Chuck Miller Creatives is now on Etsy!

The Walkway. 16×20 foam-boarded, shot with Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, efke 25 film. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Last week, I offered up a question to you, my many blog readers.  If I were to put my photos and other artworks up for purchase through my own personal site or through an online store, would you purchase them?

The overwhelming response was “Yes.”

Okay, you responded, so I’m building a store.

And the newest Etsy shop on line is called …

Chuck Miller Creatives.

Okay, I’ll work on the name…

Continue readingChuck Miller Creatives is now on Etsy!”

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The Super Ultra Wide IRIX lens

In order to prepare for my summertime super-shot photo in the Adirondacks, I needed a lens that possessed a wider angle than was previously in my arsenal.   Right now, my widest camera lens is a Vivitar 19mm f/3.8, which is an amazing workhorse camera lens – but I not only needed a wider lens, I needed one that could provide more light into my camera.

Continue reading “The Super Ultra Wide IRIX lens”

“Er… Um… Like… Er… Um… Like…”

Recently, I’ve chronicled my battles with telemarketers and cold-callers and spambots.  I’ve added a recording application to my BlackBerry PRIV cell phone (have I mentioned how much I love this cell phone?), and I’ve decided that if anybody’s going to bug me for money… they’re up for fair game.

The Walkway. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, efke 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.
The Walkway. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, efke 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

So last night, when I received a phone call in which the Caller ID was recognized as the main number for my alma mater, Hamilton College, I knew what the call would entail.  Especially when the call was received at about 7:00 p.m. last night.

Now hands up if you know the answer… why would my college call me in the evening?  Yep.  Chuck was about to be solicited for financial donations.

Hey, I get it.  College is expensive.  Trust me.  And my guess was that if I picked up the phone, the person on the other end of the phone would ask me for money.

Yep.  A freshman from old Ham Tech wanted to know if I would donate.  For now, I’ll just identify her as Alice.

She asked if I was “Mr. Charles Miller.”  I knew right then and there that it wasn’t a long-lost classmate contacting me through the college alumni association.

And then Alice asked if I would consider making a donation to the college.

Now, if I wanted to be a goofball, I would be well within my right to do so.  Believe me, I’m ready to mock any telemarketer who calls me.

But I instead decided to take another tactic.  Guess what, Alice… you’re a Hamilton College student… let’s see if you’ve taken any classes on Public Speaking or Argumentation or the like.  I’ll donate… but I want to know what’s happening on campus.

And by “what’s happening on campus,” I wanted to know about The Movement.  And I wanted to hear how Alice would respond if I asked her questions about the secret society of students who want the college to change their hiring and curricula.

And truth be told… I wanted Alice to go off-script.

So I asked her.

“So I’ve heard students basically demanding that teachers and professors resign, or form quotas … You’re going to college to get an education, all I’ve heard are some very disturbing results between both the Movement and people on campus that are either for the Movement or against the Movement or are afraid of the Movement. ”

Alice’s response …

“I understand what you’re coming from,  but, um, the Movement, uh, doesn’t constitute like the entire school’s, um ,views, um, basically what the Movement was, um, it was just like a group, like, students, I guess here who made their own judgment and tried to, like, I guess, like, reform the schools in their own like, uh, like, strong way, um, but in no way does the Movement reflect what Hamilton College is currently, so…”

Time for a follow-up question.

“But what I’m reading and seeing and hearing is that the Movement has caused enough disturbance and enough upheaval that it has actually affected the education process for students on campus.  And I’m wondering if the Administration is kowtowing to students rather than the students accepting the Administration – if the school is this tangled to the point where students are having secret demonstrations and operating in the shadows, this is supposed to be a university, it’s not supposed to be a cosplay for V for Vendetta.”

Again, Alice’s response.

