Newsday reported today (January 29, 2023) – “31,000 LI Educators Make $100G+”. As a retired NYC high school teacher I feel qualified to speak on this subject. Several members of my family past and present were and are in the education field. If anyone thinks that this is an easy gig I say you’re welcome to try. A vibrant education system attracts the best qualified personnel, and the school taxes you pay keeps the value of your home high. The photo in this blog, “UFT ON STRIKE“, was taken on September 11, 1967 outside P. S. 176 in Brooklyn, N. Y. by me. Average elementary school teacher salary at the end of the 1966 school year was $6,279. The lady in the photo was my Mom. She was the school secretary and did not make nearly the salary of a teacher. She died 2 years and 18 days after I took this photo.
Freedom tastes good. You can certainly feel it and smell it from the photos sent to us by our newest contributing photojournalist, Gary Luciano, on his trip to Berlin, Germany (November-December 2022). Gary is based in Texas. I have a passion for night photography and Gary’s work well defines Berlin’s appreciation for freedom. Only a people who have lost their freedom can truly understand what it means to regain it.
You can also view Gary’s work here: “Berlin – 2022“.
Glory to Ukraine! I grew up with my mother’s family. I remember as a child asking my grandmother where in Europe did our family come from? The answer was Austria-Hungary. I didn’t think much of it at the time. As I learned later the Austro-Hungarian Empire was on the losing side in World War I. But as my family seemed well educated I assumed that the family’s roots were probably in Vienna, a great cultural capital at the time. Assume nothing. Many decades later using Ancestry.com I discovered that one of my grandmother’s brothers who emigrated from Europe along with my great grandparents and a sister listed Kolomiyya as his home of record. My grandmother had spoke often of Galacia, which also no longer exists except in the memory of the very old. Kolomiyya is located on the east bank of the Prut River in what today is Ukraine. At the time it was at the very far eastern edge of the Austro-Hungarian realm. I would argue that the family in earlier times had migrated from central Europe eastward to eventually settle in Kolomiyya. Kolomiyya was a thriving city offering good opportunities. There were many other families living there with the same surname as my great grandparents. Over time, things got ugly and my great grandparents along with two of their eventually six children left by a ship using steam power and sails for America from Hamburg in the 1890s. So this is my connection to Ukraine.
From the moment the first Russian tank crossed into Ukraine Putin’s fate was sealed. He is finished, but he doesn’t yet know it. Mikhail Gorbachev once said that Russia cannot live without Ukraine. Probably true. It’s too cold in Russia to grow the food necessary to support its people. Ukraine has lots of wheat. Russia has lot of oil and gas. It seems to be a simple matter of a trade agreement in the 21st century. No need for an invasion. Ukraine will always, geographically speaking, be next to Russia. But Ukraine has a brutal history of relations with Russia going back to Catherine the Great and more recently Stalin. They will never surrender to what they know is in store for them if Putin is successful. You cannot think that Ukraine is the endgame for Putin. Moldova would surely be next followed by the Baltic nations. By the way, my father’s ancestors came from Lithuania. Eventually, Putin would move on the rest of eastern Europe. Let us not make another Sudetenland out of Ukraine.
Remember. “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me-and there was no one to speak for me.” — Martin Niemöller.
“Ukrainian Nationalist Flags“; Kyiv, Ukraine July 13, 2014. Photo by Sean Work/DPI
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” — Edmund Burke
With all due respect to the lovely young women in this photo my attention was drawn to the line of people stretching for several blocks behind them. During Soviet times consumer goods were always scarce especially Western imports. As these goods were made available people often chose to take time off from work in the hopes of obtaining them. The queue in this photo represents such a situation. You don’t really think that they were lining up for concert tickets, do you? Anyway, one item often mentioned at the time was Italian ladies shoes. Bear in mind that even if you managed to get to the front of the line the shoes given to you might be the wrong size. The people knew this but because they had value the shoes could be bartered for something else. So was the state of the economy for decades until the Soviet Union finally collapsed. Their command economy was driven to build weapons not consumer goods.
“Ukraine” The Queue” c.1950
If you appreciate great photography you will recall with admiration Steve McCurry’s photograph “Afghan Girl”. His photo of Sharbat Gula in an Afghan refugee camp in 1984 was on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985. A haunting image it has stood the test of time and remains a truly outstanding work. Attention is now given to the war in Ukraine, so when we came upon “Ukrainian Girl” c.1980 we immediately made the connection with Sharbat Gula. Maybe it’s her eyes that captivate us as was the case with Gula’s. In any event this photo came to us direct from Kyiv, a city without power and water in the middle of a war zone. Speaks volumes about Ukrainians.
