Archives for category: photography

I have always been inspired by my Dad, but it sure feels terrific when a son can inspire his father. My father, Robert Steigelman, conceived of and made this video of my photo series Rearview.

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Vanity is included in the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center’s 6th Annual Contemporary Photography Exhibition. June 11th -August 8th. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is located at 1400 N American Street #103, Philadelphia, PA 19122

Yarn as well as Vanity are both included in The 6th National Juried Photographic Exhibit at Gallery 14 in Hopewell, NJ, which runs from July 10th – August 9, 2015. Gallery 14 is located at 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, NJ 08525

If you happen to be in Philadelphia, I have one photograph from my Rearview series in the 5th Annual Contemporary Photography Exhibition at the Philadelphia Photo Art Center on view Thursday June 12, 2014 – Saturday August 30, 2014

 In New York at the Soho Photo Gallery, opening on July 1st from 6-8pm and running from July 2, 2014- July 26, 2014, I am included in the Soho Photo Gallery 2014 National Competition.

Abuse

Finally, opening on Thursday July 17, 2014 from 6-8pm a selection of Rearview will be featured on a monitor at Aperture Foundation for the Aperture Summer Open. The exhibition is on view from July 17th – August 14th, 2014

Birds

Madison Ave Winter

I know, I know, but we’re just not used to this here.

About a year ago while looking in my rearview mirror in heavy traffic I became very interested in the comings and goings of the cars behind me. The scenes unfolded like little vignettes of humanity. People laughing, arguing, crying, but mostly just looking bored or trapped within their own heads as well as the glass and metal box they confine themselves to in their daily commutes to work. I immediately thought of this picture taken by my father of my mom and me within the frame of our VW bug windshield. This picture and the frames appearing in my rearview mirror became the basis of my latest photography project.

It was a little tricky figuring out how I was going to achieve what I had envisioned but I would ultimately mount a digital camera in my rear window and use a remote cable to trigger the shutter. It took awhile to get the focus and exposure down correctly. Because I couldn’t use autofocus I needed to zone focus so that everything from about 10 – 16 feet would be reasonable sharp. When I got the technique down I still wasn’t satisfied with my results because of the fact that people were recognizing the camera fairly easily and were suspicious . There is a long history of documenting people without them noticing, Walker Evans subway series for one. Bernarda Bryson Shahn told me that when her husband, the artist Ben Shahn was documenting for the WPA he had a right angle mirror attachment on his lens and she would pose for him while he was actually shooting his subjects perpendicular to the direction he appeared to be shooting. I solved this problem by buying a small stuffed bird, ripping out the stuffing and cutting a hole for the lens. I mounted this “bird cam” behind my backseat. It is now almost impossible to figure out what I’m doing and the pictures suddenly became what I had seen on the day that I conceived of the idea.

I spend 3 1/2 to 4 hours a day commuting in my car. I have found a way to work on a photography project without much demand on my time. These are the kinds of pictures I have always taken anyway except now I am within the confines of my car taking photographs of my subjects within the confines of theirs.

Now in my 50th year I find myself thinking a lot about time. The way I usually equate time is through events or milestones. Because dog’s lives are so much shorter than our own, having a dog causes us to witness an accelerated microcosm of our own life. I have been a constant dog owner. Here is my life in dogs.

Fritz

One day when I was six years old living in Tudor Court, my grandfather showed up with a little black ball of a puppy. I spent the next 4 hours scheming with my mom on how we were going to present this to my dad. If I remember correctly he was eating dinner when he heard soft little yelps emanating from the living room. My father wasn’t crazy about the idea of a dog but tolerated him. I named that puppy Fritz after the son of the guy who was building our new house. Fritz was a smart, athletic dog that had 9 lives. I remember him being hit by a car and a motorcycle on two different occasions. He was always running away (we never had him neutered) the evidence of which was one of the neighbor’s new puppies which when it grew up was Fritz’s double. Fritz settled down a lot in his old age. When my parents divorced and I went off to college my dad and Fritz bonded. Fritz would pace around the house keeping in constant motion, I imagine because it hurt too much to stop. He would have a hard time getting back up once lying down. In the end my father would have to carry him outside to relieve himself. My dad knew it was time to take Fritz to be put”to sleep”, he just kept putting it off. When he finally took him to the vet for the last time it was he who held him as he passed.

