Flickr Faves: Winter White-Out

I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I think I speak for us all when I say ENOUGH ALREADY! I think the expression on this adorable French bulldog’s face says it all: is winter over yet?! The past few weeks of bitter temperatures, black ice and snow storms have been enough to make even the best of us ask hard questions about our own sanity. One morning last week, my weather app read 30 degrees and when I stepped out on my stoop, I thought to myself: “Ah! Spring!” Dark times, people. Dark times.

However, I did get caught unexpectedly in the snow yesterday, and rather than complaining my way home, I took the opportunity to wander my way through SoHo and try to be inspired. It was lovely. So in an attempt to try and make some photographic lemonade, I also wandered my way through the ol’ Flickr pool and found some lovely images there. Check out some of my favorites below!

“Manhattan Bridge in the Snow,” by BSEinBrooklyn:
Manhattan Bridge snow 2

“A Saturday Afternoon at Prospect Park,” by Eric Nichols:
A Saturday afternoon at Prospect Park

“Bedford / North 7th,” by Jonathan Percy:
Bedford / North 7th

“The Ice Fields of Prospect Park” and “Venus the Frenchie,” by Jason Duncan:
The ice fields of Prospect ParkMy dog Zelda's doggie friend Venus the Frenchie.

Untitled, by Greta Punch:
000037

“Brooklyn Borough Hall Disappearing Into the Snow,” by Ed Newman:
Brooklyn Borough Hall Disappearing Into The Snow--NYC, 1/26/15

“The Sheets,” by Andrew Morhrer:
the Sheets

Existential Dilemmas and New Websites!

I really can’t believe that it’s already February, kids. Even though I’ve not been traveling nearly as much as I did at the end of 2014, it feels like things have been just as busy! But it’s been a GOOD busy. I went to Sundance to see the premiere of a film into which my brother put a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I met Jon Krakauer, ran face first into Tobey Maguire, and tried so many delicious whiskeys. And I finally launched a new website!

Along with the January Cure project that seems to be turning into my annual thing (nevermind that it is stretching WELL into February now – update soon!), I had a long-overdue goal to launch a new personal site for my photos. For the last couple of years, I’ve been digitally tossing and turning between different approaches and it’s been driving me crazy. What can I say? I’m a commitment-phobe. Even though it’s annoyingly self-indulgent, I thought I’d share a bit of my journey launching this new site. I’ve commiserated with so many photographer friends who wrestle with these same issues, and if I can help even a tiny bit, I’m happy to. The existential angst these decisions caused me was real and paralyzing. I’ve had photographer’s block for a long time now. I’m finally pulling through.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 12.41.00 AM

My first problem was the platform of choice. Where did I want to run the portfolio site? I originally built it out on WordPress via a .org installation to my own server (which I do love dearly and on which this site is run). I cobbled together as much PHP and CSS as I could manage and probably customized three or four different themes I thought could halfway work. I dragged this out over probably a year and a half, maybe longer. I reached the point at which the coding of the site was becoming a greater focus and way more time-consuming than the editing of the photos, which should’ve been my first priority. I was using these technical challenges as a way to avoid making any sort of artistic progress. I made three or four very passable sites, but because I couldn’t get the site templates to render perfectly, they went to the scrap pile. Basically, I was deluding myself and wasting my own time.

To solve for this, I took the technical considerations out of play. I signed up for a Squarespace account and cut myself off from playing technical support. But then came the existential questions. Why the heck did I even need a portfolio site? I’m not a pro photographer, so why would I need to organize my work in a way that pretended I was? Aren’t portfolio sites kind of boring and overly circumspect in the first place? What about FTLOB? What do I do with this space here? Do I still want to write about Brooklyn or should I just give up everything altogether? I had found yet another way to waste my own time, now with much greater proportions of psychological drama! Are you sensing a recurring theme yet, or what?

Sensing that all this self-talk was possibly not the healthiest nor the most productive, I gave it a rest for awhile. I tried to be optimistic and kind to myself. I asked myself simpler questions, like what exactly do I want to do with this personal site? What do I want to share there? I eventually realized that, at the root of it all, I have missed sharing stories – both my own AND others’. More specifically – and this is where I finally started unlocking the use case I was trying to solve for – I want to be able to share cohesive sets of photos from my travels. This type of work doesn’t really translate well to an Instagram stream or the new Flickr UI and I needed a solution. (Side note: since when is there an internet war against white space?)

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 12.36.05 AM

In an attempt to focus in on what I’ve been missing, my new site will serve one simple purpose for now: short travel essays and image galleries! (And also URL sentences. So sue me.) So many of these images have been locked up for far too long and I want to share. Once I landed on this laser-focus, everything came easily. I gave myself a manageable goal and started by building galleries and writing essays for three of the mind-blowing trips I took last year: my first backcountry hike into Glacier National Park, a long weekend trip to Alaska and Kenai Fjords, and a solo road trip I took down the California coast to check out Big Sur. Ah, I love the smell of the redwoods — almost as much as I love the feeling of releasing these photo essays to the wild. I’m so happy to share them with you. I expect to add some fun sets over the next couple of months (Ticino! Madrid! New Orleans!), but I already feel so much relief at having a space to share things in this format. Yay for progress!

Along the way, I also sadly realized that what got lost in the shuffle of these decisions was this site. For the Love of Brooklyn was started to celebrate all the awesome photographers I’ve encountered and share their stories as a love letter to the borough where I’ve made my home for the last ten years. Somewhere along the way, this mission was lost. Somewhere along the way, I stopped organizing the photo walks I grew to love so much and which brought amazing new friends into my life. I desperately miss it all.

This year, it’s coming back. Just as soon as my face doesn’t instantly freeze the moment I walk outside. Promise.

