I recently got a call from my favorite, local non-profit, Arthouse Astoria, asking me to do some quick headshots for a group of talented and dedicated children involved in their musical theater program. I jumped at the chance and I’m so happy I did. These children were amazing and bright, and gifted and fun to photograph. Arthouse Astoria is a non-profit organization devoted to bringing affordable art and music education to Astoria and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. Operating since 2009, it has a variety of classes taught by dedicated professionals. Thank you, Arthouse Astoria ( arthouseastoria.org ) for making our neighborhood a better place for our children.
On April 22nd, at Astoria First Presbyterian Church I had the pleasure and the honor of giving 15 minute portrait sessions to families in the neighborhood for a $25 fee. I donated all proceeds from the event to Food Bank NYC. Hunger is an important issue to me. One out of 5 children in the United States goes hungry each night. In New York City, the stress is greater given the high cost of living. Renters in the city paid an average of 65.2% of their income on rent in 2016. That doesn’t leave much for food. Physical nourishment leads to a healthy mental and spiritual child. Having a beautiful, well-fed, intelligent and compassionate 6 year old, I know this intimately. Sometimes I can’t believe how much Walker can eat. We’ve been blessed to be able to provide for him in the first years of his life. I know some aren’t as fortunate as we are. It’s a difficult problem that doesn’t seem to be getting any easier lately.
I’m happy to tell you that we were able to donate $150.00 for the cause. And we had a great time doing so too.
I thank Astoria First Presbyterian for donating their space. Pastor Thia Reggio is a wonderful, articulate, caring woman who oversees a warm, welcoming congregation. Services are every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and they are child friendly so if you are in the area and looking for a place to grow spiritually I recommend Astoria First Presbyterian. I thank the families for coming and let me shoot their portraits. I thank my son, Walker Elijah, for helping out. He was awesome holding the reflector and getting people relaxed for their shoot.
First of all, I want to thank, again, the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island along with Denise Fillion, its Director of Communication, for allowing me the opportunity to photograph special services for them. I am humbled each time I photograph in one of their beautiful churches. Each time I feel uplifted and full of hope. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with the Episcopal Church and its liturgy. So photographing these services fulfills me in so many ways. Besides, there’s nothing better than doing what you love to do and feeling in the name of God.
Today’s post is a photograph I took last week at the Confirmation Service at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn. For those who remember this church was set ablaze by an arsonist back on December 23rd, 2012 during the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. It’s a portrait that I took of a distinguished, beautiful woman at the end of the service. I was putting my camera away getting ready to go home when I saw her sitting in the corner, her smile radiating with the sun awash all over her. Because as beautiful as the brick and mortar of a church may be, there’s nothing more divine than a beautiful person inside of that church. I had to go up to her and ask if I could take her photograph. Thankfully she obliged me. I hope you like this portrait as much as I loved taking it.
On March 28th, a day after my 49th birthday, Bishop Mdimi Mogholo, a beautiful, compassionate and able man, passed away from complications of Pneumonia. Bishop Mhogolo was a vibrant man, full of energy and good humor. He exhibited amazing intelligence and compassion. He served his Diocese with great ability and energy. I got the joy of meeting him when I visited Tanzania in 2008. I was a last-minute replacement for a pilgrimage to Tanzania as liaison for the Congregation of St. Saviour to the Carpenter’s Kids Program in Central Tanganyika. (http://carpenterskids.net)
Even though I was one small member of a large contingent visiting the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, Bishop Mhogolo made me fee at ease on the few occasions I got to talk to him. It was if I was a I was a life-long friend. That’s the kind of man he was. At the time I met him, I was in the earliest stages of discernment for the priesthood within the Episcopal faith. It was in Tanzania, strangely enough, that after having not picked up a camera in nearly 15 years my passion for photography was reignited. I had taken a small, Canon Point and Shoot along with me, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures every minute I was there. After I got back I put together a presentation about the Carpenter’s Kids Program that I was fortunate enough to present to other congregations in the Diocese of New York. It was during these presentations that I realized my true desire was to begin doing photography again.
