The Magic of Photography

Back in the day, my dad, Irving, thought of himself as a cross between Irving Penn and Ansel Adams. As a photographer, his signature mark was cutting off people’s heads… in the photos, that is. My brother Charles and I were his subjects. We would stand for hours in a bow, curtsy or other ridiculous pose while Irving would flip on his light meter, figure out his f-stops, focus (sort of), point and shoot. We were expected to smile at each other (without fighting) throughout this process. Tears were inevitable.

Today, photography is one of the most democratic, accessible and creative art forms. Ask any kid with an iPhone. This digital, now ubiquitous, instrument has become a palette in a pocket with a limitless toolbox of actions: point, shoot, edit, crop, color, merge, zoom. Irving would have been beside himself with this exhaustive menu of magic. ArtsWestchester works with many photographers who are “teaching artists” in our school programs. Thanks to New York State Assembly members Shelley Mayer and Gary Pretlow, our artists been ever present in the Yonkers schools.  Recently, we sent photographer John Rizzo into classrooms at PS 17 in Yonkers to work with students on their science curriculum. He was able to introduce the students to still life photography, portraiture, silhouettes, panning, multiple exposure and electronic flash and pro tricks on dry ice, how to freeze a splash. He told us that “they completed a high school level program with flying colors.”

Why photography? It’s the key, most immediate, art form of our time. Cameras are omnipresent. They offer kids a powerful medium to create self portraits and to voice their unique perspectives on issues. Digital photography has empowered today’s youth to publish their own insider perspectives on a daily basis on social media. Everyone has an artist inside them, yearning to get out and tell the world “Here I am.” Even Irving.


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