NYC Fine Art & Documentary Wedding Photography » NYC wedding and portrait photographer specializing in fine-art, documentary & fantasy | based in Brooklyn.

Maybe it’s the winter.

Or maybe it’s because I just fell in love with a series called Outlander which is about a woman from the 40’s thrown back in time to 1743 where she gets caught up with a Scottish Highlander.

That led me to dreaming about an escape from NYC. Thick, dark forests, fog enshrouded moors, fairy mounds…… heck, might as well throw in a Scottish Highlander while I’m at it.

In any event, I have a case of wanderlust.

Bali.

Bali is the first on my bucket list of places in the world that I would love the opportunity to photograph a wedding. 

I can’t think of travel without thinking of one of my favorite places in the world: Bali.

I first went to Bali in 2000. I fell in love. I went back two more times after that. In 2008 I vowed I would land on Balinese soil for my 38th birthday. Which I did.

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The first time I went to Bali, we stayed in Ubud and hired a driver to show us around Bali. We spoke of traffic and road rage. Ketut said to us: “In Bali if we have traffic, we get out of the car and we talk to each other.”

That is how I always think of Bali.

I also remember waiting for a traffic light and we all happened to look to our left where a roadside artist displayed his velvet paintings for sale. Prominently front and center was a large velvet painting of a reclining woman with a naked torso, a monkey sitting next to her pinching her nipple.

Ketut said out loud: “oh look at the painting! A monkey and a woman!” innocently. After he said it out loud he realized just what the monkey was doing and then he said “oh, a monkey AND a woman” in a softer tone as if he was trying to take away the attention to the detail he just pointed out before he realized what that painting was depicting. It was very cute.

I happen to love monkeys. Monkey Forest was my favorite place to visit. In 2008 I was in Bali as a single traveler so I was able to spend as much time in the monkey forest as I desired to without feeling bad! One morning I was at the edge of the forest waiting for it to officially open and the tiniest baby monkey was hanging out at the edge with other monkeys.

The thing with the monkeys – if you just hang out and be patient you will be rewarded. They will come sit on you, hang out, chill out and enjoy time with you. So this tiny monkey, he ended up sitting on my open palm. Chilling out, munching on a leaf.

He. Was. The. Tiniest. Cutest. Thing. EVER.

I preface this next paragraph with a fact. I have been around animals since before I could walk. I’ve raised and bred so many pets in my lifetime. I was either going to be a vet or an artist growing up. Animals were my life. I know animals. Very well.

But.

Sometimes that damn cute factor takes over the logical brain. And well, I just HAD to pet that teeny, tiny, baby monkey. I saw my hand going up to its head even though I knew better. The mom, sitting just in front of us, reached out, tapped me and showed her teeth slightly.

“Don’t even think about touching my baby you human!”

Yeah. I know. I see those teeth. But cute and stupid brain has a hold of me.

Hand comes down.

No sooner than my fingertips grazed that baby did I suddenly feel a sting.

Momma bit my stomach.

She didn’t draw blood. She didn’t even break the skin. She could have done some serious damage. But she made her point. I’m forever thankful to that momma monkey.

And I’m forever thankful for that particular trip to Bali too. 

I had met Steven right before going there and during the hottest parts of the day I spent it online at an internet cafe chatting with Steven and coming to find that I loved him dearly. He put reality into the scenario when he said “YOU WERE BIT BY A MONKEY?” and “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THINGS THEY CARRY?”

Btw, I was run through a bunch of tests and checked out by a doctor who had a connection to a “monkey specialist” in NY. Everything was fine.

And after that trip, 2 weeks getting to know Steven intimately, I got off the plane and told Steven I was his.

So I have a bit of a romantic soft spot for Bali. And I keep dreaming of what it would be like to photograph a wedding there. So it’s the top of my “weddings I want to photograph bucket list.”

And when I’m not shooting, you will find me communing with the monkeys in Monkey Forest.

Bali, Indonesia 2008 Photography by Kristin ReimerPINIMAGE

Bali, Indonesia 2008 Photography by Kristin ReimerPINIMAGE

 

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Thinking of popping the question in the near future? Here are a few ideas in NYC to keep in mind.