“I see where you coming from, and, um, the Administration has been trying to do a couple of different things to, um, like, um, to like um, what’s the word for it, um, to like, put together, like, the racial issues and try to, like, fix, like, solve them and, like, it’s not more like, talk about it and, like, a more respectful informed manner, because right now, we’re holding like, um, like, biweekly, there are, like, forms for diversity issues and talks on campus and there are teams, I guess, they have divided themselves into, like, teams to cater towards those specific issues regarding race and token issues as well, so, as much as, um, like, like, the students, like, the people that the students that were part of the Movement, I don’t know who they were but they – I guess – I don’t know how to put it into words on the issue…”

Oy gevalt.  More likes than on a Facebook post.  And nobody should say um that many times unless they’re channeling the spirit of Major Lance.

I decided at that point it was time to let poor Alice off the hook.  I told her I would donate money to the College in a day or two.   But I also made a donation to her.  And this is where alumni donate to undergraduates.

Because when I was a student at Hamilton, we had speech and elocution professors.  Warren Wright.  Richard Somer, just to name two.  Public speaking was, if not at least a graduation requirement, it was strongly encouraged.  These educators made sure that we could think quickly and accurately.  This would be important if one were to argue a case in a debate.  Or if one chose to run for office.  You want a candidate with clear and strong statements.  How strong was the desire to improve my public speaking and oration?  I actually audited one of Warren Wright’s classes because I felt that I needed improvement in that discipline.

I didn’t completely need the College’s party line on the Movement, and I didn’t need the Movement’s manifesto regurgitated back to me.  I wanted to know Alice’s opinion.  And whatever her opinion was, it was buried in a sewer of “like, um, uh, like, um…”   The brain was stuck in the ditch, and every “like” and “um” was the equivalent of spinning the wheels and hoping that the car would extract itself from the morass.

And I’m not perfect.  I’ll still use “like” and “um” and “you know what I mean” and other brain-stumblers.  I live in the figurative glass house and I’ve thrown stones.  I’ve had people blue-pencil my blog posts and send me “helpful corrections.”  Usually it’s along the lines of, “Here’s a helpful tip.  One space after a period.”

But I’ve also learned to appreciate the dynamics of thought; putting your concept to the test, speaking with conviction and dedication.

And I suspect that Alice hasn’t taken those public speaking classes yet.  Because once she does, she’ll excise those tired brain-stumblers from her vocabulary.  And three years from now, Alice will graduate from Hamilton College with a Bachelor of Arts.   And when she takes the dais on that sunny May afternoon, in front of her family and friends and fellow graduates, she’ll give a speech worthy of her status as class valedictorian.

And there won’t be a “like” or “um” or “er” or “you know” in her entire speech.

Guaranteed.

The Hamilton College “Movement” and my thoughts on same

College students often are part of the chronicles of change.  They march.  They protest.  They remove social errors and bring forward their own belief in a better world.

Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, N.Y.
Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, N.Y. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

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In my time at Hamilton College, we students helped to bring around a change for the college.  At the time, Hamilton was one of many colleges who invested money in South African Krugerrands, the currency of a country filthy with state-enforced racism and apartheid.  We sat in silent protest on the steps of one of the faculty buildings.  When that didn’t advance divestiture, we built little “shantytowns” out of boxes and scrap wood and created a new campus on the student quadrangle.  The college’s physical plant workers removed the shantytown rather quickly, but our efforts – at least I hope it was because of our efforts – led Hamilton to eventually divest their funds from that country.

So when someone brought this information to me about a new “secret society” that hoped to bring change on campus, I was curious.  I wanted to see what students in 2015 thought needed improvement at Hamilton.

[hdnfactbox title=”Hamilton College”]

  • Hamilton College was created in 1812 by Samuel Kirkland as Hamilton Oneida Academy.  Alexander Hamilton funded the college, which now bears his name.
  • Hamilton was an all-male college until 1978, when it merged with sister school Kirkland College.
  • Chuck Miller attended Hamilton from 1981 to 1985, graduating with a B.A. in creative writing.  One of his classmates was Times Union arts editor Amy Biancolli.[/hdnfactbox]

And apparently the biggest issue is one that we still face today – not just as alumni or as college students, but as human beings – racism and racial tensions.

