Ok, here it starts. Early 80’s I have a small office at 930 Hamilton Street (now the Butz Building). I was in sound and lighting, working as a production manager for promoters like the late Tom Makoul and Electric Factory Concerts. I got into managing original bands and was in need of some great promo photos for a rock/emo band and a few trusted friends recommended this funny, crazy, cool fashion guy Paul Pelak. Paul had a studio in his apartment at Tenth and Linden. The shoot was a lot of fun; they were breaking mirrors and shooting in the reflection and hanging in the courtyard.
Stay with me here. The shots turned out incredibly. Paul and I became best friends till this day. We decided to move into the same huge building that the famous Joe Clark owned on Seventh and Hamilton. There were 5 or 6 floors of band rehearsal spaces, and I was managing 7 or 8 acts, booking nightclubs and producing shows. And there was Pelak Studios. It was a hub of so many cool things.
Gets good here. Paul was now THAT GUY shooting for Hess’s, Martin Guitar, Rodale, Junior Colony – all the top fashion clients were his because he knew how to work with people and create a feeling in every image. I used every excuse I could to visit his studio and hang out. He didn’t catch on initially, but as he was talking so passionately about light, composition and making his subjects feel comfortable, I was taking mental notes and his words festered deep in me.
I picked up a camera and started shooting. Once in a while I would test with models and Paul was brutal with his critique of my images, but again, I was taking it in and learning about more than photography. These were lessons in life and how we perceive the world.
Photography is as close to a time machine that we have. We freeze tiny little slices, memories, and they live forever or longer than we will anyway. They capture a mood, a moment, an environment. I hope that’s what you take with you after viewing my images of what’s happening today in City Center and Downtown Allentown. I hope you can feel the energy, innovation and fun of this place at this moment. It’s really something special.
It feels as if my career in the Allentown arts community has come full circle in some ways. I’ve been fortunate to document the current rebirth of this incredible community. So, thank you, Paul Pelak, for inspiring and mentoring me as an artist, and cheers to all the shooters who are documenting the progress of this renaissance. Allentown is well on its way to becoming a great American city again. Don’t just look at the photos – get down here!