Emma

A smart, contemplative, melancholic dog. We chose Emma because she was the only dog not barking or making a fuss while walking through the pound . She stood at the back of the pen sheepishly staring at me. This is the dog I wanted. My ex-wife named her Emma after the daughter on the popular television series at the time “Thirty Something”, it fit. I think Emma may have been abused as a puppy because she would cower when an object was picked up too quickly near her. It took awhile for us to gain her trust but she eventually came out of her shell. When my first wife and I split, I got Emma. Emma and I lived in some pretty dismal places and I shared my food with her. Her funniest trait and the reason I referred to her as melancholic was her constant sighing. I think Emma grew to think of herself as my equal. We went everywhere together, she didn’t need a leash. Emma was good-natured and accepted whom ever I brought into our lives, girlfriends, wives, children Emma put up with or loved them. When dementia started to set in and Emma started mistaking indoors with outdoors I knew it was time. I held Emma when she was euthanized and I’d never cried so much in my life. Emma was the best dog I had ever had.

Annie

I was dogless for 5 years when I felt that canine yearning again. Annie was chosen off the internet, not the best way to adopt a dog. It took me awhile before I warmed up to this nervous little creature, my wife even longer. My son however immediately loved her as I had loved Fritz. We named her after a bottle of ketchup on the dining room table. I kept Annie with me constantly the first 6 months we had her which was why she was so successfully housebroken. I was able to bring her with me to work everyday and she developed her amazing ability to ride in a car. I’ve never had an animal that was so good in the car. She jumps in the car and lays down in the backseat foot wells and sleeps until we get to our destination. Annie’s bad traits are her nervousness, which makes her a chewer. She’s chewed through drywall and our sneakers. If you bring anything new into the house and she sees that you need or want that item, she’ll take it and chew it to pieces. Her other con is her smell, which I attribute to her nervousness. Its sort of homeless person mixed with cooked peas. This smell requires her to be bathed pretty regularly. Time will tell where she ranks amongst other dogs but I have grown fond of her just the same.

Dog’s lives become milestones of our own. There really is nothing better than getting to know a dog. The only downside is their lives are so short by the time you get to know them they’re gone.

I stealthily maneuvered around in the pouring rain taking pictures waiting for Ron Paul to address thousands on Independence Mall yesterday. The same event I photographed 4 years earlier. I wasn’t there to hear the message, I know the message. I was there to be in the moment. I was there because I like to go back and see the same things and take comfort when they remain the same. For me, yesterday was all about that.

I first went to Little Pete’s on 17th and Chancellor about 30 years ago. It was one of the few places to eat which was open 24 hours in Center City Philadelphia. On any given day in the wee hours of the morning it wasn’t uncommon to see a celebrity sprinkled amongst the drunks at the large kidney-shaped counter. If you were unfortunate enough to need to use the bathroom you got a glimpse of the kitchen which was somehow connected to the bathroom in some weird way. From the cigarette machine that’s built into the vestibule when you walk in with the back of the machine sticking out into the restaurant to the hanging plastic planters to the tiny booths that flank the right side of the place each with a sign stating 2 or more only! Little Pete’s remains an oasis of unchanged nostalgia. We don’t go there for the ambience though it has immeasurable amounts of that. We go for the Little Pete’s Reuben.


If you’ve ever read a history of the Reuben sandwich you’ll see all sorts of conflicting stories as to who invented it or how it’s supposed to be crafted. None of this matters after you taste a Little Pete’s Reuben. They use corned beef, Swiss, Russian dressing and a small amount of sauerkraut on rye. Then they put the whole sandwich on the griddle like a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s easily one of the best sandwiches you’ll ever eat and nothing like the pile of meat over kraut, completely covered with Swiss cheese that everyone else seems to pass off as a Reuben here in the northeast.

As I sat with my friend of 30 years in one of the 2 or more booths eating my favorite sandwich in my favorite familiar city I felt content knowing that some things remain unchanged for the better.

Of all the topics I’ve ever brought up in my life the existence of Extra Terrestrials elicits the strongest responses. Religion, Politics, Gay Marriage, all no matches for E.T.s. The responses vary from “Oh, I saw mine when I was 16” to “Don’t ever bring this up again!!”. I have learned to keep my mouth shut about my encounter. But now through the magic of the internet and the blogosphere I will recount my story.

It was a spring night in 1988, my wife at the time and I were leaving our 3rd floor walk-up apartment in the heart of Closter New Jersey on our way to have dinner at her parents house. As soon as we stepped out the door we were aware of a sound, a low pulsating rumble coming from the south-west. As we crossed the street we stopped. Something caught our attention, lights, off in the distance coming toward us. The lights, which were in a distinct pattern, appeared to be very far away yet as we watched them approach seemed to take no time at all to reach us. All the while the sound grew louder. It was spring and still fairly light out but I couldn’t make out the overall shape of what the lights were attached to. We bantered back and forth, “What do you think it is?”, “Maybe its lots of helicopters flying in formation”. Whatever it was it was extremely large, large enough to make you turn your head from side to side to see the lights on opposing ends. When it was directly overhead you could feel the presence of the thing, like when you can feel mass even if you aren’t touching it. Then as soon as it moved over us we watched it disappear as quickly as it had approached. We looked at each other realizing that we both knew we had gone through something neither of us had ever experienced. At that moment I realized we were literally standing in the middle of the street, normally a very busy street at about 7pm on a week night, yet there wasn’t a car to be found and the sidewalks were deserted as well.