As a photographer in New York City I have covered so much territory. I’ve seen wonderful locations for proposals, engagement sessions and weddings. New York City is so diverse that it offers up so many opportunities to be unique and to bring to your special moment, something that will be personal, unique and memorable.

If you were to do an internet search for “romantic places to propose in NYC” you would find the usual subjects: the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Station are among the most popular locations. I decided to concentrate this first post to some locations that are off the beaten path. There are so many places to pop the question so I’ll be breaking these blog posts up over time and categorizing them according to the type of location.

1. Tranquil and Scenic: Wave Hill, Bronx

http://wavehill.org/home/

A tranquil and serene setting, Wave Hill is a 28 acre estate with wooded paths, a greenhouse, gardens and expansive lawns overlooking the Hudson River and the N.J. Palisades. There are many quiet nooks here to keep your proposal just between the two of you and the birds and the bees (and yes, they really do have bee hives here!)

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2. Artistic and Historic: The Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park, Washington Heights

http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/visit-the-cloisters/

A scenic walk through Fort Tryon Park overlooking the Hudson, leaves you standing at the base of a castle in New York City. The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring its Medieval collection. Enjoy the artwork and then channel your inner Knight and create your own history with your lover within the quiet recesses of the arches, courtyards and gardens.

A good option for the winter months or inclement weather.

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3. Seasonal: Cherry Blossom Season in April.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn:

http://www.bbg.org/discover/cherries/

Cherry Walk, Riverside Park, Manhattan:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/edc/pdf/greenway_mapside.pdf

The Japanese have long enjoyed traditions and social rituals surrounding Hanami, the Japanese name for the month long celebration of cherry blossom viewing. A picnic under the falling petals will be a beautiful start to your own ritual. Cherry Blossoms are in bloom typically in late April.

CherryBlossomsPINIMAGE4. A Hidden Gem: St. Lukes Garden, 487 Hudson Street

http://www.yelp.com/biz/church-of-st-luke-in-the-fields-new-york

A secret garden tucked behind St. Lukes Church. The large ivy-blanketed wall around the garden ensures that this location remains a quiet secret between those who have made the discovery of this oasis within the West Village. This cozy, manicured garden provides privacy and peace to those who seek it. The perfect location to reveal the secret you have tucked away in your pocket.

StLukesPINIMAGE5. NYC Iconic: Times Square

Broadcast your love in one of New York City’s most memorable locations. Be ready to create a stir as you proclaim your love amidst the hustle and bustle and energy of the Big Apple.

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I would love to hear about your proposal! Send me your stories and photos about your own proposal and if you should find yourself planning a proposal at one of these locations, I hope to be invited to the wedding! Congratulations.

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This is part FIVE, and the last, in my week-long series on Jewish Orthodox Weddings. Links to parts: one, two, three and four.

This is the last post. For now.

Thank you so, so much to everyone that has been following and reading these threads. I have never gotten so immensely personal in my blog before and I’ve always felt there wasn’t anyone listening so it’s been so uplifting hearing from people. One of the consistencies in the responses that I’ve had from my Jewish friends lies in storytelling which is something I am ALL about. I’ve received stories/anecdotes from several people (many involving the Rebbe) and it’s been truly remarkable. Keep them coming, they are a source of inspiration and wonderment for me.

One thing that I had hoped for in posting the personal stories of the people I’ve met is that I want everyone to become real. I want empathy built in the same way it was built for me. When we find ways to relate to each other, compassion and tolerance often follows (hopefully). I was once “afraid” to talk to anyone Orthodox. So many questions and “myths” in my head fed much of that fear.

You never know where the road will lead you if you remain open to what, or who, has been standing in front of your face this whole time. Turn around from facing the corner and look around at the great space behind you. If nothing else I hope that at least one person out there may be less afraid to engage their neighbor in conversation today.

Before I close this off, there is one other person who is very special to me that I want to bring (back) into the picture. I feel so ingrained in her life and family that I really wanted to give back a way that I think many will appreciate.. with storytelling. But this will be visual storytelling, I’m much better with images than words.

And I think if I start writing I may get lost because she’s no longer living nearby and that will make me sad.

Remember Chanie? She told me at a wedding when we first met that I was going to be her wedding photographer. She just had to find the guy first.

