Fall

Travel: The Grand Canyon

Here are a few images from my recent trip to The Grand Canyon.  It is without a doubt MASSIVE.  So massive that the brain can’t really comprehend how something so vast can be created and sustained pretty much on its own.  The challenge in capturing something so immense (mid day on a beautiful sunny day might I add) is trying to figure out how to not make the images appear flat and boring.  I focused on perspective in a few shots by comparing something tiny such as a group of tourists or one person to The Grand Canyon and also had some fun with the editing.  Overall, it was a great trip and a photography bucket list item that I can now cross off 🙂 Check out my images below!  

  We also made a stop to The Hoover Dam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s someone doing exactly what the tour guide told us not to do.  There’s always one…and in this case, I saw more than one person standing on the rocks on this sunny but quite windy day just to get a photo.  This was the only person I managed to take a photo of.

NYC – Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief

Having just visited the beautiful island of Puerto Rico earlier this year, I felt compelled to seek ways to help in whatever big or small way that I can.  Mayor de Blasio just announced several drop off locations throughout NYC for residents to donate critically needed items for Hurricane Maria relief.

Via http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/606-17/mayor-de-blasio-encourages-new-yorkers-donate-critically-needed-items-18-locations-for#/0 

Items listed below will be collected at 18 Firehouse and EMS locations throughout NYC:

  • Diapers
  • Baby food
  • Batteries
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Feminine Hygiene Products

Please note the City is only collecting the items listed above. All donated items must be non-perishable, not second-hand, nor contain any liquids of any kind. Open or unsealed donations of food or hygiene supplies will not be accepted. Wet wipes will also not be accepted. Any other items will be kindly returned.

There are 18 drop off locations accepting donations across all five boroughs. Donations will be accepted during the hours of 7 am through 9 pm. Please be aware that FDNY members at these locations may not be present during drop-off hours if they are responding to an emergency.

Manhattan

  • Engine 91: 242 E. 111th Street, New York, NY 11220 (East Harlem)
  • Engine 95/ Ladder 36: 29 Vermilyea Avenue, New York, NY 10033 (Inwood)
  • Engine 28/ Ladder 11: 222 E. 2nd Street, New York, NY 10009 (Lower East Side)

Bronx

  • EMS Station 26: 1264 Boston Road, Bronx NY 10456 (Morrisania)
  • EMS Station 55: 3134 Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10451 (Melrose)
  • Engine 64/ Ladder 47: 1214 Castle Hill Avenue, Bronx, NY 10462 (Castle Hill)
  • Engine 83/ Ladder 29: 618 E. 138th Street, Bronx, NY 10454 (Mott Haven/South Bronx)

Queens

  • Engine 316: 27-12 Kearney Street, Queens, NY 11369 (East Elmhurst)
  • Engine 289/ Ladder 138: 97-28 43rd Avenue, Queens, NY 11368 (Corona)
  • Engine 307/ Ladder 154: 81-17 Northern Boulevard, Queens, NY 11372 (Jackson Heights)

Brooklyn

  • Engine 271/ Ladder 124: 392 Himrod Street, Brooklyn, NY 11237 (Bushwick)
  • Engine 277/ Ladder 112: 582 Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11221 (Bushwick)
  • Engine 201/ Ladder 114: 5113 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11220 ( Sunset Park)
  • Engine 228: 436 39th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11232 (Sunset Park)
  • Engine 218: 650 Hart Street, Brooklyn, NY 11221 (Bushwick)

Staten Island

  • Engine 153/ Ladder 77: 74 Broad Street, Staten Island, NY 10304 (Stapleton)
  • Engine 157/ Ladder 80: 1573 Castleton Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10302 (Port Richmond)
  • Ladder 79: 1189 Castleton Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10310 (Port Richmond)

 