Who’s in for the next photo walk?!

Hanami

One of the very first things that Zach and I did when we moved to Crown Heights was invest in a membership to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’d never visited the gardens before moving to this side of Prospect Park, nor did I ever consider myself the kind of person who would wander aimlessly under the canopy of trees. Boy, was I wrong.

Every year now, I can hardly contain myself as I wait for the glorious display of cherry blossoms. This year, I started checking the CherryWatch page in mid-March, hoping for signs of an early bloom. Finally, five weeks later, the cherries are starting to pop. As long as we don’t get much stormy weather or wind this week, I predict that next weekend’s celebration is going to be a doozy. In a really good way. Of course I’m going to be out of town. Figures.

cherry blossoms foreverweeping cherries

ANYWAY. Over the last couple of years after many meandering walks through the garden, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of Hanami. Initially, I always thought of hanami in a very literal sense: stop everything, get thee to the garden, see the flowers, and take photos to try and capture a piece of the magical cherry blossoms.

In the last couple of years though, it has evolved moreso into a rite of passage for spring. It’s almost become an emotional spring cleaning for me, because it seems to satisfy my need to cross a bunch of stuff off my checklist. The cherry blossoms give me my annual assignment:

— Get out of the house!
— Get your act together for the year’s gardening plans!
— Go see your friends and family. Don’t be a recluse!
— Be active! Ride your bike! Get to the gym! Get moving!
— COME SEE US AT THE GARDEN!

The cherry blossoms are very practical blossoms. It’s hard to argue with their logic.

promise of spring

So this weekend, I did as I was told and tore the house apart for a round of spring cleaning. I also managed to do a lot of yoga, purged a boatload of paperwork, and got to see the cherry blossoms through the eyes of my five-month old baby cousin, Olivia. The gardening plans are starting to form slowly but surely and I’m confident they’ll come together. (I want to try my hand at roses. Thanks a lot, Marie.)

I don’t know that I owe all of the productivity to Hanami, or to the cherry blossoms, or even to our upcoming vacation this week. But I do think that that it’s a concept I should try and embrace more in my life. The practice of simple appreciation, of gratitude for the beauty which surrounds, of slowing down and being more present — these are all things which really require practice.

And I need lots of practice.

Untitledshinto spring
heavenly

Finding Inspiration

There is a tree outside the shuttle entrance at Franklin Avenue and Eastern Parkway, about a half mile from my house. Even though the whole parkway is lined in hundreds of trees, you really can’t miss this one. It’s propped up by a grossly outsized concrete pillar – easily ten feet high – as a kind of crude stake. I have no idea what its story is, but it’s mesmerizing to behold. I don’t think it’s physically possible for me to walk past it and not stop to gape. It’s so ridiculous.

Every time I walk by I wonder whose idea it was to install a concrete mold around this tree, bring in a concrete truck, strap it in with a steel belt, and call it a day. Surely there was a team of people assigned to the installation – it’s far too big for one arborist to accomplish alone. Were they from the Parks Department? A local neighborhood group? Maybe the MTA. It is right outside a subway station, after all. All the pastoral beauty of Eastern Parkway, the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden… and yet.

Welcome to the neverending Seinfeld monologue inside my head.

cyborg

I think I might know a thing or two about how this tree feels, at least if it believes in awkward literary devices. Lately I’ve felt restrained by the mountains of work that come across my desk every week. I’ve accomplished loads and loads in the last few months, but it’s been all work and no play. Most every day I’ve woken up thinking about deadlines and gone to sleep dreaming about emails I just couldn’t get to that day. All my other goals and creative hopes have been (temporarily) laid aside. This has to change. I need more.

At the beginning of this year, I put together some lofty New Year’s resolutions – or I should say ‘just lofty enough to be remotely achievable if I can stop binge-watching television.’ I’ve felt a little superstitious in sharing them, but let’s just say I’m very happy with progress so far. Insanely happy. Of course ‘taking more photographs’ is up there towards the top, but so are some long-postponed goals of collaboration and creation. Things are happening, and it feels so good.

But rewind a month and a half ago to the turn of the year. I was in a dark place, a serious downswing. It took a few weeks of being creatively miserable to realize that I had the power to change. Circumstances can’t always change, but my attitude sure can. And it needed to — FAST. So I dug into my bag of tricks for some pretty simple home remedies. When I’m feeling down and in a creative slump, these two things are simple and really help elevate me:

1) Spend time with people who creatively inspire you. TALK. Talk about your dreams and frustrations. Vent, if you have to (but not too much — no one likes a perennial whiner). Ask for advice. Like-minded creative people are your spirit animals. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Ask them about their projects. Listen to them talk about their successes or failures. Communication puts everything in perspective. And then once you’ve done all that fancy communication: MAKE CRAZY PLANS TO COLLABORATE. It’s amazing what impact a little accountability has.

2) Get off your butt and DO something. This is the simplest, but it’s often the one I struggle with the most. (see above: binge-watching television shows) For me, GOING and DOING is usually most effective when it’s done within the framework of what I know best — my neighborhood. If I’m feeling particularly angsty, taking my camera for a walk around the neighborhood where everything is familiar is medicine. I force a new perspective, I see things in a completely different way. It’s restorative. Corollaries: Crown Heights is beautiful and wandering aimlessly is totally underrated.

These two tips never fail me. I may have to repeat them a few times – as my neighbors will attest to after seeing me wander around in the cold this weekend – but eventually I find my way back to center. And now with six weeks of 2013 behind me, I can really say it and mean it: HAPPY NEW YEAR! Good things are coming. I can’t wait to share.

old steelghosts of neon past
Rx

shuttle

welcome home