According to this article in the Utica Phoenix, there were plans in September 2013 to host a series of discussions on internalized racism.  The first meeting would be for non-Caucasian students, the second would be for Caucasian students only; the third meeting would be all-inclusive.  Almost immediately, a conservative group known as the Alexander Hamilton Institute took offense to the language advertising the discussions, including using the words “safe zone” for the location of the meeting.  Tensions rose.  Students posted messages online about their own thoughts and fears and concerns – not only about internal and external racism, but also perceived racism and gender bias.  Tensions rose even higher.

And recently, an on-campus society known as “The Movement” have added their own demands to the list.  The demands include the following: all students should take at least one semester of classes discussing, among other things, “assimilation, privilege, intersectionality, systemic oppression, internalized racism, and cultural appropriation.”  They want the addition of gender-neutral bathrooms throughout campus, update handicapped entrance ramps (several buildings are still not completely handicapped-accessible), increased financial stipends and meals for students who must remain on campus during breaks due to financial limitations; and an increase in awareness of social justice and injustice on campus.

That escalated a few days ago, when “The Movement” added new proclamations to their manifesto.  Those demands, which are listed here, starts with this clause: “Hamilton College cannot continue to overwhelmingly perpetuate narratives that center whiteness, able-bodied individuals, colonization, heteronormativity, and cisnormativity.  The faculty, administration, staff, and student body at Hamilton College almost ubiquitously encompass a single population that continues the exclusion of historically underrepresented communities.

And it goes from there.

  • We, the Students of Hamilton College, demand for questions aimed at the prospective President-Elects to center systematic oppression and Hamilton College’s accountability with institutional racism. We demand a President of Color for the twentieth President of Hamilton College.  The lack of diversity within our College’s history of Executives has perpetuated these existing systematic problems. We demand immediate transparency in the hiring process. We demand the distribution of the minutes from these meetings with applicants. We demand a student lead forum to ask questions to the final candidates.  We demand the review of other colleges hiring practices to have them incorporated into the current system.”
  • “We demand an immediate increase in Faculty of Color on campus. We also demand an increase in tenure track hires for Faculty of Color. In order to retain Faculty of Color, we demand an increase in mentorship for tenure track Faculty of Color. We demand the prioritization of Faculty of Color in new hires. We demand the representation of all students by fostering diversity within our classrooms. We demand the active recruitment of Indigenous Faculty, Gender Nonconforming and Transgender identifying Faculty, and an increase of all Faculty of Color in the STEM fields. We, the Students of Hamilton College, demand Black Faculty to make up thirteen percent of Faculty before 2025. This number must exclude members of the Africana Studies Department.”
  • We, the Students of Hamilton College, demand that Elihu Root’s name be removed from all campus property because of his historic role in colonization.  We also demand the removal of all other racist hallmarks around campus, such as art and wallpaper in various places. Furthermore, we demand Fall Recess formerly to take on the name of Indigenous People’s Day. In order to create a campus that “embraces differences” we call for the naming of new buildings to honor alumni of Color.

I could go on and on, but you can read the demands for yourself.

Naturally, the outside world has turned the Movement’s demands and requests into comedy and denigration.  The Daily Beast pointed out that some of the Movement’s requests range from absurd to terrifying, including the ban on a social network called Yik Yak due to that program’s ability to promote anonymous hate speech.  (Have these students ever heard of 4chan or reddit?)

Speaking of Reddit, my favorite love-hate relationship website was kind enough to post this review of the Movement’s demands in the /r/CringeAnarchy subreddit.  Warning.  Language is graphic.  Other online sites have painted The Movement as anything from misguided students with a tenuous grasp on the English language, to imagining the students of The Movement all wearing Guy Fawkes masks in some sort of V for Vendetta cosplay.

To Hamilton’s credit, the school has increased its diversity and acceptance in the three-plus decades since my matriculation.  The number of non-Caucasian students on campus in 1981 was nearly microscopic; today the college boasts a student body of every race, religion, creed, orientation, preference, etc.  That progress did take a long time.  Longer than most might like.

But it is taking time.  And it is moving forward.  And whether the Movement’s ideas and demands are the equivalent of a student body recreating Martin Luther’s Wittenburg Cathedral postings, the question becomes – why are these students requesting these changes in the first place?  Is Hamilton so hostile that they can’t speak their mind for fear of retribution or expulsion or worse?