Taking It Back: The B Side Show Podcast #31 Respect Ya Elders pt.4

As we continue on through this journey of my past life as a radio host, I present to you my series within The B Side Show podcast “Respect Ya Elders”.  This was my opportunity to use an entire show to play nothing but the classics.  This edition revolved around 70’s and 80’s black cinema.  The songs chosen were the musical background to classics such as Sparkle (the original), Fame (the original), Claudine and Super Fly.  I also took the liberty of adding clips from other classic films such as The Education of Sonnie Carson, The Warriors and The Mack to fully round out the show.  According to my labels, this episode premiered in December 2008 and I must say, IT STILL SOUNDS DAMN GOOD!  Listen below and judge for yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The B Side Show “Respect Ya Elders Pt. 4” Originally aired December 2008:

Wish list: Profoto A1

Jackpot, I think I’m in love…

I know!  Another light…but this is a Profoto lightProfoto.  Big dog pitbulls in the game of light.  Yes, their equipment is expensive, but it’s worth it.  This beauty is being touted as the world’s smallest studio light and I want in!  Here’s what I really like about this light, it seems like an easy to use on camera light compared to other speedlights.  It also seems powerful enough for outdoor portraits but it may also be able to handle bigger studio jobs, and with the Profoto brand behind it, you know you’re paying for quality.  BUT, there really is only one way to find out, and this is a wish list post, soooooo…feel free to help me get closer to making this wish a reality by going here, scrolling down and donating what you wish to the cause! 🙂 

What I’m Listening to: Bronzeville Scripted Audio Drama + There Goes The Neighborhood L.A.

@BronzevilleShow “Bronzeville”

I recently took a late summer vacation and was able to fully digest the beautifully designed scripted 10 part audio drama “Bronzeville”.  The cast is stellar: Laurence Fishburne, Larenz Tate, Tika Sumpter, Tracee Ellis Ross, Omari Hardwick, Wood Harris, Lahmard Tate, Cory Hardrick and more make up the characters that come to life in the series.  “Bronzeville” brings to life 1940’s Chicago and the “policy” or numbers games that allowed this African American community to flourish.  At the center of the drama we are introduced to members of the notorious Copeland family, including sister Lisa Copeland played by Tika sumpter, Jimmy Tillman played by Larnez Tate and Curtis Randolph played by Laurence Fishourne.  Not only was I impressed with the sound design of the overall series, I couldn’t believe how quickly I was transformed to 1940’s Chicago via these auditory performances.  It’s easy for me to binge a great tv series or fly through a good book but I’ve never been so engaged in a scripted audio series.  I think a major reason why I was so invested and am supportive of the project is because it is not entirely a fictional project and a little know piece of American history.  Bronzeville was an actual African American community in Chicago in the 1940’s whose money generated from the policy operation allowed the community to be self sufficient and produce schools, stores, banks and nightclubs.  You can read a bit about its history and the policy operation here

You can listen to all 10 episodes of season 1 here.  Hopefully the cast is hard at work and gearing up for season 2!

There Goes The Neighborhood: LA

A friend of mine put me onto “There Goes The Neighborhood” as they covered gentrification in East New York Brooklyn.  Being from Brooklyn and witnessing its gentrification first hand, I was all in.  The series talked to both local residents directly effected by new city plans and the infiltrating house flippers.  I devoured every episode and eagerly awaited a new season to be posted.  I had hoped the series would tackle another section of Brooklyn but they are instead taking the series to the West coast to discuss gentrification in Los Angeles.  If the upcoming L.A. version is as good as the B.K. version, we’re all in for an eye opening treat.

Catch up on season 1 and get ready for season 2 of There Goes The Neighborhood here.

“Punk Christmas”

Having seen this with my own eyes living in this big ‘ole rotten apple of a city and working at an institute of higher learning, witnessing first hand what students leave in dorm rooms and on the street after the school year ends, I can also confirm that sadly, this does happen.  Tons of shit new or gently used items get tossed every year by these kids.  I did not know that certain schools set up donation areas for this stuff, which is a good start but it makes it even more unfortunate that these kids would rather toss items in the trash than donate them to someone who would appreciate this stuff.  Happy hunting…

Via Gothamist.  

“I Am Not Your Negro” film features text from unfinished James Baldwin novel

Well isn’t this timely?  Peep the teaser for the upcoming film I Am Not Your Negro by director Raoul Peck.  It features readings from an unfinished novel by the great James Baldwin and is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

About the film:

In his new film, director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished – a radical narration about race in America, using the writer’s original words. He draws upon James Baldwin’s notes on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. to explore and bring a fresh and radical perspective to the current racial narrative in America.

