Bris & Stuff

This here photographed bris (circumcision) belonged to my second most favorite fat baby. At the time, he was just an eight day old with possible hints of chubbiness. A bit confused at the hubbub, just wanting to eat and sleep. Maybe poop a bit. I can totally commiserate. Deep down, I’m just an eight day old baby with a huge beard, and an advanced appreciation for hoppy beer. Speaking of which, I very much appreciate whatever forces have been behind recent social change. In the past year I have received more compliments in reference to my mass of facial hair than I have in the previous 28 combined (yes, I am aware that the first 15 don’t count, but statistics are all about embellishment). Maybe it’s the hipsters, or maybe something happened in the past year which tipped my beard from “impressive” to “oh my!! I’d kill for that thing”. It may have to do with the disappearing bees. Or not.

Mr. Father here (Arnon Shorr) is a film producer/director and a friend of mine. I don’t know much about them newfangled moving pictures, but in tribute to Arnon’s cinemaness I have these all cropped to a 16:9 ratio. I'm considerate like that.

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the Bar {Mitzvah} // Temecula camera-wielding crazy man (take that google!!)

It’s not working. The “it” inside, which is somehow supposed to guide my typing until I somehow catch on, is either lazy, drunk, sleeping, or just out of town for a bit. I seems as though I may have to think in advance (I hear the word for this ridiculus concept is “plan”) about what to write here. Which may be a good thing. The way things normally work around here is first we have a lengthy unrelated preamble, possibly followed by a very short amble, and sometimes concluded with a postamble. This time there will be an actual amble.

Thirteen years and thirty five days ago (somewhere around there), a cute and chunky nephew was born to my sister in Temecula. Well, she didn’t have the nephew, and I’m not sure who did, she had a son. The first child born in their new place of living (numero uno was born in the city of New York, and numero dos was born in Boulder, Colorado). Much excitement, joy, bustle and hustle was had by all. Number three was followed for four, five, six, and seven. Well, number three grew up (actually for the first few years most of his growth was sideways) into a remarkable young man (made even more so by his love of Estee’s sourdough bread), whose good cheer, cute cheeks, crazy humor, and pure heart reminds me of myself at that age. And though I don't really remember much of myself at that age, I do assume I was awesome. Nothing has come up to disprove this theory (and the fact that I used to ask an adult to tuck my pants into my sneakers just made me cooler).

In the months before Eli Chaim’s Bar Mitzvah, his family has been hit by some pretty intense challenges. We don’t know why G-d does what he does or what His plans are, but we do know that He never gives anyone something they can’t handle. We also know that life itself is a miracle; to be cherished, guarded, loved, and lived. And somehow, we have absolute faith that all will be good. Not only in the macro but in the micro. In my life and in yours.

Challenges have the paradoxical tendency to bring out the beauty in life, the truth in friendship, and the pure awesomeness that is family. The Temecula community and the Chabad community both near and far have been immensely inspiring in their support and friendship. And we are incredibly thankful. You could check out my inspiring sister's inspiring blog for inspiring posts in inspiring topics. And now I can't use that word for a month.

I wasn’t the official photographer here, and if I wasn't family I would have loved to have been. Loved the sunniness (which is funny because I used to be terrified of it. I would beg and pray for clouds to make the photographing easier. But easy doesn't equal interesting), the outdoorness, the vineyardness. But it's good I wasn't; the food was too good and my kids were going bananas. Until they found the one thing that will forever be the joy of any and all children. Dirt. Loads and piles and mounds of it.

Here is a small glimpse of some of the festivities, captured on a bunch of random expired film stocks on some random cameras and all scanned by me.


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A few weeks ago I left my lightmeter at my sister's house. When I went to pick it up she gave me a roll of film that she thought I left there.Turns out I didn't. It was some random roll of film from (I'm assuming) a cheap point and shoot or disposable camera from almost thirteen years ago. This is Eli Chaim (the Bar Mitzvah dude) when he was a wee li'l lad, and his two older siblings. I had no clue what it was until I scanned it in (a few minutes after I scanned the photos above). I love random lost film!!

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Mendel's Upshindig

Thank G-d for mother in laws.

There is no punch line (though if you have one, I'd love to hear it).

My poor boys get called girls all the time. It's the hair. There is an ancient Jewish custom (as most are. Besides gefilta fish and Manischevitz.) that we let a boy's hair grow until he turns three. At which stage we have a little shindig (called an Upshernish or Upshern) where we cut his hair; he starts wearing "the garb" (kippah, and tzitzis (those fringe thingies); officially start teaching him Torah, and the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of Judaism; and we start enforcing (to a degree) the Mitzvos (commandments).

