Friday, February 16, 2018

On West 84th Street

My neighborhood on Manhattan's Upper West Side has so completely gentrified in the last twenty years that it's no longer possible to find any of the gritty ambience that first drew me here.  I only know of one spot on West 84th that still remains unchanged.  I wanted to take a photo of it for a long while, but it was only when I saw a the individual shown above on its step that it came together for me.

To get the shot, I used a Nikon Df with a 50mm f1.4 lens.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Five

Quinn spent the next afternoon downtown attending to routine business errands.  By the time he returned to the apartment hours later, he was exhausted.  His uptown subway ride had come to a screeching halt at the Times Square station where the conductor, without explanation, had brusquely ordered everyone off the train.  As the stranded passengers had stood on the platform waiting for the next local to arrive, a rumor had started among them that someone had jumped onto the tracks at 72nd Street in front of an oncoming express.  The woman standing beside Quinn had claimed the jumper was an old man dying of cancer.  She hadn’t bothered to tell him exactly how she’d come by that information.
On impulse, Quinn had left the station; the tightly packed bodies had already begun to create a palpable sense of claustrophobia.  He’d exited at 40th Street and Seventh Avenue and had then spent several hours wandering the midtown streets as he’d tried to reacquaint himself with the New York he remembered.  He was astonished to see it had almost entirely disappeared.  The area around 42nd had been turned into a pedestrian mall overhung by huge jumbotron video displays.  The porn theaters that had catered to middle aged men in tattered trench coats had long ago been converted to family-friendly venues where the latest Disney productions commanded high ticket prices.  Outside them, under the watchful eyes of the police, costumed cartoon characters posed for photos with the tourists’ children.
Quinn had turned away and headed up Broadway.  But it had been the same everywhere he had looked.  All the familiar spots had been torn down and replaced with high rise office buildings and condos.  The small mom & pop stores had been taken over by large retail chains, and the theaters along the Great White Way now featured only tepid musicals in which special effects took the place of talent.  In front of them, long lines of charter buses disgorged hordes of senior citizens desperately clutching their discount admission vouchers.
In the end, Quinn had covered more than forty blocks by the time he finally arrived at his own front door.  His legs ached and he longed to rest.
There was still work to be done, though, before he could relax.  Exhausted as he was, he went through the entire apartment from top to bottom until he had unearthed every photographic print Behan had left behind.  Even before he’d arrived in New York, this was something Quinn had made up his mind to do.  On the plane from San Francisco, thinking of his father’s death, he had determined to create an archive of Behan’s photography.  Even if no one else ever saw it, Quinn had decided, he owed it as one photographer to another not to let Behan’s life work be lost and forgotten.
Quinn had never expected, though, to discover that the photographs Behan had taken in the last years of his life would differ so radically from those he remembered from the times his father had shown him his portfolio.  The dazed expression on his face when he had finished sorting through them showed how shocked he was to have found what he had.
Quinn’s father had all his life been a street photographer who’d idolized the work of such artists as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank.  Leica in hand, he had tirelessly patrolled the city streets in search of images that would capture the very essence of New York.  He had shot shoppers buying bread at the Vesuvio Bakery on Prince Street or sturgeon at Barney Greengrass on Amsterdam Avenue.  He’d photographed onlookers at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Christmas shoppers lined up with their children in front of Lord & Taylor’s windows waiting impatiently to view the holiday displays.  The most iconic sights in the city had been scrupulously recorded along with scenes of the homeless panhandling for pennies or scavenging through dumpsters for their evening meal.
The work Quinn had now unearthed was entirely different.  All the photographs were of beautiful nude models posed before seamless backgrounds.  Instead of straightforward images shot on Tri-X film, these deliberately artful works had been photographed in a studio setting using now discontinued infrared films.  These soft focus studies had a hauntingly familiar appearance, and Quinn soon recognized in them the influence of the Pictorialist school that had been in vogue at the turn of the twentieth century.  Though they represented a complete break from Behan’s former style, the prints were masterpieces of darkroom technique and possessed an antique beauty all their own.
All the prints were a standard 8x10 size.  Most were kept in the same boxes in which the enlarging paper used to make them had originally been sold.  As Behan had used up one box of paper in the darkroom, he had recycled the cardboard container and filled it with finished prints.  Then he had meticulously affixed labels to each of the boxes to show the date the photographs had been taken and the prints made.
In some of the photos the models were entirely nude while in others they were at least partially draped.  There was nothing explicit in any of them, though a few might have been considered suggestive.  The infrared film Behan had used had had such a softening effect on its subjects that any objectionable content had been too deeply hidden in the shadows to be noticeable.   It was plain Behan had had no interest in creating adult content.
For the most part, the women seemed not to be professional models but rather a random assortment of attractive women, most of them in their late twenties or early thirties, whom Behan had somehow convinced to undress for the camera.   All appeared comfortable enough in their poses.  None had their arms crossed defensively over their breasts or their legs pressed too tightly together.  Instead, they smiled innocently at the camera as if amused by some joke Behan had just finished telling them.
Quinn noted that Behan seemed not to have photographed most models more than once or twice.   And he had very obviously kept his distance, treating the nude figures only as forms to be lit.  The women were no more than strangers who had wandered in through the door, stayed long enough to have had their pictures taken and then gone their way.
The sole exception was a lovely Latin model.  She appeared taller than the others and carried herself more professionally.  Of them all, she was the only one who might have been listed with a legitimate agency and been able to earn her living as a runway or print model.  Quinn could see that Behan had worked with her on numerous occasions.  Her photos turned up in box after box of prints.  There was even a portrait showing only her face and bare shoulders that Behan had framed and hung on the living room wall. 
