Sipping, Chatting, and Developing in Coffee, with NYC Photographer Giovanni Savino

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

A Man and His Camera, with Giovanni Savino, Inwood, NYC
You can learn a lot about someone by what they choose to post about on social networking sites.  There is so much junk to wade though that those that actually have  a voice stand out and speak to me as a human being.  This is how I first became aware of the work of NYC based photographer Giovanni Savino .

I am not sure exactly how our paths crossed in the image making digital stratosphere.  Most likely it was though our mutual friend art historian John E. Walford.  I very quickly became fascinated with Giovanni’s candid NYC street portraits.  His brilliant black and white portraits on the New York streets stood above the much of what people unfortunately call “street photography.”  It didn’t hurt either that Giovanni often hit the streets armed with my favorite camera, the Ricoh GR.

I did what I usually do when I come across work that I can relate to, is I want to dig deeper and explore more of the artists vision of the world.  His website’s images came alive.  The portraiture of everyday people in the DR (Dominican Republic).  His images were unpretentious, and full of soul.  I instantly developed a rapport with the images, I wanted to know more about the man behind them.

I read his blog.  I waited with anticipation for the next images top be posted on Flickr,  Facebook or fascinating thoughts on his blog.  Again, I was drawn into his world.  We started some backchannel conversations, and I decided, since I was coming to NYC, if he was down, we should link up for a face to face meeting.

It was on a freezing snowy Tuesday in February that I headed uptown on the A train, last stop, Inwood 207 Street. Any further and I would I have been in the Bronx, or New Jersey.  The absolute top of Manhattan.
Giovanni Savino on the Water's Edge, Inwood, NYC

Before heading up to Giovanni part of town, I made a quick stop in a hungover haze to the Moma, thanks to borrowing friend, Jerry’s MOMA card.  I got there before the galleries opened and I knew all I really wanted to see was a small selection celebrating the 75 anniversary of the publication of Walker Evan’s  photographs .  It was a pleasure to see them in the flesh, as printed by the master himself.

In a quiet corner of the Museum I stood gazing at a Jackson pollock painting.  Away from the noise of school children running amuck, I just stood and stared.  The splats and splatters danced and pulsated like never before, possible due to my underestimating the power of NYC sized martinis versus Tokyo ones.

The trip to MOMA, was only the beginning to a beautiful day.  Giovanni greeted me just outside the station like a long lost brother.  In fact, he often used the word, “brother,” when referring to me.  I instantly knew this was going to be a good day.

Inwood is a dominantly DR neighborhood, yet, it is on verge of gentrification like most of the city.  Giovani told me the hood was much different 20 years ago when he first moved in.  Giovanni and his wife took me to their favorite DR place to have some roasted chicken, sadly, they were out, but that didn’t stop us.  We had a great meal and then he showed me the sights around the neighborhood.
Roasted Chicken Reflection, Inwood, NYC


He would occasionally take out one of his “cursed” e-cigs and puff on it as we chatted about the streets of New York, photography, life, and everything.  There was nothing off limits, and we both opened up and were happy to be in each others company.

The sun had finally come out by the time we reached a view of the George Washington Bridge.  It was time to head back to his studio and really dig into photography.

From Inwood to The George Washington Bridge, NYC

He brewed us up a cup of black espresso using an Italian stovetop maker.  This coffee was for sipping, but we would soon brew up another batch for developing, in coffee.  I would love the way Giovanni would say “in coffee!”  There was such wonderment in the way the words would just roll off his palette.  Just the simplest of pleasures that photographs can be developed in a brew of homemade Caffinol.

He told me that he had been depressed at the end of last year.  His doctors wanted to put him on anti-depreesents.  He wouldn’t have it.  He knew that there had to be a better way.  And there was.  He brought out his large format camera, and started developing “in coffee!”  So coffee and photography was part of his progress to a healthier life.  That was so beautiful to share with me.  We all struggle with depression, and to find happiness by getting our hands dirty by making a clean mind.

He told me that our energies that create our work come from either the light or the dark.  I want to be in the light!  We both do.  We are both comfortable with our place, and the work that helps us though, and understand the truth in life.