In theatres February 3rd

http://www.magpictures.com/iamnotyournegro/

Flashback: I photographed President Barack Obama.

My President is black!

Next year, I won’t be able to say that SO, I’ll say it now for what will likely be the last time that I can say it for awhile.  

About 7 years ago when I first decided to take my photography to the next level, I started as many photographers do.  I took classes, learned as much as I could and shot as much as I could.  This meant shooting a TON of events.  You name it, I was there.  Didn’t matter the event or if there was a budget attached to it (which most if not all of the time, there wasn’t) I just wanted to get out there and shoot, share my images and be seen on the scene as a photographer (most definitely not my style now).  My first big gig was to photograph various events for a member of the NAACP at it’s 100th year celebration at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown.  This was a huge event with the main speaker being non other than President Barack Obama.  

The universe aligned perfectly to even allow me in the building, let alone capture images for one of the representatives and possibly of the then newly elected President Barack Obama, but it didn’t start out that way.  After hearing about the event a few months earlier, I applied for a press pass for “The B Side Show” which was a podcast that I hosted and produced back then.  I picked up my official pass and details about the events.  The President was the highlight speaker, but only pre approved national news organizations and members of the press would be allowed into the auditorium to cover the speech for national new outlets.  Blogs and podcasts be damned.  Note: this was 7 years ago, before people even truly understood what blogs and podcasts were.  Today, SOME of them are highly respected outlets of information, 7 years ago when I started mine, people scratched their heads and wondered why anyone would listen to a radio show online.  Meh.  My goal was to cover the event for my show and blog at the time.  Sure I would have LOVED to be in the same room as the President during his speech but with no real connection to any national news outlets, it didn’t seem possible…to most.

The hotel was a few block away from my then current job at Sirius XM Radio.  I was able to work my 9-5, leave and walk up the block to the event.  It couldn’t get any better, right?  I bolted out of the doors at Sirius XM (back then just Sirius) with the first DSLR that I’d ever purchased and my standard lens kit, press pass in hand, for ready for whatever.  I made it to the hotel with no problem.  Got to the entrance, showed my press pass to the attendant and made my way inside.

So now I’m here!  I’m inside The Carter ugh, The Hilton (but I did have that same excitement as Ice T and crew when Pookie finally made his way into the core of the operation).  Now what?  I didn’t have anyone on the inside to guide me through anything.  I had my list of events and speeches that I was allowed to photograph but there was no point person to check in with.  The President was scheduled to speak the following day, so this was the warm up to the burn down so to speak.  One of the main days of musical performances, lectures and other NAACP events that led up to the President’s address.  So, I made my my around.  Pulled out my camera, put my press pass around my neck and waited.  I was ready, but there was nothing happening.  I’d gotten there early and none of the events were scheduled to take place at that time so I roamed around looking for anything to capture.  I made my way into an event space for one of the speakers and performances of the evening.  I stood close to the stage, camera in hand and again, I waited.  Then something happened, the universe came through in a major way.  A handsome young black man who worked for the organization approached me.  “Are you photographing the event?” he asked.  “Yes.” I replied eager to do something other than wait.  “Would you mind helping me out, my name is…and I’m the Director of…for the NAACP and I need someone to follow me around and get images of me and the celebrities of the evening” he said.  “OF COURSE!” is what I hope I said.  Like his name, title and the exact conversation, I can’t remember every detail but it ended up with me following this young man around for hours meeting, photographing and mingling with celebrities and activists that I grew up seeing.  HE was the plug as folk would say today.  He knew everyone and everyone knew him and I was his photographer for the evening.  PUSH THROUGH UNIVERSE.

We ended the evening with me having a ton of photos to sift through and him mentioning the main event the next day, The President’s speech.  “Will you be here for that?” he asked.  “Well, yes but I don’t have a pass to get into the actual auditorium.” I told him.  “Ok…we’ll see what we can do about that.  Be here tomorrow and I’ll try and get you in.”  “OF COURSE!” is again what I hope I said, either way, I was excited and knew I would be there.

