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Photo: Caren Sturmer

MY FRIEND CAREN’S username on Instagram, an iPhone photo-sharing app, is ‘exphotographer’ — by which I guess she means she no longer plies the trade for money. But she is still very much a photographer, of whose eye I am in awe. She and I can stand side by side and take a photo of the same subject. Hers will not only be clearer and better composed, it will be, in some ineffable way, more interesting. “It’s about the light,” she says. Well, she must have some special light.

If you have an iPhone and an Instagram account, search for “exphotographer” and look at Caren’s images. Some are black-and-whites dating back to her art-school days in Philadelphia, re-shot with the iPhone; others were taken moments before posting. Many are quotidian things transformed through the lens of her unique vision. The composition above is a case in point, beautiful enough to make me feel less nervous about Tuesday.


Nobody ever wrote a song about it. It’s hot, yeah. But I’ve found myself here more than usual these past couple of weeks, and with me, my camera (or iPhone, as the case may be) .


HANUKKAH’S WELL AND GOOD, but it was a bit of a blue Christmas in casaCARA-land. As a non-celebrator, Christmas Day is often quiet, but this one was utterly silent and very, very long. I felt empty and flat, kind of like this:

I went out for a walk, my face at the ready to smile and pass on holiday greetings, but there were few people on the streets, and those I saw avoided eye contact. In the course of my perambulations, though, I realized it was a blue Christmas in a more welcome sense: the sky was brilliant, the air clear, the conditions perfect for my iPhone’s camera.

Boxing Day dawned ever bluer:

This last one is from a few days ago when the sky was more threatening. I’m including it, though, because I like it a lot.

Hope you all had a less lonely Christmas Day, and, well, it’s over now and we can all relax.


MANY OF THE WORKS in the current exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, “Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties,” represent — appropriately enough, since the 1920s was a time of sexual liberation no less than the 1960s — the body beautiful.


I’m sure the show’s organizers felt Youth and Beauty was a sexier title than Smokestacks and Water Towers, but it wasn’t all sculpted torsos and nude limbs. Some of my favorite pieces were paintings and photographs of Jazz Age architecture and the burgeoning New York skyline.


Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), a painter and architectural photographer who turned industrial vistas into great geometric compositions, was well represented, and it was Sheeler I thought of this morning while walking through downtown Brooklyn.


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SO OUT I WENT yesterday morning, camera in hand, to do my homework: the “20 paces” assignment from Stephen Sherman, who teaches a digital photography class at the 92Y in Tribeca. Though I felt a bit silly, stopping to take a picture every 20 steps and drawing curious stares, I rather enjoyed the process.

Call it a portrait of one square block in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, on a Friday in October. I started at my front door (the dangling keys) and soon lost count of how many photos I’d taken — the stipulated number was 36 — so I decided to just proceed around the block. When I got back to home base and counted them, I had about 50.

These are un-edited, by the way. The idea of the exercise was continuity, not to pick and choose.

Though it’s a picturesque neighborhood generally, there were spots where I couldn’t see anything of interest and was forced to focus, say, on cracks in the sidewalk. Here and there I tried to include people, but I think it’s pretty evident from the results that I’m more comfortable photographing inanimate objects.

The assignment was an eye-opener, just as the instructor intended. Later that day, I found myself noticing a tangle of overhead wires strung between two buildings, against a blue sky, and feeling the urge to take a picture.

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