I will say this.  Change is important, change takes time; change is the advancement of new ideas and the dissolution of outdated ones.  We aren’t living in the world of decades past.  Our president was elected not for the color of his skin, but for the content of his character.  The President of Hamilton College is Joan Hinde Stewart, a woman leading a college that until 1978 was only open to male students.

Progress is coming.  Change is coming.  I may not appreciate the Movement’s message or its delivery or its grammatical soupiness, but the fact is, the dialogue is there.  And the College is listening.  They may not agree to all of the Movement’s “demands,” but they’re listening.

Somewhere throughout all the demands and all the accusations and all the conflicts, there is a common ground.  It can be reached.  I’ve seen it reached before when I was a student at Hamilton.

There are answers.  We just have to find the appropriate questions.

Thoughts while driving to Syracuse

By the time you read this, I’ll be on the road with a precious cargo – six of my best photographic artworks – for “Drop-Off Day” at the New York State Fair.  This seems to be part of an all-encompassing “drop-off-3-day-weekend” with my three entries for the Big E shipped yesterday, and my four (5) entries for Altamont being couriered to the Fairgrounds tomorrow.

So as I’m driving along the New York State Thruway with my entries… I’m thinking about things.  Again.  I do this a lot.  So bear with me on these things.

I’ve attended back-to-back funerals this week.  Last Wednesday was the services for my aunt Dolores.  It was a very dignified service and the staff at St. Thomas the Apostle did an excellent job.  If I could say one thing about the journeys of my life, it always seems that at some point in time I will find myself at St. Thomas the Apostle for baptisms, for weddings, and for funerals.  Such is the way of the world.

The next day, I attended a funeral service for one of my teachers at my high school, Ahmed Naqi.  This was my first experience attending a funeral at a mosque, and although I couldn’t understand any of the imam’s commands or prayers, I did understand the devotion and piety and spiritual strength of the attendees as they prayed for the soul of a good man.  The whole experience of two very emotional funerals left me, for lack of a better term, spiritually drained.

I’m 6,000 miles away from the big 100,000 mile marker for the Blackbird.  With that in mind, I’m looking at replacing anything and everything in terms of the car’s belts, fluids and the like.  If I can keep this car going for another 53,000 miles after that, I’ll have surpassed the mileage achieved by my first car, the 1991 Pontiac 6000.  It seems so long ago that I owned that “beater with a heater.”  Almost a lifetime and a half ago.

I’ve been enjoying the Sirius/XM satellite radio in my car, especially the old-time-radio dramas and comedies and westerns on the Sirius/XM Radio Classics.  If the schedule works out the way it should, I’ll enjoy episodes of Our Miss Brooks (Eve Arden in a hilarious sitcom about a high school teacher), the Phil Harris – Alice Faye Show (bandleader Phil Harris and his wife, movie bombshell Alice Faye, in their own domestic comedy), and a Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar marathon (Bob Bailey in the transcribed adventures of an insurance investigator with an action-packed expense account).  Good stuff.  Combine that with a Gunsmoke episode, a sci-fi story from X Minus One, and an experimental broadcast from the CBS Radio Workshop, and it’ll be a fun trip today.

I’ve been rebuilding my white tower computer system for the past week.  It’s involved reformatting my entire C: drive, upgrading to Windows 10, and reinstalling all my software.  Luckily I was fortunate to store my photos and writings and music and other materials on ancillary hard drives, so they weren’t lost in the crash.  It’s just been a pain in the tuchus to get everything reinstalled.  And when I figure that I’ve worked with personal computers going all the way back to the old TERAK standalone desktop computers at Hamilton College, going forward through a Packard Bell 386 laptop I purchased at Sears, and a few second-hand computers bought at various locations throughout the Capital District – none of which are around any more – if we were talking in the language of science fiction, I’m currently on the Tennant edition of my tower, having just regenerated from my Eccleston edition.  Please do not ask me to explain this, or I will club you upside the head with a sonic screwdriver.