Then Chanie met Uli.

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She has great taste:

Chanie Shalmoni and Uli Baron at the Jewish ChildrenPINIMAGE

Her sisters are so much fun

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This has always been a favorite:

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I love this image because Uli looks like a movie star with all the girls photographing him during his public introduction!

I love this image because Uli looks like a movie star with all the girls photographing him during his public introduction!PINIMAGE

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And then I had another new experience! A Lag BaOmer wedding! (To learn of Lag BaOmer go here: LagBaOmer).

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The below image is one of my favorite wedding images I’ve ever taken. Everything is lined up perfectly, every important person is clearly seen. I see the feelings I have during the bedeken, the moment the bride and groom see each other finally,  the loving looks of the parents, the excitement of the guests gathered around, the hands conveying care to each other. The son/brother on the left smiling to his mother as she grabs his arm in a flurry of emotions a mom would have on this day. And the strength the bride’s mom gives to her daughter as she holds the veil on her head.

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The moment when that veil comes off and they can look at each other, as husband and wife. I love this moment.

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And this is one my favorite moments from the entire wedding day. I will never forget this moment. Driving to their portrait session, Uli looks over at Chanie with a look of pure wonderment. He is married, this is his wife. He is embarking on a new life on this day. I will never know what was in his head that day, but these are things that I saw in this expression on his face.

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Below photograph by Steven Fontas:

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And then…. a sweet baby boy. Bentzi.

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And then I learned about “making Aliyah” – basically, moving to Israel.

Be well my friends!

 

Thank you everyone for reading to the end.

I hope to expand on my friendships! If you know anyone getting married, please pass along my name! And… I do travel. I haven’t been to Israel yet. Will it be for you???????? 😀

 

 

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Part FOUR of my week long series on Orthodox Jewish Weddings. Links to previous posts: ONE, TWO, THREE.

One of the best benefits for me personally of shooting weddings are the friends made. You come into a family’s life on a momentous day as a stranger and come out as a friend. I really love my clients, all of them. I hate even saying “clients” because they are all more. And since I began shooting Chabad weddings, frienships continue to blossom in some of the most unexpected ways. And in some cases, furthering the (insert whatever your own belief system would be here) ways in which I was meant to be on this path.

Stay with me, one of these friendships had a part in a life changing situation.

Leigh Hershkovich. I wish I had a way with words like she does to most accurately describe her. Leigh, Noi’s twin sister, is an author. Her words are simply magical. I always felt connected with Leigh, but it was reading her blog posts and writing on Facebook that drew me closer. She writes with so much honesty and candidness. Her published book Shattered Illusions is an incredible mystery novel! I highly recommend it. Watching her promote her book was very inspirational.

And Leigh truly broke any boundaries I felt about being an outsider. Yes, she would openly answer so many of my questions about the Chabad community and help me to understand even further, but I always just saw her as a friend. Not my “Chabad friend” but simply a friend. Maybe, artistic friend if anything!

And she was a model! Happily playing through knee high snow in the Botanical Gardens in a thin dress to take fun photos. Here is a personal composite image, an author’s portrait I created from our session:

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Before this goes too long, let me just highlight a few of these moments in my life full of serendipity.

Returning from photographing a wedding in Mexico, a young woman changed her seat to an empty one next to ours. The man next to her previously had been coughing up a storm and she didn’t want to risk getting sick. Very randomly, we happened to speak to each other. Well, I found out that she is the wife of a videographer in Crown Heights that I was friends with (we had been scheduled to shoot a wedding together).

While photographing a wedding in California I met/befriended Batsheva. Batsheva, among many other talents, is an amazing masseuse. Batsheva has come to be the person who fixes me back up after my 10+ hour wedding days, but it’s more than that! Batsheva has created a home of artistic expression and healing that I have been invited into. Batsheva has been instrumental in my return to bellydance teaching and in becoming a photography teacher.

Raizy and her family (whom I also met at the CA wedding). What a gentle soul. What a marvelously happy and artistic family. I photographed Raizy’s wedding and then the couple moved to Israel. One day, maybe 6 months (?) later I was at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, I turn the corner and there is Raizy’s mother. The serendipity of it…. she had just returned the day before from visiting Raizy in Israel AND she was on the phone with Raizy at that precise moment I came upon her in the gardens. For what it’s worth. I do not visit the gardens on a regular basis.

