Hello, Michael Klusek here.
I am a Flâneur, one who walks the city in search of captivation.
How it all Started
I started photography at age 10. By high-school I was majorly into it.
I think freshman year I got my first real camera, an Argus C3. A nerdy looking camera if there ever was one. A perfect match to my nerdy glasses. Now that I look at it again, almost a steam punk look with all the gears.
Senior year I graduated to a a SLR camera, the Beseler Topcon Auto 100, among the earliest SLR with metering behind the mirror! Even then I was on the cutting edge.
Of course, I was in the Camera Club. We were basically free labor to make all the sports team pictures. But hey, I learned all about the darkroom processes. I still remember the outrageous fun us teenagers had after our three hour sessions under the red lights. (not those kind of red lights, we couldn’t even drink beer yet.)
But we would hang out at the Fireside, a pizza joint with a good backroom where we would pig out on pizza and pitchers of root beer. I think it was breathing all the chemicals that made us high. We used to give the waitresses a hard time and they would sling it right back at us. We would tell the latest dirty jokes. One guy was absolutely nuts about ice hockey and would regale us with stories of his last goal scoring antics. A good time!
Not only was I a photographer, I also ran cross country, winter track and spring track. When I wasn’t running an event, I shot the rest of the team. Here I had one of the nice cross country girl assistants take the shot. That is me on the left. Mr Haas, our coach is starting the race on the left.
Here some of the track team are joshing me by showing off there non-existing medals.
Of course I medal-ed myself. Q for Quakertown High School.
Then off to college, UPENN, 1971, where I studied Electrical Engineering. I told you I was a geek! My class was the first to abandoned the slide rule. One of my roommates sophomore year bought the first HP hand held calculator (around $400 at the time), I got an Texas Instrument one the next semester for around $120. The first law of chips in action. They will get faster, smaller and cheaper. My time at PENN was busy. I envied the liberal arts majors who could play Frisbee on the green, while I was stuck inside another long afternoon lab class. But we had the ENIAC to inspire us, the first re-programmable digital computer was on display down the hall.
I used to study sometimes at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Something about being with artifacts that have lasted millennia was very calming. Even then, I was starting to educate my eye by studying the masterworks. I believe photography is an integral part of the arts.
It wasn’t always viewed this way. During the early 1900’s the Pictorialists movement’s goal was to help photography be treated as art by emulating soft focus and ‘painterly’ effects. See the journal Camera Work published by Alfred Stieglitz.
Then along came Ansel Adams and the Group f64 who advocated sharp focused and carefully framed images. He was at the peak of his popularity during the 70’s (I should have purchased one of his prints when they were affordable). Since I was into landscapes at that time I was a fan of the Zone System. After college, I experimented with my own film development and printing. I had a 100 ft reel to load my own 35mm cartridges with Kodak Tri-X.
Jobs in Computers
After college I worked for Burroughs, a minicomputer company in Downingtown, a western suburb of Philly. I had periods where I didn’t do photography much for years, then something would shift and I’d have a creative spurt for a few years. Always when I came back my standards would be higher.
I rode the wave of personal computer starting in 1976, when the Apple I was introduced. I wasn’t into Apple then but another big shift would happen.
In the second half of the 80’s I worked in Boston. I saw Steve Jobs introduce the Macintosh live on stage at Boston Symphony Hall. It was like a rock concert for geeks. Fonts, windows, mouse, oh My! MacPaint. We were screaming and rolling in the aisles with amazement. I had to have one and got the 512K Mac a few month later. When Apple came out with the PostScript based LaserWriter that was the start of desktop publishing. PageMaker lead to Photoshop which lead to scanning printed images, then slides.
A Harvard Olympian got the idea to bring crew to the masses modeled on the Community Boating program (sailing) that was around since the 1920’s. So for a nominal monthly fee anyone could learn rowing in the majestic eights. Community Rowing had obtained some retired wooden shells and we got the enjoyment of learning an ancient skill. But first we had to be trained on the oar stroke sequence. It’s imperative that all rowers be in sync and the proper blade angle used, since the shell had a round bottom and no kneel. It’s sides are less than three inches above the water line, so if not held level there was trouble. That is the whole key to crew; keeping the boat level at all times for maximum speed. So we initially trained on a flat bottom barge for a month.
At my IT job at a hospital, I taught myself programming and became a HyperCard expert. That was a software application that you could program to make interactive applications including bit-mapped images and sounds.
I developed a program called The Cognition Zone to help stroke and head injury patients improve their concentration. My app even got a grant from Apple to expand its use. By then, I had developed a major itch to be at Apple.