Finally, after having searched through all the prints several times, Quinn was almost finished.  Only one large cardboard box high up on a closet shelf remained to be examined.  He went into the kitchen and poured himself a Guinness before opening it.
When Quinn opened the box, he experienced still another shock.  Inside was a huge assortment of DVD’s packed together so closely that they spilled out of the almost bursting container as soon as he had lifted the lid.  That was a puzzle in itself.  To the best of Quinn’s recollection, Behan had never spent much time going to the movies or watching television.  Even more unusual were the types of films contained on the discs.
All of them were Japanese and all were of a certain type of adult softcore known as “pink film.”  Quinn was familiar with the genre.  He’d spent time on assignment in Tokyo and had seen them sold in video stores throughout the city.  Not that he’d ever bothered to watch any of them.  To him they were as lame as the R-rated films that played every night on American cable.  There was nothing more to them than oversized breasts and bare bottoms.
As he looked more closely at the DVD covers, Quinn realized that all the films – and there were a huge number – had been directed by the same individual, one Yukio Ito.  Quinn had never heard the name before; but then again, he told himself, he was no expert on Japanese cinema.  He resolved to do some research when he had more time.
After he’d finished examining the DVD’s and put them back in the box, Quinn went into the bedroom and stretched out on the bed without bothering to take his clothes off.  Scarcely had he put his head down on the pillow than he fell soundly asleep.
He was awakened several hours later by the sound of a key in the lock.  It was night by then and the apartment was completely dark except for the streetlight filtering through the curtained windows.  A figure appeared silhouetted in the bedroom doorway.  Quinn slid off the bed as silently as possible while accustoming his eyes to the darkness.  As a shadowed hand reached for the light switch, he grasped it by the wrist and gave it a hard twist.
A woman’s voice cried out in pain.
“Who the hell are you?” demanded Quinn as he reached past the woman and snapped on the light himself.  “And what are you doing here?”
The overhead light revealed a slender dark haired beauty almost as tall as Quinn himself.  She wore a shimmering long white dress and three-inch stiletto heels.  The apparition regarded Quinn through smoldering black eyes.  She drew her head up proudly.  “My name is Violeta Vargas, and I was a friend of Behan’s,” she proclaimed.  “He gave me permission to stay here whenever I wanted.”   
The woman turned and pointed to the opposite wall where her black & white portrait hung.  It was the same print Quinn had noticed earlier.  Although he had spent all afternoon studying the photographs for which she’d posed, he’d failed to recognize her in person.  Belatedly, he realized she was in fact the model about whom he’d earlier been so curious.
“That’s me,” she said.  “I watched while Behan put it up on the wall.  When he finally had it hung, he climbed down the ladder and told me how honored he was to work with me.”
Quinn released the woman’s hand at once.  “I’m sorry,” he apologized.  “I didn’t mean to frighten you.  If it hadn’t been so dark, I’d have recognized you right away from your photos.  As it was, you really gave me a start.  My name’s Quinn, by the way, and I’m Behan’s son.  I just moved in and had no idea my father had a roommate.  He must have gone through a whole set of changes since the last time I saw him.  I thought I knew him as well as anyone, but I’m beginning to find out the man was full of surprises.”
Violeta smiled.  “Yes, I know who you are.  Behan talked about you often.  But he never told me why you were no longer in New York or where you’d gone.”
“It’s a long story.  My sister had moved to California years ago, and we’d gradually drifted apart.  When I got word she had cancer, I went out there and discovered she was dying.  I stayed to do what I could for her.  She lingered a long while.  It was tough.”
 Violeta gave him a sorrowful glance.  “That’s terrible,” she said.  “But your sister was very lucky, I think, to have had you there beside her.  Death should never be faced alone.”
“No, it shouldn’t,” said Quinn, “but then that’s the way Behan died, isn’t it?”
“Yes, that’s true enough,” Violeta acknowledged. “Anyway, will you be living here from now on?  In that case, I can find somewhere else to go.  I only came by tonight to make myself a meal.  But I’ll leave as soon as I’ve finished.  I have friends who’ll put me up.”
“I don’t understand how you managed to stay here this long.”  Quinn was puzzled. 
“Didn’t the cops give you a hard time for messing up their crime scene?”
“The polícia?”  Violeta gave a derisive chuckle.  “They never saw me, not even once.  I was only here at night, and I made sure to replace the yellow tape on the door when I left in the morning.  We Brazilians know very well how to handle the police.”
“I’m sure you do.  You’re probably more than a match for a detective like Sloane.”  Quinn smiled at the thought.  “Hey, if you’re cooking dinner, could you make some for me too?” he asked.  “And as far as finding somewhere else to stay, you’re welcome here as long as you like.  If you were a friend of Behan’s, that’s good enough for me.  There’s room here for two.  You can have the bedroom.  The couch in the living room opens into a bed.”
Violeta didn’t say anything, just stared at Quinn speculatively.
Quinn put up his hands.  “I know what you’re thinking, but you can trust me,” he said.  “I’m certainly not going to hit on you.  But I wouldn’t mind having a friend.  After spending all those months with my sister, it’s lonesome sometimes being back on my own.”
“I trust you.”  Violeta laughed.  Her teeth were white and straight.  “But if I stay, I’ll be the one who sleeps on the couch.”
“I’m not going to argue with you.  You’re way too tough for me to put up a fight.”
“Oh, and you don’t have to worry about me hitting on you either,” announced Violeta.  “I’m gay, and I have a beautiful German girlfriend whom I love very much.  She’s been working the past few months in Milan, or else I’d be with her right now instead of sitting here bothering the life out of you.”  She watched Quinn closely to better judge his reaction.
“You’re not bothering me.  And you don’t have to worry about anyone who’s lived in San Francisco being a homophobe.  Just curious, though.  Did Behan know you were gay?”
“Oh, yeah.  He was fine with it.”  Violeta visibly relaxed.  “I never met a less prejudiced person in my life.  With him, it was always ‘live and let live.’”
“Yes, he was always openminded and raised me to be the same.”
“You remind me of him that way.  That was one reason I liked him so much.  Behan didn’t have any hangups, not that kind anyway.”
“What kind did he have?”
Violeta didn’t want to answer.  “Let’s have some dinner first, shall we?

