Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

In a New York Minute

Sailboat in Sodus Bay, NY

My friend Ken seems lately to be a one man advertising machine for New York.  No problem there, I guess.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even when it’s rooted solidly in the past.  Most of what he says that’s good about New York is yesterday’s news.  It’s what we used to be, not what we are today.  Yes, we still make pretty good wine.  And we do fairly well with apples and maple syrup.  But that’s not actually enough, is it?

The discussion is interesting because we both literally live in the same town (Webster).  We see the same things, go to the same stores, drive on the same roads.  I’m always amused when Ken uses the town’s slogan – “Where life is worth living”.  The slogan has always kind of baffled me.  It implies that life is less worth living someplace else.  Like where, for instance?  In our neighboring towns?  In Rochester?  In other states?  Sorry, but I don’t get it.  It doesn’t make any kind of logical sense.  Unless you have a terminal illness or have been incarcerated for 20 years or more, I would think that life is generally worth living anywhere (well, maybe not Somalia).

And how about Rochester itself?  Is it a good place to live?

That depends on your own criteria for “good place”.  If you’re looking for work that pays a significant salary, good luck.  Nearly all the manufacturing is gone.  Kodak is a shell of its former self, employing only a small fraction of what it did in the “golden” years.  Their major asset today is intellectual properties – their patents.  But if that’s the only way you can make any money, you’ve got some serious problems.

The other major company here – Xerox – isn’t exactly growing, either.  In truth, the pillar of the local economy is Wegmans (the large grocery store chain headquartered here).  But you won’t get rich working there.  You probably won’t even work full time – most jobs are part time.

If you’re worried about crime, I suggest you look elsewhere.  People here like to say that we live in a low crime area, but they’re wrong.  Rochester has a higher per capita crime rate than a number of major U. S. cities (for both violent crime and for property crime).  We’re a good deal worse, for example, than Las Vegas, NV (you know, “Sin City”).  We’re also worse than the national average.

No, Rochester is dying.  It’s been dying for years.  Heck, Ken and I both worked at the same 3M plant here.  Well, up until 1996.  Then it closed.  Ken had to move to St. Paul, MN and I went to Columbia, MO.  Kodak’s core business (film) started heading south soon after.  All that’s really left here is Wegmans, a number of colleges, some large hospitals, and the city itself.  As a result, the population growth here has been negative (about – 7%) over the last decade.

With respect to photographic opportunities, that is obviously an entirely subjective discussion.  If you’re willing to drive south from Rochester there are a number of gorgeous state parks within about 100 miles (Letchworth, Stony Brook, Watkins Glen, Taughannock, etc.).  I love those places.  But stuff within the immediate area is generally not very exciting (in my opinion, anyway).  Once you get away from Lake Ontario, you’re not likely to find anything of interest.  And how many pictures can you take of sailboats (or ice in the winter)?

And we can’t forget New York’s weather, can we?  For 7 months out of the year, it generally sucks.

Are there worse places?  Probably.  Pennsylvania for sure, and maybe Ohio.  But they border New York.  So they have an excuse.


10 Responses to “In a New York Minute”

  1. Cedric

    The older I get the more convinced I am that perceived reality (if I can call it that) is built on beliefs and memories which in turn have been formed by experiences gained over a lifetime and since no two individuals have lived the same life, no two people will ever perceive the world exactly the same way. The trick might be to understand, truly and deeply understand, the origin and the nature of the beliefs and memories we hold and in doing so we might be rewarded with a glimpse of the world as it really is.

    Who knows?

    Anyway the real reason I stopped by was simply to say that your photograph is beautiful. The boat just glows and simply pops out of the picture. Quite enchanting, bewitching even, as I can’t help but want to reach in and grab a hold of it.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Cedric. I never thought that this was a terribly good image, personally, but your comment has me reevaluating!

      I agree that no two people ever see things exactly the same way. But you can spot “tendencies” across individuals. I still think that the fact that there aren’t a lot of photographers in the area says something about the place. I could be wrong, of course. Wouldn’t be the first time…..

  2. christopher maxim

    In addition you forgot the most important thing Rochester is good at….pizza, wings, and subs. God I miss a good Pontillo’s pizza. Maybe in six more years in addition to the six I have been in Vegas, I will fly home and grab a peice.

    • Paul Maxim

      If things keep going the way they are, Chris, maybe Pontillo’s won’t be here in 6 years. Who knows? But you’re right about certain kinds of food. It is possible to get good Italian food in this area – not so easy out west. Heck, you can’t even find much in the way of good Italian bread, even in Las Vegas.

      But if you want good pizza, just drive north to Springdale, Utah (next to Zion NP). There’s a place in town there that Mom and I eat at that’s really good!

      • christopher maxim

        Just had pizza at a place called “Sammy’s Woodfire” On Sahara not to bad. But we may have to try that place in Utah….see y ou guys soon

  3. oneowner

    While I can’t dispute the fact that New York State, and Rochester in particular, has and still is undergoing hard times, I was quite surprised by your statements about finding the State “dull” and “boring” photographically. There is more to photography (including landscape photography) than “…a red rock that’s bigger than a golf ball”, “Or a desert” “Or a true slot canyon”. While I admit these can lead to some impressive photos, photography, as an art form, knows no bounds and is limited by the photographers imagination and creativity. You may have missed the point of the series of posts on New York, which was that there are endless opportunities for photographers throughout the State, not just the City. This particular photo is proof of that . My best advice – forget the “cabbage” and look for the “apples”.

    • Paul Maxim

      Well, I’ll stick by the “dull” and “boring” appraisal, Ken. That’s an opinion, of course, and only applies to me, but I think there are others who feel the same way. If you look at any of a number of photography magazines that have ads for photographic workshops, I’ll bet you can’t find any for western NY. You’ll find some for Maine and Vermont in the fall, but I doubt you’ll see any for this area. I also know of a few very good photographers from the northeast who have moved to the southwestern U. S. (like Terrel Lester of Maine). He did some beautiful work on the Maine coast, but finally left. I think he now lives in New Mexico.

      I also don’t know that I agree with your assertion that photography is “limited by the photographer’s imagination and creativity” (if you mean that that’s the major or primary limitation). I don’t care how good you are. Subject matter counts. As they say, if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

      I’ll probably forget both the cabbages and the apples. And look for very large red rocks next month.

  4. Don Cooper

    Great shot the boat jumps out to gain the viewers attention.

    Washington County had two slogans that I believed that dropped, “A Way of Life” and “A World Apart”

    The one problem that Washington and Warren Counties have, which are side by side, is an increase in crime due to criminals coming from Albany Troy and Schenectady to peddle their drugs.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Don. Now, if I could only get Webster to “drop” their ridiculous slogan…….

  5. Earl

    “Hard times” is a national situation at the moment but I do think regions suffer from “aging” if they do not get ahead of he curve and plan/change for the future. Industries and companies change and in some cases “die” and with them the opportunities and lifestyles they provided. Great NY photo! 🙂


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