Go West Young Man, Off to California
I moved to Palo Alto with a friend and got into the consulting lifestyle. Being in the heart of Silicon Valley and next to Stanford was a thrill during the 90’s. I remember using Yahoo web directory index and later using Google when it still was hosted on Stanford’s campus.
In 1992 I took a field trip offered by a community college photo department to Death Valley. A week of camping and shooting in the desert and ghost towns. Took a lot of shots but the ones taken with the compact Olympus Stylus Panorama still stand out. Unlike digital cameras that take several pictures as you pan then stitch then into one wide image, this film camera cropped the top and bottom of a full size frame. The lens was purposely designed and the resulting image therefore had no stitching artifacts at all. Just one shot. I think you will agree the results is amazing.
In 1995, I got a gig at Apple for a year and half. I supported the authoring tool used in the documentation group (written in HyperCard). We made the manuals for maintenance and repair of Apple products and I produced a monthly CD that went to retailers. This was way before the Apple Stores. The cool thing was I worked with artists and writers. Every 3rd Friday afternoon we would have a SALON. People would exhibit their painting, photography, read poetry etc. Yep, that was one of those things that made Apple so special.
I would still be there now but by the mid 90’s Apple was hurting. Microsoft owned the market, and Apple was not hiring when my contract was up. So I ended up doing database work. A year and a half later Steve Jobs would return and start refocusing the company. By 2001 the iPod was introduced and Apple was on a roll.
Then in 2001 the Tech Crash, or “Dot-Com Bubble” burst and work was scarce.
Escape to the Desert and Regroup
I decided to go to a lower cost area and moved to Tucson, AZ for the full desert experience. I was pretty disgusted with tech but I somehow discovered WordPress when it was version 1.2 in 2004 and got excited about blogging. So of course, I started consulting around it and build websites for small businesses.
I had my first photography showing at a friends house. They had restored a large house and invited friends to show their art at a house warming party. I printed some 8×10’s on my Color Epson printer and had them mounted on gator board, made info tags to go next to each and set them up on the wall. That was a fun show with paintings, sculpture and live music.
These are scans of two of those old prints.
Philly Reviving and I Come Back
By 2006, I was bored with the Tucson scene. It’s a small town. At the time I saw an article about how Philly was getting to be a interesting place. The New York Times stated that Philadelphia under Mayor Ed Rendell “has made one of the most stunning turnarounds in recent urban history. He came up with the idea of branding an arts corridor on South Broad, where the theaters and concert halls were as the ‘Avenue of the Arts’. He also started a 10 year tax abatement program for rehabbed properties in center city, later expanded to new properties. By 2006, the rebirth was already evident to the national press. In 2005, construction was started on the Comcast Center, a 58-story, 297-meter (974 ft) tower that is the tallest building in Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania as well as the nineteenth tallest building in the United States.
Now it was obvious to me that things had shifted greatly since I left in 1985. It looked like Philly was going to be an interesting place to be.
So I came back and quickly hooked up with a consulting company that needed my WordPress skills. I moved into my father’s old house in Port Richmond, a Philly neighborhood with a long history of Polish, Irish and German descendants. I eventually got rid of my aging car and became a true urbanite. I get around by walking and public transit. This is great, because I can observe the changing urban fabric which is my favorite subject matter and photograph what strikes me in the moment.
My timing was good because the Phillies baseball team was also rising and in 2008 won the World Series. The celebration parade was a blast. As second baseman Chase Utley said “World Fucking Champions“.
I joined a photography club called the Philadelphia Photo League. It is modeled after the famous Photo League of NYC : The Photo League was a cooperative of photographers in New York who banded together around a range of common social and creative causes. The League was active from 1936 to 1951 and included among its members some of the most noted American photographers of the mid-20th century. Its members pioneered street photography. This was enabled by the invention of 35mm cameras such as the Leica. Small size and portability allowed for quick shots and a non-intimidating experience for wary subjects. The Philadelphia Photo League also has a social cause philosophy and does multiple pro bono photo work for non-profits.
In June, 2103 I started using Instagram. Now I am totally addicted. I decided to call my account @PhillyRevive since I am all about sharing my take on the scenes of new urbanism, civic pride and world class public amenities. Like the Schuylkill River Trail, rated in 2015 by USA Today “Best urban trail in America”.
I am a freelance photographer and occasional writer for the Spirit News, a neighborhood weekly print newspaper. Also on the leadership team at Philadelphia Photo League and lead photo walks in various Philly neighborhoods. I call them meanders: meet at a coffee shop, do the walk, get some neat shots, end at a cool bar for some drinks and more conversation. If you are in the Philly area, come join us for some events, details at meetup site.
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