After the two had finished eating homemade feijoada, a black bean stew, Violeta reached into one of the cupboards and brought out a bottle of cachaça.  “This stuff is strong as hell,” she said as she rinsed a glass for each of them.  “That’s why I like it, to be honest.”
“Yes, I’ve had it before.  Don’t mix mine with anything.  I’d rather have it straight.”  Quinn checked the label.  “I’m not usually a big drinker, but I could use something strong.”
Violeta poured two tumblers half full and handed one to Quinn.  “I used to work as a bartender, but it doesn’t take much skill to pour a drink like this.”
Quinn took a sip and then turned to his companion with the question that had been on his mind all evening.  “Violeta, why did Behan end up photographing only nudes? He used to be a street photographer.  I don’t understand why he put together all this studio equipment, especially when he was so low on money.  And it couldn’t have been that easy for him to find models willing to pose nude in the first place.”
“Yes, we models are always reluctant to show everything.  Wearing fine clothes is always easier because they give us confidence in our appearance.  But Behan’s photos were so gorgeous, as soft and elegant as paintings, that I didn’t mind at all.   And I wasn’t totally nude.  Behan preferred to photograph me wearing transparent fabrics draped over my body.”
“Yes, but why did he start photographing women at such a late date when he’d never shown any interest before?  That’s what I can’t understand.”
Violeta smiled gently.  “Oh, Quinn.  You aren’t old enough yet to realize how lonely life can be for someone like Behan when he starts to get on in years.  He never complained, but I could see how miserable he was.  He was always going on and on about the art he wanted to create, but I think one reason he began taking those photos was so he wouldn’t be alone all the time.  When he was photographing a model he had someone to talk with, a beautiful woman who’d look up to him and admire what he was able to accomplish.”
“But why did he want them always to be nude?”
Violeta laughed outright at that.  “I take it back.  Maybe you are old, and I just can’t see it.  Why do men ever want to see women nude?  It’s because it makes the men feel good.  What more reason do you need than that?”
“You mean it turned him on?  That’s what lay behind all those photos he took?”
“So to speak.  But it wasn’t so much that he planned to make love to any of those women as that he wanted to be reminded of the days when he was young and had had romantic relationships of his own.  He knew that part of his life was past, and he accepted that.  But he couldn’t stop his heart from remembering.  That was what kept him going.”
“So his photography was just an old man’s way to pass the time, is that it?”
“Yes, and it was harmless enough until he lost all perspective and really did fall in love.  Then it all became so sad.  That was his real hangup – a married woman.”
“What happened?”  Quinn leaned toward Violeta with a wry smile.  “It’s not that I want to pry into any of Behan’s secrets.  It’s just that I’m having a lot of trouble picturing my father all of a sudden acting like a lovesick teenager.  And with a married woman no less.  I can’t remember him even looking at a woman once he’d gotten divorced from my mom.” 
“You don’t have to explain to me.”  Violeta reached for Quinn’s hand and took it in her own.  “But I’m not sure there’s much I can tell you.  I don’t know the whole story myself because Behan never wanted to talk about it, not even with me.  And I never saw any of the photos he took of this woman.  For some reason, he gave her all the prints he’d made.  I’d never seen him so secretive.  Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that she was married, but it was still a very strange situation.”
“How old was the woman?”
 “Behan once told me she was already in her thirties when they first met, but that she looked at least ten years younger.”
“She must have been extremely photogenic if Behan wanted so badly to photograph her.”  Quinn looked at the cameras across the room.  “Do you know what her name was?”
“She called herself Penelope, Behan told me, but I don’t know if that was her real name or just the one she used when she modeled.  And yes, she must have been wildly attractive from the way Behan raved on and on about her.  He really was obsessed.  Even though she refused point blank to ever pose nude, he still regarded her as his muse.  To hear him tell it, she was the most beautiful woman on earth.”  Violeta tossed her long mane of hair over her shoulder.  “Even more beautiful than me, if you can believe such a thing.”
“Where on earth did he come across a model like that?  Or like you for that matter?”
“I’m listed with a non-exclusive agency here in Manhattan and have worked runway for them.  And not just at Fashion Week either.  But agencies go through slow periods like other businesses and don’t always have enough jobs to go around.  I posted my profile on a few modeling sites to see if I could get some paying work to help tide me over those times.”
“Was it on one of those modeling sites that Behan found Penelope?” asked Quinn.
“Yes, she was petite and had no choice.  But even if she was too short for the catwalk or to be listed by an agency, Penelope had such a gorgeous face, at least according to Behan, that she got a great many print and beauty assignments from photographers here in the city and even scored a magazine cover or two along the way.”
“Is that why Behan wanted to photograph her?  Because she was a cover model?”
 “To be honest, I don’t know why Behan was so anxious at first to shoot Penelope.  But I suppose he was just as much attracted to her beautiful looks as all the other photographers and wanted to see how well he could capture her image.”  Violeta grinned broadly.  “Nothing makes a photographer’s work look so good as to have a fabulous model in front of the lens.  At least that’s what I always tell them when I try to get them to book me.”
 “Maybe when he saw her portfolio online he fell in love with her then and there.”  Quinn tried to think.  “But was Behan capable of something like that?  After having seen those photos of his, I’m not sure I even know the man anymore.”
“I don’t think it was personal on his part, at least not in the beginning.  Behan never went online to find a date.  Maybe it just happened that he lost his heart while he was photographing her.  He was always such a total romantic, more than any other man I’ve met.”
“But what about Penelope?  Was she in love with him?”
“No,” Violeta half sighed.  “That would have been impossible with such an age difference, wouldn’t it?  Penelope lived then with her family in New Jersey – they were very conservative people Behan told me, a Russian father and a Chinese mother – and she only came into the city for work every other week or so.  When she was here in Manhattan, she’d always make sure to pose for Behan because he offered her higher rates than other photographers did, even though he couldn’t very well afford it, and afterwards she’d let him take her to dinner.  I don’t think she was trying to take advantage of your father, but I doubt she felt anything more than friendship for him.  And then too, she needed the money he paid her.”
