Tag Archives: change

as time goes by

In my youth, a classic education included the obligation to learn how to draw. It was part of the curriculum. There was no mention of creativity. That was a characteristic of god. But drawing was considered by some as learning to see; taking  notes as it were of what we saw. We started with a tree, a horse, or a flower. It was a pleasure watching someone as their eye traveled from the subject of their drawing to the paper in front of them and back again. We called it a study. In those days, it was common, especially for those who were not satisfied with their renditions on paper, to put a flower in a book and press it. Life did not start with the digital age. There were delights that disappeared at every stage of progress.

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the type of library I remember and love

For the young, change is exciting and enlivening. It’s a challenge, and healthy people enjoy challenges. And it’s an opportunity to see the world created anew within our own lifetime. I remember the words of a sage who said, ‘the creation of the world wasn’t finished in those famous six days; god continues to recreate the world every minute… and if that were to stop, our world wouldn’t exist’. I didn’t understand it at the time. It seemed a poetic phrase, an expression of the praise of god. But in old age, the phrase has returned with understanding. Change is an integral part of both our world and ourselves. To deny it or to fight it is to stop our inner world.

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As a student, I spent most of my time in the study hall of the seminary, where I was fascinated by history and philosophy in the holy books. I didn’t just sit and learn. I stood at times, with my book on a reading stand (a lectern), and took walks now and then to digest what I had read. It was an adventure for me to walk to the local library, which was my second home for many years. Many of the writers I read mentioned other books, either to agree or disagree with them, and so I always had notes in my pocket, reminding me of books I wanted to open. But sometimes while visiting the library, I would wander through the aisles and gaze at the stacks, picking up a book just because of its title or the way it looked.

My father was a scientist, which gave him access to a computer as early as the 50s of the previous century. In those days the computer was as large as a couple of rooms in a house, and belonged to the university. He used it for complicated mathematical computations. But as he explored the possible uses of this relatively new instrument, he managed to translate the image of my mother to a printout using the letters of the alphabet to provide the shadings of her face. The printout had the standard holes on both sides of the page, and the paper was cheap and discolored as it aged. Enthusiastic about the ‘human aesthetic’ captured by a machine, I hung the picture on one of my walls. And when it grew old and ugly in my eyes, I threw it away. I regret that now. As a matter of fact, I can’t understand how it happened that I, known to hold on to used shopping bags till they become an obstacle in the laundry room, could possibly throw such an article away. In any case, that mechanical portrait heralded the digital age for me.

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the newer libraries look like this… not too many books
and open for just a few hours

Now, as a photographer, I am often asked for my opinion regarding smartphone cameras. People often suspect that one still needs a ‘real’ camera to attain quality photographs. I don’t use my smartphone camera for a number of reasons. But I really like them; they’re wonderful. For the sort of work I used to do, every camera was a part of a set of working tools. For an enthusiast, the choice of one camera demands compromise. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I am one of those people who walk around with a Swiss pocket knife in their pants’ pocket. I’ll admit it can be bested by someone who carries two knives, two screwdrivers, a can opener and bottle opener around with him, plus scissors, a corkscrew, a punch and a few other items. I came to photography because I loved it, but it was a lot of hard work. Aside from taking the picture, there was the endless choice of possible emulsions, chemical processes, developing films, and printing on paper. Digital photography made most of the techniques I learned and mastered over the years irrelevant. It was cheaper and easier, and it soon became available to almost everyone, thus greatly reducing the need for professional photographers. And as amateurs began to take advantage of the new tools, they demonstrated that imagination and invention need no diploma. But still, easy isn’t enough. When things get a little easier, we unconsciously search out difficulty. For instance, I’ve noticed that with the digital camera, it’s so easy to take a picture that people amass an infinite number of them… and then go through the agonies of hell deciding which ones to show their friends.

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this basket of books was found on the street, asking for adoption
some folks just can’t bear to throw a beloved book away

After moving to my new home, I started taking long walks to get to know the neighborhood better. Found the public library, a beautiful new building with large windows and a very modern design. It was a little hard for me to visit, because it was only open from 2:00 to 7:00 pm. I usually rest from 2:00 to 4:00, but no matter… I finally got there when it was open, and looked around. It was very clean and orderly. They had computers there too. The isles were wide, and the rooms were brightly lit. But strangely enough, there seemed to be less books than I expected. I searched out subjects that interested me, and was disappointed to find the book choices few. It turned out that the library was relatively new. The head librarian with whom I spoke seemed a very congenial woman.

