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a new year, a new era.

15 Jan 2014

I turned 40 on Saturday.  The night before, myriad friends came together to ring in my new year.  They also came bearing a rather epic surprise:

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The story goes something like this: my photographer friend Nick, way back last October, emailed me to say that he was going to sell his relatively new Leica M9, in order to make way for a Leica M type 240 purchase, and did I want the M9 at a discount?  Well, sure, I did want that camera at a discount, but the discount was still beyond my budget.  I fretted over IM with my friend Mike, but then decided to pass.  My foray into digital photography would have to wait.

Only here’s the thing: apparently Mike contacted Nick anyway.  And then contacted nearly all of my contactable friends.  And my mom!  And together, everyone chipped in to get me this beautiful camera.  And, perhaps even more epic than the camera itself, everyone managed to keep this a secret.  For months.  EVEN MY MOTHER.

Needless to say, I was beside myself on Friday night when I opened up the present.  And even more beside myself as I realized just how amazing and wonderful and caring and many other wonderful adjectives my friends are.  Don’t even get me started; I’ve been a near basket case the last few days, trying to keep it together in the face of such extraordinary love and kindness.

And now I am the owner of a Leica M9.  This certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on film — goodness, no!  But it does mean that I’m able to think a bit more fluidly and in a more flexible way about what and how I shoot.  Here are a handful of photos I’ve taken over the last few days with the new lady.  (Christening imminent!)

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And on Saturday night, my actual birthday evening, 19 friends came together — even a few who traveled from Philly, Chicago, and San Francisco, just for this occasion! — and we sat down for an epic meal in the private room at Frankies 457 in Brooklyn.  Turning 40 has been nothing short of amazing.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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the year in food.

13 Dec 2013

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It was a very good year.

Above: Birthday dogs (!) from the Original Hot Dog Shop, Pittsburgh.

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My weeklong trip to Japan in February was nothing short of spectacular, for both the sights and the food.  I didn’t get any film photos of the ridiculously good sushi I consumed all week, but I did snap a few others.

Above: Soba lunch at a little place near Hakone.

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The scallop portion of a gloriously gluttonous evening at Amoroso, Tokyo.

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Iberico pork katsu lunch at Butagumi, Tokyo.

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I traveled to Los Angeles in April to surprise my mother for her birthday.   Above: a pre-birthday lunch at A.O.C.

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Hawaiian butterfish crudo for mom’s birthday dinner at Lukshon, a favorite spot of my family’s.

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The spread at Hinoki and The Bird.  Yes, there’s a sliver of wood burning atop black cod.

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Above and below: Noodles and soup dumplings at Mama Lu’s Dumpling House with my pals Travis and Justine, who a few months after this lunch became parents to darling Esme.

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Inspired by my trip to Japan, I made some ramen broth and pork chashu from scratch (!) back in my wee Brooklyn kitchen.  It was, I dare say, awesome.

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In May, Mike D and I went to M.Wells Dinette at P.S. 1 in Long Island City.  We ate way too much food.  We’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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Above and below: more M. Wells.

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In June I bought a new camera, a gigantic Pentax 6×7 that I named Percy.  (No seriously, he’s enormous.)  Later that month, Percy took this photo of the excellent fried chicken plate at The Dutch in Soho.  That’s Donny, about to dig in.

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Over the summer, Mike and I had a delicious brunch at Talde, in Park Slope.  Pictured above is their bacon and egg pad thai — oh yeah.  Not pictured is their breakfast ramen, which I cannot recommend enough.  Zounds.

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August vacation: a proper two week affair that started in Los Angeles.  Above: superb soup dumplings and other Shanghainese and Taiwanese delights at Din Tai Fung, with dear Ben W.

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San Francisco: dinner at the outrageously good State Bird Provisions.  Nancy and I got a spot right near the open kitchen, so we got to see everything getting prepped.   Everything, might I add, was excellent.  Above: yellowtail (I think, anyway; or was it salmon?) collar.

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Duck liver pate + financiers.

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A peek into the prep space from our perch.

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I never got to try Una Pizza Napoletana when it was out here in NYC, but at long last, made it to the San Francisco location.  Oh my.  Oh my oh my oh my.

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In Wyoming, my pal A’s mom was visiting from Bangkok, so every day we’d have homecooked Thai meals.  Easily the best Thai food I’ve ever had.  Thanks, Siriwan!

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There was tons more I ate this year, though I didn’t get a chance to document the meals, mostly because they were evening or low-light affairs that don’t capture very well on film.   And a couple of Michelin starred meals to boot!   It was an exciting year, the happiest I’ve been in ages.

To ring in the new year, and also my big 4-0, this coming January I’m convening a wonderful gaggle of my closest friends for what is looking to be an epic dinner.  Rest assured that there will be photographic proof of celebratory gluttony, low light be damned!. .

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grey gowanus sunday.

10 Dec 2013

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A grey day, yes, over by the Gowanus Canal, but also a most happy day too: celebrating Mike D’s birthday!  En route to a festive group brunch at Littleneck and then afternoon drinks at Lavender Lake, I snapped a handful of photos with the Hasselblad.  More would have turned out quite splendidly, I suspect, if not for an odd film spool malfunction, leaving me with half-diptychs like the one below.  Ah well.  Still, an excellent afternoon all around.

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thanksgiving morning.

