It was a long day in Milan and we were returning by train to our hotel in Brescia which was about and hour or two away. Clickety clack and I fell asleep. That is what trains do to me. Clickety clack and I fall asleep. Usually these are very pleasant sleeps. It is the rhythm of the trains that just puts me in a stupor.
Half way home, I awoke and noticed this nun sitting across from me. I subtly aimed my camera in her direction and snapped just one shot before I drifted off again. I always liked this image. I liked it for what it said to me and also for technological reasons. A year or two later, I became curious about enlarging digital images beyond what they were supposed to be. I had bought some software that enabled me to blow them up and I was eager to try so I used this image. I enlarged it to 24×36 sent it out to a lab and it was returned to me. It was great. I pinned it up to my wall in my studio and it is still there today. After that, I never had any doubts about digital film. In my mind, It was equal in every way to film.
Filed under: Black & White, On being a Photographer, Photograph | 1 Comment
Tags: Black & White, Europe, Italy, Portrait, Travel
If you are Jewish, and you live in Montreal, sooner or later, you will die, and end up at Paperman and Sons Funeral Parlor. Naturally, I had heard of it since I was a kid, but since nobody close to me had ever died, I never went there except for funerals. That means, I never knew what went on upstairs—I knew nothing of the business of death.
That changed in 2001 when my mother died at the age of 92. Suddenly I had to go to Paperman and Sons and “do business”. I phoned and made an appointment to see Ross Paperman who of course was one of the elder Paperman’s sons. Of course everybody in Montreal who was Jewish knew where it was but this time it was a bit different. I went in the entrance and for the first time, I went to the elevator, instead of the chapel. The elevator doors opened (just like the gates of heaven) and I entered. I was swiftly transported to the second floor and when I exited, there was a pretty young lady with dark hair, a dark suit, dark eye make-up and deathly thin. She walked up to me, extended her hand, and said very formally, “My extreme sympathies, Mr. Saxe, if you will have a seat. Mr. Ross Paperman will be with you shortly.” I sat down and looked around. The whole place was decorated in Jewish Gothic with dark paneling, black sofas, mahogany desks and everybody who worked there was dressed in black. I felt I was paying a visit to the Munster’s.
In a few moments a young 40ish man in a dark suit came out and introduced himself as Ross Paperman. “I am deeply sorry about the loss of your late mother.” he said. (Actually it was not such a tragedy. She had lived a long healthy life, her cancer was diagnosed three weeks before her death, and she suffered no pain. She told me she was ready to go.)
We walked down a dark-paneled corridor, past mahogany doors, and an endless bevy of employees—all wearing dark suits, and he stopped at dark-paneled door , opened it and said “Please go in.”. Sharon and I walked into this huge mahogany-paneled office. Instead of being dark like everything else. it was brightly lit by an array of fluorescent ceiling lights. I felt I was about to “beamed” somewhere. Every shelf, tabletop, bookcase was adorned with miniature GI Joe figurines. Yes! Fucking GI Joe figurines! I smiled. Sharon smiled.
“This is such a gloomy place sometimes, I keep my collection here to cheer me up. I hope you don’t mind. If it bothers you we can move to another room.” All I could think of was where the fuck was my camera!
Two years later, my father passed away. Again it was no great tragedy. He was 96, institutionalized, in dementia and passed away peacefully in his sleep. For the second time in my life, I had to go to Paperman’s to “do business”.
Sharon and I walked into the building, past the chapel and entered the elevator. When the doors opened, everything was as it had been before except that this time, I brought my camera. The woman with the dark hair, black suit and dark eye make-up motioned for us to sit on one of the black sofas in the reception room. As I waited, I thought I was so clever for bringing my camera this time. I eagerly anticipated meeting with Ross and photographing his office with himself surrounded by 10,000 GI Joes. After a few moments, he came out, gave his sincerest sympathies and we followed him to his office. We walked in and I could not believe it. There was no trace of any GI Joe except for a small glass case on the wall containing 4 figurines. “Where are all your GI Joes,” I asked. He told me that some of the customers had complained and his brothers and sister and father thought it was not “professional” enough for Montreal’s finest funeral parlor, so he reluctantly removed them. Sadly I sat down in one of the black leather chairs and “did business”. I signed some papers, received the death certificate and performed other “pleasantries”. At some point, I had to pee and asked where the bathroom was. “Use the chapel restroom. It is much more comfortable. It is on your right at the bottom of the stairs.” I left the office, walked down the dark hallway and entered the staircase. As I was walking down the stairs, I saw this very old man standing at the bottom staring at the wall. “Hello,” he said. “How are you?” I introduced myself and told him I was here to arrange for my father’s funeral. “I am very saddened by your loss. My name is Herbert Paperman.” I introduced myself. At that point he noticed my camera around my neck. He said he used to collect them and at one time he had about 100 of them (including a few Contax’s). He rambled on and on about cameras and although he knew his stuff, he was not entirely connecting with me. I asked him if I could take his photograph and he said “of course.” He seemed to be a bit fuzzy on some matters and on others (like his Leica collection) he was very lucid. He was elderly and his mental state reminded me of my late father in his final years—dipping in and out of reality, punctuated by strong moments of lucidity. “Everybody in my family liked to collect things.” he said. My sons like to collect exotic cars. They spent a fortune on their Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s.” Really” I answered, suddenly understanding why the costs of funerals in Montreal were so high. “Oh ya,” he continued, “they were buying and selling so many we had to build a separate garage for them to store them. They take up a lot of space you know. At one time they… Suddenly the door to the staircase was flung open and two women with black hair, dark eye shadow wearing black suits rushed in and grabbed him and ushered him away. As they were dragging the old man out the door one of them turned to me and tersely asked if I was lost.