“How did it end?”  Quinn asked.  His expression showed he already knew.
“It did not end well at all.  Behan confessed to me once that he had begged Penelope over and over to marry him but that she had always refused.  Finally they had an argument, and Behan told me she said something very cruel to him.  After that, they didn’t see each other again for a long while.  When she did get back in touch with Behan, she was married.”
Quinn was curious.  “What did she say exactly that was so awful?”
 “I don’t know.  Behan wouldn’t tell me, only that it hurt a lot.”
“I can imagine.  The guy was wearing his heart on his sleeve.”
Quinn finished his drink.  When Violeta reached over to pour him another, he put his hand over the glass.  “Thanks, but I’m not going to be able to get up in the morning if I spend the whole night sitting here boozing it up with you.”
“Luckily, I don’t have to get up that early.  I don’t have any shoots scheduled for tomorrow.”  Violeta picked up her own glass and treated herself to another shot of liquor.
“By the way, did you ever see the DVD’s Behan had packed away in a cardboard box in the closet?”  Quinn tried to keep his tone nonchalant.
“Oh, yeah,” said Violeta between sips of cachaça.  She giggled and winked at Quinn.  “I have to confess I went looking through them myself one day to see if there were any that showed women enjoying themselves together.”
Quinn was intrigued.  “Did you find any?”
“No such luck.”  Violeta shook her head sadly and went back to her drink.  “They were all these strange stories with naked Japanese people in them.  I could never understand what was going on.  They were too weird for me.  A lot of them had bondage scenes.”
Shibari the Japanese call it.  And yeah, that sort of thing is too weird for me too.”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind having a pretty woman tied up in my bed once in a while,” Violeta joked.  “You look too vanilla for anything like that though, Quinn.  Admit it.”
“Yeah, you’re right.  I’m probably too uptight to enjoy that sort of fun.  I’d be worried the woman would go out for pizza and leave me tied to the bed with no clothes on.”
“I was just teasing.”  Violeta was fairly drunk by now.  “You do it however you enjoy it, and the hell with what anyone else thinks.”
Quinn tried to steer the conversation back on course.  “All those films seemed to be by the same director.  His name was Ito.”
“Oh, yeah.  Behan was always fascinated by that guy.  Don’t ask me why.  When your father wasn’t talking about Penelope, he was going on about Ito.  Bought all the DVD’s he could find that Ito had directed.  Even sent away to Japan for a few.  They weren’t cheap either, let me tell you.  I saw the invoice for one set, and it was outrageous.”
“I wonder what Behan was up to.”  Quinn was puzzled.  “If all he wanted was to watch a few adult films, what difference would it make to him who directed them?”
“Yes, it struck me as very unusual also.  I sometimes think Behan cared more about the man who made those movies than he did about the films themselves.  For some reason, your father wanted to learn as much about Ito as he could.  Behan was no expert when it came to computers, but he’d spend hours online searching for any reference to Ito he could find.  Then he’d sign off and put another DVD in the drive.  It went on like that the whole time I was staying here.  It started to freak me out a little.”
“That’s strange right there, don’t you think?” asked Quinn.  His voice grew reflective.  “I wonder what it was that could have sparked Behan’s interest in some obscure Japanese filmmaker.  The only movies I can remember him watching when I was a kid were John Wayne westerns.”
 “You don’t think Ito could have anything to do with your father’s murder, do you?  That’s too bizarre to even think about.”
Quinn picked up the bottle of cachaça and poured himself another drink after all.  “He was killed for some reason.  That’s all I know.  Once I’ve found the reason, I’ll have found the killer.  The police might be ready to let it go as a random mugging, but I’m not buying it.  Not for a minute.”
Violeta wasn’t convinced.  “But what connection could someone like Behan have to a film director, and one from another country at that?  It doesn’t make any sense.  As far as I know, the two never met, never had anything at all to do with one another.”
“That’s exactly what I intend to find out.  It’s a long shot, I know, but I have to start somewhere, and there don’t seem to be any other solid leads to follow.  Not yet anyway.”
Violeta put down her glass.  “Listen.  Your father was a decent man who didn’t deserve to die so horribly.  If you need any help finding his murderer, you let me know, ok?”
“Sure will.  Every good detective needs a Watson by his side.”
“What’s a Watson?” asked Violeta.  Her speech was slurred.
“Never mind,” Quinn laughed.  He poured Violeta another drink and then got up to find some sheets and a pillow to put on the couch.
“By the way,” said Violeta as she watched Quinn rise to his feet, “tonight isn’t the first time I’ve laid eyes on you.  I was at Behan’s funeral and saw you standing beside his coffin talking to him.”
Quinn recalled the dark haired woman whom he’d seen sitting a few rows behind everyone else.  “I was making him a promise.”
“I should have gone up to him and said goodbye myself.  I didn’t want to intrude, though, since I knew no one there.”
A thought struck Quinn.  “After the ceremony, I went to thank Viktor for having made the arrangements.  He told me he hadn’t had anything to do with it, that he hadn’t known anything about the funeral until he’d gotten a call from the parish priest.  It was someone else who paid to have the body taken from the morgue and who covered the cost of the service.  Viktor had no idea who it had been.”
Violeta appeared embarrassed.  “Well, what if it was me?  Behan was not only a great photographer but a good friend as well.  I couldn’t very well leave his body to be tossed into the street as though it were nothing but garbage.  Believe it or not, I’ve seen such things happen in the slums in Rio.”
“I can’t imagine it would ever go down that way in New York, but I appreciate the sentiment just the same.  You’ll have to let me pay you back, of course, for whatever it cost.”
“There’s no need.  It wasn’t that much money in the first place.  For me, it was a chance to show my appreciation for all Behan had done for me.”
Quinn regarded Violeta with new respect.  “Now I know why my father photographed you so often.  You’re definitely a knockout, but Behan saw something inside you that went a lot deeper than just good looks.  I think that’s what he was really trying to capture in his photographs.”

