In Olden Tymes, when music came through the air on magical waves called “radio” the Wizard in the Box, or “DJ” would shout the words to this spell around 5:00 PM. This signaled the peasants their work in the fields ended for the week. The DJ would often play this ancient lay, speaking of the joys of the hearth and home, and banging on the drum all day.
The Bon-Odori is a traditional folk dance from Japan that is part of the Obon Festival. The festival is kind of family reunion holiday among Buddhist-Confucian, where families gather to pay respect to their dead, clean their grave sites and honor their memory. The dead, according to tradition, visit the household altars and bestow their blessings on the family. It is quite similar to Día de Muertos in Mexico. (At least it is to this very outside observer.) Japanese have celebrated the Bon Festival for 500 years, though the date has drifted around a bit due to the adoptions of Western Calendars. Today’s festival is a “Shichigatsu Bon” or “Bon in July”.
Saturday, July 26th and Sunday July 27th are the Fourth Annual New York Poetry Festival on Governor’s Island. Featuring over two hundred and fifty poets on three stages. I was present at the first festival in 2010 and fell in love with the idea of poets performing their work in bucolic locale of Governors Island, I even took the stage myself!
The Festival has grown exponentially since, drawing performers and artists from around the country. What started as a showcase for New York City talent is growing into a major cultural and literary event. The crowds grow every year, and if no one is bouncing a giant inflatable beach ball around yet, they will be!
I would be remiss if I did not mention, nay, proclaim that Augury Book’s author Frances Justine Post will be taking the stage on July 26th ! (Also present from Augury: David Joel Friedman and B.C. Edwards) Come to see all the performers, come BOTH days, it’s free! Support the art, support the community, sit in the sun and listen to poetry.
And if you see me on a stage, I keep a basket of rotten tomatoes nearby. I am far better photographer than I ever was poet.
Jenny Rubin is known by the many roles she lives as a comedian, author and actress in New York City, New York Walk is her first book of photography. Anyone who’s heard Rubin perform knows her forte is not the one liner or the pun, but the comedic and dramatic arc of the story.
Ideally, photography is about telling a story. Somewhere along the way, many of us forget this. We become obsessed with paychecks or page views, chasing technical perfection or acquiring the latest gear and the story is lost amongst the noise. Yet, here is book that is nothing but The Story. Page after page of images gathering little moments of life among the Eight Million, each poignant, each timeless.
And timeless is a very apt phrase to discuss the photography in New York Walks, because these photographs disconnect from the Now. The people and places are modern in every sense, yet comparing them to the images taken on the streets of New York by other photographers spanning the past few decades it is impossible not see how easily the subjects could slip out of Now and stand comfortably Then.
Rubin’s style is simplistic and unfettered, up until recently shot entirely on her iPhone she has managed to step outside the mania dominating contemporary photography for tack sharp imagery and sweeping compositions and simply focus on the scene provided. Her photos fill with motion blur, deep shadows and unexpected angles as she snatched moments from the streets. And the title New York Walks is not a misnomer, Rubin DID the walks, endless hours along the streets of Manhattan and boroughs. She went out to where the photo were and took them, not for an assignment or project but rather out of a passion for street photography. The theme which emerges is free-flowing, yet still coherent: the people and places in her life.
The photographers skills come through strongest with human subjects, where the loose framing and focus impart a sense of motion and life. They do not carry as well to the still life and landscape images, where the limitations of the equipment become more observable. She presents several strong photos of architecture and street scapes, but they never quite match the vitality of her candid portrait work.
New York Walk is predominantly Black and White, but the few splashes of color photography are always vibrant and cohesive. The color work also serves to lighten the tone of book, which is not “noir” or down, but gritty and all that the word implies. The color offerings are almost always joyful, and provide a nice balance to the whole. Her selections in the book all complement one another and whole, a notable accomplishment when drawing from one’s catalog for a first effort.
