Jeff’s Top Ten Photos (+3) for 2014

31 Dec 2014
December 31, 2014

At the end of last year I posted my Top Ten (+6) Photographs from 2013. With a trip to China, I had lots of images to choose from. There were some momentous events this year as well, perhaps not as monumental as taking our girls back to China to see where they came from. But, still they were worth contemplating as the year ends and a new year begins. Like last year, I couldn’t narrow it down to just ten. As last year, choosing my top photographs and putting them in order was a difficult task. I liked each one for various and different reasons. So here are my Top Ten (+3). Click on any image to see it larger.

  1. Me and Lily at the Rose Bowl

    The year began in a big way. My daughter, Lily, and I went to the Rose Bowl to see my alma mater, Michigan State, beat Stanford. It was a wonderful time to share with my daughter-who-loves-sports. And a selfie was in order. But, in addition, my return to the Rose Bowl had a much deeper meaning. It was a special homecoming to me.

  2. Pay Phones

    On a college visit trip we stopped at a rest stop in Delaware where I found this tableau. And it got me thinking about the “givens” in my early life that have now become artifacts of a time past. This is what happens when you get old and you realize that you’ve lived in history. We have a past and there’s something comforting about knowing firsthand about this past.

  3. Dealey Plaza, Dallas

    In November I attended a conference in Dallas. And, while there I got to visit part of my history: Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. I remember that day well. I was in the 9th grade in junior high. At approximately, 11 a.m. we heard the announcement over the school loudspeaker.

    This photograph was taken on the seventh floor of the Texas Book Depository. One floor below, at this spot, Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy on the street below. I took another photo of the exact spots the President was shot but this image resonates with me more. Beautiful, it’s more like a ghost where something bad happened, rather than the document that my other image conveys.

  4. Museum Fans

    Working in a museum, sometimes I come upon a scene that is as beautiful as some of the art in the galleries. I have put together a number of these images in an album on Flickr called “Art World Commentary.” This was taken during my lunch hour in the main interior courtyard of the museum’s building: the Old Patent Office Building, the third oldest federal building in Washington, D.C. It looked like an installation piece. The light and the muted tones of the photo with that stark pink in the middle drew me to take this picture.

  5. Airport Rocking Chair

    Returning from Dallas in November, I sprinted through D.C.’s National Airport, trying to get to the Metro and home as quickly as I could. But I had to stop when I came upon the incongruity of this scene. Airports are not my favorite places. Busy and stressful, my nacent claustrophobia can easily surface. Too many people and too many hoops to jump through. So, I recognized how strange it was to see a woman relaxing in a rocking chair, reading, during the cacophony around her. It took a lot of energy to make myself stop my own frenetic sprint to see the beauty and actually take the picture.

  6. Suicide Sign

    New Year’s Day, Lily and I got up early to take our pre-dawn walk the few miles to the Rose Bowl parade from our friends Jim’s and Mark’s house in Eagle Rock. Twelve hours later, after walking miles and miles from home to parade to the game and then back home, we encountered this sign at the end of the bridge that crosses Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco. It’s a beautiful bridge, far above the bottom of the canyon it traverses. Apparently, this has become a perfect spot for a number of suicides over the years. This sign, a signifer for better things than ending one’s life, also meant a lot to me at the start of a new year.

  7. Cy Twombly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    In April, we took a trip to take one more look at a college before Lily made her final decision. While there we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and came upon this scene of Cy Twomblys. My decisive moment came when the guard seemed to be dancing to the lyricism of Twombly paintings.

  8. Lily as a University of Maryland Cheerleader

    Lily made her decision to attend the University of Maryland and, even before she graduated from high school, she tried out for the Maryland cheerleading squad. Short and light, she became a “flyer.” Yes, exactly. She’s the one who is tossed into the air and flips this way or that. So comforting to her parents, but something she loves to do. Susie and I bought season football tickets to see her in action. Our tickets were absolutely perfect for watching the game. On the 22 yard line and high up. But, they weren’t so good for watching our daughter do her stunts. Not even binoculars gave us a good view. So, at least once a game I trekked down two levels and to the very front of the stands to take photos. This was one of my early successes. Her teammates wanted to know who was taking the good pics of the squad. I had to turn down a job as the cheerleaders’ official photographer! Just kidding.

