Leila Alaoui, Photographer Wounded in Burkina Faso Siege, Dies at 33

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Any time a photojournalist dies, the world is a little less safe and its future a little less optimistic. One image can bring a message words can only hope to deliver. One need not know the artist to understand her voice.

Her obit in the NYT tells of a woman who saw truth and put her vision to work to educate and enlighten.


How inspiring she must have been to those who saw her work or worked with her.

Temple Anshei Shalom – Lifelong Learning


I delivered a lecture on Preserving Memories – Jews and Photography at Anshei Shalom’s Lifelong learning program. We talked about the origins of the craft, some of the practicioners of the art and capability of images to document, inform and entertain. Haven’t been in front of a group in years, especially when not wearing a suit or robes. I was shakey. About 50 attended and seemed engaged. Nice to talk about art instead of sociopaths.

What would photography be without Jews? Vanity Fair wouldn’t be the same without Annie Liebowitz. No Iwo Jima Memorial without Joe Rosenthal. No VJ day without Eisenstadt. Jews gave photography by Richard Avadon, Jay Maisel, Stieglitz, Diane Arbus, Bruce Gilden, Arthur Felig a/k/a Weegee, Joel Meyerwitz, Lisette Modal, Bruce Davidson, Arnold Newman, August Sander, Elliot Erwitt, Mary Ellen Mark and on and on and on. We wouldn’t see a lot of what we see or know what we know were it not for Jewish photographers.

Where did our camera sight come from? God gave us light and dark so we could see. God called it day and night. Photographers call it contrast. God created us in God’s image, telling us to create, make images we can see, which we can look at (not worship) giving people vision to make the world a better place. Jewish photography is genetic, hot-wired from God, a tool for the mission to do good deeds and leave the world better than what we found when we got here.

David Bowie, Dead at 69

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So, David Bowie got the message. “Major Tom’s” circuit board frizzed. Iggy Stardust will no longer be with us and the world will be a lesser place. I am 68. Were I to die tomorrow, the world would not feel diminished a bit. Luckily, I can look at his picture and listen to his songs. Visit  You Tube today and “Let’s Dance.” Live while you can, have fun and don’t waste time hating or loathing or speaking bad of others.

Image borrowed from Billboard.

Duck and Two Sharon Ducks

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So, Sharon Duckman and I go to Sarasota with a group of Valencia Reservists, three busloads to be exact. People talking trash, retiree trash (grandkids, golf, cards, restaurants and where do you by bagels) don’t interest me and what I know doesn’t interest them. We stay by ourselves because I don’t have social skills and cannot answer questions like: what did you do for a living; where did you come from; and where do you live. Besides, nobody listens anyway.

We are walking around the Selby Botanical Gardens, looking at orchids and trees, shooting a few images. The sun is up, harsh and specular. To light one of my shots of Sharon, I take out a reflector and ask a passerby to hold it for me. In a flash of a second, she says, “Are you Lorin Duckman?”

Now, who would know me at a Botanical Gardens in Florida? “Yes, who are you?”

“I am you cousin Sharon Sumliner.” Her Father’s Mother and my Father’s Father were brother and sister.

We haven’t seen each other for twenty years, which makes her post Sharon Duckman. Still, I don’t know how she recognized me. She said it was my eyes and voice. I certainly didn’t recognize her. And, she did it so quickly.

But it was an extreme joy to see her; one which made the trip worthwhile even if I didn’t make any friends on the bus. We talked about family without figuring out why or how a family of the size of ours could dissolve so quickly. Lots of dead people whom we knew in common. Only a few around.

Seems to be happening to a lot of families. People die. People live. People move away. Many didn’t follow the Jewish lifestyle. Petty feuds. Short guest lists for weddings and bar mitzvahs. No family trees and no death notices. Life is complicated.

See Any Living Things?

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So, for a couple of weeks we haven’t been going out. Holidays have brought friends and relatives to the Sunshine State to escape the unpredictable weather in places north and west. The economy needs them; the environment doesn’t.

A little before noon, a New Englander approached me as I shot in the swamp at the nearby US Wildlife Preserve, Loxahatchee. Identifying himself as a hunter and lobsterman, he asked me if I had seen anything alive. No doubt he meant animals and reptiles who, as an outdoorsman would undoubtedly know, don’t come out in the heat of day. And besides, why would they come out when people were in their home. This isn’t a zoo; it’s a swamp.

Without going into the particulars of my response, let’s just say I pointed to the greenery around us, I noted that swamps were locations full of life and full of death. My simple answer which this image supports is “Yes.”

Cantor Efraim Sapir, Dead at 69

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So, at his funeral service, which I didn’t attend because Sharon and I were out of town and didn’t know about it, the presiding Rabbi said God didn’t take Cantor Sapir, he took himself.

Why? I don’t know. I wish I knew before he did it. Many wish they did, too. Could we have helped him? Who knows? Everyone must make their own decision when to live and when to die. Some may need to be told how much they are loved.

I didn’t know him well or for so long. We were the same age, almost. I envisioned growing old with him, learning more about all the things he knew: music, humor, talmud and the meaning of life. I don’t have many friends; he could have been one.

Cantor’s voices connect prayers with God. Efrain loved to sing in Temple, using melodies to rid the congregants of self-consciousness, elevating their thoughts and minds to holy places. He’d pause between some phrases to look out into the audience, listening for proof he had connected, him to them and them to the angels. He once told me that he had observed me banging my prayer book on a pew during a prayer and that I had used an alternative beat. I sit in the last row; how observant.

We did a photo shoot in my studio, a formal shot for the hallway and the Temple Anshei Shalom bulletin. It took two hours. He was dressed perfectly, hair groomed, suit/shirt/tie selected for the occasion. We exchanged stories, listened to cantorial music and played with the lights. During one song by a noted Cantor, he explained the guy was just singing nonsense words, because the music was so beautiful and he wanted to sing along. I told him, after the shoot, how handsome he was and what a joy it was to photograph him. He said he never saw himself as being so good looking and that my images made him very happy.

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The shot of him holding the Torah after the reading was the last shot of him. Taken two weeks before his death at Morning Minyan, it is not my usual kind of photograph. He isn’t looking at the camera and really doesn’t know or care I am in front of him. I usually go for the head, but I was drawn to his hands and the words on the Torah cover. You can see the joy in his heart, his love of Torah and feelings for humanity.

The Photo Gods helped me shoot this image. I wish God had helped me with fix his self image. He was a beautiful man, a significant man. My life will be less without him. You see, sometimes it isn’t how long you know someone but how well.

Koramatsu, Not Again

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The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens has a chilling exhibit. Featured are the bags carried by Japanese to internment camps. These tickets, replicas of the actual ones which directed the people to one of seven camps, show how insensitively and how inhumanely the US Government dealt with people within our borders who had ties to a nation with whom we were at war.

The internment of Japanese during the 2nd World War was wrong. Treating those from Syria who would seek asylum or the 2,000 who have already been vetted the same way would be worse. Have we not learned that in addition to being the world’s policemen, we are a homeland for the oppressed. Our country has the resources to deal with its problems, just not the will. Revisit what we did. Look at the MSS St. Louis. We just need to be careful and the vetting needs to be smartly done. But our borders should remain open to those who need our protection and to those who want to become part of a nation with a conscience.