All said, this book appeals to those who appreciate the Street Photography aesthetic in its purest form, divorced from the worry of what other photographers will think of her work. Rubin is shooting for her pleasure, and while active on social media, she eschews the click bait formula common to so many Instagrammers. Her work presented directly, without extensive comment or embellishment, leaving the story to the viewer rather than the algorithms of Likes and Shares. There is a purity in what she is doing here that she shares with a personal hero of her’s: Vivian Maier . In another time and place, Jenny Rubin’s images might have sat unnoticed. Fortunately for us, they have not.
I look forward to watching Jenny mature as a photographer and explore the horizons ahead. I suspect her sense of story and eye for the moment will grow as she moves on to gear that expands her reach. New York Walks is available on Blurb starting at $48.00, which I assure you is basically at cost having self published on Blurb. If you love New York, if love photography, or know someone who loves either or both pick this book up. Jenny isn’t worried, she is too busy out there shooting.
Full Disclosure: I am not an unbiased reviewer .My bias is knowing the photographer personally. My bias is loving this type of photography and my bias is loving GOOD photography.
The term Selfie takes the long tradition of self portraiture and dumbs it down and twees it up in much the way Jefferson Starship did for Jefferson Airplane. In a sense, Selfies took this and transformed into this. Even the name itself “selfie” conjurers something innocuous and still slightly disgusting, like when a toddler has a doody drop out of his diaper; somehow cute and disgusting simultaneously.
Naturally the Selfie’s evolution stems from a deep desire to indulge our narcissistic impulses. It’s as base a reflex as shouting “Wooo!” while removing articles of clothing when astonishingly intoxicated. This is not necessarily a flaw, merely a human behavior. This further explains why the Selfie concentrates in the young, whose desperate desire for notice is only rivaled by the desperate desire to see one another naked and shouting “Wooo!”. The rest of us may indulge in the sporadic need to emblazon our faces on social media, we don’t seem to need to shout “LOOK AT ME!” on a regular basis. (The exception of the Hollywood/wanna be Hollywood types is given .)
But is it art? Well in the Velvet Elvis category, sure, the Selfie is art. There are people doing very clever things with Selfies out there, others are being even more clever in response to Selfies. (I think I am stealing this idea.) Do Selfies even NEED consideration as art? Could we not consider them the equivalent, of say Hummel figurines? Just place them in the category of cutesy little things people have/do for no particular reason.
Not everything we do with an image capture device needs to weighed on some artistic scale, with Dorthea Lange on one balance and Girl with Fake and Tan Making Duck Face on the other. Besides, who decides what’s art and what isn’t? These guys? These are the people telling us a crucifix immersed in piss is something worth placing in a museum.
Wizards of the Coast has just released the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Mind you, they don’t call it 5th Edition, WotC just calls it Dungeons and Dragons. If you don’t game, you probably don’t understand the idea of Editions and the constant bickering between fans of the various editions. Let me put it in a way most folks will understand: Think of your favorite sports teams through the years, you may still root for its current incarnation, but in your heart you have a favorite line up. Editions of Dungeons and Dragons are similar,various generations prefer one over earlier or later incarnations of the game.
Wizards of the Coast, who bought D&D’s parent company TSR in 1997 and was subsequently bought by toy giant Hasbro in 1999, would really like all these squabbling generations of gamers to just get along. When I say “get along” I mean all buy all new gaming materials for the new edition. The problem for the company, however, is pen and paper games, unlike their computer descendants, don’t stop being playable and played when their parent company stops supporting the line. Couple this with the vast second-hand market for gaming materials, and Wizard’s have a problem.
How do you get three generations of gamers to agree on one game? Us old school Grognards don’t like the modern version of the game’s video game vibe and younger players don’t think early versions are interesting. So, the designers faced a Herculean task to please both sides in one game. Early reports from the Bearded Ones are mixed, but trending positive, so maybe they will succeed.
It won’t matter to me, I will stroking my beard and playing 1st Edition. If it ain’t broke, I won’t be fixing it.