You’re advised not to “…forget about it.”
“Click”, a shutter snaps in Manhattan, 1972. A grizzled homeless man doesn’t notice his photograph being taken. The print appears nearly forty years later in a display of Michael Palmieri’s Cityscapes.
While taking a mixed media class in his freshman year at Boston College, Palmieri quickly fell in love with photography. It was a different era of cinematography and photography. Gigantic cameras on tripods, reel-to-reel video decks; the class worked both in black-and-white and color. “Photography was the one that tripped my trigger,” said Palmieri.
English teacher and Drama Director for the school, Palmieri is renowned as head director for TJ’s productions of 2008’s Chicago and Moon Over Buffalo. “Working as theatre director for the fall play and working with Mrs. Herbert and Mrs. Fulkerson for the spring musical takes up a lot of my time,” remarked Palmieri. “I love doing it, but it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for photography.” Recently though, Palmieri has had a chance between Buffalo and the up-coming musical Footloose to make up a small display featured in our very own TJ library.
“Every once in awhile I just push the button at the right time and in photography it’s part skill, part technique, part art, and part just getting lucky. I was riding shotgun in my friend PJ’s VW. Happened to have my camera handy with a roll of color slides in it. Traffic stopped. I looked up and I saw this man walking past this bar in Manhattan and I put the camera up to my eyes and snapped the shutter.”
“We’ve been tempting to involve more and more of the TJ population in the library and in displaying their art,” says TJ librarian Sudi Stodola. The newly refurbished library has been hosting a number of programs along with featuring student made artwork beside the books themselves. “By including Mr. Palmieri’s photographs we’re really pleased to see that more and more are recognizing this attempt to have new multi-media in the library and further an inclusion of the entire school community.”
At the time, Palmieri and school were two wildly opposing ideals.
“My freshman year at Boston College I fell in love with photography. Unfortunately… I had not yet fallen in love with studying,” chortles Palmieri. Boston College was not pleased. Speaking with his parents about not allowing him to return, Palmieri chirped in with a counter-proposal. “I would come back first semester junior year, enter at a good standing. And in return I asked for a semester to do an independent study project involving photography.” Boston College agreed to these terms; and starting in his junior year, Palmieri set off with a pack filled with some cash, clothes, and a Nikon and Leica camera to begin hitchhiking the east coast.
“Photography: it’s part skill, part technique, part art, and part just getting lucky.”
Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC, Miami; Palmieri would hit the streets photographing life in the city. “I enjoy photographing people. I enjoy photojournalism, you know, telling a story with pictures,” responds Palmieri. His shots are dark, intersecting with odd angles and shapes. Shadows are a main focus. There’s often a human center of attention. This being the turning point of the 70s, the people in his photos don fedoras, smoke cigarettes, Nixon is their President, and American men are on the moon. Palmieri comments on a few of his images which can currently be seen in the library.
“He’s got a blanket keeping him warm. There’s a cigarette in his hand. He’s sleeping against the loading dock, and I think it captures some of the essence of homelessness. Yet, he looks like he has a hat, he looks distinguished. Although his clothes are a little raggedy it’s obvious that he’s a viable human being, which I think we forgot about sometimes.”