Friday, November 21, 2014

A Jewish Wedding II

More photos of the hasidic wedding I attended last week.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Jewish Wedding And The Walls Of Jericho

What could they possibly have in common?

Last week I was invited to a hasidic wedding in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The ceremony was to begin at 7:30 and the following reception to continue until 2AM the following morning. I knew I wouldn't have the stamina to last for the entire event, and that I would probably be heading home around 10PM, too late for me to want to contend with New York subways and New Jersey Transit from Penn Station. I had to drive during rush hour traffic and contend with  very limited parking availability in Brooklyn. I was anxious (a not uncommon phenomenon). My GPS got me through the traffic and when I arrived at the venue a parking spot was waiting for me not twenty five feet from the entrance to the reception hall. It was a message from somewhere that I was supposed to be there.

That still leaves the question of what do a Jewish Wedding and the Walls of Jericho have in common. I had never been to a hasidic wedding, so I was keenly interested in the rituals of the ceremony. Anyone who's ever been to a Jewish wedding is familiar with the Chuppah - the wedding canopy under which the actual ritual takes place - usually, but not necessarily, outdoors. And also with the groom breaking a glass at the end of the ceremony signifying that despite the joy of the wedding, Jews still mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

But there's so much more: the final drawing up of the Ketubah - the Wedding Contract, the covering of the bride's face with a veil (badeken in Yiddish), escorting the groom to the chuppah by the two fathers, escorting the bride to the chuppah by the two mothers. And to answer the original question, the bride is led around the groom my the bride's mother seven times. Why seven? In Genesis we read that G-d created the World in six days and on the seventh day - Shabbat - he rested, so the number seven assumes mystical significance as representing perfection.

But wait, there's more, and more to the point. After the Exodus from Egyptian slavery, when the Hebrews were about to enter Canaan, the first city they were instructed by G-d to redeem was Jericho. G-d commanded Joshua to march around the walled city seven times while blowing a shofar and when he did, the walls came 'tumbling down'. So, the seven circuits of the bride around the groom are to signify the breaking down of the walls of individuality and the joining of two people into the sanctity of a married unity, to build a home and family.

It was a pleasure to be able to attend the ceremony, and doubly to be allowed to document the proceedings with pictures. I shot over 800 images. A small selection (10 images) follows and more will be coming in the near future.

A gathering of relatives in the woman's room (both before and after the ceremony there is no mixing of the genders during the reception).

The bride and her mother:

The groom's father and some relatives:

Filling in the names on the ketubah (wedding contract)

Leading the groom to slaughter (just kidding):

The bride circling the groom seven times:

Reading the ketubah:

The groom's father greeting the rabbi:

Guests enjoying the reception:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

At The City Winery

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening at the City Winery in New York. My friends and fellow musicians David 'Dawg' Grisman and Del McCoury performed a show of duets - vocal and instrumental - music drawn mostly from bluegrass and traditional Appalachian genres. And of course I had to photograph the event. The two veterans played to a sold out house and obviously had a blast doing it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dawg & Del

Seeing two old friends tonight at the City Winery in New York. Should be a blast. When I was a young pup just learning my fiddle chops, David Grisman and I played in the New York Ramblers. At about that same time, Del McCoury, a one time banjoist, was playing guitar with and learning to sing lead from the Father of  Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe. The Blue Grass Boys at that time, along with Del, consisted of Bill (Brad) Keith on banjo, Billy Baker on fiddle, and Bessie Lee Mauldin on bass.
I hope to have pics later this week of the Dawg & Del duo.

Following are a few more shots from my chilly photowalk in Manhattan this past Saturday:

A dog's life:

Hey you, gimme dat cup!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekend in NYC

I walked the streets in midtown this weekend. Even though it was colder than I anticipated, it was fun to be out in the crowds. I've been focusing so much on a major project that sometimes my sense of play gets lost in the intensity. The next seven weeks are going to be interesting on Fifth avenue.

My friend, David Grisman, will be performing at the City Winery on Tuesday as part of a duet with the legendary Del McCoury. I'm looking forward to spending some time with two old friends.

Here's some of what I shot on Fifth avenue. More to come.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Caught In The Act!

I love to look at photographs, the real things - not on a computer screen. New York City is heaven for it with all its galleries and museums. And I love to collect photography books, but it's expensive. Still, when I'm at home on a rainy day I can spend a day with Gene Smith, Winogrand, Walker Evans .... and Robert Frank. Speaking of whom - I just received a book by Frank entitled In America which is a collection of work edited by Peter Galassi. It has some of the same work included in the classic Frank book The Americans but presented in a different context. The two books go hand in hand with Walker Evans' American Photographs and all three provide a glimpse into an America of the past century that I only faintly remember. As I look at the people in those images, I see an entirely different kind of American - jaded, unworldly, chauvinistic. Almost all of the images are more considered than Winogrand's, but just as spontaneous and candid - not as studied as Cartier-bresson's work. This is definitely not 'street' photography. I find a lyricism and poetry in it that's completely absent in the work of Martin Parr and his ilk.

When I listen to music, see a drama on stage, look at photographs (or any art work) I want to be blown away by it, or pinned to the back of my seat, or have my guts twisted. Otherwise it's boring, and why bother. Evans, Frank, Smith, Winnogrand - these are the guys that do it for me.

Oh how I wish I could have that effect too.

I had to drop off a portfolio of work in Midtown yesterday afternoon, and afterwards had a chance to roam around Times Square to photograph. I must have been surrounded by bright orange light because I was caught in the act quite a few times (even by Elliott Erwitt - the last photograph)



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Who, me?

I spent three days at the Photo Plus Expo in NYC. Met some great people, collected some printing paper samples, and saw lots of gear and software that I have no use for. Two of the three days was dedicated to networking and personal PR work, but it was all fun.

Even though Saturday was rainy, I spent about an hour on the street before my train back to NJ. Shooting in inclement weather can be uncomfortable, but rainy days, while posing their challenges, also present some interesting opportunities. When I pointed the camera at him, this gentleman suddenly turned guilty-looking (wonder what he did).