Photoblog Feb. 2002

Feb 01, 2002

Thank you. Those who bought prints; those who didn’t buy prints; those who left little notes of encouragement; those who just sent e-mails with good wishes. Thanks to everybody for giving me the push from the corporate world to the ‘little boat’ that sails along in its wake. January was an amazing month, not just in terms of sales, but spiritually as well. Yes, its true, I did a lot of hard work, and produced prints that were as good as I could get them, and I imagine that I would have continued to do these prints whether anyone liked them or not; but finding an audience through what is often a faceless, anonymous cyberworld, is still an astounding thing to a guy who grew up without seeing a computer until he was thirty-five.

* * *

Yes, another touch of commercialism has crept in. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the Amazon affiliate links for books had actually paid me or was going to pay me $35. So, I threw a general link up to Amazon on the Books Page. I’m not going to clutter up the pictures with all these ads, and I think I’m going to make the Light Impressions logo smaller, its getting annoying. I was surprised to see that Amazon actually gives a 15% commission when you buy a book through one of the item listings on the site, but 5% if you buy something else. I think that’s how it works. Not really sure yet. Anyway, I sent the link to my father who devours books.

* * *

Have to figure out some way to put the actual number of the edition that I’m up to on the site. Will have to write some sort of interface for myself to do this. Currently I just keep track of the number in a little database.

* * *

Also discovered something interesting yesterday about drying prints. Normally I put them on screens, and they are generally dry overnight. But yesterday, I printed so much that I ran out of screens, so I went back to the ancient idea of simply hanging the prints from a clothesline, with some clothespins on the bottom and sure enough they dried twice as fast and just as flat as drying them on screens, maybe flatter. After that they go into the dry mount press at a very low heat for a few minutes, and voila, flat. So I’m going to put somemore clothesline up in the foyer. I can probably do about ten 16 x 20’s that way.

* * *

2-2-02

I was thinking about all the nicknames that my former boss (from the Bronx) and me came up with for employees at the agency… here’s a few of them: Mumbo Jumbo, The Ice Queen, Carl The Truth etc. etc. and it got me thinking to nicknames of people that I grew up with in the Bronx, and I suddenly realized that I couldn’t remember anyone’s last names.

There was Fat Junior and Fat Linda (brother and sister) who lived next door. Fat Linda was the one who was famous for being struck by a bus and walking away. Fat Junior was the kid who chased me around University Avenue and pounced on me until either I ‘cried Uncle’ or knocked him senseless. There was Irish Mike who tried to throw me over the churchyard wall. And Hungarian Joe who owned the deli and would give us free hot-dogs, and Francis The Tailor Lady, who watched us when my mother was away, and the Meyer Twins who were smartest kids around, and Square Man. Square Man owned the first Square Pizza Place in the neighborhood. What they now call Sicilian Pizza.

How much of this was a Bronx thing, I don’t know. But the names were more colorful, somehow, more descriptive than the names that had been handed out by one’s ancestors.

And I got to thinking, did I have a nickname? Of course, Davey Crocket, King of the wild frontier. It was a popular t.v. show, and I had bought some silly racoon hat from the back of a Superman comic, and wore the thing around the neighborhood. Well, it seems silly now, but there were three of us with those fake racoon hats. Frontiersmen in the middle of the urban jungle. We had mop handles for rifles, and somehow knew that they only fired one shot at a time, and we had spoons that we used to pour the imaginary gunpowder into the thing with. And we climbed the firescapes, and hid out on the roof, and waited for the savages to approach. The savages were usually headed by Irish Mike and a bunch of crew cut thugs who were always waiting to pounce on us.

We had a fort, behind a billboard that was about three stories high. It was impossible for anyone to get up to that fort without getting hit by either water balloons, or rocks.

We were always out-gunned and out-numbered. One day Gary, who was the real brains behind our little gang, came up with the brilliant idea of trying to enlist Fat Junior and Fat Linda to be on our side. He and I swiped a bunch of candy bars from Max’s Candy Store and as Fat Junior was running at us, we held them up for him to see. He stopped dead in his tracks. There’s more where these came from, we said. All you have to do is help us with Irish Mike…. But Fat Junior was smarter than he looked, and simply knocked both of us down with one of his bear paws, took the candy, and ran off gleefully to his lair.

Gary then lost his job as chief strategist, and became simply another member of the Crocket gang.

* * *

Getting behind again in my printing. Even the big day of printing two days ago wasn’t enough. A good day tomorrow should get be back to even again. I still have a few things on the site at $35, and I’m going to remove these. Not worth the time and trouble anymore. I’m dying to print some of the new things, but so far haven’t had the time. I’m still in the routine of trying to get things done on the weekend so that I can drop them off at fedex on Monday morning on the way to work. Of course, there is no work anymore, but my routines die hard.

* * *

2-3-02

I’ve been watching the hype surrounding the latest Superbowl, that great pagan holiday, and I’m not impressed. I’m thinking that they’re having trouble reaching new levels of hype. And I would like to suggest a new idea. A modest proposal. Why not take the two biggest hyped days of the year and combine them into an orgry of hype. Yes, what if they combined the Academy Awards Cermony with the Superbowl game? It really could be done quite easily. What I’m thinking is that the half-time show, which gets longer and longer and more and more elaborate and fills with the current crop of pop-stars, just gets a little bit longer, and while the two football teams are bathing their wounds, the Academy Awards ceremony would take place. The beauty of this, is obvious. This combination would appeal to both the football fan, and the movie fan. In short, every single living American would be watching. In fact, its possible that every single person in the world would be watching. And with the pre-game and pre-ceremony and post-game and post-ceremony shows it would take up an entire weekend. Just imagine the cross-over demographics on something like that. It boggles the mind. Imagine the interviews where you could have Gods from both worlds together for a press-conference at the same time! And here, ladies and gentleman, for the first time on any stage, Gary Marshall and Marshall Faulk. Well, it’s just an idea.

* * *

Finally got around to printing ‘The Road Ahead’ formerly called Walking in Snow which was sort of a lame name. Actually, I’ve been thinking of naming new pictures with phrases from Dylan, such as ‘It ain’t dark yet, but its gettin’ there’. Anyway, did this at a new size, 12 x 18, and it’s one of the few prints that I might actually put on my own wall. (I don’t have any of my own prints up.) The idea of the print has been mesmerizing me since I scanned the negative. It’s complex and simple at the same time. That’s about all I can say to explain the attraction it holds for me. And I guess that the lighthouse, small, but visible on the right is finally in the picture. Its sort of a picture that I had been dreaming about taking for a long time.

* * *

2-4-02

Sent out my application for Cobra continuation of health care. It’s going to cost about $350/month. Not exactly chicken-feed, but I’m told this is much cheaper than buying your own insurance.

* * *

Making headway with the orders. I told myself I wasn’t going to put any more prints up on eBay for a week, but couldn’t help myself and listed the ‘The Road Ahead’ there #2. I’ve promised #1 to someone else. If I have a good packaging day today, should be halfway through the orders. A couple of things that need to go out for Valentine’s day gifts.