There was a recent article in Forbes magazine about the National Basketball League of Canada, my winter employer.  It was a very positive and fair article about the league and its accomplishments.  And I should mention that the league’s Commissioner, David Magley, is a former member of the Albany Patroons.  I’m telling you, being a Patroon is a good thing for your future career.

If someone had said to me fifteen years ago that I would go from a Nikon CoolPix 800 camera to nearly a dozen digital and film cameras, I would have thought they nuts.   Just goes to show you what happens over time.  Then again, I wouldn’t have brought six artworks to Syracuse today had I known all this.

You know how some people can fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole?  My rabbit hole is YouTube.  I start pulling videos for K-Chuck Radio and next thing I know, I’m watching a documentary on electronic tabletop football.  Yeah.

I’m driving by Hamilton College, my alma mater, right now.  Dear is thy homestead, glade and glen… okay, enough of that.  I realize that one of my pictures, The Walkway, is among the six that I’m bringing to Syracuse this year.  It’s also the first photo from dear old Ham Tech that I’ve ever entered into competition.

The Walkway
The Walkway. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, Efke 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

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This photo was taken with my first “gifted camera,” a Rolleiflex Automat MX that was donated by my good friend Teri Conroy.  I’ll probably see Teri when she brings her Wunsapana Farm llamas to the Big E this year.  As for “gifted cameras,” I’ve received two more in the past year – a beautiful Leica M3 and a sturdy Argus C3, both rangefinders.  Next year, I believe that those cameras will produce images that will be competition-season worthy.

It’s a beautiful day today.  Beautiful days are good things.  They’re rare and precious, and they disappear before you’re finished enjoying them.

Time to keep driving.  I’m almost at Syracuse now.  Turning Stone Casino is just ahead.  No.  Not stopping.  At least not this time.  Maybe on the way home to give me a “driving break.”  That, and I have to decide if I really want to make a charitable donation to the Oneida Indian Nation or not.  Maybe I’ll just enjoy the wonderful world of Sav-On gasoline.

In about a week or so, the local Hess gasoline stations will convert to Speedway gas stations.  What does that mean?  Most likely… no more Hess toy trucks in our area.  Serious bummer.

For the first time in what feels like forever, I’ve actually skipped watching a Marvel movie on opening night.  Yep, I didn’t go out to watch the new Fantastic Four movie.  And that’s odd for me, because I love the Fantastic Four.  How times have changed.

All right, listen.  I’m going to keep driving.  But I want everybody to have a good day today, get some sunshine and enjoy the beautiful summer.

And wish me luck.  🙂

And safe travels. 😀

Twilight at the Root Glen

The semi-gauzy illumination of the morning fills the cloudy, chilly sky.

And deep along the wooden walkways of a small arboretum on the campus of a Central New York private college, I’m hoping that the photos I take this early morning will soothe my troubled, fractured soul.

I’m here on the campus of Hamilton College, down in the depths of the peaceful and tranquil Root Glen.  I’ve mentioned in the past that the Root Glen helped keep me level and calm while the rest of my campus life spun around me like lo mein in a hurricane.

The deep inferiority complex was something I dealt with in four years on campus.  I was woefully unprepared for a life that would take me nearly two hours away from any comfort zone I previously knew.  I didn’t belong here in 1981, and I wasn’t sure I still belonged there in 1985.

And here I am.  I’ve packed a pack of high-contrast Efke B&W film into the Rolleiflex on this unusually chilly, damp summer morning.

What in the world do I hope to accomplish while everyone else is still in slumber?

Trust me.  There were moments when, with a campus of over 1,600 undergraduates, I felt like the loneliest person on the face of the Earth.  Lonely and unwanted and pathetic and useless.  And yet, even with those feelings festering and flipping inside me, I knew that staying at Hamilton College was my one escape, my one chance to break away from the toxicity that was my family.

My camera is ready; I’ve added the manual shutter cable release to capture crisp, tack-sharp tripod pictures that are free of camera shake or motion blur.

I gently press the shutter release, holding it down for a few seconds.  Here I am.

It’s 1981, and I’m away from my familial torments.  I had to get away from my parents.  And no matter how much my brothers and sisters loved and adored my stepfather, to me he was a monster who beat me and belittled me and bullied me and broke me.