Chanie Dubov. I met Chanie at my first Shabbos lunch and we’ve stayed fast friends. She makes a killer zatar challah bread!! She’s a nutritional, mind/body life coach and she feeds my tea addiction! haha. It was at one of her Shabbos dinners that I had been talking with two interesting individuals whom I then found out were two people that I knew about from following the artistic explosion in Crown Heights. Saul and Elke. Saul created Punk Jews  – see the below photo to see my personal excitement on that subject! Not to mention I discovered Saul is a fellow alumni of Pratt! And Elke I remembered from a segment on the arts and she was extremely intriguing to me so it was very cool to meet her in person.

below photo: me in 1987:

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I could go on and on.. but I need to bring up Rochel and the impact she had and continues to have on my life.

Rochel I met in that first year. She was the first intern/assistant I’ve ever brought in to Photomuse. I can’t even call it “intern” because it was more a “friendtern” lol. The first time we met in person was during a night of Chanukah. She graciously invited me into her home and life and between herself and her brother-in-law, gave me the most in-depth understanding of Chanukah. It’s taken me all of these years to get to this place to truly understand what that holiday is about. I was so humbled to have been included in their family that night.

Rochel is a beautiful young woman but her soul is way beyond her years. She sees deeply. Her eyes are lit with fire and compassion at the same time. She’s full of talent in so many areas. Rochel became a muse, an inspiration, a friend, a therapist, my teacher in (yes more) Chabad, my student, my companion.. and so much more.

And with Rochel I had my first experience at The Ohel. 

The Ohel is located in a cemetery in Queens. The Ohel is where the the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and his father-in-law Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn are interred. People from around the world, both Jewish and n0n-Jewish visit throughout the year. The tradition is to write prayers on a small piece of paper which are then torn and tossed onto the graves. Newly engaged couples come here to offer up wedding prayers and subsequently “officially” announce their engagements. Women follow up with prayers at the gravesite of the Rebbe’s wife just outside.

It was a place of tradition and rules. We entered a visitor’s center wherein there were tables with people writing their prayers. It was quiet and studious, unless you are there after an engagement is announced. I felt so self-conscious being the only, noticeably, non-Jewish visitor. But as in everything I have been experiencing, it was okay. I was welcomed and often encouraged to learn and partake.

To enter the Ohel I had to remove my leather shoes (no leather allowed). Upon entering, there are two separate entries, one for women, one for men. You light a candle and enter….. silence. The Ohel opens into a square tomb that is open to the sky. The graves themselves are surrounded by a wall about waist high. The only thing that separates the men and women physically is a metal, chain-link curtain on one side.

The first thing I noticed was the mound of paper on top of the graves and how that represented the prayers, hopes, gratitude and dreams of soooo many people. Then I was aware of the how deep the silence filled the space. And as I began to adjust, the silence allowed other sounds to be readily apparent: sounds of ripping paper and the soft sounds of prayers being whispered. The shuffle of rubber crocs (borrowed from the visitor’s center to replace leather), the swoosh of fabric as a person would sway slightly in prayer. As someone who adores the tactile feel of old books, I immediately picked up on the sound of pages turning from prayer books and the sounds that come the heft of hard-covered, bound books being placed atop one another and/or being lifted away. And when the breeze blew, the rustle of papers on the gravesite.

It was very peaceful, but also very intense with the weight of serious communing.

And I did partake. And I will tell you about the one and only time I have done this at the Ohel.

Remember that trip to Morocco? When we returned home, before our bags were even down, I was on the phone after receiving several messages from my parents. It was within moments of arriving home that I received the news that my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

And while Rochel was there on her own personal mission to the Ohel she took the time to include me and guide me in how to be included for a very special reason. And on that day I was not an outsider but a daughter bringing my own kvitel to the Rebbe for her father.

2 years later: my dad is in remission. For. Pancreatic. Cancer.