* * *

The Gods of Matting were lined up against me this morning. Perhaps I didn’t do the proper sacrifice. Botched three 20 x 24’s before I got a good one. Strange because as far as I can figure I’ve been doing it the same way now for a few months without a bad mat. I was counting the dollars I was throwing away when I realized that the middle part that gets cut out could be cut down again for 11 x 14’s so it wasn’t a total waste. Made pretty good progress eventually, and now I’ve got two medium sized orders left, and a few smaller orders. When I dropped the shipments off at Fedex, the woman that I’m become friendly with, commented that I had become quite the expert on cutting fedex boxes and asked if I’d like to have her order some more. I had been meaning to do this rather than constantly swiping boxes from the fedex office, so she ordered a case of 20. Probably will last me a week, but I’m not sure I have room for more in the apartment.

I’ve been stuck in the house too long doing this stuff. If its a nice gloomy wintery day tomorrow, I’ll leave the orders in the box and head out somewhere, probably with the tripod again. I’ve been using the M6 lately as if it were a view camera, doing very careful compositions. Might even put some 100 film in for a change and bring the spotmeter along.

* * *

2-5-02

Message in a bottle: mat cutting advice.

Anyone out there have a mat cutter that they really like and can recommend. I’m currently using a Logan 710, and am doing a lot of window mats. Sometimes it works o.k. Sometimes (like yesterday) not. Maybe its the operator (me). Maybe not. I generally am cutting 4-ply archival board. There are certainly more expensive cutters out there by C&H and Fletcher, but which one is better? Do I really need to spend $1200 to consistently cut these overmats? I find that hard to believe. This query was prompted by R.B who e-mailed me asking for mat cutting advice, and I went off into a rant about the problems I was having.

Here is an excerpt of my reply to R.B:

“i started with a Logan, relatively cheap, don’t remember the model, had all
sorts of troubles. then got a used one from a friend, the handle says model
#701. maybe this is the same one you have. has the straight edge and the
bevel edge cutters… and could never get the blade to go in exactly the
same way into the bevel holder… and ruined a lot of mats — its always the
same problem, either it cuts every so slightly too far or ever so slightly
too little…. and then bought a hand-held Logan model #4000, and ended up
using this on the rail of the model 701…”

sometimes this works, sometimes i get either overcuts, or a bowing, or undercuts.
* * *

Hit a new record in page views last week: Page Views (Impressions) 26,302. I had been averaging about 18,000 page views per week. Not exactly sure why, seems like a lot more hits are coming through yahoo and google.

* * *

A friend of mine is going to bring over a C+H mat cutter for me to try out this Friday. Fantastic. At least I’ll get to experiment with the thing, and possibly buy it from him. Don’t know what model it is, but he said it was in the $900 range.

* * *

Even though I was matting and packaging most of the day, I’m still not quite caught up. The Valentine’s Day thing threw me. I should really get out a calendar and see what holidays are coming up. I’m pretty oblivious to this stuff.

* * *

Enron hearings were on in the background today. Chairmen of Andersen Consulting was on the hot seat. Here are some phrases that he was fond of, and the translations.

“None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes.” Chairmen of Andersen Consulting.

Translation: We screwed up bad. But why dwell on that. We also behaved ethically 89% of the time.”

Now there’s a legitimate defense. Can you imagine the street thug who has just been caught robbing a little old lady saying, “Well, 89% of the time, I’m a law abiding citizen, but every once in a while I feel the need to score some crack. But, you know, nobody’s perfect. You don’t expect me to be legit 100% of the time, do you?”

He also was fond of this phrase: “Sir, that’s a fair question.”

Translation: “That’s a fairly stupid question. Of course you’re right, I did know about that, but if you think I’m going to tell you anything, you’re dumber than you look.”

“I have come here voluntarily, for the second time.”

Translation: “I knew that if I didn’t show up, you’d slap a subpoena on me.”

* * *

2-6-02

Added some notes about how this web site was built.

* * *

Promenade is about to go unsold on eBay for the first time. But sales continue through the site at a brisk pace. It looks like all my fretting about finances may have been for nothing. Of course, this has basically kept me in the house for the last few days, but I am not going to complain (although I feel like complaining). What is nice is that the new things are selling well also. That’s what gets me excited when something recent attracts interest. I mean, how many times can you print Promenade before you want to turn it over to someone else to print?

* * *’

2-7-02

From their home page:

“A vision without boundaries: Andersen is more than 85,000 strong, with 390 offices in 84 countries. But no matter where you go, or whom you talk to, our voice remains the same.”

Something struck me this morning about the shredded papers at Andersen. Wouldn’t all that paper have to had been generated originally on computers? Did they also scrub the hard disks? Were the pc’s confiscated?

* * *

Took a crack at ‘Frozen Trash’ but didn’t care for it. Just a little bit to arty for me. Probably ten years from now I’ll look back on it and wonder why I didn’t print it.

Also finished prints for orders I’ve had waiting. Now, two days of matting and packaging and I should be caught up. Somebody who ordered something wrote and said that she wouldn’t be home for a while, and could I ship in two weeks. I wrote back to tell her she had made my day.

* * *

Did Atlantic Beach again today at 14 x 14 inches. I remember going through this phase where I was trying to see how small a print could be and still hold up and have emotional impact (for want of a better phrase), and had several that I thought held up at 5 x 7. Lately, the prints have been getting larger and larger. I think this is a result of having more time to work on them and set up the big trays. I would like to go even larger with some of these prints, 20 x 24, but there isn’t room. The washer only holds 16 x 20, and even if I got a larger washer it wouldn’t fit in the bathroom. I could possibly do them in the 16 x 20 trays, sort of holding both ends of the print and making sure everything gets covered at some point, but to go to this larger size raises other logistical problems such as packaging and shipping. The larger the print, the better the packaging has to be. Still, I might get a few sheets of the larger paper and give it a try one of these days.

2-8-02

Since I’m at one of the points where I don’t have much to say, other than that I’m looking forward to trying out this new mat cutter today (yeah, exciting stuff), I’ll fall back on throwing in a couple of recent e-mails:

* * *

“dave,
my daughter received the picture (Hug) and is absolutely in heaven! she admires your work so much and said this will be her first picture she hangs in her new apartment. thank you again. (P.S.)”

* * *

And this back and forth with P.C

Dave,
“The Road Ahead” is just brilliant – your best shot yet! [based on the web image].
Rgds, P.C

Pat,
I think so too, but don’t know why? Can you tell me what is so appealing about it?
Regards, DB

Dave,
For me it’s the simplicity of the composition, the high contrast of the main elements which combine with the muted grays of the distant elements to provide real depth, the sense of cold isolation, and the ghost-like recording of the blurred figure – without which the shot would not succeed to anywhere near the same extent. It just all comes together in a way that gives it that magic we see in great shots, the quality that if we could rationalize and describe, would be lost.

The only way I could think to improve it would be more space between the figure and the railings, but either way it’s up there with the best that HCB produced.

I look forward to seeing more like this!
Rgds,
Pat

Pat,
As you say, if you could describe it in words, the magic would be lost, but you’ve done a pretty good job. I actually like the separation between the blurred figure and the fence — but you’d have to see it in the large print. It’s just enough to make you feel the separation, and yet close enough so that you are slightly uncomfortable about it. [actually if the blurred figure, which was moving from right to left were too much further from the gate, it would block the view]

Anyway, I too look forward to seeing more like this if the photo Gods are with me.
DB

* * *
Dave,
I got the photo yesterday [Night Storm, 11 x 14], it is amazing. Thanks so much for sending it so quickly, I really appreciate it.

