They Really Serve Another Very Important Purpose
Growing up, my family had an almost quarterly family party. It would go from home to home amongst the family, usually focusing around birthdays. My one aunt, a marvelous baker made fabulous cakes. My dad would bar-b-que amazing meat. We’d swim in the pool, play volleyball and badminton and then when it got dark, the slide projector would come out, the 5×5 screen set up and everyone would grab a piece of floor. Then for the next couple of hours we’d look at photos of parties past and laugh until our sides hurt. When all over, we’d hug, dry our eyes, pack the cars and set the date and location for the next get together.
In between those parties on many a weekend eve, in our home the projector would be out and we would relive family vacations, holidays and occasions. With little goading, my dad who carried his Argus with him all during WWII & Korea, would pull out those old slides and tell his stories. For over twenty years, even after I started to contribute to the nighttime show, that’s how photography in our home was always treasured. It was all about memories, stories and then more memories. It is still that way to this day for Sharon & I especially now as we get a little older and the photo serves to fill in some of those details that some of our newer adventures have covered up. And I think that’s really the treasure of photography, memories!
Yes, the pursuit of photography for the technical, the art, the advertising and the ego are all very valid reasons to jump through all the hoops we go through as photographers. But if you’re anything like me, those photographs which are the most treasured are those that are not only good photographs, but ones that have memories which are the sweetest, best and more treasured. Perhaps that’s why when the photograph doesn’t turn out as good as we hoped we are disappointed. It might tarnish the memory?
And we can easily swap the word memory with history to give some of our images the more importance. All you have to do is watch a Ken Burns special and you realize just how important photographs are to our history and our memory of history. But there is one big difference between the photograph that is history and the other memory, and that’s the emotional attachment we have to the photograph that forever records a memory, a moment in time.
We’d literally just gotten off the boat on our B&H / Lexar / Circle Line / Moose NYC cruise when Howard said, “I’ve got dinner reservations, need to get to the cars.” It had been a long, great day. I was tired, grimy and wanted to get back and put my feet up and look at my images, those basic photographer things. But Howard is such a great guy and we so enjoy spending time with him, it was a no-brainer just to go along and besides, he was like a kid on Christmas morning so we knew he had something up his sleeve. Next thing I knew, I was wearing a suit jacket from the River Café loan closet and sitting at the most magnificent table with the most magnificent view of Lower Manhattan you can imagine!
Normally, you have to make a reservation months in advance but Howard worked his magic so we had a great table this evening. Located at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge Tower, the River Café was built in a floating barge. The first time we felt the movement of the barge, we had no clue what it was because we didn’t know we were on a barge. Me being me, I asked our waitress (we already had a thing going) who chuckled and told me we were on a barge. Every boat that went by, you could feel the swell rock us. It was cool!
We were there with our good friend including Jeff Cable who, like I, had come to the table with our cameras and knowing it would be a long time until we would be back here again, shot like silly tourists. And having fun, I would hit the shutter release on the D4 and just let it rip. I love folk’s expression when they hear that. Jay Maisel is a wise man and his advice to always have your camera with you is very sound. I sure was this night!
Four nights later, Super Storm Sandy came through and as we all know with devastating destruction, changing the lives of many. One of the casualties of Sandy is the River Café. Howard just passed along the word to us that it will be no more. Not only is an unique piece of NYC history gone, but all those who made it so special are now no longer a working family bringing so much delight to so many others.
That evening lives on though, in our minds, our hearts and thank goodness, our photographs. The memories of the friendship, the laughs, the food, the atmosphere and of course the magnificent view can be relived in those images. Yes, I used a D4 and raised the ISO with the 24f1.4 to make the images. Those technical aspects of the photography helped preserve the memories, but only more cleanly, more succinct. But it wasn’t needed because the heart would have filled in any missed detail, brighten any darkness. And that is because photography is all about the recording of memories, which are an emotional response to our daily lives. And perhaps that’s why I shoot do damn much, I am so fortunate to have so many good memories. And as we all know, memories are not perfect which is why stressing over the perfect photograph isn’t important to making it great. Howard & River Cafe and its staff, thanks ever so much for the memories! Photographs, they really serve another very important purpose.