Mendel was turning three but we weren't planning on having a party. While it would have been nice, it would just have been an added stress on our time and budget. And for all these Jewish stuff we always prefer small affair + good vibes, over large affair + stress/bad vibes.

In steps my mother in law (actually, I think she called). Knowing that Zevi did have a nice party, she didn't want Mendel to be left out, so she offered to pretty much arrange the whole thing herself (with the help of her family).

Food, decorations, preparations, setting up (well, I helped a bit with the setting up part).

(I remember thinking then how hot it was (high 70's with a nice breeze). Ha! Flash forward two months and Florida has officially moved in with us.)

Yeah, she rocks.

As it turned out his birthday was on a Friday, and Fridays just aren't good party days (unless,, of course, you don't want guests, which was the original plan). So we went to the store sometime that week and picked out some kippahs (none of which Estee approved of) and a few pair of tzitzis. On Friday we had a small haircuttage ceremony at home (i.e. we all cut a bit). And on Sunday we had the main event, where we all shmoozed, ate, cut the little dude's hair, gave tours of our garden, I even said a short speech, and good times were had by all. After which Estee chopped off the rest of his hair (except of course his peyos (sidelocks. Which is one of the major aspects of the Upshernish in the first place. To teach the mini-dude about not chopping off the peyos).

I thank G-d almost every day for our backyard. And for Estee's bread. But that's another story.

Here's how it all went down:

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Interested in having me document your Upshernish/party/shindig? Send me an email and we'll talk details

Mountains, Clouds, and 40 Years of Awesomeness

Driving to Temecula is a bit challenging. The drive is quite a beautiful one, with views ranging from rolling hills to towering mountains. The thing is my kids are currently obsessed with mountains and hills and which are which and the fine line between them (my kids don't understand grey areas). And Mendel doesn;t really know what we're talking about but he has to join in the questions. Chanale: "Look!! A mountain"

Zevi: "No, that's a hill. Right tatty?"

Me: "Grunt. Well actually..."

Mendel (looking at a cloud): "Look!! A mountain!"

Zevi: "Mendel's not letting me talk!"

Zusha: "hjdanerqo vfnqemqqp vneirmw?" (loosely translated: "Is it edible?")

And that goes on for an hour and a half. It's funny if you're awake, exhausting if you're not. But it's always good memories...

My brother in law, the Esteemed Chief Rabbi of Greater Temecula and Environs, and Overall a Pretty Darn Good Guy, was having his 40th birthday party. So inbetween eating, talking, and taking care of my mountain watchers, I used the event as an opportunity to try out some new film and work on some stuff (namely making an event where nothing really happens look interesting. Not that it wasn't, but the interest was mainly the good conversations and such. I also tried to stop down my lens as much as the light allowed).

Thanks for looking.

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Geek talk: I shot this all on my Nikon F4 and 28mm. Delta 400 (pushed to 1600) and stopped down as much as the light allowed (generally between f/5.6 and f/8).

Chanukah Bash at Seal Beach + Some San Fran Dates

Dear Citizens of the Radical Republic of the Bay Area,I will be in the aforementioned area the 11th and 12th of March (Sunday and Monday) and possibly again on Wednesday. If you are interested in booking a rockin' photoshoot let me know and we'll make it happen. I won't forget them flowers. For details about sessions and such check up my details-about-sessions-and-such page.

Peace, Love, Harmony and Organic Honey Hemp Raisin Cookies, Zalmy Berkowitz. Photographer Extraordinaire.

P.S. I'll be driving up and past. Up to Crescent City actually. Yeah, I'm weird like that, I like long drives (especially from San Fran to Crescent City. Sometimes I forget how beautiful this state really is.) So if you're anywhere along the California coast, I'm bookable.

In other completely unrelated news, I had the privilege of shooting this Pre-Chanukah Chanukah Bash at Seal Beach some while back. Hosted by the venerable Rabbi come Rockstar Shmuel Marcus of Chabad of Cypress and sponsored by some funky new vitamin drink. 'twas quite the evening (and stuffin my camera bag on the way out with donuts was not the best idea).


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In The Beginning...

Wow. This one was special. Isaac and I grew up together, went to school together and even share the same Birthday! They asked me to shoot their first son's bris and I was quite honored. Thanks!! (and those rib's! mmmmm).

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For those who care about such things: Contax 645, 80mm, Kodak Portra 400 and a few with the Nikon F3, 28mm, Ilford HP5. Developed and scanned by Richard's Photo Lab (they are the best!).

Oh, and this was my first time only using film at an event. Yay!