Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reflecting on the Year Gone

The 28th Annual Monkey Island Holiday Card - 2008

As December draws to a close it's time to reflect back on the year gone by and look forward towards the year to come.

I originally started this blog and the others as a way to migrate all my stuff off the horrible service I was using before and into the cleaner design and easier navigation of Blogger. That was back in the spring of 2007, just after we got back from our Route 66 trip, which we wrote about in more or less real time.

Talking Pictures was originally called The Portfolio Collection, since that's about all it was; a collection of pictures, arranged somewhat by category. I wasn't ready to start writing any new Postcards from Monkey Island, but I did wind up culling them down to my favorite thirty-six, and put them into their own blog during the summer of 2007.

It was while Sherry and I were driving across the country and doing the Route 66 blog that I realized how much I like to write about my photography. But as I just said: I didn't want to do new Postcards; as much fun as they were, I thought I should try something a little more creative and challenging.

I'd been going through my black and white archive, which dates back to 1985, scanning negatives I had previously printed in the darkroom, and many that I'd never bothered with, when I came up with what I thought was an interesting concept.

Some background: In the 1960's and 70's, when all the New York Sunday newspapers had rotogravure magazines, the Daily News' magazine had a column that I loved, called "New York's Changing Scene". Every week they'd dig up an old photograph of a building or intersection from the vast Daily News morgue, then send a photographer to the same location to shoot the scene as it looked in the present time. Seeing how much (or how little) the city had changed was something I found fascinating. But it was dropped some time before the paper stopped producing a weekly magazine sometime in the late seventies, and to my disappointment never ran in any other section of the Sunday paper again.

This long-dead feature was the inspiration for The Time Machine: Images of the Lost City. I started going over my negatives from the eighties more closely, looking for interesting compositions and noting their locations. I scanned, cleaned up and printed a number of images, and, armed with a pocketful of those 4x6 prints, spent a few early Sunday mornings prowling the streets of Soho, Greenwich Village and midtown. East side, west side, all around the town. Some places were easy to locate, others, damned near impossible. With the original as a reference, I'd frame the scene as close to the same cropping and field of view as possible. My Canon DSLR's have a black and white mode, but setting the file type to RAW+JPEG will display a black and white image on the camera monitor (the JPEG) yet store all the color data in the RAW file. I would reshoot the scenes in this mode, which it made it easier for me to determine if I had the framing I wanted, without the distraction of color.

Then I began prowling the internet. Between Google and the NYC Buildings Department website I gathered as much information about the area or buildings in the picture as I could, and pieced together a story about the pictures. With both pictures lined up, I'd point out what had changed and what was the same. Through the site, I was able to find out when things were built, items from the internet told me when and why they were torn down, or, in one extreme case, moved. I wrote about what I was doing then, how I felt about the places, why I was there.

I kept it going for twenty-six chapters, one a week through the spring, summer and early fall of 2007. Of course, not doing school pictures in the summer gave me the time for this, and to wander around Brooklyn's favorite (and only) amusement park. The photographs I made there, as well as the fact that it may soon never look as it does, resulted in Last Year at Coney Island.

Wandering around that boardwalk and its environs was and is great fun, but I'm afraid I never spent enough time there to really develop a true feel for the area, and, while I hoped to document the changes predicted with the proposed redevelopment, I never did. Nothing ever got redeveloped, the project stagnated. Astroland got a one-year extension and opened again for the summer of 2008, but the owners of the park weren't able to get a lease from the new owners of the land, for 2009, so maybe this past season was the last. Politics and zoning changes, the economy and neighborhood emotions are more than I want to chronicle, I want to take pictures and write about what I see.

So, while I'll go back from time to time, I've merged the Coney Island blog into this one, and shut down the original site. All those posts are now in chronological order here in Talking Pictures, and are tagged as 'Last Year at Coney Island' in the 'Gathered Together' section of the right-hand column under the archive listing.

I'll probably merge the VanGoghlaroid blog into this one as well. I rather like them on their black background, but the medium gray will offset them nicely, I think. I'm not sure if I want to integrate them in chronological order like Coney Island, though. I may reintroduce them over the course of a few weeks, along with fresh comments. Since I never wrote anything more about them other than the sidebar copy on that blog, it may be nice to go into more detail about each picture, especially since they all had extensive cleaning and manipulations done to them in Photoshop, in addition to the normal physical manipulation. So you can look for those in the future.

And of course, there's the new masthead. I hope you like it; it's one of my favorite shots.

So there we have it. I'm having fun writing this blog, I hope you're having fun with my musings, ramblings and other oddities. I've averaged two new posts a week for the last year; I'll try for the same pace again
. And if there are any literary agents out there reading this, some of this stuff would make a neat book, ya think? And if any of you out there know any literary agents, pass the site on for me.

Thanks for reading so far, have a great and safe New Year, and come back for more in January 2009.

--Neil J Murphy
December, 2008

2008 Monkey Island Logo
(Peggy's Point, Nova Scotia)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Neil,

As always I so enjoy looking through your site. I truly is a work of art. Your writing and storytelling is relly what makes this site so very unique. It is so interesting a makes me wonder if you knew all along you would be following the path you are on now? And the Vangoghlaroids are wonderful. Happy New Year,
doug & Kathy