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this is the newest type of library here; run by volunteers and offering
free books to anyone who wants them

For the first time in my life, I started thinking of what would happen to my own sizable collection of books. It occurred to me that I could leave them to this library in my last will, and contribute something tangible to my neighbors after my death. But when I asked the librarian if the library would be interested in a gift of books, I saw embarrassment in her face. Well, she said, they were always pleased to receive a present but the library was only interested in new books. New Books? I asked for clarification. Surely people still read Tolstoy and Shalom Aleichem? Well, of course, people are welcome to read whatever they choose, she explained, but the library only accepts books that have been published or printed since the turn of the century. Yikes!

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photographers’ get-together

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a favorite meeting place

In the old days, I used to get together with my fellow photographers pretty often. It was usually a great pleasure. We were able to discuss different problems we had encountered in work, which tool was best for a particular job… and of course, to share anecdotes related to our craft, which were well understood by our colleagues. Photography was always a popular hobby. But there was a big difference between the experiences of an amateur photographer and a professional. We all knew amateurs who got fantastic results. But they didn’t always know how they did it. They were less concerned with the craft than the professionals. The major difference between professionals and amateurs in our field, was that the amateurs had to learn how to satisfy themselves, but we had to satisfy the customer.

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the lion is the symbol of Jerusalem, and I’ll show you a lot more soon

And because the processes of developing and printing were quite difficult back then, Those of us who did ‘in house’ processing were concerned with issues almost unknown to the amateurs. We spent hours in the darkroom, trying to get the exact image that we had envisioned, either before the actual shoot, or while we were behind the camera. And worked with chemicals whose temperature had to be controlled. those chemicals underwent changes in the very process of work, so replenishing chemicals could be a challenge too. I remember conversations over lunch, in which a photographer would bring a print with a problem that he had encountered, and we would exchange ideas and methods till we discovered what needed to be done to overcome the problem.

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some downtown streets have become pedestrian only

Our world changed radically when digital photography took the place of analogical. It was easier working on the computer, and there were far fewer tools to master. But there was a lot to learn. Most of the photographers that I knew suffered very serious losses during that period of change. Most of the old equipment became worthless, and we were forced to buy very expensive new tools. Cameras became automated to a degree that we couldn’t dream of 30 or 40 years ago. And many of the jobs we used to do for customers were no longer demanded. Some of my friends left the profession. Others were forced into bankruptcy. And the conversations around the table were often unhappy and pessimistic, as we tried to deal with the changes in our professional lives.

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Jaffa street and King George

A friend of mine, an excellent photographer with much experience in dark room processing, left Israel about a decade ago, and was back for a visit this week. We met in a coffee house in the center of Jerusalem; a place that has a long history in our city, and whose customers have ranged from bohemian artists to members of parliament. The shop is getting old too. The original proprietor no longer stands behind the bar, but it has the same old look it always had, and it brought back memories.

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the tram has really changed the look of the city

The two of us were both equipped with digital cameras. We had experienced the upheaval in different places. He and his wife live in Canada now. And he’s involved in the artistic side of photography. I saw some of his work, and was impressed. I’m hoping he will send me some small files that I’ll be able to share with my readers. They told me that Jerusalem looks quite different from the way it was when they used to live here. I hadn’t noticed the difference so much. When you’re living in a place, those changes sneak up on you on a day to day basis. The biggest change, it seems to me, was the tram… what we call the ‘light train’ here. But in our conversation I was reminded of all the changes we’ve gone through here… both in our private and professional lives. Suddenly I became very aware of the passage of time.

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a gambling stall; I find them fascinating

I took some pictures of the downtown area to show you. Jaffa street used to be the most busy here in town. Always filled with cars and busses, and a lot of people. And since it has been dedicated to the tram, it does seem a rather different thoroughfare. But looking at the low buildings, I had the feeling that we had only seen the beginning of change.