I had to get away from my relatives, the ones that still thought I could stay home and take care of their kids and be an extra dependent for a welfare check, instead of actually attending school and achieving a real goal.  Even in those first days of college, I still had requests from my aunt to come home and watch the kids for a few weeks.  “You’re smart enough,” she once said to me. “You can catch up with whatever you missed.  If you can attend college based on attending a pretend high school, you can do anything.”

Yeah.  My aunt always called the Street Academy of Albany, my high school, a “pretend school.”  Never mind the fact that my Regents diploma is just as good as any other Regents diploma in New York State.

Another shot with the shutter release.

I was emotionally awkward in college.   I was lacking in social graces.  I didn’t understand at times that people were not laughing with me – in some cases, they were laughing at me.  I went through two dormroom moves in my first semester – one because my college roommate and I didn’t work well together (I think the college computer system matched us up because we were both from the Northeast and we didn’t smoke), and one because my neighbors didn’t want me nearby.

I tried to mask everything with an outward personality that probably drove away more people than it attracted.  I was, for all intents and purposes, a knucklehead.

Nobody can understand.  It’s so hard.  So emotionally draining.  It’s the vicious self-doubt that creeps and crawls and bites me.  And during reunion weekend, I find comfort in conversations with my classmates, with thirty years of distance from those 1980’s years.  The shared experience, the knowledge that, despite my insular feelings, all of us went through the wars.  We all dealt with the best and the worst of the college experience.  The temptations and the derailments.  The questions about what we would eventually do with our lives.

Graduation Day.  It’s 1985.  In the morning I’m still in North Dormitory, my clothes all packed and stored and ready to ship away.  My Grandma Betty and my Aunt Elaine have traveled to the campus, so have members of my family.  I receive my diploma and a ceremonial wooden cane.  The diploma was returned in 2013 so that the college would have an example of a diploma from that era; the cane was lost and later replaced.  And by the end of the night, I’m back living with my aunt and uncle in Ballston Spa and feeling like four years has been a dream and I’ve woken up to a life of misery.

I need to get my life together.  Within days, I’ve moved out of that dead-end locale to a third-story walk-up studio apartment with an overview of the lake at Washington Park.  Escape.  A new life.  A new chapter.

Take another picture.  Keep on going.  Don’t waste a shot.

And that was my mantra.  Don’t waste a shot.  I spent four years in college, take that impetus and find something to build upon it.

A few years later, I received some money for my published articles.  A few years after that, writing assignments for magazines.  One by one.  Animato.  Hockey Ink.  Goldmine.  Antique Trader.  MOJO.  The Academy of Country Music Hall of Fame.  Hustler.  American Brewer.  Basketball Digest.  Hockey Digest.  Football Digest.  This digest.  That digest.

And then, during my Goldmine years, came the books.  Warman’s American Records, two volumes.  Eleven cover stories with Goldmine.  Interviews with superstars and legends.  Treasured moments, portions of my life I will never forget.  The artists I used to play on college radio station WHCL (88.7 FM) were now talking to me for Goldmine publications.  This is an amazing moment.

And then came the photography.  Capturing art in a digital image; freezing a second in an analogue filmbase.  Self-taught.  Self-contained.  Shared.  Appreciated.  Some of my pieces are now residing in new homes.  I am humbled and thankful.  The reunion recruitment spokesperson, Paula Clancy, mentions my photographs as something to see during our reunion dinner.  Claps and cheers from my friends.

And a blog.  Can’t believe I’m pushing six years with the TU.  Six years; it doesn’t even feel like six seconds.  K-Chuck Radio.  Collarworld.  Iverhill.  Amish Mafia reviews.  A casket filled with record albums.  A movie club based on a throwaway John Travolta line in Pulp Fiction. 

Of course it all came from my four years at Hamilton.  How could it not?  How could I be so dense as to never realize it?  That it wasn’t just a college institution.  It wasn’t just classrooms and lessons.  It wasn’t just.   It just was.

Take another picture.

