Trying to capture relics/artifacts of Schenectady — where TV started — in black and white film for proposed book.
About this project
I guess as my 85-year-old father, Robert, often says, we don’t really pay attention to what is around us until we get older and it’s gone.
As a child, my grandfather, Martin, often took me to the Trask Cigar store where he bought cigars and I got candy. I never bothered to look up over the store where the old New Windsor Hotel loomed in the once-busy streets of Gloversville.
As I got older, as my father says, I did start to pay attention to what had been and what we’ve lost.
It’s great that cities around me are in the process of revitalization, but it seems the lessons of Jane Jacobs (The Death & Life of Great American Cities) fighting Robert Moses to prevent the complete removal of the past have been lost.
Now, as I walk the streets of these old cities — Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, Gloversville, Amsterdam, Johnstown, etc. — I am saddened by the new monstrosities that rapidly are replacing the grand if crumbling old buildings. I photograph the old façades as I can, but they should not be left to disappear without a trace.
My project is an over-arching idea to gradually photograph what remains of these old places, to capture their fleeting last moments, and preserve them in books and exhibits so people can remember.
I know that the interest in history is very high, but the interest in what is left right now, well, not so much.
As my friend and photographic co-voyager of photography, Gary W. Ziroli, put it, I am right now capturing what I can of these places that only will be of true interest in the future.
Famed author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term, “Future History.” It is what I am trying to create.
I need help to buy a lot of film, processing equipment and chemicals, as well as to support the research that will go into this multi-part project.
I chose black & white film as the medium for the project because two trips I made to nearby Schenectady were shot with this type of film and the results were very good. You can see for yourself in the accompanying video.
This project is only the first part of the multi-part project and will focus upon downtown Schenectady — the “Electric City,” home of General Electric and the place where the first television broadcast took place — where some of the history remains.
The resulting work will fill a book and at least preserve a little of what is rapidly going away.
This is an independent project: just me. I have no backing or support from any institution or organization.
My hope is that, following the first part of the project, area historical groups and institutions may support at least in part the future installments.
I believe passionately that this is the type of thing photography does best. It captures moments in time, preserves them there for people like my dad, but also preserves them for people yet to be born. Thank you for helping me realize this vision.
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk I face for this project are that, like Jacob Riis (“How the Other Half Lives”), I must venture into some areas of the cities that are far from safe.
I am not a young, feisty man who can look tough. The only “weapon” I carry is a camera.
The major challenge is to get the word out that the book is available. There are a very few local bookstores left in business, and they may be willing to promote the book, but it is uncertain at this point. Any such project is a business risk for them.
Also, I am not part of the “art mafia” so I do not know the secret handshakes or rituals required to get my work into local galleries. I am working to overcome this challenge, but it does exist.