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Happy Thanksgiving!

(You know I like to write on Thursdays.)

 

 

 

It was Thanksgiving, 2011, when I stumbled upon my signature style, so I’m always thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you each week.

Thank you for the motivation, the inspiration, and all the kind words you’ve sent my way, as an audience, over the last decade.

I appreciate it!

The truth is, I have much to be thankful for.

I’m healthy, and have an amazing family, when it comes to my wife, children, and the dog.

(Who knew pandemic pets would be such a thing?)

 

Haley in the yard after dusk

 

My kids are off-the-charts fantastic; beautiful inside and out.

Being their teacher, their life-guide, their friend, their pandemic companion… it’s been the most rewarding experience of my life.

And I’m thrilled to report that after 20 months, my wife’s recovery from clinical depression is going better than ever.

We still have the occasional setback, and have learned it’s a disease like cancer, where you hope for a permanent remission, rather than all-out-victory, but really, Jessie is happier and healthier than she’s been in years.

Surmounting this challenge together has made us stronger as individuals, and as a family unit.

 

Thanksgiving 2021 family selfie, by Amelie Blaustein

 

I love my job, get plenty of recognition for what I do, and have created a network of super-talented, kind, and loving friends around the world, while also getting to travel.

As I said, I have much gratitude, and try to share it on the regular.

With respect to my family of origin, things are rarely rosy, and we had yet another blow-up last night, as our respective value structures do not align.

But no one’s road through human existence is totally smooth, and truly, we grow through challenges.

(Of course, personal evolution requires self-awareness, and the discipline to admit one’s failings in order to self-improve, which many can not do.)

Thankfully, the sky is deep blue at the moment, the sun is pouring in through the window opposite my writing-chair, and my belly is full with leftovers from Tuesday’s dinner party.

Hope you’re having a good morning so far as well!

 

 

 

 

That said, working on a holiday is challenging.

This time of year, the wheels come off the bus, as we all function on an annual cycle, and our energy winds down with the calendar.

So let’s get the show on the road, shall we?

I reached into the book stack this morning, searching for the final 2020 submission. (Need to keep my promises.)

I swear, I assure you, I had no idea it was thus, but the ultimate book from last year is actually an exhibition catalogue sent along by my friend, Richard Bram, called “Richard Bram: Short Stories,” which was published by the Mannheimer Kunstverein, in Germany. (In conjunction with a retrospective he had in Mannheim.)

 

 

 

 

Richard Bram is the best friend I’ve made via social media.

After corresponding on Twitter, we met up at the Photo Plus Expo, in NYC in the Fall of 2010, on the very first assignment Rob gave me for this website.

 

JB in the Fall of 2010, courtesy of Susan Worsham

 

He’s a kind, thoughtful, considerate, smart, literate, intellectual, creative soul, and has turned up as a character in this column many times now.

Once, we shared beers and katsu in a tiny Japanese restaurant in the East Village, after listening to a lecture from a brilliant Belgian video artist. In 2019, we toured Photo London on the day I ran into my NYT nemeses, and on another occasion, we walked through a terrific exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, alongside a Slovenian photographer who’s based in Beijing.

 

 

 

 

In particular, because my family of origin believes in unconditional love, (code for not having to be nice to, or interested in someone, yet still they’re supposed to “love” you,) having friends who share my ethical and moral framework is a big part of how I’ve become a sane, happy person over the years.

So it was quite interesting to see this book, which chronicles my friend’s vision, as he has grown as a human, and a photographer, over time.

Full disclosure: when I opened it up, it contained a note stating the book was a gift, and not intended for review. (Though I told Richard when he sent it, every book that arrives is considered for review.)

I don’t love this one, and find it inferior to his Peanut Press book, “Richard Bram New York,” which I reviewed positively several years go.

 

 

But it is perfect to discuss today, for several reasons.

 

 

 

 

To begin with, Richard, in his many decades as a street photographer, has been fortunate to roam much of known Earth.

As a witness to humanity, he’s done a great job.

Off the top of my head, we see images from New York, Kentucky, (where he also once lived,) England, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, China, Cuba, Cambodia, and Mexico.

(Likely I’m missing a few locales.)

The book is structured with a schism between the early black and white work, and his later shift to color. (Which is the work I know.)

In the B&W section, there is an homage to Elliott Erwitt, one to Cartier-Bresson, and a captured moment of Mohammed Ali that will make you stop and take notice.

The images feel more generic, or derivative, but are still inspirational, because you sense the humanism in the man. And the Occupy Wall Street photographs, depicting a moment lost to time, are also prescient, as the ideas motivating that movement are more relevant now than ever.

{Editors note: when photographing the book just now, I realized perhaps I was a tad harsh about the B&W images. Some really are charming.}

 

 

 

 

When the shift to color comes, I released a breath, because while the essay tells us it was a challenge for him, I’d argue his vision is stronger working this way.

The compositions are more dynamic and strange, (edge to edge,) and some of the colors really pop.

Hot pink on the streets?

Why not.

The color pictures also have a wit that feels particular to the man.

Watching Richard’s work get “better” as he ages also gives a viewer reason to hope.

In the ideal world, with age comes wisdom, and perspective.

With experience comes deeper knowledge.

As I wrote in my 2019 London series, Richard lives in Limehouse, which is a river-front neighborhood in East London.

He has a daily relationship with the Thames, in romantic ways most of us can only dream of.

Watching the light change on the water, and the tides rise and fall.

 

Richard by the Thames, 2019

 

The book ends with his moody photographs of the river, and having seen those views with my own eyes, it made me nostalgic for London, a city in which I feel so comfortable.

Sitting here, on American Thanksgiving, licking the wounds from some pointless family drama, the last few images put me in a positive frame of mind.

If you have proper love in your life, it doesn’t matter who delivers it.

Real love is based upon respect, kindness, compassion, empathy, joy, and genuine interest.

As I’ve grown over the last 11 years writing for you, I’ve tried to share the accrued wisdom.

I’ve tried to cultivate my curiosity, chat with as many people as possible, see new things, eat great food, and live in a way that would entertain and educate you, along for the ride.

So it’s no exaggeration to say that writing this column has made my life so much better.

Thank you!

And I hope you stay safe and healthy this week.

See you next Friday!

 

To purchase “Richard Bram: Short Stories” click here

 

 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by artists of color, and female photographers, so we may maintain a balanced program. And please be advised, we currently have a significant backlog of books for review. 

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