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  • Rivky Perl - Hi Kristin!!!
    So honored to be in your first paragraph of orthodox friends 😉
    Remember our selfi and skype video on the plane??
    I do hope my Chaim and yourself (finally!) end up on a job together soon!
    Thanks for including me in your list of friendships Xx
    Rivky

Part THREE in my series on photographing Orthodox Jewish Weddings. If you missed the previous posts, you can read one here and two here.

 

About a year after I photographed Dovie and Noi’s wedding, Steven and I took a trip to Morocco. We both had never been there before. It was a wonderful trip and in the second half we arrived in Fez. We arrived at night and it was not an easy arrival. We had been harassed getting out of our cab, we couldn’t find our hotel right away, we were tired. We started off on the wrong feet. The next morning we went out to explore and search for a place to eat. Now, finding a place to eat in a foreign country tends to be more difficult for me because I’m a vegetarian. So we had been wandering around a bit looking for a good place.

We came across an interesting building that caught our attention for the old iron grill work and the stone facade. An alleyway twisted down off the street next to it. We didn’t know what was down there but we tentatively meandered down. We went halfway and turned around figuring it won’t lead us to anything good when we saw a man in the alley near the entrance waving his hands at us, motioning us to follow him.

We don’t speak Arabic, he didn’t speak English. We made the universal gesture of “eat eat, food food” by bringing our fingers to our lips. He shook his head eagerly gesturing “yes yes” follow me.

OK we figured there must be a cafe upstairs where he is gesturing to us. He is very eager. Poor guy must need business.

And even though Steve and I are NY’ers I suppose we weren’t feeling a NY sense of distrust in following a complete stranger in a foreign land in an alleyway upstairs to who knows where.

Um. Yeah. This is probably where in reading this, our parents are probably rolling their eyes.

So back to the man in the alley.

We go upstairs. It’s a small place. Almost looks like an apartment. But hey… we nothing of Fez, and often in third world countries we’ve traveled to, the best meals have been in places that seem like someone’s home. One other person is there, a young girl, she comes out of the kitchen. We all shake our heads, smile, gesture for food with our words indicating a question mark behind the gesture.

He sits us down and says “couscous?” Sure. Yes. He disappears.

I turn to Steven and say “I think we are in his home?” He shakes his head, he doesn’t know.

The man returns and starts talking away and pointing around at the apartment. We shake our heads politely. Nice nice. We are doing really well at the polite thing by this point, even though we are starving.

The man comes over and hands us a pack of papers. We look down and see xeroxed papers with what appears to be Hebrew written on it.

We. Are. Thoroughly. Confused.

I turn it over and then I see…….. (goosebumps now as I write this)….

LUBAVITCH.

What the heck?

Then I see a photo of the Rebbe.

Steven and I look to each other and our smiles get bigger and our eyes show questions in them.

The man disappears to the kitchen.

I whisper to Steven, “What is this? Are we in a Lubavitch safe house??” “What is going on?”

A few months later I learn of Chabad houses, but I don’t know about that yet.

So we ask the man to eat with us, he politely takes a few bites of the huge plate of couscous that arrived. It’s delicious, though it’s got meat in it and it’s Good Friday and Steven had given up meat for the day. But we are realizing at this point we are in this guy’s home and this was probably their family meal the young woman had made so we eat as much as we can, Steven tucks some meat into his pocket for later. We don’t want to be rude.

Then Steven and the man commence trying to find a way to communicate with each other. Steven knows a few words of Arabic. Mostly it’s all gesturing and nodding and smiling and pretending we all understand each other. But one thing we were able to understand is “Water Tower.”

We left the place, I kept the papers to try to decipher in some way later. Our heads just wrapped up in what just happened and how did we stumble upon something connected to the Lubavitchers on our first day in Fez, a place we started in not enjoying, in a Moroccan man’s home who was speaking Arabic.

Back at the hotel we retrieved our guide book and we found a listing for the Water Tower. And then all the pieces fell together.

The Water Tower was where Maimonides had lived when he settled in Morocco.

Wow.

I still have goosebumps when I tell this story. How small the world is, how close our connections are. And the ways we were led to this moment.

And here is a beautiful piece written by my dear friend Leigh Hershkovich, author of Shattered Illusions, about this experience and more. Keeping Kosher in Morocco

I can’t find the original papers, but here some of the quick photos I took and sent out to my new friends via email:

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