Yesterday was one of those days where everything falls into place effortlessly. We picked up Yim’s Dad’s ashes and laid him to rest under the shade of a tree, in a heart shaped cremation garden in a Queens cemetery. He was 62. We will miss him greatly, especially his cooking and his loud talking. He was an avid storyteller of Chinese tales and a Qi Gong practitioner. All those things are gone with him now. He was quick to anger, but also quick to forget. He was a kind man. I regret that our soon to be born baby will not be able to witness his showmanship and the magic tricks he does for little kids.
Time has no promises and that’s why we keep our memories alive with photographs. Tamar, a young woman whose aspiration is to become a family doctor, contacted me the day before for a family portrait session. She resides in New Orleans and came back to visit her family in Brooklyn. Tamar will be going to Cuba to study family medicine, so she can come back to New Orleans to help the people in needs. Tamar told me she will be getting a free education there; therefore she can afford to study as a general practitioner without having to worry about paying back expensive loans.
I am touched by her idealism and honesty.
Before we drove to meet up with Tamar and her family, we stopped by Dosa Hutt in Flushing to clench our thirst with the most delicious mango lassi. Yim is a food fanatic. I have never seen anyone read every menu like it was on the New York Times best sellers list, but she does and there’s no doubt that she is a foodie. I’m the kind of guy that can eat the same dish over and over again. Yim loves variety and she has really broadened my horizon when it comes to food. And her father’s cooking was the best.
I love tropical fruits and on the day Yim introduced me to mango lassi, I died and went to heaven, but I have to come back to earth for more. Like a kid I drank all mine and part of Yim’s lassi while waiting for our lunch at the Hindu Temple around the corner.
I thought, “Nothing can top today’s mango lassi from Dosa Hutt.” Well, I was wrong! After lunch Yim introduced me to mango kulfi, and the only thing I can say is that I felt like squatting on the sidewalk and eat that ice cream like a real native. Hey, we Asians can squat and it makes us happy; there’s one exception, Yim can’t squat for the life of her. She really needs to learn how to squat before she gives birth to our baby.
The only thing I can dream of that can top the mango kulfi is to dip it in the mango lassi. Now that’s ecstasy! Can’t wait to try that soon one day.
Can this day get any better? Yes, it can!
While waiting for Tamar and family in Dumbo, we sauntered into a bookstore, powerHouse Books, at the corner of Main and Water Street.
To be inspired by photographers of the past is one thing. Time has the ability to add weight to event and people from the past. Nostalgia is an important and powerful factor in influencing us to fall in love with things and people from the past; e.g., our heroes are most of the time dead and our legends are from the past. My dead heroes and legends in photography are Eugene Smith, Dorothy Lange, Henri-Cartier Bresson, and David Douglas Duncan (oops, he’s 94 and still kicking!) just to name a few.
Recently, I have been touched by the works of living breathing photographers of the present and just yesterday, I found two! Kristen Ashburn and another photographer named Boogie. I bought Kristen Ashburn’s book, “I Am Because We Are”. Her images of the orphans from Malawi are truly an in depth study of human character. You have to love people to capture their spirit and to turn a snapshot into an image that speaks to people for generations to come.
Boogie’s work is hauntingly beautiful and breaks all rules. In an interview Boogie reaffirms a belief of mine; he said, “…inspiration and good shots are all around. It’s up to you to see all that. You can make great shots right here. It’s not about where you are. It’s not about going to crazy, f*cked up places, it’s everywhere”.
You don’t have to go to special places to make great photos. You can make great photos where you are. Don’t wait for beautiful things to happen, the moment and place you are in has all the beauty you need. Go shoot and be one with your camera, place and time.
Tamar tried very hard to get everyone (14 people) to show up on time in Dumbo. It was not an easy task. We were half an hour late from our appointed time, but no big deal. We cope with what we have at that moment in time. And what we had was a wonderful mix of 3 generations (toddlers, parents, and grandma). Tamar’s Dad was called away on an emergency and couldn’t join us.
We shot quickly and furiously before the sun sets. Only available natural light was used for this family portrait session. Nothing captures the soul naturally like nature’s own light.
To reward Yim and our little bun for being such a great help, we went to one of Yim’s favorite Taiwanese restaurant in Elmhurst. We ordered dried radish omelet and a very spicy shrimp dish (I felt the effect this morning).
We ended the day with 3 scoops of home made mango and green tea ice cream from a street vendor we stumbled upon after the delicious dinner. I was walking with 50 pounds of camera gear, but it was so worth it and most importantly, Yim was no longer cranky, but totally happy. You don’t want to cross a pregnant lady when she’s hungry after all; she has 2 mouths to feed.