For the last two years, I have run this piece on October 25th. It’s called ON POLAROIDS AND LASTING FRIENDSHIP. Tonight some of Jamie’s friends are getting together to toast their friend — OTBKB
When Jamie Livingston, photographer, filmmaker, circus performer,
accordian player, Mets fan, and above all, loyal friend, died
on October 25th (his birthday) in 1997 at the age of 41, he left behind
hundreds of bereft friends and a collection of 6,000 photographs neatly
organized in small suitcases and wooden fruit crates.
Jamie took a polaroid once a day, every day, including his last, for 18 years.
photographic diary, which he called, “Polaroid of the Day,” or P.O.D.,
began when Jaime was a student at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson.
The project continued when he moved to apartments in New York City
including the incredible circus memorabelia-filled loft on Fulton
Street, which he shared with his best friend Chris Wangro. That loft was the site of
many a Glug party, an “orphans thanksgiving,” a super-8 festival of
Jamie’s lyrical films, and a rollicking music jam.
taking continued as Jamie traveled the world
with the Janus Circus, the circus-troupe founded by Chris Wangro,
and later when he became a much-in-demand
cinematographer and editor of music videos back in the early days of
MTV. He contributed his talents to the ground-breaking Nike
“Revolution” spot and many other commercials, too. Through it all he
took pictures, made movies, and loved his friends. And the polaroids
reflect all of that: a life bursting with activity, joy and sadness, too.
Jamie brought his camera wherever he went. As one friend
said, “It probably helped his social life because everyone wanted to be
in a photo of the day.” It was always interesting to see what Jaime
deemed worthy of a P.O.D. My husband remembers his own 30th birthday party
in his photo studio on Ludlow Street: “Hundreds of people filled my
loft and the party snaked down Ludlow Street to Stanton. But what did
Jamie take a picture of? A potato chip or something. It was a gorgeous
But more often than not, the photos were of
friends, family, himself, special places he had visited, or just
something that caught his discriminating eye. And if he’d been to a
Mets Game that day, that was it — a Mets game was always a worthy
And the pictures are utterly gorgeous miracles of
photographic artistry. The color, the light, the time lapse swirls, the
unerring composition. Whether it was a still life of what he’d eaten
for dinner, an unblinking shot of his beloved grandfather (Pops), or
swooningly romantic portraits of his beautiful wife or ex-girlfriends,
any one of these photographs should be in a museum collection. But
perhaps more importantly, Jamie’s friends and the world need access to
these pictures, which is why his devoted friends have been talking for
years about ways to exhibit this massive body of work.
September at a bris for the son of a good friend, HC and our friend Betsy, one
of Jamie’s still devoted ex-girlfriends, started talking about the
P.O.D.s: “Why don’t we finally re-photograph all 6,000 of
them and put them on a web site.” And that’s practically what they did.
They spent many October days digitally re-photographing the picures.
This labor of love was also exceedingly labor intensive and they only
got up to 1990 (the P.O.D.s started in 1978). But they plan to finish the
rest when they have some time again.
A year ago today there was a “Jamie Fest,” a
commemoration of the seventh anniversary of his death, a small group of
friends gathered at the envy-inducing loft of one of Jamie’s oldest,
dearest friends in Tribeca and were treated to a veritable feast of
PODs, films, good red wine, beer, and Chinese food. There was a warmth
in that room, a convivial feeling of purpose, as the friends remembered
their friend who left behind a journal of his life and their’s too.
HC set up a random, non-chronological slide show of these pictures, as
well as a special “computer station” where Jamie’s friends could browse
the well-indexed shots year-by-year, month-by-month, day-by-day.
Hunched over the computer,some pictures made them sad, some made them
reflective, some made them very, very quiet. Others made them laugh or
squeal with recognition of an almost forgotten face, a wonderful
memory, a special time too, too long ago.
Jamie was the best
man at our wedding. He was HC’s treasured co-hort since their
days at Bard College. I met Jamie soon after
meeting Hepcat, probably at the Great Jones Cafe, and always enjoyed
our group adventures, including the annual walk of the elephants down
34th Street when the Ringling Brothers Circus arrived in town, the
trips to photo shows to buy cameras and old photographs, their brunches
at the Cottonwood Cafe, or seeing the Mets, and the Rolling Stones’
Steel Wheels tour at Shea Stadium. I remember when Jamie
visited me at the hospital when I was having pre-term labor with my son
and nearly lost him. I remember how he and Betsy carried a heavy gift
of a vintage toy box to my son’s first
birthday party in Prospect Park.
At the “Jamie Fest”
last year in 2004 I located the stunning P.O.D. of our
wedding day and
marveled at how young and thin I was back then (marriage and kids
really ages you). My husband looked so young and
handsome in his father’s tuxedo. I also found the picture from the
night before the wedding when Jaime and Betsy joined at the emergency
room at Beth Israel Hospital because my husband thought he had a broken
his neck in a minor (okay major) car accident a
few days before the wedding (pre-wedding nerves, no doubt).
and Betsy sat with us from mid-night until five a.m., while we waited
for my husband’s neck to be X-Rayed. It turned out that he had a nasty
case of whiplash and had to wear a neck brace at the wedding.
When I suggested that Jamie and Betsy go home to get some sleep,
Jaime refused to budge saying, “I’m your bestman. This is part of my
On this the
8th 9th anniversary of Jamie’s death: Thank you, Jamie, for being our bestman. And thanks for
giving us a stunning portrait of our lives. You gave us more than you
can ever know.