B.B.

* * *
Night Storm is really good these days. It only takes me about five years to figure out how to print something. I think it was the switch to the VC Fiber that did the trick.

* * *

At the end of my first real week out of the office, a couple of things cross my mind:

You don’t have the security of the corporate world. Yeah, right. What security? But there are things that existed, such as disability insurance, vacations, etc. that you now need to buy for yourself. On the other side of the ledger, you don’t have the stiffling, ludicrous politics, the never-ending complaints of users, the sense of total mind-numbing despair, the idiotic conferences with flunkies and corporate climbers who are only sitting in that meeting at the big table to make themselves look good and cover their backsides. In short, you are now the captain of your own future. As that sinks in, you might find yourself walking down the street some day, perhaps like today, and find yourself grinning with uncontrolled pleasure for no reason at all, except that the sun is out, and the streets are filled with people, and you are walking amongst them as a free man with a soft breeze in your face. And you might think afterwards, that for the first time, the world is your oyster (which is an odd saying…) but I guess it is apt, because you have the sense that there are doors to be opened that you never even dreamed of before. But I will also say that this type of freedom can only be attained by years of servitude. You must toil in the depths of the Titanic, before you can rise up a few decks and feel the wind blowing in your face. Without the burden, there is no sense of what is to be won and what is still to be lost. And as you go about your chores, and find yourself face-to-face with the ancient stock-boy in the supermarket, and wonder what he could have done to deserve this job; greet him with the recognition that that was you a few weeks ago.

* * *
2-9-02

Co-Ops For Sale

It started, as most feuds start, with a relatively small event: Johnny Brown, who lived at 298 West 90th street was walking his dog in front of the building where he owned a co-op apartment. His dog, needed to relieve himself, and chose to do so on a piece of brownish shrub, what we like to call a tree in New York, which happened to be on the adjoining property at 300 West 90th. And as luck would have it, as the dog was relieving himself (or herself, I was never clear on the gender of the said dog), a Mr. Saturny happened to see this and protest. Now, Saturny was the chairman or president or whatever of the co-op board at this adjoining building and decided to lodge a formal complaint with the co-op board where Mr. Brown and his dog lived. The complaint which was drafted in legal language, and which I never actually saw, but heard about, threatened the co-op board in the Brown building with legal penalities if any of their dogs pissed on any part of the Saturny building’s property, and that included this bit of brown shrub that was supposed to be a tree.

The board met at the Brown co-op and were up in arms (not literally, but not that far from it) and countered that there were certain kids that lived in the Saturny building who were always making mischief on their property, tossing balls in the courtyard, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. And that if any of these kids were found on their property, trouble would follow (in more legal language).

And so this feud, this struggle between two upper-east side co-ops began. But this isn’t the interesting part. One day, Mr. Brown appears with a little brown badge on his suit jacket that says 298. He explains to his fellow co-opers that both of these buildings were rather large multi-unit dwellings, and nobody really knew who was from what building. So he thinks its about time that they identify themselves. Its a very small badge, really just a lapel pin. But it does identify his building. And as the feud continues, other members of 298 pick up on the idea. There are a few hold-outs who think the idea is silly, and don’t want any part of it, but they are ostricized, and made to feel foolish, and soon everyone in 298 has a brown lapel badge.

As you can imagine, the West 300 people have soon come up with their own badge. Its white, and circular, and has 300 stamped in the middle. Not even hand-made. Apparantly they’ve got some computer geek around to create these things. And it goes on from there. The 298’s decide that they need a better emblem, and go out and have something designed for them. It’s quite flashy. And there are interior decorators and other creative types who end up sewing a flag which now hangs proudly outside the building. And every move they make is matched by the West 300 people. Pretty soon both entrance-ways are filled with flags, pennants, banners, warning signs, doormen who are now in uniforms that match the flags, and there is a general air of menace between these two buildings. Passers-by stop and gawk, and wonder how this all started. Journalists have even written about it, which is how I first heard about it. And t.v. crews did stories for the local news with lead ins like, “The Co-Op Feud of the Century”

A few people in 298 saw what was coming and sold their co-ops. But the co-op had trouble finding new buyers. This scared them. Apparantly no one wanted to move into the war zone. And co-op prices began to drop in the two buildings. The tenants tried to stop the boards from continuing this foolishness, but it was not to be. Mr. Brown was president of the 298 board now, and Saturny was still president of the 300 board, and they refused to stand down. And apartment prices continued to fall in both buildings. In fact, a kind of panic set in, and as they prices fell, everyone tried to jump ship. They tried to overthrow the boards, but couldn’t because the by-laws said that the president could only be voted out of office at six-month intervals, unless illness or death prevented them from carrying on their duties. And so, within a year, both buildings were mostly empty, though well decorated with flags and bunting, and the nicely uniformed doormen were dismissed, and the place became a sort of ghost-town.

Mr. Brown and Mr. Saturny still remain, and we’ll have to follow this one to see what happens next.

* * *

Many times, people write to me and start off by asking for my opinion “as a professional” as if the fact that you make a living from the craft means anything at all other than that. I still refuse to believe that there is anything ‘magical’ about the word professional. I work the same now as when it was ‘a hobby.’ No difference. Hobby seems to mean that it isn’t really serious. Oh, just something to do, like knitting potholders. That is nonsense. People do what they need to do to survive, or to amuse themselves. Whether someone knits a scarf to keep someone from catching cold, or paints pictures, I don’t see a big difference. Both can be done well, or poorly. The only difference that I can see in the professional’s life, is that they need to take care of the business as well. Books need to be maintained, figures need to be toted up, and customers need to be acquired. In fact, this may leave little time for the actual knitting of scarves.

* * *
Added a view that just shows the limited edtion prints. Well, if anyone has a better name than ‘Collector’s Corner’ let me know. It was all I could come up with tonight. And I know its a bit rough. Will clean it up tomorrow.

* * *

2-10-02

Added the approximate edition numbers to the limited edtion view. Let’s see if this turns out to be a pain to keep up to date. I know, it should be automatic when a sale goes through, but it ain’t that simple. Some sales go through from eBay, some from my house, some from the website, etc. Since I currently keep this info in a database, it shouldn’t be too much trouble, but there are timing issues.

* * *

2-11-02

Haven’t had a chance to check-out the C+H matter cutter yet. One interesting note, is that I am a slow stubborn learner. After futzing with the Logan #701 for a few months, and complaining about it left and right, I noticed that for some odd reason, understandable only to other mentally impaired photographers, when I first got the cutter, I decided to remove the piece that the side of the board comes to rest against. I didn’t quite see any purpose to it. I would draw lines on the back of the mat with a pencil, then put the board in the cutter, and try to line it up with the drawn lines, but I wasn’t using the backstop piece. I also wasn’t using the ‘blade stopper’. So, out of the blue, I decide to put these other two pieces back into the show and see what happens. Now, you expect me to say that everything was perfect. It wasn’t. But it was better. No mats ruined. 8 big mats cut. I have some hope again in the mat-cutting business.

