Photography Tradition Endures Through Generations

There’s no time like the present to do what you love. Years ago that sentiment became a popular catch phrase following the book  publication, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” by Marsha Sinetar. The idea to pursue a life passion as a career choice seems a no brainer to finding job satisfaction.

Jay Misencik’s career choice was influenced by uncle Ed Brinsko (1927-1995,) a photojournalist and lifelong Bridgeport resident who worked for The Post Publishing Co., (CT Post).

In January 2015 Jay Misencik and partner Geralene Valentine, both self-employed photographers, and Brinsko’s son Ed Brinsko, assembled a month long Connecticut photo exhibit held at McLevy Hall in Bridgeport . The show titled, “ReVisit Bridgeport … Photographs by Ed Brinsko,” showcased Ed Brinsko’s work which spanned decades. Ed Brinsko and Misencik frequently accompanied Brinsko on assignment where they learned to develop film and print enlargements in the darkroom. Print and film processing is considered  a craft compared to digital photography with its ease of use and immediate results.

Ed Brinsko imagery for 'Revisit Bridgeport' exhibit. Photo courtesy by Jay Misencik

Ed Brinsko imagery for ‘Revisit Bridgeport’ exhibit.
Photo courtesy by Jay Misencik

The photos are stories unto themselves. Brinsko captured hard news, celebrities and street photography in a way that is both portrait and document. Michael Daly, Connecticut Post editorial page editor, presented a discussion on Brinsko’s work to a room at full capacity of retired news journalists and Bridgeport residents.

McLevy Hall

January 2015 “ReVisit Bridgeport … Photographs by Ed Brinsko,” McLevy Hall in Bridgeport, CT

Analog photography is a longer process than digital photography. That’s what makes Brinsko’s images special. Brinsko didn’t have the luxury of seeing what the picture looked like immediately. His talent, his eye for capturing the right moment is evident in each image in the collection.

Standing room only at 'Revisit Bridgeport Photos by Ed Brinsko' talk during month long exhibit. © Margaret Waage Photography

Standing room only at ‘Revisit Bridgeport Photos by Ed Brinsko’ talk during month long exhibit. © Margaret Waage Photography

2014 Jay Misencik documents Bridgeport through photography projects. Miscenik and partner Geraline Valentine have spent twenty years photographing Bridegport in ‘Main Street Bridgeport’ and current ‘Bridgeport Portrait’ projects. © Margaret Waage Photography

Misencik and Valentine have documented Bridgeport for over twenty years beginning with ‘Main Street Bridgeport’ series and now, through their ‘Bridgeport Portrait Project’ series. Misencik like Brinsko, is interested in portraying those individuals who have spent time in Bridgeport. From office worker to outdoor laborer, Misencik says, “It’s the stories people tell that in turn, tell the story of a place.”

 

Misencik is interested in hearing from those who can share their memories of The Palace Theater, a cornerstone to culture in Bridgeport.

Misencik wishes to show something new by recounting recollections and in doing so, pay tribute to the idea of time and place in history. The Palace Theater remains a significant part of a changing neighborhood.

It’s the tradition of storytelling that Misencik and Valentine practice. “Whether shooting digital or analog photography, doesn’t matter as much as how one approaches an assignment,” said Misencik.

“Photography is more about practicing the craft of capturing a moment in time. Anticipating that is what makes a good photograph.” Ed Brinsko would have been proud.

Photography Is A Natural For Manitoga Campers

If the saying ‘You’re never too old to learn something new‘ is true, then youth should loan itself to learning just as well. That being said, is five years of age too young to learn photography? Perhaps it might’ve been ten years ago when mobile phones hadn’t reached their zenith of ubiquity as seen in 2014.

Smart phone photography has contributed to making photography accessible to all, including children five years of age through eleven. Seeing youngsters snapping away with Iphones at whatever compels them is a common occurrence. With that in mind, I was thrilled with the opportunity to instruct five photo learning activities during Manitoga Summer Design Camp’s ‘Every Picture Tells A Story,’ at Manitoga / The Russel Wright  Design Center in Garrison, New York.

