I had, from an early age, a feeling that everything, and everyone would disappear someday. My uncle who was sitting across from me would be gone. The view from my bedroom window would disappear. The apartment would dissolve. And everyone and everything that I knew would someday be gone. And if not gone, changed. I don’t think that at the age of 14 or 15 I could put this feeling into words, as I can now, but I can remember photographing my sisters, my mother and father, my friends, with this sense of trying to capture them before they evaporated into time.
The reason that I write this now, is that I was looking through some old negatives from thirty plus years ago, and was amazed at what I was trying to do. There are many photographs which are simply my feet in the foreground, on the window sill, with the Park across the way in the distance. Over and over, I took this shot. There are shots of my Uncle eating a sandwich at the table, where I seem to be about two feet from him and he is giving me that look of annoyance that I remember so well. I try now, to understand where this feeling came from. Even today, I seem to be attracted to just ordinary things that are around me that I feel will soon be gone.
Some of it must go back to the early years on University Avenue — where my world, my apartment, my school, and the things that I loved as a kid, disappeared as the neighborhood ‘changed’. We lived on the border of what was mostly an Irish neighborhood, that very quickly was eaten up by the projects, and crime, and when I was around 13 we picked our things up, and moved. By the time we moved, murders in the neighborhood were commonplace. The building that I grew up was abandoned. Almost the entire street across from where I lived was filled with empty buildings used for shooting galleries. The deli was gone. The candy store burned down. The place where I used to take piano lessons was leveled. And for a long time, that street, the street where I played, and dreamed — became one of those South Bronx pictures that you used to see in the papers.
I never worked in color. The images of my childhood are still in black and white. Color was something the neighbors had in their new t.v. set. My dreams and memories, the early films I saw, were all in black and white. When I see color photographs today, with their vivid eye-popping saturation, they don’t look like the world I see, or the world I want to remember.
P.S. If you’d like to see what the early pre-blog (I called it a Daybook) looked like, I’m slowly importing those pages (usually without the pics) into this blog.
You’ll notice that unlike the usual blog I was actually able to develop certain ideas during a one month post (here is January 2002).
And here is a video of dad talking about looking for his brother Hy in Germany at end of WWII.