* * *

I’ve pretty much stopped responding to requests for ‘ideas for photography class’ or ‘can you tell me more about yourself for my photography paper’ etc. etc. After answering numerous questionaires where I feel like I’m basically doing someone’s homework for them, I say, that part of photography is coming up with your own ideas. And the few times when I did, all I requested in return is that the student send me a copy of the finished paper, and this never happened. So, I guess that’s just the way it goes for now.

* * *

Financial tidbits — working for yourself. When you work for the man (the corporation), they pay half of your social security taxes. You work for yourself, you pay about 15% of your net for Social Security. Then there’s federal and NYS tax etc., and I’m guessing that I’ll end up somewhere around 37% taxes… we’ll see. I’ll tell you something, when you actually make that money yourself, and are then forced to pay these taxes, it feels very different than when they are deducted from your paycheck. Well, it just does.

Another tidbit, as far as disability insurance goes, they pay based on what you were making. So, it seems as if it may only make sense once you are making a decent living. So, if the shutter-clicking finger gets damaged, or you go blind, and you only made a profit of 20,000, then you’d better start looking for another job real soon buddy.

* * *

I removed the ‘collector’s corner’ and just added the limited edition number to the Browse/Shop view. It seemed to me that there were just too many entry paths into the site.

* * *

2-12-02

There is a hierarchical pyramid in the art world, just as there is in the corporate world, but there are no name tags, or tags outside the office, so here is how to recognize the levels:

If you answer any question about what you do with, “It’s just a hobby”, then you are at the bottom of the ladder. You can of course move up a notch if you say, “It’s a hobby”, leaving out the word “just”, and if you really want to make a great leap say, “It’s an obsession” or “it’s a minor compulsion.” This is what is amazing about the pyramid, you pretty much are in charge of your own position (to a point). If you want to jump up several levels, call yourself “an artist” whether you believe it or not. What’s odd about the naming conventions is that if you say it enough times, you begin to believe it yourself. This method also works, to some degree, in the corporate world. If you call yourself a “software engineer” rather than “a programmer” you will gain more respect from those in the know, because of the cache (not to be confused with cache but I don’t know how to put the accent in) of engineer. An engineer builds things and is obviously a more respected title. To take it further, if you can call yourself, “chief engineer” and leave out “software” you double your points. This is due to the fact that “software” is doesn’t work very well. And “chief”, well, that’s a powerful leader.

But let’s skip to the top of the art pyramid (the middle levels are confusing) — at the very top is God. Okay, you can’t call yourself God without being thrown in the place they reserve for the other Gods and where you may or may not be allowed visitors. If you are an atheist, then the top spot goes to The First Cause. If you don’t believe in the first cause, and you think that the universe always existed, and perhaps just creates and re-creates itself, then we’ll have to select someone for the top spot — maybe John Ford or Picasso.

There is no doubt as to the next level down, it is the martyred artist. The artist who dies in poverty and turns out to be beloved by the world scores the 2nd highest spot. Van Gogh comes to mind as the ultimate martyr. If you are willing to live the life of an unknown, un-appreciated, and reviled person, you can apply for this position. The one problem, is that you will need to be content with moving up the ladder after you are dead.

Directly below in the third spot, are the artists who were recognized during their lifetime, didn’t suffer too much in the way of economic woes, and were recognized afterwards by generations. [hmmm, not too many in this category]

The middle tiers are a little unclear right now, so let’s skip back to the rung where hobby and profession blurs: you’ve sold at least one work of art. You are no longer, strictly speaking, a hobbyiest. But you are not a pro either. You are in limbo. This is a huge tier and can be a very happy place to live and work. You are not dependent on the income from the art, but you get satisfaction of having others plunk down money once in a while for something you did. [i’ll try and flesh this out later…]

* * *

Special Advice to All People Who Are Thinking of Following In My Footsteps and leaving the corporate umbrella:

Learned the hard way that Cobra (which is the way to get your health insurance continued for 18 months after leaving the job) works like this: Say the last day of employement is January 30th (well, that’s what mine was) — your health insurance is only good until the end of the month. So then you eventually get stuff in the mail from Cobra and send it back, but there’s a lag between when you get covered again of almost two weeks, maybe more. So, if you’re smart, leave on the first. That way your health coverage is good until the end of the month, and by then your Cobra insurance should have kicked in.

* * *

Orders have dried up the last few days. A couple of inquiries but no bites. And you know what — that’s fine with me. I’m pooped. As my mom used to say, “I’m too pooped to pop.” Actually got out and did a little shooting. Stood in front of a fancy oil-painting portrait store with a big sign that said portraits, and took pictures of people walking by. My feeble attempt at irony. Well, maybe not so feeble, because one person covered their face as they went by which was unexpected.

* * *

2-13-02

I collected some of the name plates of fellow workers who left the corporation. Requiem for a programmer(s). They were stuck with velcro outside our offices. Here they are: Name Plates.

* * *

Busy day ahead. Someone is coming by the house to look at prints. I’m going to spend the day trying to make the studio look bigger than it is.

* * *

The woman came by because she had bought three prints on the web, and brought back two of them. Not that she didn’t like them, but they didn’t go with what she had in mind for that wall. She ended up walking out with four other prints. We spent some time arranging and re-arranging them, and it was all good natured and fun. And there’s another order or two in the works, so looks like things are picking up again. Repeat buyers. That’s a great feeling.

* * *

A photographer friend dropped by. When I showed him ‘The Road Ahead’ he said not to show it to him, he had seen it on the web and was jealous, i.e. “I wish I had taken that shot” He took a few shots of me, one or two with my camera, and I did a few shots of him, so maybe I’ll get a decent shot of myself sitting in the darkroom for the site. I saw many of his prints, and again, I guess I had the same reaction that people have when they see my prints, “Man, much better than any representation on the web.” After he left, I thought I would like to have one of those prints. But then I realized that there was no place to hang it, and it would just sit in the closet. He also talked me into submitting a print for something that Moma (Museum of Modern Art) is doing called: “Life of the City”.. You basically need to walk a print over to them, not framed, not matted, and you need to walk it over yourself, no third parties, and they say they will put it on their wall, I guess a collage sort of thing. Its interesting. They may put your print up, but they won’t tell you when its going to be up. But as my friend said, you can go over and take a picture of your print tacked to a wall in the MoMa and hold it up to your friends! See, I made it to the MoMA. Whatever.

* * *

2-14-02

I added a few notes about Search Engines that I thought might help others who are trying to figure out the maze of search engines. I am not an expert, and am always surprised by how my ranking moves around in these things. Its a black science akin to alchemy. But it might point someone else in the right direction.

* * *

2-15-02

Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve slowly been increasing the sizes of the images on the site, and removing the mats. The mats are good, in their way, to give you a vague sense of the finished print and how you receive it, but the mat takes up too much screen space.

* * *

Dave,

Spent a great deal of time reading your journal and loved some of the comments about what it is to be a computer geek. I think the interrupt driven anology was the best. I am one of those techies that got fed up and now refuse to work more than 40 hours a week and am unavailable by cell phone or pager after I leave the office. This has given me much more time to persue photography…

One suggestion for your website, I am curious as to your darkroom setup and equipment you use. Maybe a feature or a few photos would be an additional bonus for the viewers of your site.

