Photography

I did have a hobby for many years. Taking my camera places.  I think this must have come from my father too.  There is a picture of him, I cannot locate, leaning behind a 16mm camera making a movie for Cejwin Camps. (That name clearly came from the Central Jewish Institute located on West 86th Street.)*  He also made movies for the FDNY, the USN, the USAF and the Fresh Air Fund as well as others.  Still photography was certainly among his skills; in the hallway in 9E hung a color photo of a tree in silhouette which seemed to grow from solid rock, said to be the rim of the Grand Canyon.

I grew up with a Kodak Brownie box camera which became a Kodak Instamatic and after dad’s death, a Mamiya Sekor 35mm camera.  I was not permitted to own a Japanese camera when he was alive.  I later owned a very early Canon Rebel (film, folks) and took zillions of pictures of my children many of which reside in amazing scrapbooks assembled by their mother, one for each of us.

I had a darkroom at 222 after his death.  I remember it was fun to develop roll film, black and white, in the little metal developing tank and then to carefully cut the negative roll into strips and pick the good ones on my homemade light box for printing. It must have been quite a sight to see me carefully moving a sloshing tray from my darkroom, his former study and my former bedroom, into the bathroom to rinse my prints of chemical fixer in the bathtub. 

Looking back, my favorite subjects were women.  I took pictures on the street, out my office window on 61st Street and Broadway and at West 83rd Street Block Association events.  I don’t have anything left now, a shame.  I remember photos of children getting their faces painted and of a beautiful woman with a revealing cleavage. (Dirty old man when I was young.)

Beside my father’s FDNY filmography, the one I remember best was “The Friendly Town” a project dad did for the Fresh Air Fund, a program that got city kids time with families in small towns with open spaces.  I think I still have that one along with several other 16mm reels.

Family movies were, of course, done in 8mm. The camera had to be wound to get the film to move.  I will say that there are many more films of my sister, first born, like in so many other families. 

The next generation, my son anyway, spends a lot of time behind the camera.  He too owned a Rebel and still shoots with a Canon.  Even before he became a father, and had built in subjects, he was one of those young people who always seemed to have his camera.  I’d like to think I had some influence.

My Rebel sits today, unused, but every now and then I wonder if I can get film and if it would still work.  It was a wonderful machine. 

*“The Central Jewish Institute of New York City, for instance, established Cejwin Camps shortly after World War I. Bertha Schoolman (my mother’s aunt) was an instrumental figure in its operation. The camp was conceived as an “educational enterprise, not just a fresh-air place for poor children.” By 1961, thirteen hundred children attended Cejwin summer camps. They were divided by gender and age, a division which fostered a sense of independence in Cejwin’s female campers.”  Thanks to the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Ken can be reached directly for comments or questions Ken@leavingwest83rdstreet.com

7 thoughts on “Photography

  1. I started out with a Yashica twin lens reflex camera. I was very proud and excited when I graduated to a Nikon F, born in 1959, same as me! I remember my heart thudding in my chest when it bounced out of the basket of my bike onto the street. I rode it directly to Mark Fishman‘s camera shop on Broadway in Woodmere only to discover that it was a lot tougher than I thought. Used it for many years after, and passed it on to the next generation. I also enjoyed many happy hours in the darkroom with my father, and later on alone, developing film dodging and burning my prints. I miss those days!

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  2. Another spot-on piece, & another one I can personally relate to. For me, watching you develop film in 9E was fascinating. I never had the technical inclination for such things, & seeing you understanding the process by going through the several steps was an education. Did I get the Mamiya from you after you moved on to the Canon? The picture you include here looks remarkably like the camera I had. If I still have the camera, it is buried so deeply to be essentially lost; I have no clue what became of it. I also pseudo-remember your taking pictures of the children with their faces getting painted — at a street fair though I can’t remember where, a stretch along Broadway? Amsterdam? One of the side streets?

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  3. Your mamiya became Seth’s. It lives in Atlantic Beach.
    You had the 1000, I had a 500.
    The face painting was at a block party on 83rd between West End and Riverside.

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