Tuesday, August 27, 2013


By Henry C. Parke

Pictures of Things That Aren’t There - An Introduction

August 13, 2013

            I was born in 1954, in a hospital in Brooklyn Heights, on Henry Street, and for years my parents had me convinced that the street had been named after me.  After living briefly in an apartment in Bay Ridge, we moved to a beautiful house in beautiful Bellmore, Long Island.  Although Bellmore would later be best-known as the home of Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco, my strongest memory is of the brook that ran through our back yard, and the wild ducks that swam through it and nested along it. 
            My Dad worked in Brooklyn, and after a few years, the commute to and from Bellmore, whether by train or car, became unbearably long, and we moved back to Brooklyn.   We arrived just in time for me to start kindergarten, and I spent the balance of the first twenty-five years of my life in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.  It’s very chic now.  It was always nice, always elegant, but it wasn’t chic when I was a kid.  The chic place in Brooklyn back then was Brooklyn Heights, but the Heights priced itself out of the running, and Park Slope became ‘it’.  

            That’s not the sort of thing that matters to a kid, of course.  One of my many memories of growing up there centered not on local concerns, but rather with world events.  On November 22nd, 1963, I was nine, my sister was twelve.  Our parents were on a trip, and we were being ‘sat’ by our favorite relatives, great aunt Sadie and great uncle Abe.  My sister and I were upstairs, watching TV, when news broke in to say that President Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas.  When we ran downstairs to tell Sadie and Abe, they were cross.  “That’s not funny!  Don’t make jokes like that!”  That it was the truth was inconceivable to them.

            I cut the portrait of JFK off the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, and taped it to my bedroom wall, along with tiny crossed flags and tiny plastic roses.  On the day of his funeral, I went to the shopping area of Park Slope, 7th Avenue.  The store windows were filled with pictures of the late president and Jackie.  And in a vain attempt to record what was already irretrievably gone, I brought my Brownie Starmite box camera, and took pictures of the pictures in the windows. 

            Today, maybe fifty years later, I was back on 7th Avenue, taking pictures of things irretrievably lost.  I told my sister where I’d been.  “I’ll bet you saw nothing you remember, and no one you knew.”  She was right.  But at least I remember what used to be there. 

Copyright August 27, 2013 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved


  1. My first camera was the Brownie Starmite. It was the catalyst to me becoming a professional photographer for 23 years.

  2. My first camera was the Brownie Starmite at age 11 for Christmas 1959. It was the catalyst to me becoming a professional photographer for over 24 years. My inspiration came to me while camping on Catalina Island the summer of 1960, hiking and snapping images of the flora and fawna. I remember the exact instance that the idea of making a living shooting pictures occured. It was a good vibe. I still have the camera, and the original box! :)