 If you live in NYC or any town in which any President has ever visited, you know the madness that I am about to speak on.  When the President comes to town everything shuts DOWN.  I’ve never seen a city stand still and have so much movement at the same time quite like it does when the president arrives.  I figured the word would get out about the President being at the event but I didn’t think it would be Times Square New Years Eve crazy.  After working my shift at Sirius, I left a bit earlier to try and avoid the crowd.  Unfortunately, I could see the crowd from a few blocks away as I approached the hotel.  Excellent.  I somehow managed to get myself to the front of the crowd with the NYPD and their barricades.  Here comes the bullshit I thought.  I showed them my pass and without a word, they opened the barricades and let me through.  It was like the parting of the Red damn Sea!  If there was ANYTHING that would stop my ass from getting into the building SURELY it would be NY’s finest, but no, the universe kept on providing…

I made my way in and called my contact.  “You made it!” he seemed thrilled but not as thrilled as I was to make it in the building.  Again, I don’t remember how exactly the conversation went but it ended with me getting access to the auditorium in which the President would speak.  He told me that I would be seated next to the official White House TV crew.  Some national media outlets were allowed inside the room, but most were only allowed in the separate media room to watch the event on tv screens.  He pointed out the secret service people and other people that I should be aware of.  He showed me to my section and off he went.  He had to return to his duties and would actually get to meet and greet the President as an NAACP member.  “Get whatever shots that you can get, but most of all have fun and enjoy his speech…” he said warmly.  My heart smiles to this day when I think about the kindness and willingness of this stranger to give a newbie like myself an opportunity to shine.  Hey universe, hey…

And then, there was The President.

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The room exploded with applause as he walked on stage.  Newly elected, youthful and full of energy.  His speech provide inspiration, hope and promise.  He gratefully acknowledged the past and looked onto the future.  As a black woman, seeing my first black President address members of the NAACP at its 100 year celebration was one of those defining moments in my life.  A monumental and historic experience that I will cherish for all of my days.  But I also had to work!  After the initial shock, excitement and moment of clarity, I picked up my camera and went to work.  I couldn’t move around the auditorium and I had several huge tv cameras in my line of sight.  Not mention the fact that I was situated on the balcony and was only working with a consumer level camera and standard lens as a novice to the art…so my photos weren’t great LOL.  In fact they sucked.  They suck to me now, 7 years later after learning more about the craft, myself and my equipment.   After sharpening my skills with years of practice and investing in better equipment.  But back then, they were ok.  In fact, everyone including the person that I eventually delivered the final images to thought they were great.   Keep in mind, the NAACP most certainly had other photographers present that were able to capture up close and personal images of The President backstage with other prominent NAACP members.  The White House also always has its staff photographers on hand to share images for the press that they have total control over.  I was more of a Camera B/behind the scenes photographer for the President’s address.  But nonetheless, a behind the scenes photographer for a historic event featuring President Barack Obama.  Not bad for my first official gig.  

“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” – Paul Coelho The Alchemist

Overall, all of the images, including the photos that I took at the various other events for the celebration, came out pretty good.  Today, I strive for greatness and know that if the opportunity presented itself now, I’d excel at it with no problem.  With the knowledge and skills that I’ve accumulated for my craft both in the field and in the classroom, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be able to provide exceptional images, even from a dimly lit balcony with tv cameras in my direct line of sight.  Experience does that.  Time and practice as well.  Here’s the one thing that I had back then, even without the added skills and experience, I had confidence.  I had it all!  Did I know that my equipment wasn’t the best of the best?  Yes.  Did I let that stop me?  No.  Did I let the fact that I wasn’t as experienced as most scare me into backing out of this amazing opportunity?  Hell no.  I showed up, was ready to work, learn, listen and be open to the possibilities.  That event, that moment in time solidified a lot of things for me, including my push to become a full time photographer.  It proved to me that you don’t have to have a big name, huge following or sometimes, even the most knowledge in the room.  You have to be willing to show up, step out on faith and be open to the possibilities.  And let’s not forget, if you make mistakes, learn from them and move on!  I am grateful that I had the universe working on my side that week and always.  I’m grateful to the young brother that took a chance on me and offered an amazing opportunity to get my foot in the door.  I’m grateful for being able to witness a black man with ties to the south side of Chicago be elected President in my lifetime and for the opportunity to watch him address those who helped create a path for himself, myself and the black youth that follow.  Those images and that day are apart of my history.  No matter what happens with this election,  UPDATE: Fuck Trump… I’m grateful that I was able to witness someone who looked like myself accomplish something that was so much bigger than myself.  President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama inspire me to BE.  