Violeta blushed and lifted her glass to him.  “I believe that’s the nicest compliment I’ve ever received.  Thank you so much for having said it.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

Photographers Face Copyright Rule Changes

Several years ago, the U.S. Copyright Office increased its fee for registration of creative works from $35 to $55 for those applicants registering more than a single work in any form of media.  Since photographers rarely copyright only one image at a time, the new fee represented an increase of a whopping 57% for each submission made.  Even so, the $55 fee still allowed photographers to submit as many photos as they could manage during a single session.  In other words, so long as all the photos had a single author, no limit was set on the number of unpublished images submitted in the time allotted.  That situation has, unfortunately, now changed.  According to a recent announcement on the U.S. Copyright website, effective February 20, 2018, a final rule regarding Group Registration of Photos goes into effect that limits the number of unpublished images submitted in any session to 750, the same that had previously applied to registration of published images.  While for many photographers that number might be adequate, for those with thousands of exposures to register it may significantly raise the cost of doing business.

Photographers do benefit from two other changes in the rules  As stated below: 1. the term "author" has been expanded to include those working for hire under the photographer making the submission; and 2. each image submitted is now considered a separate work rather than a part of a compilation and is accordingly protected as such.
"The final rule revises the eligibility requirements for GRPPH and GRUPH by providing that all the photographs must be created  by the same ‘‘author’’ (a term that includes an employer or other person for whom a work is made for hire), and clarifying that they do not need to be created by the same photographer or published within the same country. It also confirms that a group registration issued under GRPHH or GRUPH covers each photograph in the group, each photograph is registered as a separate work, and the group as a whole is not considered a compilation or a collective work."
Photographers who routinely shoot only a modest number of exposures and register less than 750 images at any given time will probably not be greatly affected under the changed rules.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and have written the above article for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Those with questions regarding copyright law should contact qualified legal counsel.

Friday, February 9, 2018

More Fine Arts Photography

As was the case with the other fine arts photos I've recentely posted here, I shot the image on Konica infrared film through a #25 red filter and Softar #1 at ISO 32 and then printed the final image in a wet darkroom on Fomatone MG Classic VC paper.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Four