[I hope to have at least one picture of my so-called darkroom (which is actually my whole house) up this week. d.b.]

Fantastic work and I applaud you for jumping from the corporate world.

T.D.

* * *

In the dream, I found out that I was going to have to go into the boxing ring. I was terrified. My father was telling me not to worry. I was saying that I’m totally out-of-shape for a bout, plus I didn’t know who my opponent would be. He pointed out that a friend of mine had already gone into the ring and proven himself. He didn’t win, but he didn’t make a fool of himself either. We were back in the house on Gunhill Road in the Bronx, and I was complaining that I didn’t even have boxing trunks, or a robe or anything. And my dad suggested that I wear a bathrobe and swimming trunks. And as happens in dreams, there’s one of those quick dissolves and I’m in something like a smoky fight club. And I’m walking through the haze, down the aisle, and another fight is going on and a boxer is being carried out on a stretcher. My mother, who died many years ago, is alive again, and she is arguing with my father that I’m going to get killed in this ring. But my dad is saying that this is just something that has to be done. A sort of rite-of-passage. And I approach the ring and climb in, shaking in my boots. And the other fighter climbs into the ring. He is a small figure, hooded, and wearing Woody Allen glasses. Who is this guy? I wonder. He doesn’t look like a fighter. He turns around and I can see the lettering on the back of a silvery robe: “Your accountant” is what it says. No, not my accountant. I can’t fight my accountant. He’s more experienced in this than I am… and I wake up in a cold sweat.

And trying to figure it out, in that hazy half-awake state I remember that I was planning on “doing the books” this weekend. Getting quicken for something to put all my financial records into some kind of order.

* * *
Finally got the C+H Advantage Pro mat cutter from a friend and I’m thrilled with it. Simply no comparison to the Logan I was using. All sorts of adjustments, both for the blade depth, and the start and end points, and there is almost no bowing in the blade. Spent a lot of time trying to get the adjustments right, but once you get it, that’s it. No more drawing lines and I don’t think you need to use a mat beneath the mat you’re cutting. Overall quality is vastly superior to the Logan. Once again, it seems that you get what you pay for. I’m definitely going to pay my friend for this, and it will make life much easier for me. Also, I can stop buying pre-cut mats, which I was doing for some of the smaller sizes. My friend had bought the right-angle arm, but this thing sticks out too much for me to use (48 inches), and I don’t think its needed for the size mats I’m doing (20 x 24) because the base of the C+H is wider than the Logan base. I don’t have the manual for it yet, and there are still a bunch of knobs and things on it that I have no idea what they’re for.

* * *

2-16-02

The C+H mat cutter continues to be a joy to use.

* * *

Don’t know why, but I put up an eBay store:

http://www.ebaystores.com/blackwhitephotography

Well, I know why, I just thought it would be easier to list discounted items there rather than always re-listing things for auction. It’s cheap enough ($10) a month to see if it’s worthwhile or not, and its slightly better than the link to my eBay stuff.

* * *

2-17-02

This Road Ahead print is selling lot hotcakes. (Where that expression comes from I don’t know. Do hotcakes sell well? Maybe its because in the 30’s people ate more hotcakes then they do now… but I digress). I made 7 of them when I did the first printing, and I think there’s one left… somewhere. I sort of like the eBay store. I know the design is clunky, that’s based on the template that they give you, but it’s better than the other link I had where you just see a table of what’s auctioned. The really bad thing is that when you do an eBay search, it doesn’t look through the items in the stores. At the very least, they should put up a checkbox that allows you to also search through the stores.

Every once in a while I get emails from people who have read the Leica M6 vs. Contax G2 article and say that they will go out and pick up a Leica. I do my best to preface the remarks with “This is my experience” and things of that sort, because to me it’s still a very personal thing, and I feel a responsibility (which is stupid I agree because after all, I’m not selling Leicas, and I’m doing my best to explain the difficulty of that decision…) but I wonder whether you can shortcut the process by reading someone else’s experiences? I’ve taken a very trial-and-error approach to all this. Both the website, and the camera equipment. I’ve tried everything, and tossed away the stuff that didn’t work. The one thing I wish is that I had picked up this mat cutter years ago.

2-18-02

Welcome to the glamorous world of photography. Yesterday I spent most of the day entering sales from 2001 and 2002 into Quicken. Today I expect to enter vendor bills. At the end of this process I should have a good idea of what my profit (not including taxes) will be. From now on, I’m not going to let things pile up like this and will try and enter financial info at least once a week.

* * *

I’m still in love with the c+h mat cutter. I’ve taken to calling it Lucille. Instead of dreading cutting the bevel mats, I look forward to it. Quite mindless.

* * *

No, I haven’t been doing any shooting lately. There is time to do it, but every day in NYC has been sunny and I think I’m just waiting for some more interesting weather.

* * *

I still have this urge to write fiction. Certain sentences go around in my head, and I want to put them down here, although they generally don’t lead anywhere.

* * *

Call me Argo. That’s not my real name. If I used my real name, well, I don’t think I would tell the story that I plan to tell. I brought a first draft of this story to my old English teacher, Mr. Marnon (that’s not his real name either), and he advised me to cut out a lot of the opening stuff, and try and get right to where the story actually begins. He said that I tended to ramble and digress. This is true. I think that the rambling and the digression happens because of the injury I received when I tripped on one of the cables in the computer room at work. But I don’t think that rambling and digression are necessarily a bad thing, because I will get around to the point, in my own way, as I just did. The story proper really did begin in the computer room.

The computer room at Farthing Inc. was too small for the number of computers that it held. They had tried to jam all the network hubs, and servers, and the phone switching system, into a room that was originally meant to hold…well, I don’t know what it was meant to hold, but since the building was a hundred years old, it wasn’t meant to hold all this crap. Should I say “this crap” or “that crap”? I’m not sure, but it was crap. Farthing Inc. isn’t there real name either. Take the “h” out and you’ll be close.

* * *

2-19-02

I wasn’t one of those hotshot computer guru’s. Just a back-office grunt. Most of the things I worked on were things that nobody really cared about. Even I didn’t care about them. But there was one guy at Farthing Inc. who was a computer guru. Brad Weather, Jr. Brad was in the computer room that night when I tripped and fell over the cable. Brad, was a tall, or should I say, really tall, guy. He looked liked a frozen stalagmite that had formed in the frozen computer room. You almost felt as if you could see through him, but you couldn’t of course. That night, Brad was standing in front of the array of flashing hub lights with a network gizmo, route-tracing, I guess. He had been re-wiring some hubs and had left his tools on the floor, and that’s how I ended up tripping, and as I was falling grabbed onto some wires and unplugged a mail server.

I looked up at Brad, and things began spinning. There was a slight bump on my head where I had brushed the corner of one of the cabinets. Lights were flashing, both in my head and in the room. Brad tried to help me up, but he was too weak. Brad barely had the strength to hold onto his clipboard and pen.

“Jesus, Argo,” he muttered. “Watch where you’re goin'”.

One of the UPS (uninterupted power supplies) must have also been yanked out of the wall, and started beeping. As I was getting to my feet, Mr. Joseph, the head of MIS came into the room and started asking what was going on.

