Monday, March 31, 2014

Ahavas Achim 125th Anniversary Dinner: Behind the Scenes

It's hard to believe that Ahavas Achim is 125 years old. It seems like yesterday when I photographed their 100th anniversary.

But seriously (actually, that WAS serious)...

A synagogue with a rich history dating back to the 1800s, last night the shul celebrated with a Hollywood theme. Originally, I was to supply my own generic background and people would walk up a red carpet and get their picture taken. But we had a secret weapon, named Jeremy Renna. He was able to pull some strings at his company, which you might have heard of—Macy's—and got a donation of an 8x8-foot backdrop that really made the shooting area look like an awards ceremony photo opp.


Jeremy took a hands-on approach setting things up, and came up with a way to affix the backdrop (poster print on Foamcor) to a wall in the corner of the social studio!

 The finished result, ready for its close-up.

But wait...there's more. For the first time doing an event, I brought along a portable printer. By the end of the evening, celebrants would pick up prints of the photos I shot as they arrived. I enlisted the help of a high-school student looking for community service ("hessed") hours to run the printer during the dinner. How did it work out? Read on.

Before the attendees arrived, Joe, the synagogue's long-time and much beloved head of maintenance, came up to me and not-so-subtly hinted that he'd love a photo of himself. I was happy to oblige—and handed him a print as soon as it came off the printer. He was beside himself. He's such a good soul. I hope that comes across here.

Here are more behind-the-scenes shots of the evening. Highlight photos coming soon!

Simcha Lev, above, ran the printer during dinner, stuffing the images and my business card in fridge magnet frames. You can barely see the printer among the boxes of picture frames!


 Music was provided by the Avi Maza Orchestra...although Avi, who had performed at a wedding earlier in the day, was sitting with me and my wife Lori during the dinner. Nice to have help!

Indeed, this was one of the most complex shoots I've done to date. Fortunately, I had Simcha Lev, Jeremy, as well as Elena Orgel, who came up with the idea of giving out prints. Teamwork paid off!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bar Mitzvah Boys Will Be Boys

At Moshe's Bar Mitzvah last week at Young Israel of East Brunswick, I shot plenty of portraits, including the one above, which I'm quite pleased with. But I had plenty of opportunities to turn on my street photography mode when the dancing and shenanegans began. It is amazing what a couple of dozen 12 and 13-year-old Yeshiva boys on megadoses of sugar are capable of.


Apparently, Moshe's sisters enjoy shenanegans, too. A portrait session outtake:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why This 35-Year-Old Photo Of Avital Sharansky Still Resonates

Avital Sharansky, wife of jailed dissident Anatoly Sharansky, Soviet Jewry rally, New York City, 1978. Photo © by Mason Resnick.

While digging through my archives today looking for something else, I found the photo above, which has haunted me ever since I shot it in 1978. It was at a rally on behalf of Soviet Jewry, a cause which I was active in. I was there as a photographer for Ha-Or, the Queens College Jewish biweekly newspaper, to cover the event.

The Jews of Russia were being sent to Siberia, to gulags, where they were expected to rot, convicted of trumped-up charges for speaking out, or, as Safam put it, "the crime of daring to be free." But the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry had other ideas, as did one Avital Sharansky, wife of jailed Refusenik Anatoly Sharansky, who at the time was travelling the world advocating for the release of her husband.

It was day of solemn determination. The rally took place in the street outside the Soviet mission to the United Nations. Avital attempted to knock on the mission door and give them a ring to send to her husband. They refused to talk to her, as everyone expected. Speakers spoke, and we all listened, grimly. As I was taking pictures of Avital, standing with activist Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss and others, their grim expressions visible, she turned in my direction, and for a brief, memorable moment, smiled, as if to say, "it will be all right."

And I pressed the shutter.

Avital Sharansky's husband was freed in 1986, immediately moved to Israel and rose to prominent positions as a minister in the Israeli governement for 9 years. Natan Sharansky is currently the Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, and a hero to many.

The suppression of freedom of religion and the blatant antisemitism that Soviet Jews were subject to during the USSR was supposed to end when the USSR fell apart. But as we're learning now, the antisemitism has resumed with a vengance in Ukraine—ironically, where the Sharanskys were born. And so, it seems, the struggle must continue.

But somewhere, let's find the inner strength to smile.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Joey and Emily's engagement party photos

Hey folks. Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been involved in a top-secret assignment. If the veil of secrecy is lifted, I'll tell you about it.

In the meantime, here are some shots from a recent engagement party assignment!