Bob Batch: Getting the Picture

By Bob Batch

This past Easter we took the family out for a ride with the intention of taking some pictures of everybody in their ‘nice outfits’.  We were in search of the requisite but ellusive family photo that captures everyone posed perfectly and smiling simultaneously for the same shot.

In the area, there are certain spots that are groomed for photo taking by wedding parties and such that make a lovely background for photos.  There’s a park in Tenafly with beautiful shrubbery that a lot of wedding parties use.  Some people go to the historic site in Interstate Park that overlooks the GW Bridge.  Another almost too popular site is the walk along the cliffs in Weehawken where there are so many couples lined up people have wound up in the wrong Bridal party before the picture taking was over.

Bob Batch

Bob Batch

We were on our way up to Vespas from the Lincoln Tunnel so we stopped at Port Imperial because there used to be a nice park at the old ferry near Arthur’s Landing.  Alas, all that is gone and the new port is a pedestrian thorough fare which has a nice view of Manhattan ,but a lot of bicycle traffic and activity.  You could wind up with a picture of some biker crashing into your family.

Besides finding an appropriate location at which to take the family picture another complication one encounters is that children do not like to pose for pictures unless they can do so while playing hand held video games.  Even after the exhaustive effort to get them to wear ‘outfits’ and to keep them fairly clean and unwrinkled, getting any sort of cooperation is like negotiating a budget through congress.

I am not really much of a picture taker anyway, so I don’t know how to pose people with the sort of authority that’s needed for those inspiring shots that one associates with members of powerful dynasties and Royal lineage.

When I was a kid my Aunt Anita was the family photographer. In those days photography was quite a production, but almost every family had one member who had some equipment and was enamored with the idea of photographing every event for prosperity.

Cameras back in those days (the 50’s) were on the same technical level as televisions.  TVs had rabbit ear antennas that you moved into various positions for each channel while the pictures flipped and warped in and out of focus.  Sometimes you had to move the whole set just to get some sort of fuzzy black and gray shapes while you fiddled with the dark and light buttons and vertical and horizontal hold.

Cameras were about as user friendly as TVs.  You had rolls of film to load which could be ruined by light.  You ‘d have to wind the film to the right spot, and I remember these cameras with big round reflectors where the flash bulbs would pop out and were so hot that you could get burned.  Many a perfectly posed picture, after hours of angst, frustration, and threats was lost due to a faulty flash bulb not going off.

Luckily, in retrospect, but unluckily for we kids at the time, my Aunt was a dedicated and somewhat militant photographer who tolerated no excuses when it came to posing.  As a result, there are hundreds of pictures of the kids in my family posed in order of height, in cowboy outfits, sailor suits, at birthday parties, and in Christmas pajamas.

Even though cameras are a whole lot easier to use I just can’t get all that involved with taking endless photographs of every aspect of life.  Neverthe- less, it’s nice to pull out the pictures once in a while and try to remember who half the people in the photos are.  (If the people you’re having trouble remembering are currently living with you it’s a bad sign)

Well, after we left Port Imperial we spotted a little park area at the entrance to Old River road across from the movie theaters.  I never noticed before that such a nice little spot was created there. It has a little bridge over a pond filled with gold fish, and beautifully manicured grass.  I don’t know if it is a public area or not, but no security guards mobilized to chase us away which was nice.

It’s almost hard to imagine the days when River Road was that two lane thoroughfare snaking between old railroad yards and old run down buildings.  Where this little park is today would have been sitting behind cyclone fences and amid the crumbling remains of the Ford Plant at one time.

Unfortunately, we did not get the perfect picture, as usual, but I am happy to have something recent I can carry around in my wallet.  And someday, my kids might look back at the photo and say “Remember when there used to be a little park there?”

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