Friday, August 30, 2013

Tradition II

In yesterday's post I mentioned that Rabbi Lichter's work is often meticulous and grueling. When he's asked to repair a torah scroll he has to go through each column of letters on every sheet of parchment to determine if the ink, which actually lays on top of the parchment when it dries, needs to be repaired or re-written. If, after he's made a repair, there is any ambiguity about what he has fixed, he must then ask a child to identify the letter.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


As I was working on this photograph, I had the song 'Tradition' from Fiddler On The Roof  playing in my head. On Wednesday I spent some time with Rabbi Aaron Lichter in his office on the Lower East Side. Rabbi Lichter is a torah scribe. He examines old, worn torah scrolls for damaged or missing letters and fixes them with a quill pen and special ink. He also repairs the tiny script on mezuzah and tfilin parchment. It's grueling and meticulous work.

I photographed Rabbi Lichter twenty years ago when his office was at a different location in the neighborhood, a much larger space .... with much more clutter.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

At the MoMA

Yesterday I had the good fortune to be in Manhattan on a beautiful day. I was out to shoot some images in the area of Fifth Avenue and 57-59th Streets, and there was no lack of subject matter. But I have to admit that my mind was elsewhere. On the way uptown I passed the Museum of Modern Art on W. 53rd Street and was reminded that there currently is a show of the work of Walker Evans' American Photographs.  After a couple of hours on the street I went to MoMA to see the photographs.

Last year MoMA published an edition of its original book of Evans' work first done in 1938 to accompany a show that appeared in the museum of the same photographs . The current edition was released to celebrate the book's seventy-fifth anniversary. I was intrigued when the book first appeared on Amazon because I have a book of Evans' work entitled America which was published by Rizzoli. Quite a few of the photographs are duplicated in that second book, and the reproduction process of the two different publishers is quite evident when comparing the subtlety of tones and details. Rather than dwell on my personal opinion, I would suggest to anyone that comparing the two would be quite informative. The order of the images in the original book was constructed with great care by Evans, and in the preface of the current edition the publisher suggests that when looking at the images the reader would be best informed of Evans' intent by following his carefully planned layout.

The current edition by MoMA also includes the essay by Lincoln Kirstein which accompanied the original edition seventy-five years ago. The book is available at the MoMA bookstore on the first floor.  To gain some insight into what Evans was after in his work it might be wise to spend some time with Kirstein's words before seeing the show. I was quite impressed with how applicable Kirstein's insights are to events and trends in today's photography scene.

Most of the exhibition rooms of the museum are not photography restricted - usually the photo ban is only for special exhibits. I like to watch and photograph people as they move around the sculptures in the garden, especially the Giacomettis. I shot this first image several years ago:

and this was done yesterday:

This also was taken several years ago, I was immediately attracted to take the shot because of the position of both left legs, but then just as I pressed the shutter the young lady shifted her gaze: