Wynn was only 10 months old when I shot this photo for our Christmas card. He couldn’t walk or stand on his own yet. The toy truck not only fit the theme but it gave Wynn something to climb up on. This is the developmental phase between crawling and walking, called creeping.
The toy truck was given to Wynn by one of my clients. It had belonged to her son. We passed it along to Dae, the son of my good friend Peter, who lives in Maine.
I was still shooting film in those days, in this case 120 color negative film in a Hasselblad with a 150 lens. The lighting was simple, two lights on the background and a medium softbox and some white reflectors on Wynn. The hardest part of the shoot was wiping up the drool from the seamless.
I’ve kept this to myself for many years, now I feel the need to get it off my chest. What better time to come clean than just before the holidays and the start of a new year? My very first paid photography gig was photographing children with Santa Claus.Yes, that’s right, don’t make me say it again.
I had just graduated from high school and got a job as a salesman at Malloy’s Cameracade in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I was a good salesman, real good, I had Nikon F2’s, Canon AE-1’s and Minolta SRT’s flying off the shelves. I enjoyed the job and was told by my boss that I had a future with the company if I wanted. I thanked him, but told him I wanted to be a photographer and I planned on going to art school in the fall.
One day, just after Thanksgiving, The Manager of the local grocery store, Foodland, came in to the store and asked my boss to recommend someone to take photographs of his customer’s kids with Santa. My boss pointed to me. The job paid $50. Not having any real negotiating skills at the time I accepted his offer. Remember this was the late 70’s, by today’s standards that’d be about $5,000.
That was then, today he would have just posted the job on Craigslist, offering no money but saying things like, “It would be a great addition to your portfolio” or “Wonderful opportunity to network with parents who could hire you to photograph their children during other special occasions.”What a difference a few decades can make.
I shot the job, got a check. Not only was I paid but I also got face time with the “Big Man” himself, I even sat on his lap and told him what I wanted for Christmas. I have a picture to prove it but it’s for my eyes only. Santa did not disappoint, that year I found a Canon FTB under the tree on Christmas morning.
Here’s a family portrait taken in our backyard on Christmas day. As you can see, we had no snow. Maybe next year.
For many years, Lori and I, and then Wynn, spent Christmas with Lori’s family in Scranton but in an effort to take the strain off of Lori’s Parents, we began hosting Christmas at our house.
By default I’ve become the Salamida Family documentarian. Not only did I want to record the gathering but I wanted to keep myself sharp at a time when assignment work slows.
That’s me, far left, and my wife Lori. Continuing left, in the back row, My brother-in-law Rick, his son Evan and his wife Susan (Lori’s sister.) Far right is our son Wynn, holding our new cat, Pantalaimon, “Pan” for short. Seated in the front row are the Matriarch and Patriarch of the Salamida Clan, Mary and Marty. Absent from the photo are John Salamida (he lives in Colorado) and Chris Salamida, (lives in Pittsburgh) who were celebrating the day with their families.
I used two 2000 Dyna Lite packs, one head each, into 3×4 softboxes, one on either side of the camera. To keep the lights from blowing over in the wind I attached the power packs to the stands with ball bungees, to act as ballast, then tied two cords to each softbox and staked them into the ground with tent stakes. I mounted the camera on a tripod and used the self timer so I could into the shot as well.
This 1964 film is on every worst film ever made list but, in my opinion it’s the best of the worst. There are only a few films I consider must see’s at Christmas time: It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!
Synopsis: Martian kids don’t have any fun. Martian leader sees Santa Claus on television and decides that’s what Martian kids need. Rather than find their own Santa, Martians come to Earth to steal ours? That’s all I’m gonna tell you, the rest you have to see to believe.
Wynn and I will be watching it together this evening at 9:00 as it’s on local Public TV station WHYY TV 12.
EDIT: Bad news. I heard promos for the movie on WHYY radio but they had gotten the time wrong. Instead of Santa Claus vs. the Martians, Bill Moyers Journal was on. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bill Moyers, we need more journalists like him but I was disappointed. The good news was that while unpacking the tree trimmings I found Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on DVD!. I had forgotten I had bought it at Target last year, for a buck. It’s in the Public Domain and can be downloaded from the internet here.
So much work went into producing the Ignorance & want still photo, I thought why not shoot some video as well. I used the family Canon Mini DV camera. The audio was pretty bad so I decided to use titles like in the silent film days. The projector sound was added later in iMovie. Aside from converting to black and white, I also added grain and scratches to give it a retro look.
You may not recognize my neighbor John, Playing the part of Scrooge, but he was the face of Jacob Marley in the doorknocker. My son Wynn, played the part of Ignorance (wasn’t much of a stretch) and his class mate Celeste, played Want (as in, “I want to get this makeup off and get back into some real clothes!”) My brother-in-law, Rick played the part of The Ghost of Christmas Present.
Here’s my holiday card from 2006, again, inspired by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. I received comments like,”That’s a Christmas card?”Looks more like a Halloween card! “and “People just aren’t gonna get it.”
I realized some people might not get it at first, but if they happen to catch any one of the movie versions, read the book, or see the live play, there might be that “Aha!”moment, when they remember the card and “get it.” So not only will there be the initial viewing but also remembering of the image, doubling its impact. I do know that at least one person revisited the book to gain a better understanding.
As for the Halloween card comment, it is a ghost story after all.
Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe,’ but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw.’
‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
‘Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.’ exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more.
‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’
‘Have they no refuge or resource.’ cried Scrooge.
‘Are there no prisons.’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses.'” – A Christmas Carol, Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits
Thanks to Celeste for playing the part of Want and to her mother Toni for bring her to the studio. Thanks to my brother-in-law Rick for Playing the Ghost of Christmas Present. Present as in, right now, not Presents!
In keeping with the Dickens,” A Christmas Carol” theme, here is my card from last year. It’s the ghost of Jacob Marley appearing in Scrooge’s doorknocker. Jacob Marley was Scrooge’s business partner and like Scrooge, he too put profit above all else. This visage in the doorknocker is the first hint that for Scrooge, this would be no ordinary night.
Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part or its own expression.” – A Christmas Carol, Stave 1: Marley’s Ghost
Thanks to my neighbor John for posing as Jacob Marley. He’s a home inspector by trade. We tried a few shots with a wig and spectacles, as in the text but they made combinding the two images more difficult so I decided not to clone them in. I bought the lions head doorknocker on e bay and mounted it on an old door I found in our basement. I drug the door onto the deck and photographed it in open shade and filled the shadow side with a sheet of foam core. John was photographed in front of a piece of black cloth and lit from his right, with a single Cometlite head with bare reflector. A foamcore reflector was used to fill the shadow on his left. In Photoshop, I lowered the color temperture to turn the images blue, simulating night time. After opening both images I used the clone tool at 50% to superimpose John’s face over the doorknocker.
We’ve all seen them, the holiday cards featuring a recent photo of the family or perhaps, just the kids. The ones where they wear matching sweaters or pose with Santa at the Mall. I like to try to push the envelope a bit and challenge myself to come up with something a little more interesting. For this years holiday card, I once again found inspiration in Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
The morning after his ghostly visitations Scrooge wakes up, reformed but confused and disoriented. He runs over to his window and sees a boy passing by on the street below. Scrooge throws open the window and calls down to him.
“‘What’s to-day.’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
‘Eh.’ returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.
‘What’s to-day, my fine fellow.’ said Scrooge.
‘To-day.’ replied the boy. ‘Why, Christmas Day.’
‘It’s Christmas Day.’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow.’
‘Hallo.’ returned the boy.
‘Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner.’ Scrooge inquired.
‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.
‘An intelligent boy.’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy. Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there — Not the little prize Turkey: the big one.’
‘What, the one as big as me.’ returned the boy.
‘What a delightful boy.’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck.’
‘It’s hanging there now,’ replied the boy.
‘Is it.’ said Scrooge. ‘Go and buy it.’
‘Walk-er.’ exclaimed the boy.
‘No, no,’ said Scrooge, ‘I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell them to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown.’
The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.
‘I’ll send it to Bon Cratchit’s.’ whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. ‘He shan’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending it to Bob’s will be.'” – A Christmas Carol, Stave 5: The End of It
Many thanks to Tony Hughes for agreeing to be the Poulterer. I knew he would fit the part perfectly. Tony is the Science Specialist at The Miquon School so we’ve know each other for nearly nine years. Tony brought his own costume including the holly for his hat. Tony and his wife Lynn are gifted singers, songwriters and musician and this is one of the costumes he wears when they perform around the holidays.