“How are you doing, Quinn?”  Shaley had jumped out of his chair and begun pumping the younger man’s hand as soon as he’d lifted the gate and stepped off the elevator.
“Fine, just fine.”  As he tried to free his hand from the other’s grip, Quinn took in with an experienced eye the setup Shaley had put together for himself. 
Spread out in front of him was a high tech photo studio stocked with the most expensive equipment money could buy.  A whole wall was taken up by an array of computer workstations with widescreen 34” monitors hung directly above them.  Medium format cameras and DSLR’s lay one beside the other on long tables; lined up next to them were light meters, pocket wizards and every other imaginable accessory a photographer might need for his work.  In the center of the room, soft boxes hung from railings embedded in the ceiling so that the lighting could be moved about easily with no need for stands.  On the floor to one side were several 4800ws and 2400ws power packs.   The loft space itself was impressive – almost 2,000 square feet of prime Soho real estate.
“Talk about gear lust,” said Quinn.  “This place is any shutterbug’s dream come true.”  He pointed to the cameras.  “Aren’t those are the new model Hasselblads you’ve got over there?   They must have set you back plenty.  I priced them myself at B&H, but they were way out of my range.”
“Worth it though,” said Shaley with a sense of pride in his voice.  “Fabulous imaging capabilities.  They give me a big edge over the competition when I’m bidding for jobs.”
“I bet they do.”  Quinn stepped back to get a better look at his host.  “Never mind the studio though.  You’re looking damned good yourself.  How old are you now?  Because you don’t look a day over 50.  You must work out non-stop to keep yourself so fit.”
Shaley did in fact appear the picture of health.  He stood almost as tall as Quinn himself and was just as strongly built.  Though he weighed a good 250 pounds, he hadn’t an ounce of fat on his body.   His curly blonde hair was still thick as ever, and his perfectly even teeth shone brightly beneath the overhead light fixtures.  He let out a boisterous laugh as he pounded his chest as though to emphasize to Quinn how vigorous he still was.  “Hell, I’ll be 68 in a couple of months, the exact same age as your father, may he rest in peace.  But you already know that.  You remember perfectly well that he and Lachner and I grew up together in the Bronx.  We were inseparable.”
“Of course.”  Quinn smiled.  “When I was a little kid I used to stay up past my bedtime to watch you guys sit drinking beer together.  That was before Mom got the divorce and everything went all to hell.  You and Lachner would stop by, and the three of you would watch the Yankees on TV and swap stories about the rock concerts you’d seen.  Every once in a while you’d take a break just long enough to ask me how I was doing in school.”
“Yes,” said Shaley.  “Those were the days.  How I miss them now.”
“I miss them too,” agreed Quinn.  “I never realized back then how happy I was.  It’s only now that Behan’s dead that I’ve begun to appreciate how much fun we had.”
Shaley’s face grew somber.  “When I saw on the news what happened to him down in Chinatown, it knocked the wind right out of me.  Behan was a good guy and a good friend.  He didn’t deserve to end up that way.  At least it was quick.  He didn’t have to suffer.”
“What was worst was that he died alone.  When I think of him lying on the pavement with the blood pouring out of him and no one around to help, it’s hard for me to take.”
Shaley’s expression was filled with sympathy.  “You haven’t had it that easy yourself, kid.  First you mom passed, then your sister, and now Behan.  There’s no one left, is there?”
“No, I haven’t any other family.  I’m on my own.  Just like Behan was.”
Shaley put his hand on the Quinn’s shoulder.  “Don’t worry.  I don’t forget old friends.  If there’s ever anything you need, you can come to me day or night and I’ll do what I can.  I’m not sure what you’re up to these days with your own photography; but if you ever need studio space, you’re welcome to use mine.”
“I appreciate that, I really do.” 
“I mean it.”
“I know you do,” said Quinn.  “But with all the lighting equipment Behan left behind and my own cameras, I’m pretty well set.”
“Are you talking about those old Speedotrons I passed on to him?  That’s one great system.  I worked with them for years myself.  With those, you’ve got as much lighting as you’ll ever need.  It doesn’t matter how low an ISO you’re working with; you can stop down as far as the aperture will go.”
“I’m looking forward to working with them when I have more time.  But right now I’m after information more than anything else.  That’s the real reason I stopped by today.”
“I’ll be happy to tell you whatever I can.”  Shaley sat back down behind his desk.  “If it’s about what happened to your father, though, all I know about it is what was on the news.  And that wasn’t much.”
“That’s ok,” said Quinn.  “I wasn’t expecting you to tell me who did it.  If the police were doing their job, I wouldn’t have to get involved in the first place.”
Shaley looked up.  “They haven’t any suspects then?”
“If they do, they’re certainly not telling me.  Then again, maybe they know more than they’re letting on.  The cops always like to hold their cards close.”
“I got a phone call yesterday from a detective named Sloane.  He asked me a few questions, but there wasn’t much I could tell him.  I didn’t know squat about what your father was doing these past few years, let alone why he was wandering around Chinatown in the middle of the night.  It ended up being a pretty short conversation.”
“I’m glad Sloane didn’t give you too hard a time,” Quinn said.  “I’d feel bad if he had.  I was the one who gave him your name.  He was looking for any old friends who could fill him in on Behan’s past.  You and Lachner were the only ones who came to mind.  Actually, except for family, I don’t think my father was ever that close to anyone but you two.”
Shaley shrugged.  “I didn’t mind the detective contacting me.  That was just routine.  But you’d think the cops would be able to find something out on their own.”
“That’s what I thought too.  Then again, that alleyway where Behan was killed was a pretty deserted spot, at least for Manhattan.  There’s a good chance the detective was right when he told me there were no witnesses.”
“Something will turn up.  Just wait and see.”  Shaley spread his hands.  “A few months from now the police will bust some junkie for breaking & entering.  They’ll start to sweat him and the next thing you know he’ll cough up the name of Behan’s killer just so he can cop to a reduced charge.  That’s the way it always works.”
“That’s fine, but I don’t have a few months.”  Quinn’s expression darkened.  “Whoever killed Behan tried to get me the other night in front of my hotel.”
“What?”  There was no mistaking the shock in Shaley’s eyes.  “I can’t believe it.  Are you sure of what you’re telling me?”
“A pile of bricks didn’t just fall off an office building by themselves and onto the sidewalk in front of me.  Someone gave them a push to help them along.”
“I can’t believe it,” Shaley repeated.  “It must’ve been an accident.  Bricks come loose from these old New York buildings every day.  It’s a wonder more people aren’t killed in this city by all the junk that keeps crashing down on top of them.”