Yeah, Mr. Joseph. Mr. Joseph was a suit. We had nicknamed everyone in the place and his nickname was Aspirin. You can see why. He gave everyone a headache, and Joseph Aspirins…

* * *

Ended up buying Quickbooks yesterday, and I’m re-entering sales and purchases for the millionth time. Yes, you can export this stuff from Quicken, but somehow, something was lost in the translation.

* * *

I continue to add things to the eBay store. Not sure what exactly my strategy is with this, but its easy enough to do. I’m sort of thinking that I’ll put some of the open editions and less expensive things there…. we’ll see. The thing is, that when you browse stores in the photography category, your listing is based on the number of items for sale. So, in the hope of people stumbling across my eBay store, I need to have about 15 items at least for sale. So far, traffic to the eBay store has been minimal.

* * *

I was coming back from Sedona, maybe two years ago, and the stranger on the plane next to me was the head of a new dot-com that specialized in selling art. It’s a pretty long flight, and we got to chatting, and I told him that I was just beginning to make my own web site for selling pictures. He thought this was a pretty bad idea. Not that selling pictures through the web was a bad idea, but why should I bother with all the headaches of the web site, when I should spend my time ‘making art’. Let others who specialize in running web sites for artists do the design, post the images, and take care of all that businessy stuff. I sheepishly told him that selling art through one of these big commercial sites might work, but my gut instinct was that a more personal approach, even if it wasn’t all that fancy was better. My reasoning at the time, was that a) you would just get lost with all the other so-called artists, b) people wouldn’t have any idea of the person, or better yet the personality behind the pictures, and c) you had similar problems as you have with galleries, in that the overhead or as we like to say in the Bronx, “their cut of the action” would be too high. We argued about this, politely of course, for an hour or so, and then stopped talking to each other for the rest of the flight.

What prompted me to think about this again was a line from an e-mail I received today…

“Maybe some folks become attached to artworks on the works’ own impacts/merits. I tend to become attached to things when I know more of the person doing the work. In your case, it’s both! It’s just that from reading your journals there is a ‘person’ behind the image that’s just as much a part of it all. It’s what motivated me to make my first-ever ‘art’ purchase on ‘Promenade’last week!” [W.S]

And not to toot my own horn — but there’s something to be said about this. I think at the time I felt that the internet was often devoid of personality. The bigger the sites, the more they lacked a sense of the people, or persons behind the screen.

* * *

Other things about the eBay store that I’m not crazy about:

They don’t easily show you the opening bid price in the store. It’s true that you can click on the tab that says “Auctions Only” but even in that view you don’t see the opening bid.

Also, the stuff you’ve put up in the store, clogs up your normal auctions, making it difficult to see what’s being auctioned, and what’s being sold. I would rather that they’d give you the choice of whether the store items should be listed with the auction items or not.

* * *

2-20-02

I’m finally doing what I should have done from day one — putting sales and receipts into Quickbooks. The main thing anyone out there who cares would notice is that the sales receipts now look “professional”. Yeah, like that is going to mean anything to anyone. Wow, the print was beautiful, but that sales receipt… that was a work of art.

Now the expenses go in. And then paying taxes, and we’ll see if anything is left. Yikes. It seems clear that the greatest material expense, by far, is going to be the mats. I’m afraid to put those costs in. The results are in: I lost $16 last year. I guess I’m like all the other dot-coms but in microcosm… but on the other hand, bought a bunch of things last year, like the Leica, framing that was never really used, lighting equipment that was never really used… and in the beginning of the year, my packaging and matting was costing an arm and a leg. This year looks much better.

* * *

This year looks better but its going to be a squeeker. The big charges are mat boards and the fiber paper. Other things like chemicals and film are miniscule. I also haven’t put in shipping charges yet… ugh. But it is sort of fun to see where I stand. Can you imagine what the bottom line would be if I actually did any advertising (or at least advertising that didn’t work)? It’s a good thing I didn’t really keep track of expenses for the last two years, or I would have been more nervous about this jump into the “self-employed” world. Well, anyway, I’ve figured out the mat cutting thing (yes I mention it again), and from now on I start ordering the big sheets and cutting them down as needed. I’ve thought about selling the prints un-matted — but then you don’t get the sense of owning a personalized work of art because if you get it matted, the outer mat isn’t signed. Maybe I could make a stamp with my signature and give it out?

* * *

2-21-02

I’m already thinking of closing the eBay store which I opened 5 days ago. No sales from there, and very little traffic. There’s also something fundamentally wrong with the idea because you don’t find these items in the general search, and in a way you are competing against yourself. The auctions have worked well for me. I will let the store stay open through the weekend, and if there are no sales from it, will close it. Chalk it up to another noble experiment.

* * *

Finally got out and did some shooting. Sort of gray day, and then bursts of sunlight. I think this was the first real shooting I did since leaving work. Felt great. I’m still loving the angle-viewfinder. Find myself stooping down and shooting at lower angles than usual. Best thing I came across, someone had tossed out two very old looking prints, sort of sepia tone, and large, maybe 11 x 14, and they were just sitting there on top of some garbage cans. Probably spent half a roll fooling around with this. Then on to the park, where you could feel the air lightly coming across the water, and spent some time shooting a puddle, again, from a very low (and for me) unusual angle. I now have three or four rolls to develop. And finally will get around to matting and shipping some prints that I’m a week behind with because of all the bookkeeping.

* * *

My Cobra insurance finally came through. The books are done. The balance sheet doesn’t make any sense because the checking account is so out of whack, not having entered anything into Quickbooks for it… But that’s about as far as I’m going with this bookkeeping for now. Sales and expenses.

* * *

2-22-02

I’m closing the eBay store this morning. That’s got to be the shortest store in history. Just too many things I don’t like about it. Even in the closing process, things don’t really make sense. I at first thought I would change the duration of the items, make them really short, and let them expire, but they don’t give you the option to do that. At least I couldn’t see how. So then you go to remove the item, and they give you radio boxes of reasons to choose, but none of those reasons make sense… you just want to close the store, so it doesn’t make sense to have items still listed. Maybe if you close the store, those items disappear, but I don’t think so. So I am ending up choosing the radio button “mistake in the listing” as the reason for removing the items.

I was falling asleep last night, thinking of a pie chart of how my days are spent (as far as the business goes). So far, since leaving work I would guess its something like this:

40% of time spent matting and packaging.

20% futzing with the web site and eBay listings, search engines etc.

10% trying to get the books in order (but this should really lessen now that things are in order)

15% printing

5% with emails

5% actually printing bills, making the deposits through Verisign Payflow.

5% shooting.

In other words, so far at least, only 20% of the time is actually spent with the photographic process.

* * *

eBay store officially closed. It was annoying me to much to wait through the week-end. I’ll continue to simply post auctions once in a while.

* * *

There’s an expense I forgot to put in the ledgers… verisign certificate…just renewed for for two years: $498.