5 Dec 2013

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My parents didn’t believe me when I said, on the eve of Thanksgiving, that I was going to wake up at sunrise the following morning — 6:38am — and drive out to the local mall to take some photos of the parking lot.  But sure enough, on Thursday morning at 6:45am, there I was, in the parking lot of The Shops at Montebello, smiling awkwardly at the security car that zipped past me quizzically as I lugged my Pentax 6×7 around to document the last morning of the year that all would be quiet before the holiday shopping season started.

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Also relatively quiet (for L.A., anyway): the nearby freeway.  (Yes, I’m from L.A.  We call them freeways.)

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from the archives: expired fuji superia 200.

12 Nov 2013

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Back in 2008, when I started to become more serious about film photography, I hoarded as much reasonably-priced, expired 35mm film as I could find on eBay.  I loved the unexpected tonal shifts, the not-knowingness of dropping off a roll of film at the lab and wondering –between the sheer fact of the film-ness and the fact of its expiredness — just how that roll would turn out, or if it would turn out at all.  It was a greatly experimental time in those days.

Then my inclination towards unpredictability shifted a bit.  It hasn’t left entirely, obviously, since I still shoot with film cameras, but as film and developing costs have both risen, I’ve become less willing to spend a lot of money on expired film stock that might just end up being plain terrible (I’ve had a few disasters).   I’ve also sensed my aesthetic narrowing a bit, and I’m far less likely these days to shoot things just sort of willy-nilly; my eye has become more practiced, more patient, more precise.  And so accordingly,  I’ve stuck primarily with fresh rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 and Portra 400, because I know better now how I’d like to document the things and people that I see.

That said, looking back on some photos in my archives taken with various rolls of expired Fuji Superia 200, I can’t help but marvel at how the imprecision and unpredictability of a flawed bit of film stock can still work wonders.

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1. Front Garden | Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, 2011.
2. Basketball Court | Princeton, NJ, 2012.
3. Afternoon Tipple | Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, 2011.
4. Eli | Los Angeles, 2008.

Below:
5. The Marquess Tavern | London, 2011.
6. Nearly Sunset | Riddarholmen, Stockholm, 2011.
7. Oldskool | London, 2011.
8. Languor | Walton, NY, 2011.

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one roll.

3 Nov 2013

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1. On the train | Along the Hudson River.
2. Kathryn | Marshall Stack, Lower East Side.
3. Lines and angles | Home, Brooklyn.

I’d had a roll of black and white film in the Leica for a couple of months.  By the time I took it in to the lab yesterday, I’d completely forgotten what I had shot over those two months.  It was a nice surprise to see shots from both here in the city and from my Labor Day weekend (so long ago!) trip upstate.

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laramie (2).

1 Nov 2013

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While I was in Laramie, the city was doing some roadwork at the intersection near where my friends A and June lived.  The gravel piles were basically a ready-made playground for my friends’ three year old daughter.

Amidst all the gorgeous scenery and wide open skies, there was still the day to day bits that you’d find just about anywhere: my friends were moving into a new home, so there was much cleaning and clearing to be done; a hailstorm (!) interrupted a post-lunch bike ride; and well, more daily life.  (And chickens!)  A certain sort of suburban quietness — even with a rambunctious three year old! — that made the tail end of my August vacation so wonderful to capture on film.

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gentlemen, slightly blurry.

29 Oct 2013

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Top: Michael (papa-to-be!) | RPM

Above: Jason | Marshall Stack

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I’ve been working on a few projects — one a legit photo job (!) and the other a bit of actual housekeeping (organizing 15+ years worth of negatives!), so I’ve not been taking the cameras out with me as much recently.  Hopefully I’ll have a nice bit portfolio revamp to show you in a few weeks, as well as some shots from a photoshoot I did for a friend’s new company.

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gentlemen in bars.

18 Oct 2013

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The title is pretty self-explanatory, but it also speaks to a personal quirk, a certain talent to talking to gentlemen in bars that are not my local, and then having them agree to getting their photo taken.   Mike says I should do a Kickstarter campaign to get funds to travel around, chat up strangers at their local bars, and then make a photo book out of it.  I’m fairly certain my parents would be mortified.

The photos here are of some of the gents I’ve managed to photograph over the years.  I wish it hadn’t been so dark — too dark to photograph anything — in that random Irish pub in Stockholm the night I chatted with Alfred, a fellow from northern Sweden in town for an agricultural conference.  He was hilarious.   But then again, all these guys were pretty great.

1. Jimmie and Ian (cousins!) | Islay, 1997.
2. Harrie | Amsterdam, 2009.
3. Gregory | Park Bark, NYC, 2009
4. Timothy | Buckhorn Bar, Laramie, Wyoming, 2013.

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the empty lot.

10 Oct 2013

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After a gut-stuffing sushi dinner at my parents’ neighborhood Japanese restaurant, my parents and various aunts and uncles very graciously posed for several photos in the adjacent empty lot, a former shabu-shabu house that had gone belly-up several years ago.  The late summer light cast long, gorgeous shadows.  My family, simultaneously amused and perplexed by my instructions to just don’t look at me!, did their best to follow orders.

Afterwards, we piled into our various cars (it’s Los Angeles, after all), and went our separate ways to nurse the ensuing food coma.

[Note: If this backdrop looks familiar, you should know that I like this parking lot A LOT.]

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