 “This was no accident.  If those bricks had come loose by themselves, they’d still have had some mortar clinging to them.  These were clean and new.  Someone had them ready and waiting.”
Shaley considered.  “What did the cops have to say about it?  Do they think it has anything to do with Behan’s murder?”
“I haven’t told the detective.  Not yet anyway.”
“Why the hell not?  This might be what they need to get their investigation going.”
“Because if someone’s out to get me, I’m not going to play the sitting duck while the police go poking around in their own good time trying to decide who it is.”  Quinn’s voice dropped a notch.  “The police don’t give a damn about me, and I’m not about to let them set me up.  I’ve got a better chance of staying alive if I’m working by myself.”
“No one’s stopping you, but I still think it might be smart to let the police in on it.  Let’s face it – there’s not much you can do for Behan if you’re dead yourself.”
“I’ll fill them in later.  I want to see what I can pick up first.  When I do tell the cops, I want to have something solid to hand them, something they can’t ignore.  They’re not paying nearly as much as much attention to what happened to Behan as they should.  The murder of a penniless old man isn’t very high on their list of priorities.”
Shaley folded his hands in a gesture of helplessness.  “Whatever you say.”
“I’m between photography assignments right now and have plenty of time to check things out on my own.  A lot more time than the cops have apparently.”
“So now you’re playing Sherlock Holmes.”
“Come on, Shaley.  This is my father that was murdered.  Your friend, remember?  I’d have thought you’d want me to do what I could.”
“Of course I do.  I understand how you feel.  And I’m happy to help in any way I’m able.  What can I do though if I don’t know anything to begin with?”
Quinn sat down on the opposite side of Shaley’s desk and regarded the other steadily.  “Behan was killed for a reason.  Someone has to know something.”
Shaley gave in.  He picked up a DSLR from the shelf behind him and carefully removed the lens cap.  “Hand me that package of lens cleaning paper on the table beside you, will you?  I might as well keep busy while we talk.”
“I appreciate this,” Quinn said as he handed over the thin sheets of tissue. 
“No problem.”
“When was the last time you saw my father?”
“That’s just it,” explained Shaley.  “I hardly ever saw Behan the last few years.  He’d come by every once in a while asking if I had any work available – assisting or helping put sets together – but there was never anything I could really use him for.  The guy was still shooting Tri-X, for Christ’s sake.  He had no idea how to work with a digital camera, didn’t even understand what Photoshop was all about.  I’d just sit and talk to him for a while then take him downstairs for a meal.  He was lonely and needed the company.  Occasionally I’d offer him a few dollars to help tide him over, but he’d never take it.”
“No, he never would.  He was always too proud to take anything from anyone.”
“You’d know, wouldn’t you?  You were his son after all.”
“It’s too bad you had nothing for him.  He really was a fantastic photographer.  Some of the street work he did was as good as anything Cartier-Bresson shot.  My father knew the city inside out and he knew how to capture what was happening in it, whether it was the rich on their way to Carnegie Hall or the homeless panhandling for change to buy themselves a meal.  Hand the man a camera, and he’d come back with a great photo every time.”
“Maybe so, but it’s a different game these days.  You’re a photographer yourself, so you know how it is with digital.  It’s more about computers than it is cameras.”
“You said you’d talk to Behan when he came by here,” Quinn persisted.  “Didn’t he ever mention how he was spending his time or who he was keeping company with?”
Shaley put the DSLR down and leaned forward.  “You still don’t get it, do you?  He didn’t have anyone else.  That’s it, plain and simple.  He’d stop by to talk old times with me.  On days when I didn’t have time to toss the bull, he’d go over to the East Side to spend a few hours at Lachner’s place.  Same deal there.  We were all he had left.  He didn’t talk about what he was doing because he wasn’t doing anything.  He was down and out and had pretty much given up hope as far as I could tell.”
“I hear what you’re telling me well enough.  And maybe you’re right, maybe Behan did finally give up trying.  But even so, he still must have talked about something when he was here besides old times.”
Shaley paused, then went back to cleaning the lens even more carefully than before.  “He talked about you, Quinn.  Wondered how you were doing.  He brought in a copy of National Geographic once that had some of the photos you’d shot of Bhutan inside.  He was as proud of those pictures as if he’d taken them himself.  The guy missed you something fierce.  It’s too bad you couldn’t have made it back to the city while he was still alive.  It would have meant the world to him.”
Quinn lowered his head and was silent for a moment.  “Yes,” he said at last, “you’ve got that right.  I was never there for Behan when I should have been.  I was too busy with my own life to think of him or to care if he needed anything.  I never wrote to him except to send him a card on his birthday.  I could have invited him out to California for a visit, but I never did.  I guess I was afraid he might embarrass me in front of my friends.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself.  We’ve all got to go our own way.  Behan might have had a few bad breaks, but in the end he was the one who chose the life he led.”
“Yeah, sure.  But that doesn’t really let me off the hook, does it?”
“It doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up this way,” Shaley admonished him.  “What’s the point?  It’s not going to bring Behan back.”
“Maybe you’re right.”  Quinn rose and reached for his faded brown leather jacket.  It seemed ready to fall apart at any minute.  “Are you going to the funeral tomorrow?  It’s at eleven in the morning at Holy Trinity, the Catholic church on 82nd Street.”
“Sure, I know the place,” Shaley replied.  “I passed it by dozens of times when I went walking around the West Side, but I never stopped to go inside.  I’m a lapsed Catholic if there ever was one.”
“You’re not the only one.  Behan ranted and railed against the Church all his life.  He never missed a chance to call it out for having repressed the Irish people for so many years.  And now he’s going to be lying in his coffin with a priest praying over him.  What irony.”
“We never know what’s going to become of us when we’re dead, do we?”
A few minutes later, Quinn was headed north on Varick toward Houston Street where he could catch the uptown 1 train that would carry him home.  Before he’d left Shaley’s studio, he’d gotten from him Lachner’s phone number and address.  Shaley hadn’t been that anxious to give it to him, but Quinn had insisted.
“I don’t see the point,” the older man had said.  “Lachner won’t be able to tell you anything more than I could.”
“What the hell,” Quinn had replied.  “I don’t have anything to lose, do I?  Besides, I think seeing another of my father’s old friends would make me feel a bit closer to Behan somehow.  Don’t laugh, but the whole time I was sitting here talking with you this afternoon, I felt he was with us in some strange way.  It helped keep his memory alive for me.  I know if he were watching, Behan would want me to stay in touch with both of you.”