* * *

But I have been shooting again the last two days, and it is still very exciting to walk the streets of New York. It seems to me that every block holds a different surprise, like unwrapping a present. Today, for example, was walking down Park Avenue, and noticed a business-type guy on the cell phone, eating an apple, walking, and I just walked beside him for almost four blocks. He was so engrossed in his outdoor business meeting, something about someone who had been put in jail for fraud or something, that I was completely invisible, although I wasn’t more than two feet away during this time. I was trying to get him biting into the apple and talking at the same time. Not sure if I got that or not, but I got close. What should be so fascinating about this, I have no idea, but it was fascinating at the time and I walked past the street where I was supposed to turn to do some of my own chores. It may have simply been the black overcoat he was wearing, or the look of imperial splendor, and I felt like one of those peons in the crowd, although there was no crowd, that are simply not worthy of attention. Sort of the way you and I often walk by the homeless pretending not to notice.

* * *

I know it seems as if everything in here has been about the business… but somewhere I found time to shoot this: Overhanging Trees

And this is a shot of me in the darkroom / apartment. Bill E. had a bit of camera shake during this one, but it was a nice relaxed moment for me… More to come tomorrow…

* * *

2/23/02

Struck up a brief conversation with this guy who was working on an ad for the Flat Iron. The “Eye” on the top was the first part of the ad.

Another view of overhanging tree against the East river. And here’s the shot of what was “tossed out” in the garbage.

This one of the Man With Cane interests me for some reason. I’m curious about whether I can get some detail in the sky when I actually print it.

* * *

2-24-02

The Olympics come to a close, and I’m left with one or two puzzlements. I know that a lot of people make fun of curling, but it seems to make sense to me, just another type of shuffleboard. And that thing where they ski and then shoot makes sense, maybe that’s the way the hunters first got started in Norway. Racing around red and blue poles, that’s fine, the poles represent trees. Luge — kid’s go out luging all the time, although I wish that there was simply a big wide hill and everyone went down at the same time so you could see who was winning and who was losing without having to stare at a tiny clock.

But what about the bobsled event? The one thing that they never show or explain, and that is a complete mystery, is: after the 1500 pound bobsled finishes, how do they get it up to the top again? Why is this part of the event never shown? Do the bobsledders have to push it back up the track? Now, there is an olympic event. Is there another track next to the bobsled track where it’s towed up? Why is this part never shown. I think it would be just as interesting as the downhill part. Why is it called a “bob” sled? Is it because the bobsledders “bob” up and down? It seems to me that its closer to Nascar racing without the engines. Why don’t they just put engines in the things, and have real races. How much of the race is dependent on sled design? If the Jamaicans were in the German’s sled, would they have won?

What do they do after they jump in the sled. I have a friend who has done some bobsledding and said it is very demanding. There are all sorts of G forces on the necks of these sledders, and that you have to have a really thick neck to do bobsledding. But we never see their necks bulging with the strain. Are there neck exercises they do?

Here’s another mystery about bobsledding. According to the laws of physics, as I understand them, everything falls at the same rate of speed, namely 32 feet per second/squared. If this is true, and if the bobsled is simply falling, then why do they pack these things with the heaviest sledders they can find? As you can see, this event is very mysterious to me.

Maybe the reason for singling out the bob-sled event is that it somehow doesn’t occur naturally in nature. The figure skaters can go out to a frozen pond and spin around. The skiers can take to the slopes. The hunters can grab a gun and go after rabbits on skis. The lugers can find a hill. But where do you find a bobsled track in nature? How did this thing get started? Where was the moment in evolution in which the sled turned into the bobsled? Where did the idea of building a banked track come from? It couldn’t have been done by kids.

And my final question (I promise) is — if these bobsledders are basically sitting in a hurtling piece of metal with only their heads sticking out, why do they all wear these tight-fitting lycra suits?

* * *

A young photographer e-mailed me to say, among other things, that after seeing my shot of the Window at the Met, he had done a “homage” to my shot. His name is Clint Balcom, and I laughed out loud when I saw it. I’m not sure what the laughter was about, just that it seemed very funny to see someone actually go out and frame, and shoot something that I had done years ago. Maybe this will start a new trend. Here is his rendition.

* * *

More about bobsleds… info provided by J.C. via the Washington Post

Although sleds have been around for centuries, bobsled racing didn’t begin until 1877 in Davos, Switzerland, where a steering mechanism was attached to a toboggan.

The world’s first “bobsleigh” club was founded in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1896, spurring the growth of the sport in winter resorts throughout Europe. By 1914, bobsled races were taking place on a wide variety of natural ice courses.

The first racing sleds were made of wood but were soon replaced by steel sleds that came to be known as bobsleds, so named because of the way crews bobbed back and forth to increase their speed on the straightaways.

In 1923, the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT) was founded and the following year a four-man race took place at the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. A two-man event was added at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., a format that has remained to the present. American-built sleds and American athletes ruled the sport until the late 1950s, when Europeans came out with better sleds. By far, the most successful bobsledding nations have been Switzerland and Germany. The sport has since expanded around the world to include countries such as Jamaica, Armenia, Morocco, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and at the 1995 World Championships, no fewer than eight nations placed in the top 10 in the four-man event while seven nations were represented in the top 10 of the two-man competition.

* * *

2-25-02

A lot of people have asked what has changed since I left work. I would have to say that the biggest change is that I have become more of a housewife type. I cook all my meals. Do a grocery shopping once a week. The floors get swept. I wash my own clothes rather than dropping them off at the laundry. And happily display my grocery bonus card to the checkout girl for any possible discount I can get. Once or twice a week, I make a huge thing of iced-tea. It’s not that money is tight, but it has more meaning to me now. I used to jump in a cab to go downtown and pick up supplies, now I hop on the subway ($8 saved). In other words, money, dollars, have become associated with freedom in a tangible way.

When I was at N.’s house a few days ago, I was shocked that she and her friends had bought all their prepared food from a fancy gourmet shop. I saw shrimp and pasta, and fancy salads, and my first thought was, how much this must have cost. I think that I’m slowly turning into my immigrant grandmother. Friends that drop by always say, “let’s go grab a bite.” The cash register rings in my head. I try to talk them into a nice “home-cooked” artist’s meal. How about a nice Spaghetti a la Beckerman? But no one seems to trust my cooking yet.

“You used to laugh about, everybody that was hanging out, now you don’t, laugh so loud, now you don’t feel so proud,..” Like a rolling stone.

I also discovered that I could buy Crescent archival mats from DickBlick.com for about half what I was paying for the more expensive Westminster mats.

Anyway, I have a big day of printing ahead of me. Sales during the last two weeks have been slow. And now, thanks to Quickbooks, I can press a button and see exactly where I stand. That little spot outside the Met is starting to call to me, and I’m sure I’ll be out there by April.

* * *

The first time I was in Paris was probably 9 years ago. I went with the Rolleiflex. I shot a lot of film, but my developing left something to be desired, and a lot of it was ruined. But this one shot that survives (Paris Steps) is beautiful. I had forgotten about it, but ran across a print from 9 years ago, my only one, and ended up selling it to M. when she came to the house. So this morning, I went searching for the negative, and found all sorts of interesting things to print, but ended up taking another shot at the steps, at a larger size. It is a difficult print to do. There are really burned out highlights from the store windows at the bottom of the steps, that barely respond to burning in, but the rest of the print stands up well. I’m not sure if those highlights are annoying or not. I’ll see how it dries down. I’d really like to go back again with what I’ve learned in the last 10 years.

* * *

THE LIECA 7 IS REAL.Thanks B.E. for the link.

This really gets into the M7. Thanks to G.H. for the link.

