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This week’s writing challenge is about changes that are made in an instant: “Just as we can suspend a moment in time by snapping a photograph, an instant can change our lives forever. For this week’s writing challenge: tell us about a moment when your life was changed in a split second.”

I find this a difficult topic. I wonder how candid I can be about my almost 70 year life. I like to think that I “just live my life” and for the last decade give or take that’s been true. David Kanigan posted a blog entry entitled You Regret Nothing? and I replied:

“Regrets — sure we all have regrets. That’s a cliche. Here is what Rumi says about it:

If God said,

“Rumi, pay homage to everything
that has helped you
enter my

there would not be one experience of my life,
not one thought, not one feeling,
not any act, I
would not

If you are happy about where your voyage has taken you your regrets can only be conditional. But be careful — if you could change important decisions and events in your life — would the change take you off course?”

This challenge topic made me think about events, decisions, the past and causes of change in my life. I am happy about where I am now even though there are decisions I made, things I’ve done that I would not do again given the chance and would not recommend if asked. I do not regret having arrived where I am, yet there are regretful things in my past. This thought process is a fugue going on in my brain. The melody is not unpleasant, it’s persistent though and sometimes I need to turn it off.

I’m planning a series of blog entries in a separate, new blog, comprised of vignettes and memories from my life. Most of them I suspect will be points where my life changed direction. I’ll start with one here:

I was about 5 or 6 and playing in what I recall as a very large sand box with other children. Boys — we were all boys and we started playing roughly, filling toy trucks with sand and throwing the sand at each other, wrestling, fighting. The sandbox was in Smoky Park, on 95th avenue in Richmond Hill Queens, so called because at the far end of the park, the opposite end from the sandbox, there was a huge railroad yard and at the time – the 1940’s – all the locomotives were coal fired steam engines. The earth back there was completely black. By the sandbox was dust and soot but less than by Atlantic Avenue where the park ended.

I felt like a strong kid, holding my own in this childish combat. Play kept getting rougher, we were getting dirtier. Then I suddenly realized that someone could get hurt — in fact I was sure we were about to hurt each other. So I stopped. I didn’t want to rough house any more and somehow when I stopped the other kids stopped too. I don’t remember what we did — whether we simply went home or continued playing but from then on I was careful most of the time to avoid being too rough as I played.

I think about this often and have for as long as I can remember. It’s a simple single point in my life that has influenced my behavior every day since.

I’ve been going through old magazines — Aperture, Doubletake, Leica Fotografie, and Provincetown Arts. I need to get rid of all but a few in a collection that spans over 20 years. Some of these magazines I hadn’t read until now others are more dog eared. But almost all are in great shape because I tend not to read but to skim them.

This morning I came across a time capsule of a gem of a magazine — Provincetown Arts 1990. This is an annual magazine founded and edited by Christopher Busa — he is still at it today according to the new web site.

One of my photographic heros is on the cover, Joel Meyerowitz. Joel is still very active and his career and work just seem to continue to grow. The interview and photos in the magazine are magic. The issue is not as slick as the more recent ones. The paper is more pulpy and I must admit I like it. It has more heft. More weight. Mostly in black and white, making the color page pop & surprise.

Joel looks so happy on the cover. Now he seems more intense — might just be the moment, pose or photographer, of course. Then again it might be that he has matured — see his advice at the end of this post — maybe he took it. I met Joel a little later than 1990 at the DNA gallery in Provncetown. He was showing some work there and we bought a very large piece that he had scanned from street work he did in the 1970’s then processed it in Photoshop — this was around 1995 — and tiled it printing the tiles to create and print something like 3 feet by 4 feet. He told me he had taken the time to master Photoshop — ahead of 90% of the photography world I believe.

Here is a bad scan of a bad photo I took of Joel when I bought the print in 1995. He is standing with two others (don’t remember who they were) in front of the print.

The entire issue of Provincetown Arts is like a time capsule. Its great to read articles by John Grillo and Tony Vevers and to see ads for shows of their work back then. They are still active and John is in his later 80’s now I believe. We always go to see his work at the Cove Gallery in Wellfleet when we are on the Cape. Once we move there (we are planning to do that this year now that we are both retired) we will be able to go to openings at times when we are not on ‘vacation.’

Lots of great articles here — but I particularly like this one “Working Women of Provincetown” what great black and white photos! Here is a page from the article:

See what I mean. Its nice and pulpy.

The back cover is an ad for the Cherry Stone Gallery. It closed except by appointment a few years ago. Sall Nerber was the owner and what a great person she is. Her gallery had local artists showing for the first time as well as – well – Robert Motherwell. In the 2006 issue of the magazine there is a tribute to Sally and the Cherry Stone and I think it was the next year that it closed.

Finally here is a quote from the interview with Joel. His advice is good:

After he says that taking a photo is easy —
‘you press a button’ — Joel is asked if that’s what he teaches his students. His answer:

“I tell them that if they learn to pay attention carefully enough and to be mindful of their own instincts, they might reveal something necessary to their own growth, and to their understanding if what the world’s signals are, for the world is full of signs. Photography is a demanding and difficult form, yet worthy and profound. It takes the endurance of a tough personality to stick with it. It takes time to see the evolution of one’s work. That is done through the discipline of doing it over long periods of time and believing that the work will teach you something about the medium., about yourself, and about life.”

Joel has lived up to his own words for the last 20 years and for at least 20 before that. He is a modern master and we are lucky to have still working hard and paying attention. And I am very glad to not have thrown this magazine out. Its a keeper!

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