ran across didn't bother linking. They just ran my blog, photos and text, with full credit, inside of their own. That means that I could have hundreds of followers reading the blog daily without it ever showing up on my hit counter. WARNING TO THOSE PEOPLE RUNNING MY BLOG ON THEIR SITES: The material is copright. Feel free to run a brief "teaser" followed by a link to this blog but don't just reproduce the blog on your site, even if you do give me credit. The one exception would be if you want to run a translation of the text in another language, but even then please ask my permission, and only link to the photographs. Don't run the photos themselves in your blog.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bob Dylan

This shot of Bob Dylan was shot the same night as the photo of him playing with Joan Baez at the Boston Arts Festival back in 1964. Joan was the singer who was scheduled to sing that night. Nobody expected Bob to be there. It had been a couple of years since she used to drag him around to coffee houses with her and introduce him to people who really had come to listen to Joan, not some unknown country hayseed. By 1964 he'd already had a couple of very successful albums and might well have been the bigger draw if his name had appeared in the program.

Instead, Joan went on stage and Bob was in the tent behind the stage as she played her set. Nobody much besides Joan knew he was there, and nobody expected him to be there either. As famous as he'd become he was still a very shy person. He actually seemed pretty nervous as he stood back there waiting for her to announce that he was present and going to join her on stage, as nervous as if he'd never been on a stage before! He just stood there very much caught up in his own thoughts, or perhaps lost in his own thoughts would be a more apt description. Once he went out there though, through the curtain and on to the stage, he seemed very much in control of himself as the crowd roared with excitement. He really seemed to enjoy that.

P.S. Want an archival quality print of this or one of my other photos? E-mail me at for details.