When we got to my in-laws house we recanted the story to my father in-law. He was a scientist and pragmatic guy in general. After laughing and rolled his eyes, he dismissed our story and hypothesized that it was a military operation, that is until the next day. He called us to say that he had read an article in The Bergen Record which stated that other people had witnessed the same thing. The article then went on to say that it had followed up with all the area military bases and all denied having anything up in the air the night before.

What I saw was real. I don’t know what it was but I know it was not a B-52 or a blimp which were the biggest things I had ever seen up in the sky. I have met other people who have had similar experiences and I have read accounts by people who are “way out there” I have also spoken with people who are very religious and become very angry when the whole subject is mentioned. In my mind one thing is certain, whether through fear or fascination most of us share a common bond in thinking that we may not be the only beings in the universe.

I’ve always had a fascination with guns and I think this stems from all the toy pistols my grandfather bought for me as a little kid. Water guns, cap guns, you name it, if it was carried by Valley Fair or Two Guys discount department stores he’d get it for me . Growing up in Elizabeth, it seems like my friends and I were always playing cops and robbers in and around the garden apartments where we lived. All of us had cap guns that is except for one kid who had a real gun. “Don’t worry my dad took the firing pin out” he said over our ooos and ahhhs. His dad was a criminal/superintendent and was probably responsible for the burglary of our apartment. This however wasn’t my first experience seeing a real gun.

My grandfather had real guns. He owned a dry cleaning store in Newark from the thirties through the Newark riots in the late sixties. I guess he needed the guns for protection although he had his own criminal past.
I would stay with my grandparents often and when he would get home from the store he would take off a small holster and put his gun away. I would watch this ritual with interest always asking lots of questions. It was one gun in particular that caught my fancy. I would always ask him to see it and he showed it to me but never let me touch it. It looked like a cowboy gun and in my mind I had built this gun up to be the most prized possession of all time.

The High Standard Double Nine Revolver as I recently learned its name lived at the top of my grandfathers closet well past his death. When my grandmother started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease my mother removed the gun and put it at the top of her own closet where it remained until her death. I finally was able to touch it after 40 years and although it wasn’t as impressive as I had built it up during those four decades it still held some of that special power that comes from an heirloom.

I needed to fire this 22 caliber rim-fire revolver but I knew I didn’t want it in my house because of my young son. In hindsight because of my curiosity I’m happy my dad didn’t have guns. I needed to get this thing out of New Jersey, a very gun unfriendly state. I wrapped it in a brown paper bag and put it under my seat and drove very cautiously across state lines to an undisclosed location.

My friend’s son taught me to handle a pistol at a small firing range in south Philadelphia. I shot a 45 caliber Glock, a 9mm and a 38 caliber. I learned the rules of the range, the etiquette of fire arms and I was actually a very good shot. To the disbelief of my shooting mates I hit this bulls-eye hand-holding a pistol at 30 yards. Of course I attribute this new-found natural shooting ability to my years of hand-holding a camera very steady at slow shutter speeds. They attributed it to luck. All I know is I had a blast and I got to fire my grandfather’s gun.

Well, I have been building my website. Check it out.

marksteigelman.com

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 52 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I went down to check out Occupy Wall Street. My initial observation was that there were more gawkers, photographers and news people than protesters.

As I walked amongst the old hippies, crazy homeless and young idealists which make up the occupiers I tried to understand their message and motives for camping out in this little urban concrete quasi park. I rather quickly found out that there were at least half a dozen messages.

The most common message being stop Wall Street greed. Huh? How do you do that. The whole system is set up to make as much money as possible. The market is about greed. Some of the other messages were good. Stop Fracking, Stop polluting the water, the US government is owned by the corporations, etc, etc, etc.

It’s certainly proven that protests work when there is a clear message but when you write your message on a pizza box and the only clear message is Delicious Pizza, you have a failure to communicate.

The first piece of photographic equipment I ever purchased was a Gossen Pilot 2 exposure meter. I didn’t even own a camera. All of my pictures were taken with my father’s circa 1960s Nikon FTn Photomic 35mm camera. The meter was notoriously unreliable and at the advanced age of 13 I was serious about my photography. Whether shooting girls field hockey for the school newspaper or taking pictures of the seedy Jersey shore neighborhoods near where I grew up, this meter was always with me. It got to the point where I could walk out of my house, look at the sky and say f/8-125 second, check the meter and I was dead on right. I could actually estimate fractions of a second. Sometime during art school a fancy Minolta digital meter wooed me and the Pilot was relegated to back up meter.