“I have to pee” I answered. “I was on my way to the bathroom.”
Filed under: Black & White, People, Rant | Leave a Comment
Tags: Art, Black & White, Cameras, Death, Montreal, People, photography, Thoughts
Sometimes my brain just works against me. It could be considered “creative block” but I really do not believe in that stuff. Its more likely forces within me working or conspiring to defeat my creativity. Ah. a plot! That is more like it. Well its not really a plot either. I don’t believe in that stuff—that is what we call paranoia. So it goes like this. My mind is always looking for new ideas. sometimes they come quite fluidly, and at other times there is nothing at all. Since I need an enemy, my superego is as good as one as any so that is what I can settle on.
Enough of the psychobabble—this is a story! I have been coming up dry lately. Everywhere I go I seem to find nothing, and my mind keeps telling me that “there is nothing here.” But I know that is crap. If one reads the work of any great author, reads the writings of any great artist, or photographer, there is always this basic truth. Good ideas can be found anywhere—all you have to do is see it. So that is what I have been doing lately. Going out and seeing and you know what¿ there are things out there to be seen. This was a walk along Dixie highway near Lake Worth. Of course my fucking brain was trying to convince me that some pastoral landscape was what I was really looking for, and of course they do not exist in such a populated state as Florida. That was the trick you see. I was looking for something that wasn’t there and in my head I found it—nothing. Once I saw through this—what I was really looking for was America as it exists today and that is what I found with this guy sitting (or actually blending in) with the “All American Gas Station.” Once I realized that beautiful landscapes did not exist (at least where I was) I could simply look at something else and make it happen. I will never ever be sure why this happens to me but one thing is true, once I realize this deceit, its over, I can continue on a straighter path.
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Tags: Black & White, Florida, People, Thoughts
In the summer of 1968, I purchased a Triumph 650cc Trophy motorcycle and was introduced to the passion, joys, and freedom of biking. That year, hanging out with my biker friends, I came to appreciate and understand the “biker culture”. In September, I drove my bike from Montreal to Vancouver, which was my first great adventures as a young man. I later sold my bike, began to settle down, but I never forgot that glorious year I spent on the roads.
Recently I went to Daytona Beach, Florida to the annual Bike Week 2012 rally—however this time it was not as a biker but as a photographer. I was not looking for old friends but only their ghosts—the symbols and relics from my wonderful experience of 45 years ago. Bike Week is where bikers go to have fun, to shock, to misbehave, and to exhibit themselves. It is a week of butts, boobs, bellies, bikes and lots of beer. It is as American as apple pie.
Its a world that I left a long time ago but still look back on with certain nostalgia and a touch of affection.
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Tags: Bar, Florida, Memory, photography, Street, Thoughts
It has been a while since I put anything up. I have been thinking about New York lately. Usually when I get this way, it is because I am feeling a bit restless. I am considering going to a photo workshop in Europe, My new iMac fell apart after 6 days and I am now waiting for a new one, Its cold (for Florida) outside, My old cat has started to drool, and a few other things that always seem to get me in this mood. So, when things are down, dream_and dream about far off places where you may think (only think) that you will be better off if you were there. Of course that is not it. You are never better off somewhere else because you take your shit with you. I know that. At least I think I do—because whenever it starts, I keep falling for it over and over again. It usually takes a week or so and then I catch up with reality again. In the meantime I wait it out—I eat, drink, get some work done and get my life in sync with boredom. It works every time.
I am still thinking about a workshop in Europe but its because its what I want, not what I think I need.
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Tags: Memory, New York, photography, Thoughts, Travel
One night in New Orleans—a few years ago—stumbling back to the hotel on the other side of Canal Street, these guys were playing for coins to a large crowd. The band was good and the guy in the white shirt sure could move. he was Mr. Cool himself as he moved amongst the young women in the crowd and selected one or two to dance with him. He was dancing with this asian woman for a while and then, pause and lit up. I must have shot about 30 frames of this guy and when I got home—SHIT! All the pictures had this color sign “FOOT LOCKER” behind them. Couldn’t these guys find a a better wall? The background spoiled the pictures—all of them—at least for me. I tries but gave up eventually, it was just futile. Whatever I tried, all I could see was that fucking sign behind them.
Five years later, I gave it another go. I tried working in Black and White which I thought might help subdue that brilliant red sign and it seemed to work. It only took me about and hour or two of trial and error to bring it around. There is nothing like perseverance—and patience!
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Tags: Black & White, New Orleans, Night, People, Street, Travel
For some reason, I always find myself photographing these things. Fire-eaters, men on stilts, clowns, all sorts of oddball activity. I have been photographing this woman for a few years. She appears regularly at a street festival very art Friday in the Northwood section of West Palm Beach. Since I have taken her photo on a number of occasions, we sometimes talk. She tells me that it is only a hobby with her but it is really something she likes to do. I doubt she is getting rich at it but she finds it satisfying. I think that is what it is all about—finding something you like doing and just practicing and getting better at it.
For myself, it is all about being a photographer. For others who knows but I hope it is something.
Filed under: On being a Photographer, Photograph | Leave a Comment
Tags: Female, Fire-eater, Florida, Street