2-26-02

February comes to a close. The first two weeks were very busy. The next two weeks, pretty much of a dry spell as far as income goes. But its a nice Spring-like day, and the world seems awful nice today. Something about the softness of the breeze reminds me of the first film I ever did. I was fifteen. I did a 16mm short called, “D&O by DB”. “D&O” was an abbreviation for “Down and Out” and it was set to the song “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.” Clapton covered it a few years ago. But long before that, my cousin knew it, and it was used as the soundtrack for my endeavor. There was no M-TV back then. I recorded my cousin playing it on the guitar… “Once I lived the life of a millionaire…I spent my money, I didn’t care. Took all my friends out for a mighty good time. Bought bootleg liquor, champagne and wine….”

And I somehow convinced my friend George (also 15 at the time), to dress up in a tux, and walk around the streets of the Bronx handing out dollar bills. I remember, that I wanted him to smoke a cigar, but he refused. We even did a shot of him burning bills. I found a girl, Laura, I think was her name, and we convinced the local hotdog place to let me film there for a half hour or so, with George and Laura eating pastrami sandwhiches, which seemed like the height of luxury to me at the time. When we were finished, the owner asked me to pay for the sandwhiches. I told him that he would be getting great publicity from this. That I had taken a shot of the outside featuring the store’s sign. “You still owe me $10”. That was about 1/2 my film budget. I got into a fight with him and said I would never be back again. Even though this was the best deli in the neighborhood, I never went back. My dad would stop by and they would always ask about me. Why wasn’t David around anymore? My dad never had the heart to explain that my pride as filmmaker had been hurt and I was holding this grudge.

“Then I began to feel so low. Didn’t have a dollar, had no place to go. If I ever get my hands on a dollar again. I’m gonna hold on to it, ’til the eagle grins.”

We lived near a large graveyard, Woodlawn Cemetary. I dressed George up in an old raincoat, dirtied his face, and asked him to lie down in the gutter by the entrance to the Cemetary. Again he refused. So I got my father, who at that point was a college professor, to don his old raincoat, and lie in the gutter. The neighbors all came out to see this. “Professor Beckerman,” they cried “are you alright?”

“Please, stand back”, I yelled back, “You’re spoiling the shot.”

Anyway, it was a nice Spring day, and I had my poor dad lie in the gutter for quite some time with a half-empty bottle of booze (really ginger ale). George stood by, aghast at this. And eventually the film was finished. Slightly over-budget because of the deli guys, but finished. And there was a nice premiere at the local community center, and the film was eventually chosen to be on Public television as part of a young filmmakers show.

I never saw Laurie again (who I had a crush on). My father went on to become assistant dean. And George went off to live in the suburbs. It would be another fifteen years before I picked up a movie camera again (at NYU). But the breeze the wafts through the window, is the same breeze of that day, carrying these memories along.

* * *

Put all the “so-called” articles on the home page. People didn’t seem to be able to find them on the ETC. page.

* * *

Man, when I was looking through my negatives for Paris Steps, I came across another thirty or so negatives that are worth printing. Even found I had some of the WTC. Maybe if they are interesting prints I can give the cash to the firehouse or something. I hear that all these charities are totally out of hand. I wonder if that’s going to be the next scandel. I know it happened with the Red Cross… Anyway, there are a couple of prints from my first trip to France, and some shooting I did in Greenpoint Brooklyn a few years ago that I have to revisit.

* * *

2-27-02

I went online to apply for an American Express small business card because they give you 10% discount on fedex shipping. Lo and behold, as I’m trying to enter my street address, there’s only one field for the street address, although there are two “labels” and that one line only takes 20 characters. Even my puny little cart let’s you enter your street address. Here’s this huge corporation, that’s gone through all the trouble of setting up this fancy site to get people like me to apply for the card, and I can’t do it. Can’t chop 243 East 83rd Street, Apt. 3B… to 243 East 83rd St. #3B (still too long).

So I click on the little button that says “leave feedback” about the site, and I tell my sad story, and click the submit button, and guess what… it comes back and says there was an error submitting my feedback…. so I click on the button with the phone numbers, since now I’m just going to do the stupid thing over the phone, and Explorer freezes up… “The horror…. the horror.”

I’m always amazed at how some of these big companies get by. We did a lot of work with Amex years ago when I was at the AGENCY and the amount of money spent on inept projects is astounding. I’m not going to single them out, because we did it too. But there was always this urgency about everything with Amex. “Did you do it yet… did you meet this deadline…” And six months later, the project would turn out to be utterly worthless to anyone but the consultants that got rich off it.

* * *

Had about 5 secs of wet snow in NYC. I ran out to the snow like a maniac with the camera. I stood in front of the Met and took pictures of people getting out of cabs. I told myself, “no more trees”. I’m not shooting the damned trees anymore. I wasn’t happy with anything that I did in the park last week of the trees, the overhanging trees, the non-overhanging trees, the silhouetted trees… I was just going to concentrate on people getting out of cabs in the snow. Shot almost two rolls of this. I seem to be fascinated with that moment when the person is half in and half out of the cab. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. Maybe its the umbrellas being opened, or the foot just stepping out. Whatever it is, I was transfixed by this stuff for about a half hour.

* * *

I get inquires about using my prints for stock purposes, but somehow these things never pan out.

* * *

On the materials front — I’m finding better sources for some of my matting supplies. Just ordered archival strips from DickBlick.com. If they turn out to be the same stuff I was getting from LightImpressions… I may switch my business to them (half the price).

* * *

2-28-02

I’ll admit that Dylan didn’t do his best song at the Grammies, and even though I have the CD and know the words, I doubt if anything he said was intelligable. But… do you expect the oracle to be clear? I keep trying to sell my friend Chuck on Dylan, but every time he hears him perform he calls me with, “what was he saying?” Oh, well. But it looks like bluegrass music got a good boost.

* * *

Spent most of the day re-arranging things in the apartment to make room for the larger mat boards I ordered, since I will now be cutting everything down by hand rather than having anything pre-cut. And I’m also making room to start arranging prints for sellling on the street. I always knew that if sales dropped off (as they have during the last two weeks), my next step was to go back outside the Metropolitan Museum, where I had pretty good success my only day out there. There are a lot of nice things about doing this: you get to go out and interact with people (something I really miss on the web); it is a cash and carry business (no shipping involved); and you get to be outside, which I’m looking forward to. Should be ready in two or three weeks, just in time for Spring.

* * *

I’m waiting for my Crescent mats. If these turn out to be good quality, then I’ve cut down substantially on another bit of overhead. The thing about the web business is that its simply not reliable. You move around in the search engines. You drop to the second page in a big engine, and sales dry up. It’s the old saw: “Location, Location, Location”. The other thing it is much, much easier to sell prints when people can see and flip through the real prints. The only difficulty with outdoor sales is that to get a spot, you’ve got to get out pretty early, maybe 6:30am, but people don’t start coming by until 10am or 11am. I also am determined to get at least a few of the larger prints out there, and not to bring the touristy stuff. For example, I want to show “Paris Steps”. Now whether anyone in New York is interested in a shot of Paris, I don’t know. But it is currently my favorite print. Maybe, you always like the last thing the best.

* * *

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Dave

My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.