Martin Elkort Photography

Musings

Sunday Funnies

Sunday morning, the sharp light filtering through the windows, illuminating the scene as two kids are focused on the morning comics, or what they referred to as “the funnies,” with rapt attention. How many of us remember mornings spent this way? 

Sunday Funnies

This photograph, Sunday Funnies, is featured in Martin’s book “Children: Behind The Lens.” Recently I received an email from photographer Ray Anello after receiving the book. Here is what he had to say:

I grew up in an intense street world in the Bronx. A working class immigrant Italian neighborhood. Your dad’s shots bring that whole experience back. He clearly knew and loved the streets. As do I looking at his photos and remembering them.

Sometimes it’s hard to say why one particular shot affects you so powerfully. But “Sunday Funnies” does that for me. I love the improvised feel it has. Love also how in spite of the relaxed feel it conveys a telling moment. I used to read the funnies all the time at home on Sundays. It may sound odd but they gave me–a kid–a kind of alternate way of seeing the adult world. Your dad was lucky to love what he did with the camera so much. And it shows.

Recently I’ve been having a lot of conversations with photographers about this very topic. How sometimes, the right photo can immediately tap into some primitive emotion of ours that brings up feelings of home and identification. Often from times when we were pre-verbal but we remember them because we felt safe and part of our community. That a photograph can be so evocative is truly the gift from the photographer to his audience.

The Garment Worker

I was in New York City last week and made a special visit to see the sculpture “The Garment Worker” by Israeli sculptor Judith Weller that looms large on 7th Avenue. The statue is a testament to all the immigrant tailors who built the garment industry in the United States in the early part of the 20th Century.

I was immediately struck by the similarity to a photo that Martin Elkort took in 1947 while photographing the ORT (Occupational and Rehabilitation Training) School that helped concentration camp survivors integrate into American culture by teaching them garment construction skills. 

The Garment Worker by Judith Weller ORT Garment Worker

This image is so iconic to me. Both of my mother’s parents worked in the garment industry in NY and many other relatives were part of this industry. The Jewish immigrants who came to America and worked in the garment industry changed the way clothing was made and distributed, making clothing much more affordable for everyone. Prior to the mid 19th century, most people made their own clothes or if they had money, had tailors make their clothes. The immigrant wave of the mid 19th and early 20th century provided skilled tailors, furriers, shoe makers and others who streamlined the process and made it affordable for people to purchase clothing. Working long hours in crowded tenements an at paltry wages, this was not the dream of America with the promise of ‘streets paved in gold.’

More of Martin Elkort’s ORT photographs can be seen on this website and the entire collection was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

 

Eyes Wide Shut!

This “musing” was written in one of Martin’s journals. His grandson Evan Twyford, read this piece at his funeral, because it so aptly captures how Martin constantly examined things, analyzed his surroundings and marveled at the wonder of how the world works.

Our eyes are never shut, even when the lids are closed! Closing the eyes merely lowers the curtain on the continuous drama unfolding “before our eyes!” But backstage, the eye is still looking – until we fall asleep and abandon ourselves to the subconscious eye of our dreams.

What, if anything, do our eyes see when the lids are closed? To find out, sit outside on a sunny day and let the sun shine directly on your “closed” eyelids.* What you are likely to “see” is a pink network of intersecting lines, dominated at the center by a large circular form. depending on how much sunshine is falling on your eyelids and how tightly your eyes are shut, the central form will seem greenish. These impressions are fleeting and ever-changing, like the images inside a kaleidoscope, but less precise and always in the red part of the spectrum.

Now look closely and, if you are “sharp eyed” and objective, you may “see” small forms moving slowly through the network. These are red blood cells, making their way slowly through this tiny network of capillaries.

*It requires a sort of Zen-like concentration until you get the hang of it.

 

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