year-in-review

2017 Year in Review by Simon Abrams

 New Yorkers march in protest of President Donald J. Trump's inauguration at the NYC Women's March.

2017 is almost over—what a year, huh? As a country we learned some hard truths about ourselves, but we also learned that we're more resilient than we thought. I think that might apply to me individually as well.

Over the years, at the suggestion of just about every self-help lifehack and prodicutvity blog in existence, I have made many half-hearted attempts at developing a daily journaling habit, but it never seems to stick. But when I look back at my photography, I realize that this has been my form of journaling all along—it's my one daily habit that happens virtually unconsciously, and that I have the itch to do almost no matter what. So ths collection of images is like a look back at my journal over the past year.

With that in mind, for this year's recap, I decided that rather than restrict myself to a specific number of images for the year, or picking a certain number of images per month, I thought I'd just go back and try to pick out the broader themes in my life that materialized through my photography.

Trump's America

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump and his ridiculous politics dominated this year. I'm not shy about saying I loathe the guy from the depths of my being. Because of that, and the renewed sense of civic duty that I know many of us felt as a result of his election, there was no question about whether I would attend the Women's March in January. The experience was  reassuring and helped me to realize that, after having felt let down by a good portion of this country, there were others that were not going to be apathetic, and would fight every day against the indecency of Donald Trump's presidency.

Prospect Park

I feel so fortunate to have Prospect Park as my front yard. When I'm stressed, or need a workout, or want to move slowly for a long time (as the Primal folks would say), the park is my go-to spot.

The Oculus

This didn't happen on purpose, but as I looked back over my photos from this year, I realized that I really spent a lot of time wandering around the Oculus at the World Trade Center. Some people really hate this building (and the fact that from the inside, it kind of feels like you got swallowed by a whale, and it cost billions of dollars), but I really love this space, and find myself compelled to try and take a unique photograph of it every time I'm there.

Everyday Surroundings

Although I try to shoot every day, I have my moments when I don't feel particularly motivated, especially when I'm caught in the day-to-day grind of going to work and coming back home for an extended, uninterrupted period.

I try to pull myself out of that by switching up my commute; by taking a longer route to or from work; by going out for a walk at lunch, even if I brown-bagged it. During those times, I make a point of consciously looking for the light, shapes, colors and designs that surround me. I guess this year, I had a thing for silhouettes and dramatic lighting.

Night

I've always loved night photography. It takes a little more effort, forces you to slow down, and is definitely helped by better gear (wider apertures, sensors that are more light-sensitive). But there results are always so worth it. I didn't do as much of it this year as I could have, but going over some of my night photos from this year made me remember how much I enjoy it.

Being Active

As far as being active and moving a lot, this was a good year. I lost around 14 pounds in April with my second round of the Whole 30 plan. I realized that I do really well with sticking to a workout when I sign up for something, like the Nike+ Run Club or Nike Training Club's coaching plans. Aside from that, for a good part of the spring, I developed a routine of going to karate twice a week, and had lots of fun getting beat up by Dante in sparring class. I also spent a lot of time on my bike, commuting to and from work a total of 38 times, (roughly 266 miles). My wife Stephanie and I even decided that we wanted to start doing more outdoors activities together, so we started with an easy hike at Franny Reese State Park this fall.

I'll admit that I got a bit lazy later in the year, and have been in full-on hibernation mode for the last few weeks, especially since it got dramatically colder here in New York. I even ended up gaining back some of the weight I had lost, but I'm ready to get back to it for 2018.

Wedding Photography

I went way outside my photography comfort zone this year. A friend approached me about shooting her wedding, and even though it gave me the jitters almost immediately, I decided to say yes. I was nervous for weeks leading up to the wedding, and had all sorts of doubts about my ability to do justice to Amanda and Alex's special day, but I had an amazing time doing it. I ended up feeling challenged, but also energized and creative in all sorts of new ways. The lesson for me was, it's true what they say: get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Music and Culture

Concert photography is one of my favorite things to do. Aside from my usual pilgrimage to the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, I managed to go to a couple of events this year, including the Afropunk Battle of the Bands in Williamsburg and 2 Chainz' performance closing Advertising Week in New York. I also decided to challenge myself to document the West Indian American Day Children's Parade, which is one of the more "low-key" events surrounding the main Parade on Labor Day. We also went up to the New York Botanical Garden's incredible Chilhuly Nights exhibit.

Friends and Family

Some of my favorite pictures this year (most years, for obvious reasons) were of the people close to me. Some of the highlights: we celebrated my father-in-law's 70th birthday at a gorgeous Airbnb rental up in Maine; I photographed my aunt Rose and cousin Claudia, along with her adorable new daughter Danai; I spent time with my cool, funny niece Alexandra; celebrated my sister Sarah's birthday; and I took advantage of a short trip to San Francisco for Afrotech, to reconnect with one of my life-long friends and his family. Finally, I capped off the year with a trip to Virginia to see my mom for her birthday.

2017 certainly had its moments. Politics and the moment we're having as a nation, as well as my own insecurities about myself and my professional growth were probably the most stressful things for me this year. But I think I learned a lot, and got to spend time with the people I care about the most. I don't really do the New Year's resolution thing, but I'm looking forward to continuing to work on myself as a person and as a photographer; and to nurture my relationships with my wife and friends and our families.

Here's to growth, health, and positivity for 2018.

2016 Year in Review by Simon Abrams

 The crowd reacts to the Roots' performance during Advertising Week at Webster Hall.

The crowd reacts to the Roots' performance during Advertising Week at Webster Hall.

2016 was a remarkable year, to say the very least. Not only on a national and global level, with events like Trump's unprecedented election victory, Russian hacks, and the Syrian war, but it was remarkable for me personally.

My wife was diagnosed with cancer late last year, so much of the early part of this year was dedicated to her recovery. Happily, she's healthy and cancer-free now, and she'll just have to be vigilant about getting checkups regularly to make sure she stays that way.

Aside from that, we took quite a few trips this year—some smaller trips to visit family and friends in Concord, New Hampshire and Atlanta; and some bigger trips like the one we took to China to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We also did an epic 9-day road trip through Upstate New York and Niagara falls with our nieces Gigi and Leila. It was a great way to experience New York (although I still have much of the state to see), as well as a fun way to spend time with our nieces as they grow into young ladies.

Overall, I'd say it was a good year for me. Professionally, I think I need to get really introspective and answer some questions about where my career development should be headed. As a photographer, I think I need to continue to push myself to make better images, and to keep working to refine my creative voice.

I had fun looking back over the past year while making my selects for this post, and in spite of the challenges that we face with Trump's administration, I feel optimistic about the year ahead.

Happy New Year!

2015 Year in Review by Simon Abrams

Who the hell does a Year-in-Review post in March? I do, that's who. 2015 was a hell of a year, with some big changes - both good and bad - for me and my family. I've referenced some of those changes here, but some of it... well, I've chosen to keep that stuff to the close friends and family.

Anyway, good or bad, my wife and I can once again look back and be thankful for the life we have, and appreciate how fortunate we are compared to so many in this world.

Happy Easter/St. Patrick's Day/whatever you celebrate in March.