What I experienced in Central Tanganyika transformed me profoundly and I will never forget my time there and the great people I met on the trip. I can thank Bishop Mhogolo for that. I pray to God I can serve my fellow man with one-tenth the ardor and ability that he did. We miss you already, Bishop.
I had the pleasure of seeing two well-organzied retrospectives featuring the work of Lewis Hine and Zoe Strauss last week with my good friend, Bill at the International Center of Photography. http://www.icp.org/museum
Lewis Hine, champion of the poor and disenfranchised in his photography, is considered to be one of the precursors of both modernist, and documentary photography. His works on child labor, immigration, and the poor are still well known today. The retrospective showing at I.C.P. goes further by exhibiting a broad overview of Hine’s work along with complementary materials that anchor his work to its own era while allowing us the pleasure of rethinking his place in the pantheon of photographers today.
“Zoe Strauss: 10 Years” is a retrospective of Zoe Strauss’s work that is divided into three categories — all of which show her strength as a photographer. The exhibit contains over 100 photographs spanning 10 years. At this retrospective we get a good look at her portrait work, her urban landscape photography, and street documentation photographs. Strauss’s photography originated in 2001 when she first began to exhibit her photography on concrete columns beneath an I-95 underpass near her home in Philadelphia. Beginning to photograph at the age of 30 when she was a babysitter collecting welfare, Zoe Strauss explains that her photographs are, “an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life.” Focusing on her neighbors – people who were just getting by – allowed Strauss to hone a style that is more empathic than exploitive. Strauss’s portrait work, oftentimes of complete strangers, is certainly unique, and idiosyncratic. But she is more than just a portrait photographer. Her urban landscape photographs are certainly of equal beauty and distinction.
At first glance one might not see much in common between the two photographers currently exhibiting at I.C.P. But upon closer examination one notices that both photographers’ work contains an emphatic spirit unmatched by most of their peers. I highly recommend you visit the museum before they go. Both exhibits are up till January 19th. I.C.P. is located at 1133 Avenue of the Americas on the corner of 43rd Street, near Bryant Park and is easily accessible by many trains.
Maureen, and I feel heavy hearted and lost for words. Our prayers are for those children, and adults who died that tragic day, and for those who have lost someone dear. When,America, will we get back to teaching our children to be compassionate? When, America, will we stop glorifying violence, and when, America, will we legislate away the right to bear arms?
Maureen, Walker and I hunkered down in our apartment for the duration of the storm. We had stocked up on all the essentials beforehand. We spent our time watching Curious George, and Pocoyo, and we danced to Paulo Nutini’s “New Shoes” about 20 times. Walker and I created havoc with crayons while the wind howled outside, and Maureen cooked a great meal. I ventured out into the apartment lobby once with Walker and ran him up and down the steps six times just to release some of his pent-up toddler exuberance. Our only scare came around 9 p.m. last night when the lights flickered on and off twice in rapid succession. But we didn’t loose power, nor did that old tree that was swaying wildly in the wind come crashing through our bedroom window.
While Walker and Maureen napped today, I walked around Astoria to witness the aftermath of the storm. I saw evidence of flooding in houses and buildings down close to the river. Socrates Park was closed. The Costco Riverfront Park was open, and from there I could see how high the water still was. I also saw people collecting siding from their houses that blew off in the streets. Of course, I saw lots of downed trees. It was sedate but also surreal. One of the pictures I posted was of a giant tree uprooted near a park where Walker and I hang out at least twice a week. It was quite a loss, but nothing compared to the devastation we had seen on T.V. It was bizarre to witness the flooding of Battery Park tunnel. It was tragic seeing the houses burn in Breezy Point. It was sad to see Jane’s Carousel near the Brooklyn Bridge sitting in water. ( We had been there just a few weeks before the storm.) In Astoria we had been spared much of the destruction other places had received. For that I am grateful.
We pray for those who are less fortunate than us. We thank all our friends and family who called to see how we fared, and we offer our place to friends in distress who might need a hot shower or a place to stay for a few days. Contact us if we can help in anyway.