Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Catching up with Mitch Waxman -- and his new camera (and helping him pay for it!)


One of the early pictures Mitch has taken with his new camera: the Bayonne Bridge, connecting Staten Island to New Jersey, viewed from Newark Bay (click to enlarge, and see below for descriptive comment)

by Ken

Our pal Mitch Waxman, among his many other distinctions, all pretty unusual, probably the most interesting photographers chronicling New York City, is now working with a brand-new camera, and has been sharing the early results, most of which were taken under unusual conditions. Of the shots taken at the same time as the "reverse" one of the Bayonne Bridge above, for example, he noted in his Newtown Pentacle post yesterday:
The weather was not conducive to the "lurid shimmering of pale light" thing which typifies most of the maritime shots I produce. It was dark, due to threatening storm clouds, and kind of misty. Luckily, it wasn't a "precipitating mist" wherein the moisture suspended in the air congeals onto any available surface. Instead, this was a light eating atmosphere. As my long lost pal Bernie would have advised - "use it" - so I went for composition and shadows of oily density. That's the Port Authority's Bayonne Bridge from the Newark Bay side, by the way.
The new camera wasn't, by the way, some sort of sudden impulse purchase. Mitch told the horror story in a July 10 post called, appropriately, "horror:

[Click to enlarge.]
The shot above is the very last one which will ever be captured by the camera which has been utilized to record the startling truth of our times, as presented in graphic narrative at this – your Newtown Pentacle – for the last 4 years. The device has been, as those of you who know me, omnipresent. Normally, the thing is strapped to me and never leaves my hand. If it was to be put down, extreme care and attention to its resting place has always been exercised. Friends often chide a humble narrator as to why the camera got its own chair.

All that is over now, due to a single careless moment on the 4th of July.

The other day, shots captured from Williamsburg depicted the 4th of July fireworks. After the rooftop gathering attended to view the show, which a friend had graciously invited Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself to join in on, Our Lady insisted that we hire a taxi to cross the short distance from Williamsburg back to Astoria. While exiting the vehicle, the camera tumbled out of my hand and struck the street.

The lens, my “good lens,” shattered into multiple pieces.

The camera body seemed fine at first, but soon revealed itself as non functional after just two mirror flips. Massive self recrimination ensued, as one might imagine, but just as in the case with any kind of accident – what are you going to do? “Command Z, undo, undo” cried I.
What indeed -- in, Mitch noted, Mitch's "tremulous financial equilibrium"? ("Hey," he asked parenthetically, "you think environmental activist -- historian -- blogger -- photographer -- tour guide -- actually pays well?")
One such as myself cannot be without a capture device, and replacement equipment was expensively acquired. The horror.
"The good news," he added, "is that I’m back in business." But yes, there was bad news:
I’m out a big chunk of change. For those of you that feel my pain, I beg you to buy some tickets to one of the walking tours I’m doing this summer.
This last suggestion is one that should be taken to heart without reference to these particular circumstances. If you've never done a walking tour with Mitch, you really should. His tours are as quirky, personal, informative, and transformative as, well, his blogposts. If you're going to be within striking distance of the Big Apple on one of his tour dates -- and you can always get information about planned tours at the end of his Newtown Creek blogposts -- you owe it to yourself to book yourself some tickets. As a bonus you'll usually have a chance to get acquainted with another NYC waterfront devotee, our pal -- and Mitch's frequent associate -- Mai Armstrong, also familiar to regular DWT readers as the tireless blogger for the Working Harbor Committee.)


But if you're so inspired, that's not all you can do, as we learned in Monday's short post, "stay and sing," which featured "one of the first shots acquired with my replacement camera," this beauty (click to enlarge):

Recently captured, the John J. Harvey Fireboat upon the Hudson River. The Harvey was saluting the memory of Working Harbor Committee’s own Capt. John Doswell with a water monitor display. [On January 29, DWT shared Mai Armstrong's lovely WHC Blog tribute to Captain John.]

There was news in "stay and sing": an outpouring of offers from readers "to help me with the crushing financial burden of replacing the destroyed camera and lens." ("Cannot begin to tell you how much these offers mean to one such as myself.") Which brings us back to yesterday's post, which kicked off with this note:
As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.
The news is that there's now a Paypal page for contributions. I think of Mitch's photos as a public resource -- perhaps more public than he might wish! -- so for me it was a no-brainer to kick in a few bucks. No pressure; it's just a way of giving back to someone who does a whole lot of giving to us without getting much in return. And a hat tip to the readers who pitched the idea to Mitch.


Mitch mentioned recently that he has a book of his waterfront photos in print, and another in the works, which I finally got around to checking out. He has all sorts of other titles listed on, all available in e-book form and some in print form as well, including this one (in paperback form; also in downloadable e-book form -- for only $4.99!):

[Click to enlarge.]

There's also a collection of 80 Grand Canyon pictures, AZ, 86023, in paperback and two different e-book editions.


To my great regret, I was so jammed up time-wise over the weekend that I had to blow off Mitch's Greenpoint walking tour for the Newtown Creek Alliance (of which he's the official historian) Sunday morning -- but I was all paid up!

Next up is a July 26 "Modern Corridor: A Walking Tour of Long Island City's Hunters Point" (11am-1:30pm) for Brooklyn Brainery, which --
starts at the old city center, nearby Jackson Avenue and Court Square, and explores the brave new world rising from the ashes of a 19th century industrial titan -- the independent municipality of Long Island City.
This is a tricky call for me because I would have to leave early to get to an already-booked 2pm MAS walking tour. But the breakneck high-rise redevelopment of Long Island City -- as nothing compared with what salivating developers and many city officials are imagining -- with good transportation (though not so good for the waterfront Hunters Point area) but no other infrastructure in place is a subject that really gets Mitch's juices flowing.

This weekend Mitch will also be doing commentary for a City of Water Day boat trip via New York Water Taxi up his "beloved" Newtown Creek (Sunday, July 18, round trip from Governors Island, 11:15am-12:45pm). As i happens, I just did a Newtown Creek cruise with Mitch, for Working Harbor Committee. Even so, I'm tempted to sign up again while there's still space, but I hate to take up a space that could be used by someone who hasn't done such a tour -- the City of Water Day boat trips usually fill up pretty quickly. (They're free, but you have to pony up a $5 deposit, which is refunded if you actually show up.)



At 8:31 PM, Blogger CWolf said...

Really folks, How tough could it possibly be to take an ugly photo of New Jersey?
Bet I can do it with a new Leica or a '50s Brownie.


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