The camper’s ages ranged from 5 to 11. Several of the oldest campers were quite adept with point and shoot style cameras. Smart phones with cameras were just as popular. The control dials and settings quickly become a natural for kids once they get past their initial timidness with the either camera or device. Curiosity beats hesitation every time.

Instruction is important  because without it, youngsters will invariably and randomly photograph everything in sight. Although there aren’t film costs associated with digital devices, shooting without a ‘game plan’ doesn’t accomplish learning anything. The lesson plan consisted of three ideas:

  • The rule of thirds
  • Horizontal vs. vertical orientation
  • How close can you get

From these three ideas other lessons emerged as each group walked the trails and set out to see the environment through the camera lens. Having supplies such as extra batteries and film cards was one such take – away lesson. Another lesson learned was to be aware of the idea of  ‘place.’ It’s easy to forget safety when concentrating on the activity – even adults have been known to lose themselves in the moment of capturing a photo and forgetting there might not be enough room behind their feet, and quite accidentally fall down.

Building on the idea of place, I suggested photographing each other, and many did. It wasn’t portraiture, but several images hint at a document style of photography, (with a few photo bombs thrown in). I don’t discount the serendipitous picture because some of the best images are made that way. Seen below are selected images from five groups. All the campers had a good grasp of the concepts introduced. As they venture forward with better cameras, I suspect visual language will grow along with them.

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Obscure No More: Vivian Maier Gains Fans Posthumously

Who was she? Who was Vivian Maier? We know she was a prolific photographer and if she were alive today she would have followers on every social media platform. If it were up to John Maloof, the man responsible for bringing her name and talent to light, Maier’s photography deserves the same rank and notoriety as many of her contemporaries, Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand, Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark whose photographic styles defined an era. The difference between Maier and those who made names for themselves in photography is that Maier’s work remained hidden – tucked away in boxes of undeveloped film and negatives that had never been printed.

There are different levels of appreciation for Maloof’s and fellow director, Charlie Siskel’s 2013 documentary film, ‘Finding Vivian Maier‘. First there’s the historic aspect. Maier lived and produced a substantial body of work over the course of her working career. Maier was born February 1, 1926 in New York City and died April 1, 2009 in Chicago, where she spent forty years working as a nanny.

Maloof’s story of finding a collection of negatives at an auction, bidding and purchasing the collection, and subsequently tracking Maier’s collections of artifacts including clothing, souvenirs, 8 mm films, diaries, letters and miscellaneous mementos, is now part of the Maier’s story partly because the find was analogous to hitting a photographic jackpot and partly because the find represented a puzzle as to what motivated this unassuming woman to chronicle her life as defined by her role as caretaker of others, social observer of the goings on around her as she lived out her days.

Photos by Vivian Maier

Photos by Vivian Maier

Maloof, a real estate agent and historian recognized the value of the images after initially putting aside the work after purchase. When Maloof began looking at the negatives he realized the value of the images as they showed great street photography appeal for that genre. Maloof posted the photographs on Flickr, an online photography community for feedback, and thus begins his obsession with Vivian Maier.

As the story unfolds, curiosity about Maier grows partly because she was such a private person and her constant image making while nannying was different than what you’d expect from someone who spent their life in that capacity. She seemed to use her position of working class nanny, to be ‘seen and not heard’ beyond what she was there to do – care for children, to cultivate her craft. Only once during the film does Maloof uncover Maier’s intent on having her work printed. Maier made repeated efforts to conceal her identity throughout her life rather than to publicize her work.  Maier, collected everything from receipts to newspapers showing the horrific in news stories: rape, murder and human impropriety. The people who knew her, her now grown charges, revealed they saw Maier as an enigma and hoarder.

Maloof and Siskel let those who knew Maier tell her story alongside her photographs, which speak their own language. It’s a film worth seeing for anyone who likes photography. The mystery over what drove Maier to create her own legacy, albeit posthumously, is up to the viewer to conclude.