Pixetera

Photography and art making as play.

Category: memorial

Wednesday, August 31, 2022: In Memoriam

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of my father’s death at the age of 86. One week, he was working in his office, the next week, on life support due to a debilitating stroke. Given his poor prognosis and stated wishes, my mother, sister, and I agreed on letting go of the machinery that was keeping him alive.

This image is of him as a young boy combined with handwritten notes I had prepared for his eulogy. I found both in a box that I haven’t opened in years, along with the golden braids he probably wore in this photo that remain perfectly preserved.

I cannot look at this portrait without also seeing the path my father took in life, or the path that life took my father—a journey that began in the seemingly infinite possibility that is every child’s birthright, and gradually narrowed until ending in a lower Manhattan hospital. Along the way, he became a devoted husband and breadwinner, a caring and supportive father, and engaged citizen. Still, I sense that something deep inside the boy pictured here was lost in the process of taking on these roles he performed so dutifully and well.

I have my suspicions as to what that was but have no idea how he might have felt. It’s a conversation that unfortunately we never had.

******

Several years ago, I sent the submission below to the NY Times Metropolitan Diary, a weekly feature I highly recommend (even though my entry was rejected) as an antidote to the near constant drumbeat of depressing and discouraging news. I offer it here in loving homage to my father—this may, after all, be the only place that will ever publish it.

LIVER-Y DRIVER

This happened to my elderly parents, who have since passed on, when they lived in Manhattan’s Southbridge Towers.

One morning, my father drove to a nearby butcher to pick up an order my mother had placed by phone. Unpacking it upon his return, she checked the receipt but couldn’t find the liver she was planning to cook that night. “I probably left it behind at the store,” my father said. Another call to the butcher failed to uncover the liver’s whereabouts, but the shopkeeper was willing to replace it for free as a goodwill gesture.

Fast-forward two months to the end of summer—my parents’ car is parked on a lower level of their building’s garage, exactly where my father left it after the liver run. Unbeknownst to them, it had acquired an occupant—the original pound of liver, which had slipped unnoticed from its bag into a hidden well in the trunk. Decomposing ever since in the garage’s stale, hot, subterranean air, it stank of rotting meat and car exhaust. It’s a wonder the police weren’t called to investigate either a possible bioterrorist attack or corpse in the trunk of Mr. and Mrs. Goldsmith’s Plymouth.

Postscript: Without a gas mask, the car was barely drivable. The only hope for salvaging it, we decided, was to air it out at my house in northwest Connecticut. Parked in the driveway after a good shampooing, doors and windows open 24/7 (no worries about theft obviously), what could be more restorative than weeks of exposure to country air?

Months later, even filling the trunk with freshly mowed grass failed to produce the desired outcome. We put the car up for sale with an ad that acknowledged its malodorous state. An older neighbor who had lost her sense of smell was all too happy to buy it.

Monday, May 30, 2022: Memorial Day

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Here is a question we might want to ask as we honor those who died while serving in our armed forces: In what ways has this country become unworthy of their sacrifice?

Four developments come immediately to mind, all connected to one of our nation’s major political parties: (1) the wide embrace of the Big Lie that refuses to accept the results of a free and legitimate presidential election; (2) Republican-led state efforts to restrict voting rights and choice through onerous election regulations, gerrymandering, and partisan appointments; (3) minority and obstructionist rule in the Senate; (4) a Supreme Court majority whose religious and ultra-conservative views can no longer be counted on to guarantee individual rights or the government’s role in protecting public and environmental health.

Feel free to add to this list.

While America has never lived up to its founding ideals, it remains incumbent upon every generation to bring us closer to them — not to send us backwards.

Saturday, September 11, 2021: 9/11 Twentieth Anniversary

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Thursday, December 31, 2020: In Memoriam

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In memory of the lights that went dark this year — for those who can no longer celebrate with us the more hopeful days that lie ahead.

 

 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020: Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019: A 9/11 Remembrance

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Monday, May 27, 2019: Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is traditionally the day when Americans head for the malls to take advantage of holiday store sales honor their war dead, but maybe it’s time to set aside another day of remembrance—one that honors the victims of lynchings, mass shootings, extrajudicial police killings, and lethal criminal violence. These are the people who weren’t able to enjoy the freedom and security that our soldiers fought for and died to protect. Their shamefully high numbers are a stain on our nation’s conscience.

(A note on the image):

The picture is a composite of photographs that depict: (1) the 1930 Marion, Indiana lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith (Lawrence Beitler, photographer); (2) the 1882 lynching of an unidentified Afro-American man; (3) a memorial to the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting (photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images); (4) an American flag.

From the first link:

“The iconic photograph of the incident inspired Abel Meeropol to write the poem and song “Strange Fruit,” which Billie Holliday recorded in 1939. 

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

 

Another version, sung by Nina Simone with disturbing images of other lynchings.

 

 

Sunday, August 5, 2018: Springfield Bike-About

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Monday, May 28, 2018: Memorial Day

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And let us also remember Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles, a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman who traveled 1500 hundred miles to the United States in hopes of earning enough money to further her education. Soon after she and a group of migrants set foot on U.S. soil last week, she was shot to death by a border patrol agent. Does this represent the America that thousands of our citizens have fought and died for? I’d like to think not but without any moral leadership, our democracy is a sham.

 

JANUARY, 2018 UPDATE

On January 1, 2012, I posted my first pictures on Pixetera. It was the start of a yearlong photo/day challenge that immediately turned into a one-or-more photos/day project. Twelve months later I remember being ecstatic that I had accomplished my goal and could now relax, relieved of my self-imposed obligation to take and post images on a daily basis.

Much to my surprise, however, I continued to photograph quite regularly, such that my Pixetera posts have averaged out to one every 1.5 days over the past six years. It’s fun to look back and see where I started and where I am now: Some of the early work I still marvel at; some, I wouldn’t think of posting today. Still, I’m generally pleased at the way the work has progressed.

The reason I’ve been going backward in time is because I’ve started to develop another website where my images can be organized in a way that’s more meaningful than straight chronological blogging. At this point I’m pretty much resigned to the likelihood that the book I’ve been fantasizing about for years will never get done — mostly because of expense and time, but also the necessity of leaving so many photographs on the cutting room floor. Those won’t be problems on the new site, called alighting. There’s also a satisfying sense of continuity in sticking with the medium that birthed Pixetera. Having started my professional career when slide shows were all the rage, I have a special fondness for backlit images.

The downside of all this is that after six full years of picture taking/making, I need to back off a bit from Pixetera: Between eking out a living, railing against our fake president, getting alighting off the ground, cooking, cleaning (on rare occasions), and nourishing an inner self, something had to give. I’ve also been aware of encroaching burnout, a sure impediment to producing fresh and exciting work.

I’ll still be taking photos, just not posting them as frequently as I’ve been doing since 2012. Instead, I’ll be aiming for once every 7-10 days. At the same time, I expect to continue following my blogging friends daily — one of life’s great pleasures I hope to never relinquish. Some of you I’ve only become acquainted with in 2017. You should know that in a year filled with so much destruction, loss, tragedy, and profound disappointment in what this country has become, you’ve become bright spots in my day.

As a consequence of posting more infrequently, I’ll be ending my memorial to terror victims. My fear is that in a worst-case scenario, such posts will take over Pixetera now that the number of photos will be reduced. For better or worse, I don’t have it within me to create another blog chronicling the blood that’s shed in the delusional and horrific perversion of religion.

Here’s to the better angels of our nature in 2018. I like to think that one of them lies behind the photographs we take and why we’re so moved to share them.

Pixetera

Photography and art making as play.