The Church of the Holy Trinity was one of the oldest in the neighborhood.  Located between Amsterdam and Broadway, it had been built in 1912 and was renowned for its Byzantine architecture.  Once inside, Quinn was carried back to his days as an altar boy.
There in the semidarkness were the wooden pews, the stained glass windows, the racks of candles flickering before the statues of Mary and Joseph.  In the center, above the altar, was a mosaic of Christ standing with his arms outspread as if ready to welcome Behan into heaven.
In his childhood, Quinn had gone every week with his mother to Sunday morning mass at St. Nicholas of Tolentine.  When the priest in his pulpit had quoted the words of St. Paul, “For you know neither the day nor the hour,” Quinn had been sure he was going to hell no matter what absolution he’d been given in the confessional.  Heaven, where beautiful angels played on harps, had never been intended for the likes of him.  Afterwards, he’d knelt at the altar rail and taken communion, careful never to let the sacred host fall to the ground.
Now Quinn looked to the front of the church where Behan’s coffin had been placed directly before the rail.  Since there’d been no wake, the plain wooden box had been left open so the mourners would have a chance to say a final goodbye.  Not that there were many present.  Only a handful sat together in the front row pew.  There was Viktor in an old fashioned brown suit that smelled badly of mothballs.  His curly hair was slicked back with some gooey substance that could have been axle grease.  Beside him sat Mayla in a black dress that must have been left over from some Goth movie thriller in which she’d once appeared.  If she’d had a raven perched on her shoulder, she couldn’t have conjured any better the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, who coincidentally had himself once lived nearby on 84th Street west of Broadway.
Shaley was there as well.  Dressed as an ageless hipster in black leather, he played to perfection the part of the glamorous fashion photographer.
At the far end of the same pew, Sloane kept to the side.  Still wearing the same awful polyester tie, he looked intently at everyone present.  He was doubtlessly hoping that the murderer, unable to stay away, would make his presence known.
A few rows further back, a tall dark haired woman sat alone.  It was impossible to make out her features in the dim light or even to know if she were there for the funeral.
Together they recited the lines from the Dies Irae.
“When the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me with Thy saints surrounded.”
The remainder of the funeral mass, solemnly intoned by the priest in his black vestments, was soon over.  The words held little meaning for Quinn.  There would be no resurrection and life hereafter for Behan.  Of that he was certain.  Even so, he’d have preferred that the verses had been said in Latin and their mystery left intact.   Mercifully, there had been no homily.  The priest would have been hard pressed to find any encomium appropriate to the life Behan had led.
Once the mass had finished, Viktor and Mayla moved toward the coffin to pay their respects.  Quinn followed directly behind them.  As he looked down at his father, he could not help noticing how youthful Behan looked.  He was dressed in a designer suit that would have been the envy of any male model and had a crimson jacquard tie fastened about his throat.  His face was unlined and a half smile played about his lips as though he had at last been let in on the joke.   “So long, Irishman,” Quinn said in a voice too low for anyone else to hear.  “You had a shit life, but at least it’s over now.”  Then he added softly.  “Don’t worry.  I’m going to nail the bastard who took you down if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

That was the end of the simple ceremony.  None of those present would accompany Behan on his last ride to St. John’s Cemetery in Queens.  There was a plot waiting for him there beside those where his parents, and before them his grandparents, had been interred long before.  There was room there too for Quinn when his own turn came to join his family.  There wouldn’t be need for more space after that.  Quinn was the last of his line.