  9. Pontificating on the National Mall

    Every summer the Smithsonian puts on it’s Folklife Festival on the National Mall. Every year a number of cultures are highlighted. This year, China was one of these. This photo was taken in the Chinese pavilion and the body language of the figure, set in front of the Washington Monument, seemed a perfect match for America’s pontificating politicians.

  10. World Cup televised in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Kogod Courtyard

    It’s about time soccer becomes a popular sport here in the States. The World Cup and America’s successes up the ante. And in our game against Belgium, the museum decided to televise the match live in our Kogod Courtyard. I stood at the same spot the entire game waiting for my shot of the gathered fans. I could see the game on the projection system but I was viewing it from the back so everything was reversed. I got my shot.

  11. Interior Beach, Atlantic City

    This year was one of my “special” birthdays. As we were at the New Jersey shore, my wife made special plans at a spectacular restaurent on the beach at Atlantic City. The resort may be in a steep decline, with casinos and hotels closing, but the Buddakan restaurant was quite alive (and beautiful). And the food was amazing. As we were leaving, I saw this scene: an interior beach with Adirondack chairs for relaxing and watching the shore in air conditioned comfort. This photo is reminiscent of the photo above I took at National Airport: both full of contradictory elements.

  12. Lily at Sunset on Santa Monica Beach

    A photo that sums up much about our family’s year, this is a photo of Lily doing a toe touch at sunset on Santa Monica Beach the day after New Year’s. It was our last day in California. And I had promised my daughter a trip to the beach. In fact, when we were planning our trip, she came into the bedroom wearing the bikini she was going to bring. I laughed, warning her that the Pacific was quite cold in January. We settled for a walk on the beach and as the sun began to set, Lily wanted me to document her gymnastic prowess.

  13. My daughters on the Cape May ferry over the years

    So, we come to my number one photo for 2014. In reality this isn’t one photo, nor were most (except for the last one) taken this year. But it was the most meaningful to me in so many ways. Every year I take photos of my girls on the deck of the Cape May Ferry. And this past July was no exception. Yet, this time, we were interrupted by a man who was concerned that I might be exploiting these beautiful young women. I wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post on our experiences and it went viral. Over 2400 people left comments on the online version, I received hundreds of emails, it was posted in Reddit and reprinted in publications around the world. Interestingly, just a couple days ago, The Post resurrected the piece and put it on its Opinion section front page once more. Suddenly, it was deja-vu all over again. More comments and more emails.

    The comments ran the gamut from angry epithets to those who thanked me for bringing up the issues of race. Many felt I should be grateful that a stranger was willing to help my daughters. In turn, I explained that before passing judgement, I wanted to find out more about why this man interceded in our lives. Even though I was warned by many who have had lots of experience in these public forums not to engage these commenters, I often did. I was an early proponent of the Internet in the mid 1990s, because I saw the possibility for meeting others (some leading very different lives from my own), as well as enlarging dialogue about many important issues. I knew full well the territory I was entering but it was important for me to be an active part of the dialogue.

    While many took the piece to be about the dangers human trafficking, it really was about our willingness to look at our biases before we rushed to judge. Ferguson, New York City and other racial incidents this year mirrored the issues I was grappling with and wanted to share. If nothing else, I felt it was important to be reflective when dealing with our complicated social issues, rather than reactive. And this was my way of doing it. I have written a short follow-up that goes over some of these points and what I learned as a result. But this morning I received an email from a reader and I’d like to end this list and this year with a short quote by a young person from a biracial family:

    Many times people don’t believe I belong to my family. I love them and want the world to know they’re mine. And while this email may never meet your eyes, your article meant a great deal to me because it shows what I and many others go through on a daily basis; too many assumptions are made.

    I wrote him to say that, indeed, his words met my eyes. And my heart.

Happy New Year, everyone. The best to all of you and thanks for coming this way.

1 reply
  1. Carol B says:

    Happy happy to you and yours! Your children are gorgeous. You and Suzi have a rich and wonderful life. And the three of us have a life in art–still. I was named Oklahoma artist of the year for 2014. A small stage but a tad of recognition goes a long way. Go to JRB Art in Oklahoma. Under the home page, click artists and you will see my mug in color (a bit to the right), click on that and you will see the work from my last exhibition October 2014. I’m hanging on to your blog and plan to read “Some of my best”. Keep me advised about those remarkable daughters!!! xCarol

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