Brewing Coffee (for Developing), with Giovanni Savino, Inwood, NYC


It was time to bring out the lights, and big old fashioned Tachihara 4×5 camera loaded with first poloraoid then  Fujifilm positive, with a mounted Schneider Symmar-S 210mm lens for a portrait session.  First with polaroids and then some negs that would be processed, “in coffee!”  I hadn’t used a large format camera since my high school days, but we set it up, mixed up some different temperature lights and got down to business.

There is no waste in Giovanni’s studio.  After peeling off the back of the polaroids, we taped them down and removed the plastic to save the negatives that most people discard.  I loved that low tech way of making images.  Perfection in it’s imperfection.

Low Tech Perfection, with Giovanni Savino, Inwood, NYC

Then it was time to brew up the Caffinol and another portrait session.  Giovanni explained the chemicals needed, and we went to town.  I sat in the light, and he squeezed the cable release.  We went into his light tight darkroom/bathroom, and in complete darkness set about to develop the negatives.  It was so dark that after a few minutes you think that you can see.  Our conversation continued in the pitch black.  About my life in Japan.  Giovanni’s history in NYC, as a news cameraman, his work at ground zero after 911, his support of his wife’s family in the DR and beyond.  A good soul, with a gentle heart.

Polaroid Portrait Exchange with Giovanni aka Baron Von Savino, Inwood, NYC


Such an oddness two photographers in the dark, chatting.  I loved every minute of it.  But, all good things don’t necessarily have to end.  The conversation has been started.  The lucid communication will continue.  Giovanni is full of love and joy, and that shines though his art of photography.  I know that I will always have my photographic brother in NYC, Giovanni Savino.

Check Giovanni’s images, and writings with the links below.





some more images from my one day adventure in Inwood, with NYC Giovanni Savino


Petals, Snow on a Manhole Cover, Inwood, NYC



Used Cars in the Snow with Graffiti Inwood, NYC



Brewing Coffee (for Sipping) with Giovanni Savino, Inwood, NYC



One Photographer's Lightroom and Another's Pixels, with Giovanni Savino, Inwood, NYC

Art and Technology at Moneytree First Anniversary Celebration

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Dj Taku (m-flo) Takahashi and Moneytree, Moneytree First Year Anniversay, Shibuya, Tokyo


Art and technology might seem like they are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to creativity.  This is not entirely the truth.  Ever since human started to mix pigments and other materials to paint they were using technology wether they knew it or not.

Now we jump into the year 2014 and the lines between the two have become more blurred than ever before.  They, in my mind, cannot be separated.  It was at Moneytree’s first anniversary party that celebrated the coming together of code writers and artists of all styles.  Those lucky industry insiders who were invited gathered in a Shibuya basement club NOS ORG  for drinks, music, and artistic exchanges.

I was fortunate to be invited out to this gathering my the founder and chief executive Paul Chapman.  His team has grown from just a handful of members almost 2 years ago to over 30 now.

I am not one for parties and groups.  I never have been, nor will I ever.  I much prefer small crowds.  I personally find it overwhelming to be with so many people at one time.  However, I quickly became at ease and slipped into conversation with the over guests.

The app Moneytree (An intelligent assistant for your money) was voted app of the year by Apple Japan.  An app that keep the used up to date on all their financial endeavors.  Simple to use and brilliantly designed the app has built strong roots in Japan.  So much so that the founding member of m-flo and dj Taku Takahasi has his entire staff use it so he can keep tabs on his companies expenses.

Paul took the mic and introduced the company and welcomed all to the event.  One big announcement was that Moneytree has finally come to the iPad.  After the kampai (cheers) the turntables were turned over to dj Taku.

I watched in amazement of his dance music mastery.  It was was not the hip hop style of deejaying I was accustomed too.  It was just mesmerizing.  Tweaks and tuns of the mixer’s knobs, and scrolling though a playlist on a glowing apple laptop.

I noticed a photographer, Takumi Yamamoto, with an old school polaroid camera on the edge of the dance floor.  We chatted a bit, and we did what photographer do, we talked cameras.  Also, rather than the selfie, we exchanged simultaneous portraits.

It was a great gathering of artistic and technically minded folks.  A real collection of people across Tokyo, and beyond.

download Moneytree for free! from iTunes.

for more info check out Moneytree’s website  Facebook  and twitter page.

