Dominique James, Photographer

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Archive for January 2014

Blank Slates

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Michael Lopp, Rands In Repose:

This New Year, I wish you more blank slates. May you have more blank white pages sitting in front you with your favorite pen nearby and at the ready. May you have blank screens in your code editor with your absolutely favorite color syntax highlighting. May your garage work table be empty save for a single large piece of reclaimed redwood and a saw.

Turn off those notifications, turn your phone over, turn on your favorite music, stare at your blank slate and consider what you might build. In that moment of consideration, you’re making an important decision: create or consume? The things we’re giving to the future are feeling increasingly unintentional and irrelevant. They are half-considered thoughts of others. When you choose to create, you’re bucking the trend because you’re choosing to take the time to build.

And that’s a great way to start the year.

Yes, indeed!

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Written by dominiquejames

January 3, 2014 at 8:54 AM

Here is New York

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New York City

Though Pulitzer Prize-winning writer E.B. White described three different “trembling” cities, the city of New York is really many, many things to many people. Depending on circumstance, experience, and perception, we each picture it to be this or that way. It’s remarkable therefore that photographs of New York, even of the very same places, come out different from one another.

This one picture, for instance, depicting the iconic Empire State Building taken from the vantage point of the equally iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which I took in the autumn of 2009, shows a perfectly sunny and bright day; yet somehow, exudes a quiet and melancholy mood. Looking at this picture, it’s almost possible to imagine hearing the muted sounds of people going about their business in the buildings, as cars and buses crisscross the traffic grids on street level with people pounding its pavements, and add to that, the rumbling of subway cars snaking underneath.

Straight out of the Nikon D2Xs camera, the original RAW image file of this image stands on its own. But with simple adjustments in Apple’s Aperture with the Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in from Google’s Nik Collection, I managed to coax out subtle details, and in the process, seemingly created a far more meaningful and engaging image. I doubt if this will look exactly the same next time I picture the same view. I am almost certain it will come out differently.

With every photograph of New York City, this and all the countless others, then and now, and in the future, I am reminded of a passage from E.B. White’s pristine essay, “Here is New York,” which he wrote in the sweltering summer of 1948:

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from Italy to set up a small grocery store in a slum, or a young girl arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embrace New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.

Ahh, New York, what a wonderful, maddening city you are!

With a drop here and there, welcome 2014!

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I am somewhat confused by the symbolism of many new year countdowns “traditionally” accompanied with things that drop—crystal ball, stiletto, boot, watermelon, peach, pineapple, moon pie, chunk of cheese, live possum, nut and what nots.

Willfully or accidentally, what does it really mean when things are dropped?

From Saba Hamedy’s report in the LA Times on the crystal ball drop: “There is a real emotional connection” with the dropping ball, said Jeffrey Straus, president of Countdown Entertainment, an organizer of Times Square New Year’s Eve. “It’s a shared moment. So when you think about all the drops, that’s a big sign of our success.”

So, for some weird reason “all the drops” is a sign of success? Seriously, since when did a drop generally and typically signify success?

We can perhaps put the blame squarely on the shoulder of one electrician named Walter F. Painer, who started this trend by suggesting the use of a “time ball” to be dropped in New York City’s Times Square, welcoming the year 1908. Painer got this idea when he saw one used on the nearby Western Union Building.

But, really, why copy a drop?

The more I think about it, I am more convinced that it makes more sense if things do rise up instead of drop, specially on an occasion as individually and collectively important as welcoming a new year, every year.

Drops are typically associated with things breaking, signifying a measure of bad luck. Who would want to usher in a new year with something like that? And yet, that’s what we’ve been doing—dropping things year after year. Because it’s tradition?

Maybe it’s time to rethink the whole “dropping” tradition. Maybe we’d be better off if we do the opposite—raise things up instead. It takes willpower, strength and skill to raise things up—widely considered to be some of the most essential ingredients of success. Besides, historically and culturally, raising things up generally carry positive connotations such as in the symbolic rising of the Phoenix from ashes, and the celebration of countless individual and collective achievements when reaching new, dazzling heights.

So, instead of letting things drop with gravity, why not defy it? We should be really raising thing.

Remember, hell is down below, and heaven is way up there.

Written by dominiquejames

January 1, 2014 at 12:28 PM

Our Family Christmas 2013

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As we gear up towards the new year, the holidays is beginning to wind down. With the goal of keeping the memory of our family’s Christmas 2013 celebration for years to come, I decided to do a video montage instead of the usual photo album. Besides, almost everyone in the family takes pictures so we’ve got lots of those. But we never had videos. This is the first time I did a video like this and in this way. Inspired by Apple’s holiday TV ad, the whole thing was shot, edited and put together using the iPhone 5s.

Written by dominiquejames

January 1, 2014 at 12:22 PM

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