It’s Sunday morning, the last day of Reunion Weekend.  I’m at the Chapel, the iconic house of worship in the center of the campus.  It’s an interdenominational faith service and remembrance.  In the program, I note the names of eleven classmates from my graduation year.  Eleven classmates who could not attend our 30th reunion.  Or maybe they did attend, in spirit.  Terry Blunt.  Gregg Kreider.  Maia Sinisi.  Dan Kopel.  Randy Shure.  Glimpses of memories.  Fragments of moments.  Their journeys are over.  But memories of them still continue in all of us.

Find that one frame, that one shot.  The one that captures the journey.  The bridges that span the chasms of despair.  The journey to the finish.  That one shot is here, Chuck.  You took it.  You took that photo on a chilly Saturday morning in 2015, at a moment when you were the only person awake on the entire campus.  This is the culmination of everything imaginable.  This was the step.  Guided on the way by professors and administrators.  Assisted by counselors and friends and compatriots.

This is the shot.

Take it now and stop talking.

Root Glen.  Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, efke 100 film.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Root Glen. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, efke 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Nice.

Nice like spice.

And for all intents and purposes…

Emotional batteries recharged.

Dream Window 13: Carissima and Kodachrome

In July of 1981, I attended a five-week pre-freshman orientation program at Hamilton College.  Between that summer and the late spring of 1985, I was a college student at one of the “Little Ivies.”  There were days when I felt about as out of place as Willy Loman in a summer stock production of Spamalot; conversely, there were days when I felt that being part of Hamilton College was the best choice I could have ever made.

You know what?  Hamilton College is as much a part of my life and legacy as everything else I’ve experienced.  Therefore, the college deserves a Dream Window.

And for the Dream Window, I’m going to incorporate something very special.  It will include imagery of the Hamilton College Chapel – the iconic structure that sits centrally in the “Stryker Side” of the campus.  And if all goes well, it will get its debut in a very special place.

IMG_20150222_193318Now take a look at this window.  This is a Queen Anne window that I snagged from Silver Fox Salvage in Albany.  I made a deal with Jamie and Camille at Silver Fox – they could have the stained glass panels inside the window, I would take the frame itself.  Yeah, it’s not the same as my usual “window-bashing” excursions, but I’m kinda in a hurry to build this.

In the past, I’ve had other people cut my panels of stained glass; this time, I decided it would be advantageous to start cutting my own stained glass panels.  Look, if I really want this “Dream Window” to symbolize my craft, then it’s time I learned how to cut stained glass by myself.

The plan was to have the swirls of stained glass blend from panel to panel.  I’ve done this before, but it often involved having someone else cut the panels.  This time, I bought some swirled Hobby Lobby stained glass, and after careful measurement of each piece…

I scored the glass with a carbide wheeled glass cutter.  And then… deep breath… close my eyes…

SNAP

Two pieces of glass, with a break perfectly along the score line.

Whew.  Okay.  I can do this.

Each glass pane had to create three panels – one corner and the adjoining panels.  If done properly, the swirls would match through three panels.

First try.  Hobby Lobby white-burgundy swirled glass.  Things worked well.  I went back to Hobby Lobby and bought more swirled glass – blue-clear, green-clear, red-clear.  Went and purchased a second blue-clear because I messed up on a score line.  Oh well.  Stuff happens.

IMG_20150224_080150And when it was finished… looky here.

In the past, I’ve had my stained glass either pre-cut or trimmed by someone else.  This is the first Dream Window in which I’ve made the cuts myself.  And thankfully, only a small loss of blood.  All fingers remained intact.  Hee.

Now all I need to do is caulk the panes into place, and I’m all set.  Nice Dream Window, isn’t it?

Oh wait… I need something for the center pane.  And for that, I want a picture of the Hamilton College Chapel.

The Chapel was erected in 1827, and one of the architects involved in its construction was Albany architect Philip Hooker.  It has hosted countless weddings and religious services, and several of the College’s presidents – including the founder, Samuel Kirkland – were ministers.   Here’s a link to the history of the Chapel.

Okay, I have to go back and find a good picture of the Hamilton College Chapel.  I know I’ve taken dozens of photos of it over time, I’ve used nearly every camera in my arsenal to capture the simple beauty of that house of worship.

Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, N.Y.
I’ve photographed the chapel with Kodachrome film…

Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, N.Y.
I’ve shot it with my old Nikon CoolPix 800 camera…

Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton NY
This was taken with some crisp B&W efke film…

Hamilton College Chapel tower, Clinton, N.Y. - Shot on 60-year-old Kodak 120 B&W stock
And I used 60-year-old Kodak B&W film for this shot.

Hamilton College Chapel and statue of Alexander Hamilton, Svema film
Got this chilly shot with my wonky Svema film.

Hamilton College Chapel, Polar Panorama
And here’s a Polar Panorama with the Chapel at 12:00.

Eventually I settled on this picture.  It was a Kodachrome photo from August 2010, while I was on a trip through the Utica-Clinton Mohawk Valley area.

hamilton slideBy the way, do you know how difficult it is to create THIS digital image at left, to show you the Kodachrome border AND the image itself?  Yeah.  Tres difficult.  In fact, a true Hamiltonian will notice that the picture is horizontally flipped.  The statue of Alexander Hamilton holds a cane in his right hand, not in his left.  But how else can I show you that this was a Kodachrome slide?

Also, I needed a narrow photograph that encompassed the chapel and the statue.  You see how narrow that center panel is?  It better be at least as narrow as 8 inches wide by almost 17 inches long.

Digital scan.  Digital crop.  Just fits.  A quick edit job later, and the digital photo was couriered to my print lab of choice, McGreevy Pro Lab.  Okay, McGreevy, do your best.

And sure enough, a few days later, McGreevy Pro Lab produced my print – nicely foam-boarded and cropped, 8 inches wide, 17 inches long.

Now I need a pane of glass for the center.  No way am I putting unprotected artwork into that panel.

A quick stop at Lowe’s, where they will cut glass and plexiglass to my specific dimensional requests.

On Friday night, I stopped at Lowe’s with the specific dimensions.  8 inches wide, 17 3/4 inches tall.

The difference between Lowe’s and Home Depot is that Home Depot doesn’t custom-cut glass or plexiglass, and Lowe’s does.  But when I brought the pane of glass home and put it in the Dream Window frame… I discovered that the pane of glass was 8 1/2 inches wide.  8 1/2 inches won’t fit in an 8-inch opening.  In other words, 8 1/2 inches was just too big.  Please refrain from any 6th grade bathroom giggling after reading that previous sentence.

Saturday morning, I return to Lowe’s – this time the one in Northway Mall.  I asked them to cut the pane of glass for me.  They got it right this time.  I guess somewhere in Lowe’s, the memo of “measure twice, cut once” is only in half of the employee handbooks.

Anyway…

I was able to get the pane inserted… the artwork inserted… and as soon as the glazier’s points and silicone caulking do their job…

Okay, you want to see it, right?

Here it is.  My thirteenth Dream Window creation.

Dream Window 13 - Carissima and Kodachrome
Dream Window 13: Carissima and Kodachrome. Creation by Chuck Miller.

You like?  Yeah, I kinda like it, too.

Okay… now for the big news.  This Dream Window is getting displayed in a very special place this summer.

This Dream Window, along with Dream Window 11: Saratoga’s Healing Waters, and four framed photo artworks – The AGFA Bridge Over Ansco Lake, The Three-Two Pitch, Star Trails of Brown Tract Pond and Jesus Saves – will be part of an alumni art show this June, as part of my 30th reunion at Hamilton College.

How super-swank is that?

For me, this is a personal triumph.  When I started the Dream Window project nearly three years ago, I never imagined that I’d put together more than one or two of these artworks.  Now they’ve helped raise money in charitable auctions, they’ve landed on the walls in new homes and new establishments, and the creation of these treasures has helped me channel many of my emotions – both positive and negative – into something with visual appeal.

Not bad fora guy who only a few years ago wouldn’t know how to cut glass, caulk a window, or mix multi-media materials into an artwork like this.

Sometimes the paths we take can surprise us.  I know that Hamilton College guided me on a pathway that I never imagined.

And that’s the same with these Dream Windows.