Friday, January 11, 2008
Photo exhibit at Gleason defies gravity and expectations
Are you barely hanging on to your New Year's resolutions? If you require encouragement, visit the Gleason Library before February 29 to view the photography exhibition entitled, "The Year of Jumping Boy." The show contains 50 framed prints selected from the 365 consecutive photos taken every day, starting January 1, 2006, by David Freedman of his teenage son
"I find that creativity comes out of limitation," says Freedman, who lives on Hutchins Road. "We had a lot of limitations. They were all going to be vertical. We had to do one each day. It forced us to be creative. Day after day after day you had to push the envelope and think of new things."
Scheduling daily jumps
Perhaps one of the greatest limitations was adjusting to Aaron's busy schedule as a sophomore at Concord Academy (CA) at the time. Aside from demanding academics, Aaron participates in baseball and cross-country sports as well as being an accomplished musician studying clarinet and rehearsing as part of the school's jazz band. (He played last weekend as the first chair clarinet in the Eastern District Senior Orchestra.)
"I had some knee pain that year from growth spurts," says Aaron. "We tried to avoid jumping off of things and landing on other things. We tried to keep jumping off of the surface that I was landing on." This could help increase the apparent height of the jump. For example, Aaron appears poised high above a shopping carriage on May 2. Freedman maximizes the illusion by shooting jumps from the ground level. Aaron's bravery was paramount — he was willing to launch the jump from within the carriage and land there as well. Once he even ended up in the emergency room with a concussion after a jump over a neighbor's lemonade stand from an unstable ladder. As a parent, Freedman had to balance his teenager's enthusiasm for the project against safety and health concerns: "Making him jump 20 or 30 times after running ten miles at cross-country practice made me feel guilty sometimes," he admits.
Fortunately Aaron had only one visit to the emergency room, and was back jumping the next day.
"I've always had a lot of basic energy," says Aaron. Before the family, including mother Karen and older sister Casey, moved to Carlisle from New York 10 years ago, the downstairs neighbor nicknamed the boy "Thumper."
During the 2005 winter break from school, the teenager was jumping up and down expending energy and his father took some photographs to complete the roll on a disposable camera. The project's concept was born.
Started as a whim
"It was a whim," says Freedman. "On December 31,  I said, 'How about we take a jumping picture tomorrow and we'll see if we can take one for every day of the year?' I didn't realize what the ramifications would be." Freedman used two digital cameras over the course of the year and ultimately went to using a SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera at the end of the project. After reviewing daily photos with Aaron, he posted the photos online as untouched originals.
The Freedmans both have photographic training, and it shows in the collaborative content ideas and shot composition. The photographer and the subject each provided input on frame content, lighting and body positioning.
David Freedman majored in visual and environmental studies. After studying graphic design at Pratt Institute, he worked for 25 years in the field at Milton Glaser. Today, he is a freelance graphic designer for local, regional and national clients. He devotes much of his time to the community, having done pro-bono design work for the Friends of the Gleason Library, the Carlisle Public Schools and Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF). He has served on the Carlisle Planning Board. He is a CCF Board Member and a writer for the Carlisle Mosquito's Forum.
Aaron has just completed his fourth year of study in photography at CA.
Far from being a passive subject during the project, he had a lot of ideas and suggestions when taking photos. To complicate matters, when Aaron was away at camp for a month in the summer of 2006, he took over the role of photographer as well as subject, using a camera with a self-timer and working with friends to keep the sequence going.
"Often, because I had homework on my mind, I'd be the one that would want to stop," says Aaron. "I always wanted to take the picture, but after 20 or 30 I wanted to stop." On weekends the two would do many more — sometimes over 150 exposures — for a grand total of 10,000 photographs. The locations included trips to California and to England, but most sites were within ten miles of Carlisle.
The Jumping Boy project has kept the family close. Casey, Aaron's sister, was a freshman at Bowdoin during the project, and she checked the online postings with her friends. Karen, Aaron's mom, would sometimes go on "shoots." David Freedman's sister inspired the first exhibit of printed project photos last summer in Gloucester.
"[The project] was in the midst of a time where a teenage boy is creating a distance from his father specifically," recalls Freedman. "There were times late in the year that Karen [an outreach mental heath counselor] and I would talk about this. And I would say to Aaron, 'Look, if you want to stop, we can stop. Let's not lose our relationship over this.' And he would say, 'No, we'll make it through.'"
"For every one of those days that I really didn't want to take the picture or didn't feel creative," says Aaron, "there were three or four more days that I looked forward to it. It was so cool that I had something to do every day outside of the grind of school."
Aaron's closeness to his father may have impacted his current goal to also pursue environmental studies at college. With a grin, Aaron adds that may be the "flavor of the month" as he has a wide range of interests. He wants to continue with music, but more as a hobby than a career. He would like to try out sports photography and looks forward to the endless possibilities in studying liberal arts.
As the boy becomes a man, Aaron will be looking beyond jumping. While he and his father may continue to argue at times — was that picture a better photo or better jump? — they have created a precious record of a year in their lives together. Aaron's sense of humor prevents him from taking things too seriously. He admits to having had a humbling experience at the end of the project and saying: "That was a little absurd."
In retrospect, the Freedmans have proven one significant and rare characteristic: they can both keep a New Year's resolution.
Will more jumping photos appear in the future? Keep an eye on www.jumpingboy.com. A handful of photos were added in the past year.
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito