Two from 2017

We’ve been submerged in the annual tsunami of year-end ‘best’ lists for at least a couple of weeks now.  Best movies, best books, best TV shows, etc.  You know the deal.  They’re fun to peruse, and generally always elicit some kind of comment: No way!  Never heard of itMaybe I’ll check it out.  This past week, The New York Times posted “The Year in Pictures 2017” on its website.  And while it’s technically not a “Best Of” list, it still amounts to a distillation of the highs and lows of the year gone by.  Alas, the images–some truly breathtaking–more often evoke lows than highs.  Think of what’s transpired in this calendar year: more mass shootings, wildfires and destructive weather events, genocide in Myanmar, terrorist attacks, ongoing political ugliness, mayhem in Venezuela, continued bloodshed in the Middle East.

One of my two favorites in the collection is Todd Heisler’s shot of people soaring on the Brooklyn Flyer ride at Luna Park, Coney Island in late June.  There’s something magical about it: a conjuring of childhood’s l-o-n-g summers days, the golden hour lighting, the canopy of cloud AND blue sky.  (The picture–indeed, all of the pictures in the collection–are best viewed on a big monitor, so if you have one, check them all out).  The entire premise of this blog has been to acknowledge and celebrate moments of beauty in art, and of all its forms, I would argue that photography, with its ability to truly capture a single moment, probably serves that purpose better than any other.

Brooklyn, 25 June 2017
Swinging over Coney Island, a summer rite.  Photo by
Todd Heisler for The New York Times

I noted that I had two favorites, and the other one, taken just over two weeks ago, depicts one of the lows mentioned above: the Thomas Fire in southern California.  I can practically feel the heat in the intensity of the yellows, oranges and reds.  I’d say it’s one of life’s many paradoxes that it’s possible to capture a moment of beauty in an event that’s so destructive and untamed.

Ventura, California, 7 December 2017
Firefighters monitored the Thomas Fire along the 101 freeway northwest of Los Angeles. The fire was one of the largest in California history.  Photo by
Mario Tama (Getty Images)

Have a minute and 41 seconds to spare?  Enjoy a ride on the Brooklyn Flyer…


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