Been awhile since I’ve felt any real inspiration to photograph the world around me. Too many distractions, good & bad, in my life. Hoping to find some this weekend, because after awhile you just have to shake it all off & move forward.
Most people in America spend Thanksgiving weekend cooking a turkey, shopping for Christmas presents & watching football games. I spend every Thanksgiving weekend in Center City Philadelphia at the Downtown Marriott helping my daughter’s get ready to dance at the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas. So you’ve never heard of an Oireachtas? Well if you were to Google “Oireachtas” the first two items to come up in your search would probably be from Wikipedia. Today my first definition to come up was this:
The Oireachtas /ˈɛrəktəs/, sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the legislature of Ireland… The term oireachtas derives from the Old Irish word airech, meaning “nobleman”. Its first recorded use as the name of a legislative body was within the Irish Free State.
My second definition that came up today is the Oireachtas I’m talking about:
In modern Irish dance, the term Oireachtas (plural:Oireachtasaí) refers to an annual championship competition. The word “oireachtas” literally means “gathering” in English… Oireachtas are qualifying events for the World Irish Dance Championship competition (Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne).
Over the past few years Irish dance has gotten some notable publicity & press. The documentary “Jig” by Sue Bourne was released in 2011 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1748062/), & The New York Times has put the spotlight on Irish dance more then once in the last 2 years. Last February Siobhan Burke wrote The Jig Is Up, if You’re Irish or Not (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/arts/dance/following-riverdance-competitions-and-shows-abound.html), but in 2012 photographs taken by Kenneth O’Halloran for Sunday Magazine section of The New York Times The Jig is On (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/06/17/magazine/irish-dancing.html) created dialog in the community that continues today.
Just recently I told a story from several years back about how another mother I knew was feeling defensive around friends & family, because they always seemed to have a comment about the “look” of Irish dancers. In that moment it hit me & I asked “so if they were ballet dancers with their hair constantly being pulled into buns so tight they had balding patterns, wore layers of stage make-up, had feet that were being destroyed by pointe shoes & they were wearing gigantic stiff tutus that would be ok? Really what’s the difference?” We both just looked at each other for a few seconds. Honestly it was one of those moments when the light bulb went on for both of us.
Many people in the Irish dance community in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States know me. Some people only know me as that woman who usually has a big camera with her. I have spent many years trying to catch the spirit of Irish dance in America today. Here are a few of my pictures from Thanksgiving weekend.
Today I found myself going to my happy place, the beach, after sharing my thoughts yet again to a woman who has been my counselor on & off for 10 years. Diana helped me get through stage 4 cancer, & she is now is helping me sort through the emotions of going through a divorce after nearly 25 years of marriage. While today was not much different than any other day in recent memory I knew it was sure to be one of the last good New Jersey beach days in 2014 with temperatures in the 60s, little wind & a beautiful blue sky.
The beach is a place where I find life to be in perfect harmony with the material world. The sky is in perfect harmony with the sea even as it rages during storms, & life is in perfect harmony with death as the ocean scatters gifts from the sea onto the sand for the living to enjoy. The fact that something as fragile as a seashell can be tossed about by the ocean & still emerged intact is inspiring. In my youth I only wanted to find perfect shells to show my Mom who taught me the magic of strolling along the coast to search for seashells while searching your own soul. Now, at almost 54, I have come to love the broken shell just as much as the beautiful perfect prize all beachcombers seek. To see how the spiral of a shell twists into itself is an amazing visual gift of the shell’s insides & shouldn’t be discarded easily.
There were plenty of shells on the beach today. Some shells were perfect & some were broken. I hadn’t planned on coming here, so of course I didn’t have my beach camera with me. There is always an image to be captured when I don’t have my camera, so of course I found many. Once again I was left with my ratchet iPhone 4 camera, although I must say the iPhone camera & I have come to understand each other better these days.
I didn’t notice the old woman at first. I was focused on trying to call back the high school nurse who had just informed me my oldest daughter wasn’t feeling well. It was the hundreds of seagulls, that appeared seemingly out of nowhere, which caught my attention. I can only assume she is a regular, since she wasn’t giving any indication to the seagulls that she was carrying food. She was happily chatting to them hovering overhead as she walked onto the beach with her reusable shopping bag filled with bread & other goodies. People who know me well know I love feeding seagulls! Needless to say I was immediately thrilled & sad (because I didn’t have any food to give them) all at the same time. Kirby was thrilled too. He wanted them as much as they wanted her food.
I’ve always been attracted to taking photographs of people in solitary situations. Seeing someone alone & immersed in their space is intriguing to me on many levels. Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they somewhere in between? It’s so easy to assume their thoughts are like your own at that moment even though we know they’re not.
I quickly got up off the warm sand to retreat to the boardwalk with Kirby. I needed to call the high school nurse back, & I didn’t want Kirby to disturb her or the seagulls. Looking back I saw her. She was alone with her seagulls, & I knew she was in her happy place.