Moneytree is a company to keep watch on!

a Big SHOUT out to Paul for inviting me and letting me be a part of the celebration.
Paul Chapman (Chief Executive - Moneytree), Moneytree First Year Anniversay, Shibuya, Tokyo



Dj Taku (m-flo) Takahashi, Moneytree First Year Anniversay, Shibuya, Tokyo



Exchanging Portraits with Takumi Takamoto (山本拓未), Moneytree First Year Anniversay, Shibuya, Tokyo

Live Spoken Word: Kaddish for Emmanuel “Manny” Pushkin

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Kaddish, Requiem, Life for  Emanuel "Manny" Pushkin


On an over zealously windy night a small group of poets and artists gathered in the Jamrock Cafe in Harajuku. The monthly gathering of Writer’s Bloc, Tokyo, Evening Musings was about to begin.  This was a first for me.  I had never done a spoken word, or reading of any kind before a group of people.

The boom of the bass and drums of reggae riddims helped put me at ease as I relaxed myself while slowly sipping some rum and coconut water.  Munching on rice and peas and a chicken patty I could almost imagine myself at a a little West Indian joint in Miami, almost.

I was pretty nervous even though there were barely a dozen people in the cafe.  After a few people went on It was my turn.  Nervously with paper in hand I began.

I want to say thank you to Lee Ann and Norman for introducing me to this group and allowing me to express myself in a way that I had never done before.  Also a special thanks to Colin (and his Flickr) for some pictures and Biankah for the video.

Check their Facebook page Writer’s Bloc, Tokyo and Writer’s Bloc, Tokyo Youtube Channel 


Old San Juan, Walking, Talking, Just Being

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Pair in Flight at Parque de las Palomas, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico


In late March my extended family booked a cruise that was leaving from Puerto Rico.  It was great for the family all to be in the same time zone at the same time, because throughout most of the year we are spread out across the globe.

Our cruise had been delayed due to a propeller failure and my niece and I headed off the boat and trekked over to Viejo San Juan.  We had been there a few days earlier but it was brief.  We wanted to just get off the boat that was heading no where and just wander around the the old city.

The sun was blazing that day and we kept to the shade whenever we could.  There were fresh graffiti pieces on some of the quiet streets.  The corner shops were open for business, and some old folks had set up tables in the shade to slam their dominoes.

There were, of course, shops filled with the worst kitsch imaginable, but this didn’t really hold my attention.  Other than to laugh at its silliness.  I wanted to see what the city would show me.  I wanted to walk down the cobblestoned streets that have been there for centuries.  The names of the streets were cemented into the corners of buildings.  In some home the palm trees reached up into the spotless sky.

I search out the places that people actually call home.  I want to see where people lay their heads to rest at night.  Once we got off the tourist path we were able to get a little taste of Puerto Rico.

Small gated homes with open windows to let in the sea breeze.  I imagine Miami back in the 40s and 50s must have looked something like this.  There was something different.  There were vibrations emanating from this community that I have never felt in Miami.

There was a sense of history stretching back at least 500 years, and more when you think that the indigenous Taino.  The sensation was close to that of walking around some of the quiet older neighborhoods of Paris, but the sun blazed, and the salty air filled my nostrils.  Even though many of the buildings had been freshly painted in over hued tropical colors If you raised your eyes above the first few floors the paint had faded in the harsh sun.

Wandering around the 2 major castles:  Castillo San Felipe del Morro and  Castillo de San Cristóbal I was able to wander and loose myself in the old stone masonry.  I felt an uneasy calm as I gazed out into the Atlantic Ocean, and wandered the subterranean levels of the fortifications.  I kept telling my niece can you imagine being in this heat and wearing the old woolen uniforms?

I wanted to hit a beach before heading back to the boat.  We walked along Aveienda Munoz Riveria we finally came to a beach, Balneario El Escambrón.  We didn’t have much time but for a quick refreshing jump into the Atlantic.  I felt renewed.  The cooling salt water soothed my aches, and reinvigorated my spirit.  The beach was relatively quiet on a Tuesday, and seemed to populated with a good mix of locals and visitors.

The time spent in Old San Juan was short.  The memories will be as long as the late afternoon shadows.