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Risk it all. #sometimesshewrites (say what’s real)

A NY Daily News article from January 2016 came across my social media feed highlighting a young Queens photographer by the name of Dark Cyanide.  The teen captured photos of some of the city’s abandoned subway stations, you can see more of the photos here.  It got me thinking about taking risks.  I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do this.  Sneak into one of the many access points throughout the city, camera in hand, ready to document the rarely seen underbelly of the beast that is New York City.  I have an attraction to “dirty” things.  Let me be clear, I am a neat freak.  I do not enjoy dwelling or working in filth or clutter.  I hate when things are not neat and tidy, but I am attracted to ruin.  Buildings that have been demolished, abandoned areas, things that were once new and beautiful and in use but have been left unkept and are now abandoned, old and dirty (see my trip to the abandoned Immigrant Hospital on Ellis Island). So what’s stopping me from exploring the abandoned subways that I’ve yearned to document for so long?  FEAR.  Damn right.  I’m scared AF to go down under to not only discover what is sure to be a wonderland of undocumented ruined city jewels but also the thousands of city rats, insects, people (yes, the “mole people”) and not to mention the risk of being electrocuted, arrested or catching something that my body can not properly fight off.  This 19 year old and his friends have that 19 year old immortality that we all believe we have at 19 and I envy that a bit.  The 30+ year old me knows damn well that I am not immortal and no picture is worth risking my safety, however, there is still a part of me that wants to take that risk.  

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I want to risk it all and take that literal leap down an old manhole in the middle of an abandoned city block and leave all of that fear on the city street above me.  I want to roam the desolate subway tracks capturing the beauty in the ruins below.  I want to stand perfectly still holding my breath as I try to hand hold a long exposure shot, because fuck a tripod in these uncertain conditions.  I want to leap from track to track as the wind from an approaching train brushes across my face.  I want to discover the unknown and be fearless while doing it.  Do I want to do this alone?  Nope.  Am I saying that I’m going to do this at all?  Absolutely not.  What I am saying is, I do want to flirt with the idea of it.  Risking it all.  Even if not for this act in particular.  Maybe I take a risk and start a project that I’ve always wanted to start.  Maybe I risk some money on an investment and see where it leads me while not worrying about the potential to fail.  Maybe I film that ambitious new completed screenplay that’s sitting on my desk (actually, this is already happening…stay tuned).  Maybe I just jump for the sake of taking the leap, knowing that I’m risking it all, or nothing at all.  Maybe, the fear is all in my head and the risk is an imaginary door whose certain defeat is as easy as me taking a breath, opening it and walking through it.  

Just breath and risk it all (or nothing).    

The Schomburg Center presents Black Power 50 Films: “¡Palante, Siempre Palante!”

 As part of their Black Power 50 programming, a retrospective of the past 50 years of black power around America, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is featuring a film documenting the Young Lords movement, ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!.  The screening takes place on 11/10/16 and tickets are free but an RSVP is required and can be done so via their website here.  

Via the Schomburg website:

In the midst of the Black Power Movement, liberation was sought by communities across the globe. In the U.S., Puerto Rican and Latino/a communities fought for economic, racial and social justice. The Young Lords emerged as a powerful voice for the independence of Puerto Rico, empowerment and improved living conditions in America. ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!, directed by Iris Morales, a grassroots activist who was the first woman to join the East Harlem branch of the Young Lords, features interviews with activists. After the screening, Morales will join three former Young Lords–Martha Arguello, Carlos Aponte, and Carlos Rovira –for a talkback with Johanna Fernandez, PhD, professor of History, Department of Black and Latino Studies at Baruch College (CUNY).