I was introduced to a lot of photographers and wannabe photographers while working in Bamberger’s photo studio. One such wannabe managed to get a freelance gig shooting fashion. She asked me to assist her, which meant she really had no idea how to go about doing the shoot. The location was outside Hoboken terminal. I brought along my exposure meters and set everything up for her and let her demean me in front of the clients all morning. When she asked for my help for the next shoot, I told her I was busy and lent her the Gossen Pilot 2. Sometime in the span of a week or so I quit Bambergers and never saw the meter again. That is until this package arrived at my door 25 years later.

Let me explain something. Bambergers was a department store chain which started in 1893. They were owned by Macy’s but kept their own identity. The flagship store in Newark, NJ was 14 stories and took up an entire city block. All of the advertising and catalog work was shot in-house in a giant photo studio which employed close to 30 people.Most of the photographers were paired up with assistants except for me and another guy named Paul Schaffer whose name would evoke chuckles during introductions, but would always take it in stride. I was a young kid out of college and Paul was an older guy who was embarking on photography as a second career. We were the 2nd assistants, the guys who got the dirty jobs, who fixed things and built sets and had to fill in for an assistant when they called in sick. Paul and I hung out and I even assisted him when he got a freelance fashion job. After quitting in a bad way, the only job I ever quit, it was Paul who picked up my last check and met to give it to me. Shortly after this I started my museum career and Paul and I lost touch.

Fast forward 25 years, add the invention of Facebook and Paul Schaffer found me. “I have something of yours” he said. He got it from the woman who borrowed it and he’d stored it for all these years. The meter arrived last week in pristine condition. Although it no longer works, I don’t care because it held its value. It no longer reminds me of time in fractions of a second, it does it in years.

Thanks Paul.

We all learn when we’re young that the lines in the sky are caused by water vapor from a jets exhaust which freezes at high altitude. These contrails are always thin lines which dissipate fairly quickly usually before we lose sight of the plane that created them.

I’ve been taking pictures outdoors with a view camera for about twenty years and if you’ve read some of my previous posts you know that standing outside looking at the sky waiting for the light to change is par for the course. Why is it that the first ten of those twenty years contrails were missing when I looked in my camera and now they are hard to miss? In the last couple of years I’ve also noticed elaborate grid patterns and arrays in the sky of these trails. The trails last for hours and slowly dissipate into low-lying cirrus like clouds.

If I’m a conspiracy theorist, my friend Tim is a PCT (Paranoid Conspiracy Theorist) He elaborated on the many theories as to what’s going on in the sky. These new contrails are not frozen jet vapor but an amalgamation of chemicals most notably aluminum salts and barium purposely being released by airplanes and they are known as chemtrails.

After lots of internet research including conspiracy sites, YouTube videos and radio shows like Alex Jones’ the two most common theories are:

1) Chemtrails are a government operation put forth to delay climate change by creating a barrier in the sky to reflect sunlight back into space, creating a sunscreen in effect. This idea was initially conceived by physicist Freeman Dyson in 1979 who at the time realized that there could be a human concern to this idea.

2) Proponents of the New World Order want the world population cut by 80% and they mean to get to that point by destroying the food and water supplies and contaminating the air by blanketing it with chemicals.

Both of these theories seem far-fetched to me, although if I had to choose I would hope it’s the first one. That said, the eyes don’t lie and somethings going on. Driving into this scene the other day I pulled over and grabbed my digital camera from the passenger seat of my car. One thing is for sure. I never saw a sky like this when I was a kid.

“Things could be worse. Suppose your errors were counted and published every day, like those of a baseball player.”
– Author Unknown

Since I’ve been making an unusual amount of mistakes lately I thought it would be a refreshing exercise to publish my own.

This is what happens when you develop film that you thought you exposed but didn’t. How do you do that? You load film in the film holders with the dark-slide showing exposed film (black) facing out Then you mix it in with all the other holders you shot that day.

This is the opposite problem. Make an exposure then put the dark-slide back in the holder the same way you pulled it out it (white) so it appears unexposed and then you use it again, double exposing that sheet of film.

Pushing down on the plunger of a cable release and it won’t go down means one of two things. Either you forgot to cock the shutter which is the better of the two, or you forgot to close the lens after focusing which in this case meant self-portrait.

I don’t mind making mistakes or admitting them because like the saying goes, if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t make anything.