Honoring New York City: Photo Story 1
My motivation to photograph and write took a plunge when the pandemic began in the United States in March 2020. All this free time to be creative and I wasn’t taking advantage of it. I know I’m not alone in this. But here I am, 4-plus weeks into shelter-at-home and I’m taking the time to write something creative – finally.
So what happened to nudge me out of my isolation cocoon? To start testing my life-in-a-global-crisis wings? 52 Magic Mondays, of course. It’s still spewing its magic.
Briefly, for those new to my blog: In 2016, I traveled by train into New York City – 52 Mondays in a row – to walk and photograph the city. What I thought was a photography project turned into a year-long walking meditation meets spiritual journey that changed my entire life.
Seeing what NYC is going through with COVID-19, 4 years post-project later, has been challenging for everyone, me included. I’ve been pondering how I can honor all that the city gave to me during that year? To thank it for the fun, interesting, odd, joyful, sad, messy, humorous, sunny, rainy, lively, quiet and handful of absolutely stunning moments that I captured with my camera. I thought about pulling out one photo from each week and writing something more about it; perhaps even relate it to where I am today. The majority of the photos on my blog had no writing to go with them – they were just photos I loved for my own reasons.
So where to start…and where to get some motivation?
Enter – the Universe’s reply:
Hey, Megan, why not start with a random photograph you took of that professor in a plaza area teaching his students about Deardorff cameras from Week 22…you know, a moment that was fun…but seemingly not particularly “important” in the grand scheme of things. Because, Megan, might this show you, once again, how EVERY moment is “important” and that the Universe is listening, and answering, your requests?
This morning, totally out of the blue, I got an email from a stranger:
"Hello, Ms. Crandlemire - Our (88 yr. old) Photographer/Father passed away recently, and I had run across some amazing images of yours on "52 Magic Mondays." A visually interesting & wide range of work you have there.
Dad shot mostly with Deardorffs, for the better part of 50 years. He never really made the transition to digital. I think I recall him saying that he even knew Jack Deardorff, a long time ago? We're looking at some nice ways to honor him...
Saw your great "street-side" image of a 4x5 Deardorff, you shot, in the center of things. What might you charge, to use your image as a background element, on a one time non-commercial use?
I know this may sound unusual. Thanks for your consideration!"
And there it was – a beautiful synchronicity. Magic Mondays showed me back in 2016, in no uncertain terms, that there are no coincidences, just magic moments of connection. I was pondering how to honor my time in New York City and here was a request to use one of my images as part of an effort to honor another person’s father.
I think the bigger message here is the reminder that all moments are special and important. We are globally being asked to realize this – in my humble opinion. The theme for my 52 Magic Mondays book (almost done!) is “bird set free.” I will let this simple email today from a stranger be the catalyst I need to start flying again. There is creative life to be lived, even if it’s on a planet that’s temporarily closed.
My dip in motivation the last month also resulted in some internal thoughts about documenting this time in history. I’ve debated photographing my city of 10 months, Rochester, NY – capturing all the closed signs and quiet streets. I’m a street photographer at heart but my heart has been a little broken seeing the city shutdown. Do I want to photograph this challenging time? I’m starting to think that I do because I have a CHOICE in my perspective; these quarantined moments are indeed important. Just like the day I took the picture of the Deardorff camera – little did I know that 4 years later the image would be a gift to someone else. And a gift to me! That it would nudge me out of my self-imposed cocoon.
Traipsing through New York City, 2016 became a (sometimes brutal) year of personal and spiritual growth for me and I’m ever so grateful that I captured thousands of images during that time. I didn’t understand why a simple photography project would change my life – for the better. We do not know the reason “why” this virus situation is happening and how it will change things for the better. Yet.
Keep the faith, my friends. While it took 4 years to find out why Week 22 of 52 Magic Mondays would have new meaning for me, I’m ok with that. It was worth the wait. We always get our “why” one day. In the meantime, perhaps this story will be a catalyst for another person to pick up their paintbrush or pencil or just take a walk around the block.
Thank you, New York City. Until the next photo story…
Copied from the Week 22 blog page:
Making our way to the subway I saw this gentleman with a very old camera. Of course I had to stop and take a look. (forgive the quality of these images, my camere was in the wrong mode...it happens)
He was using a Deardorff 4 x 5 camera. Never seen one before. He had other fancy stuff on tripods as you can see behind him. And the people by the camera equipment are students in his class. He was taking their picture. He recruited me and Kim to help him for a few minutes!
Ugh, the quality of this photo is awful, but at least it shows you the camera. The orange cable is the shutter release. I got to pull the trigger once he was ready setup to take the photo. I was honored. Of course no crazy flash bulb exploding but it was still special.
You don't see people setting up to shoot like this very often.
Look at this photo carefully. Of course you see my reflection...but in the center on the glass you can make out the images of 4 people UPSIDE DOWN. That's how this camera is showing the photographer the scene. And it's why he was under the red hood, he was looking at that image and focusing.
Here I flipped the image over so you could see the people easier.
Kim was asked to cast a shadow over the lens. And right after we took the shot and our job was done. I gave the professor a 52 Magic Mondays card so hopefully he'll take a look at this web page.