The mail must go through! We recently purchased several photos from Ukraine. Shown here is “Ukrainian Wedding“, c.1938. This is a traditional Ukrainian wedding scene. But the country is now at war! This photo came to us by way of Kyiv and with power and water cuts to Kyiv delivery could be in peril. The photo arrived in a little over a week. Future deliveries in these wartime conditions may never arrive. Mail from some European countries has taken as long as a month or longer to reach the United States and they are not in an active war situation. A people as steadfast as the Ukrainians need to be saved.
Today is the 4th anniversary of my triple bypass heart surgery. Had it not been successful you would not now be reading this blog. Life is good. “The Russian Zone“; Vienna Woods, Austria (1950). If the West had not stood firm Austrians would be speaking Russian today. But we did. A lesson here for the brave citizens of Ukraine. If Putin is successful with the annexation of the occupied territories (Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Lukansk and Donestsk) you might see similar Russian zone signs this time in Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine!
The Shinnecock powwow is held annually on the reservation in Southampton, N. Y. during the Labor Day weekend. It was not held during the last two years because of the Covid_19 pandemic. The Shinnecock decided to open this year and I attended on the third day of the event. Much of the hype surrounding the powwow involves the dancing competitions, and years ago I photographed many of the dancers. This year I was determined to get behind the scene and photograph the vendors who participated in the event. Make no mistake the powwow is a money making deal mainly for the Shinnecock. Vendors travel from great distances to set up their wares. They travel in motor homes and parking for them is $100.00 so I learned. Prices may be adjusted according to the size of the RV so perhaps a Winnebago might be charged more. Vendors’ stalls seem to run upwards from approximately $750.00 for the four day event. I stopped at one vendor’s stall and she told me that she was being charged $1100.00 and had yet to break even. Admission to the powwow for adults is $15.00, $10.00 for seniors and military and less for children. The items on display for sale are not all made by native peoples in the United States, Central or South America so you have to be careful about your purchases. As always, the really fine native-made items are expensive.
I had to decide on how I was going to shoot this powwow, and it would be very different from my last trip. As the stalls are cramped I decided to use a wide angle lens to incorporate as much of inside as possible. Shooting portraits presented a challenge so you have to do some thinking before you compose. Using a 12 megapixel DSRL made sense as going larger to 24 or 36 megapixels would only slow down my workflow, and I estimated that I might shoot about 30 images. As it happened 32 was the number. So I went to the powwow packing my Nikon D3 and a Nikon 18-35mm AF-D f/3.5-4.5 zoom lens. Aperture priority, auto ISO and RAW 14-bit uncompressed for all of you techies reading this blog.
Just because my Nikon D3 can shoot at 11 fps doesn’t mean that I have to use it that way. One shot, one kill. Old school. The only thing that is sure to happen if you use a camera as if it were a machine gun is that you will have to replace your shutter sooner rather than later. So I attended the Shinnecock Powwow at Southampton, N. Y. this weekend with the purpose of taking some portrait photos if possible. I would argue that most photographers would have chosen to use a portrait lens for this purpose, perhaps a Nikon 85mm or 105mm. But I think that the best way, the more difficult way is to use wide angle. Why? Because only with a wide angle can you capture your subject in the context of their natural habitat as it were.
I actually like a certain degree of barrel distortion which may set me apart from other photographers. You have to pay more attention to variables in trying to shoot portraits with wide angle lenses, but I think the results can be spectacular as in the case of “Vendors of the Sacred Stone“. These are the technical details of the photo: Nikon D3, 18mm-35mm AF-D f/3.5-4.5, 18mm, f/11, ISO 500 and 1/400. Most importantly, aperture priority and RAW 14-bit uncompressed!
As a garage sale junkie myself I thought that I would share this experience with you. I have been to countless garage sales over many decades. I have entered basements chocked full of items where you had to enter at your own risk. They could have charged admission just to see the place. Today’s yard sale presented here ranks up with the best of them in terms of square yards of junk, junk and more junk. As it happens I know the seller of this sale. Not a friend of mine, but I know him from the neighborhood. The ultimate hoarder without question. Now at the end of his life it is time to sell. But his prices today were ridiculous and in keeping with his normal way of doing business. Now, I don’t try to chisel at yard sales. I like a good bargain like everyone else, but I also don’t mind paying a fair price. His prices were as high if not higher than they would be at a fashionable antique store. Lots of junk, in my opinion, lots of lookers but most folks just walked away. It will all wind up in multiple dumpsters soon enough. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
“Babylon Garage Sale“; Babylon, N. Y. (August 27, 2022)