Sometimes a gift can transform a life. That’s what happened with the Nikon 35-SE my wonderful late Aunt Dina and Uncle Marcus Widmann gave me for my bar mitzvah way back in 1964, with which I immediately started recording and documenting my world, which at that time was pretty much confined to Jamaica Estates, The New York World’s Fair and the Museum of Modern Art, pictured here in the 1965 self-portrait shot in the reflecting window of the “old” museum’s fabulous garden; those were still the days before MOMA became the behemoth it is today (note period crew cut and tie). My aesthetic, as well as my passion for photography were unquestionably influenced and enhanced by the many afternoons, both voluntary and involuntary, I spent at MOMA, soaking up the history of modern art in the company of my art-obsessed (and thankfully so) grandparents, Flory and Myrtil Frank: most of my photographic mentors, per se, have been painters. If you look closely at the accompanying photo galleries, which cover the gamut of my photographic peregrinations, from the wilds of southern Nevada, where I spent a transformative summer at college as a roving photographer for the US National Park Service, to the snowdrifts of northern Finland, you will see the strong shadow of Edward Hopper and Charles Sheeler, amongst others. You’ll also see a good deal of my life.
At last count I have also had something like twenty photo shows on both sides of the Atlantic, most of which have titles beginning with the word “My,” including “My America,” a 60 piece retrospective of my US photography at Taidehalle, the municipal museum of Helsinki in 1998; as well as more recently, and perhaps, inevitably, “My World,” a 40 piece transatlantic retrospective that filled both floors of the Fine Arts Library of the College of Art, Architecture and Planning, and featured a huge print of “In the Land of Mink Swimming Pools,” the photo of Rod Serling’s former swimming pool, after Serling’s arch appellation for his adopted home, that I took in 1988, when I was researching SERLING.
One my photos hangs at the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell, and another in the office of the president. My images also hang in several dozen fine homes around the world.
I also illustrate many of my newspaper and magazine articles (though it’s always a challenge to persuade editors that I am actually a writer and a photographer, and not merely a writer with a camera).
My forthcoming illustrated memoir, Off The Map: A Personal History of Finland, is the first trade book to combine my text and photos, an apotheosis of sorts (I think that’s the correct word).
That Fujica 35 SE certainly came in handy. (And yes, I still shoot with film—but don’t tell anybody that).