Corner of Calle del Tamarindo, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico



303 in Yellow and Neighbor, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico



Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico



Baja Santa Elena meets the Atlantic Ocean, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico



El Gato Siesta, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico



Empty Lawn Tables and Benches, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico



Windy Lean, Balneario El Escambrón, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Time to Search for the Leaven in Our Lives, Passover 2014

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Homemade Matzoh (מַצָּה), No Leaven, 2014, Passover


The new moon was sighted in Jerusalem and Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened bread in upon us.  It is the time in our lives when we have to remove all the leaven from our homes.  Those preparing to keep the Feast search their home and remove any product that has leaven.  The search goes on in all rooms looking for the leaven.  Why is this?

This on the simplest of levels is following the commandment to remove leaven and and eat the specially prepared matzoh (unleavened) bread as mandated in Exodus.  It is much deeper that that.  Of course it is important to keep the commandment to the best of our ability but even more important is to understand what leaven represents.  Leaven is sin, pride, ego, our wrong doings.  The search in our homes for leaven, is in reality, a search in our own souls to remove the “puffing up” of sin.

We all have shortcoming.  None of of are perfect.  This is true for all, but those that seek to better themselves can use this preparation for the feast to examine their life and work on removing the leaven from their lives.

In my own preparations for Passover I have begun to make my own matzoh a few years ago.  I love the process of making my own.  Being able to rely on my own to make the most imperfect looking matzoh I have ever seen.  Each piece is unique.  The shapes remind me of Africa and Israel.  Holes pop though the dough.  The oven singes my arm as they bake at 300 degrees (570F).

Then we move on to the other main thoughts on passover, freedom.  We remember the days when we were in bondage.  It doesn’t stop here. It is key to remember all those still in bondage.  Those who are not able to free to worship.  Those that are still held in chains.  Those whose mental slavery has not been abolished.

I will leave you all with one last thought from the Tanakh (the Old Testament).

Exodus 22:21

Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

chag kasher v’same’ach

חַג כָשֵׁר וְשָׂמֵחַ

have a blessed passover

With love to all in the diaspora, the lost tribes and those that dwell in the land of our forefather and all that desire in their hearts to keep the feast of unleavened bread regardless of labels.





lucid communication



Chillin’ in the Backyard, Miami Style with Jeff Wasielewski

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Banana Bud, Jeff's Home, Miami 2014


It has been a minute since I have written on the Lucid Communication blog.  In Fact it has been more than a month.  After spending time in New York, Miami and the Caribbean It is time to start sifting through the 1000 plus images and selecting some stories to tell.

Today’s is about my mate Jeff Wasielewski’s home and luscious Miami garden.  I first met Jeff back in Killian High School spanish class.  We had, without question, the worst spanish teacher on the planet.  All she ever had us do was to copy chapters out of the textbook. On the first day of class the teacher was calling the roll, when she came to the name Dickie Wong.  There was no reply.  Shea paused and gazed over the classroom.  She called it again, a bit louder this time.  Still no response, then out of no where Jeff screams out DICKIE WONG! and all the class bursted out with laughter.  That is how we met.

We lost track of each other as people do, and thanks to the wonders of the world wide web we got back in touch with each other.  Jeff had been working at Farichild Tropical Botanic Garden when we reconnected and we realized that we both have a love for the outdoors and gardening.

This trip back to Miami we wanted to meet up and he invited me over to explore his garden.  It just so happened to be on a beautiful Sunday afternoon that I was able to meet and reason up with Jeff and some of the alumni of the Fat Man Calypso Band.

It was so peaceful walking around his home in Kendall, only a few blocks away from my own childhood home on South West 127 Street.  He had a few variety of mangoes, bananas, mulberry and other tropical delights.

He had constructed, with his own hands, a small pond that included some mosquito eating fish.  He truly had created a home I would have if I were to lay down my roots back in Miami.

All the landscaping used native plants.  They are all drought tolerant, and thrive in the blazing Miami sunshine.  Even his daughter Sammy got in on the gardening action and just the other day dug out some carrots she had planted by her own hand and without her poppa’s help.

It was a sweet afternoon eating some barbecued hamburgers sides with old friends and marveling at what a productive garden in suburbia can be.  I have the utmost respect for Jeff and his daughter for keeping Miami the way it shout be. green, soaking in the sunshine and full of LOVE.
Budding Bud, Jeff's Home, Miami 2014



Pond with Mosquito Fish, Jeff's Home, Miami 2014



Miami Backyard Corner, Jeff's Home, Miami 2014



Jeff Giving the Garden Tour (Hammock Point of View), Jeff's Home, Miami 2014

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