Love spending time with my Mom. At almost 86 she may be a bit rickety, but she is still full of life. On a good day she is usually up to an adventure. I even took her off road in the Pine Barrens once! So today, on 9-11, she & I went to the shore for lunch & then up to the tip of Sandy Hook which is as close as one can get to Ground Zero at the NJ shore. A beautiful way to celebrate life in honor of those who lost theirs 13 years ago.
Tonight I decided that even though Apple has never put much thought into the development of their iPhone cameras I still appreciate that the camera is there. I have been trying to keep at least one of my Canon digital cameras with me whenever I leave the house. I mean unless there is some extreme reason that I shouldn’t bring a camera I really have no excuse. I even have a “beach” camera thanks to the lasting impression a professional camera repair guy made when he spoke about the damage beach sand can inflict on your gear all those years ago in Walt Silver’s color slide class at SVA.
I try not to be a tourist, or rely on the law of large numbers, by photographing everything & anything. I know that at some point I will see something I need to capture, so I keep my camera with me. Well I try to remember to keep it with me.
All day today I had my camera. We never made it to the beach, because it rained pretty hard most of the day. I took a few shots of the kids at the house. I even took it with me when I went shopping. I didn’t take it with me when I ran out to Rite Aid with the girls tonight though. The strange things is when I pulled over to get this shot I thought I had it with me! While I still wish my Canon was with me I am grateful I had my iPhone, because honestly 34 (yikes!) years ago I would have missed the shot completely.
Sounds strange, even to me, to be giving this post the title of “Remembering Summer” in the middle of summer, but when I saw this wee girl on the beach in Sandy Hook National Park it brought back memories of my own daughters. My two teenage lovelies were with me at the time of this shot, & after all the years of being my muse they think nothing of me photographing them or others.
I decided to spare them my nostalgic thoughts as we strolled looking for sea glass & shells, because some of my thoughts were from many years gone by… from before they were born. Just being in Sandy Hook after so many years seemed so odd. Not because I was there, but because so many years had gone by since I spent any real time on the Hook. I had forgotten how beautiful Sandy Hook was. I had forgotten how physically close it was to Manhattan. Mostly though I had forgotten the person who I was after all the years that have gone by.
I’m not sure if I’m still that person. I guess I am. I guess we never really lose who we were; it becomes a part of who we become… who we are. In any event everyday we prepare to move forward to the next day all the while creating new memories that we will think of in the years to come when we remember summer.
Sometimes you find inspiration in the strangest of places & from people who aren’t on your radar. I took this shot last night with my iPhone. As a photographer I despise the iPhone camera. Every once & awhile though I get a shot I actually like with the damn thing.
Last night I found myself in the Hudson Valley. I took my daughters & some of their friends to a Friday night Irish dance class in Sleepy Hollow NY where they work with Maureen Collins Novaco owner of the Lynn Academy of Irish Dance. Before you start judging & thinking I’m nuts (I currently live just outside of Princeton in New Jersey) I mixed the visit with some business, because a championship level Irish dance class can run for hours & often well into the night. Unless one enjoys sitting for hours on end playing solitaire on an iPad a diversion really is necessary.
Eventually I made my way back to Beekman Avenue in Sleepy Hollow. I was early of course, so I snapped some street pictures with my Canon & headed into the studio. Must have been me lucky day, because they were just finishing up. Once outside I realized I had parked in front of the SHPD & a police car had parked behind me while I was inside. Sadly my daughter’s don’t share my sense of humor, so they wouldn’t pose next to the car.
I took this photograph with my Canon F1 at our old beach house on the Jersey shore. My then four year old daughter had just showered after a day of playing on the bay beach. After playing peek-a-boo for some time under my Grandmother’s chenille bedspread she soon tired, & I snapped this shot in the natural light that was filtering into my bungalow’s bedroom. Today she is 14 & a beautiful teenage girl. I will always remember this wee girl though…..
So I’m hoping to see some of my favorite Irish friends this weekend if (ughhhh) it doesn’t snow. I haven’t seen too many people since the holidays for lots of reasons. Living in the Northeast one of those reasons would be snow… the new four letter word.
Thinking of bringing my camera. Yes I know I should always have it with me, and I usually do. Sometimes having my camera around friends makes them uneasy I think. Like I’m going to start snapping like the paparazzi lol.
Are there people I could just take shots of all day without pause? Absolutely. My daughter’s have been my muse since birth, and for the most part they entertain my obsession with them. I love to photograph dancers as my friends & many Irish dancers know. Many of the dancers now know me by sight. There is something about a person who is blessed with the ability to dance. The love of the dance comes through the lens in a magnificent fashion even when they aren’t performing.
I took the photograph above a year & a half ago. I’ve known Kerri for many years, & I just love this girl! The shot looks posed, but it isn’t. She was sitting next to me on the ground. When I looked down I saw her. As I grabbed my camera & looked down she looked up. With any picture that you love you know in that fraction of a second that it takes to catch the image you have what you wanted to capture. I hope to see Kerri this weekend even if I don’t take her picture (but I know I probably will).