Shelly Isaacs, Cafe Cinématique

Not much good to say about where I live. Lots of ill-mannered New Yorker/New Jerseans who rush everywhere, drive madly and think they know it all. Arts and crafts. Cards. Golf. Restaurants, especially early bird specials. Lots of lines, people who talk about grandkids and coupons.

Not a lot of culture, even though we have several museums, nature walks and a plethora of movie theaters. People who watch MSNBC and CNN talk like they have a seat at the table, never mind the ones who watch Fox who control foreign policy. One day in the gym, three televisions had Fox news on, entertaining people on treadmills and stationary bikes.

But, we do have Shelly and his movies. He introduces movies you might not go to see and leads discussions at their conclusion. Always upbeat and tolerant of dumb comments, he increases awareness of cinematic art.

Now, remember, I am a photographic artist, a cult that people know little about, despite the democratization of cameras and photo making. I constantly strive to see better. Shelly’s incisive comments help me to watch movies more critically, though he’s more reviewer than critic. Going to his movies makes life a little more bearable down here.

Day#4 Athens


So, you are asking, why travel. One reason is to see the antiquities. Go back to where organized governments started, albeit ones that didn’t treat all people, especially women equally. They had slaves, too, some of whom had talent and built this place. Seeing it in art and history books just ain’t the same, despite the crowds, the climb and the weather. I felt the togas.


Like all civilized places, they had arts and a theatre. Plays, music and circus. No slayings. Maria Callas even sang there, as did Sting.



Jordan Douglas, Revisited

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Every once in a while, I go back and look at shots I had taken earlier in my photographic career. Since I wasn’t charging people, many didn’t even return to look at the images, yet alone order any prints. I’d print one, put in my portfolio and that would be it. Never played with them, added any toning or conversion techniques or photoshopped them. That takes some cooperation from the sitter.

Jordan here, didn’t come back. He said he wasn’t looking for images dark or edgy. We haven’t spoken since then; not unusual for me and my sitters. People want their photos to be like they want them to be. And I want mine to be like mine. In a good portrait shoot, the great images are something of a compromise.

Great looking guy. We did well during the shoot, surprisingly well, in light of the fact he is a fine art photographer and teacher. That we share a love of photographic history made it fun, but I never looked at the session until today when I was doing some housecleaning in my catalogues.

Not bad, I’d say. Still have some work to do on it, if I have time. More importantly, it tells me that in those files and folders sitting on my computer may lie some shots I would appreciate.

Lorin Duckman Reads Faces

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So, by this time you must know that I am an artist with a camera who shoots portraits. The heavy book in my lap, edited by the wife of a lawyer whom I knew when I lived in another body, traces the history of the photographic portrait. Where I fit into this ever changing medium has not yet been determined, but I am working on it.

Fascinating that the beginnings of photography and impressionism coincided. As painting went outdoors, aided by the lead tube, the paint brush and the collapsible easel, photography stayed indoors, trapped by its chemistry. The painters escaped the studio, finding their own plein aire truths on the banks of the Seine. The photographers focused their eyes on people and things that didn’t move, establishing themselves as the heirs to the pre-raphaelites. To many, they were not artists, but merely operators of cameras and mixers of dangerous liquids spilled over plates.

The principles of portrait photography remain the same. You need a camera, a sitter and a photographer. The more the three relate to one another, the better the portrait. The equipment has gotten easier to use and more democratic, which might be able to be said about painting. One still needs to be an artist and adhere to age old principle to do good work.

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.

Rabbi Tobias Rothenberg, 94

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Rabbi Rothenberg says he is a collector, bordering on hoarder. He built a library at Temple Anshei Sholem which shelves 2.000 books. He studies talmud, leads prayer and remains dutifully loyal and connected to his wife, Ethel.

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Part of living a long life iinvolves luck. Part of it has to be love. And part of it is having a home care worker.

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How else would you get around?