All posts by Thad Komorowski

Komorowski Photo Essay

Tom Stathes isn't merely the projectionist at his shows. Even while enusring proper focus, stability and sound, he's also an entertained patron.
Tom Stathes isn’t merely the projectionist at his shows. Even while enusring proper focus, stability and sound, he’s also an entertained patron.
Some inevitable cutoff, but the message is clear: Tom Stathes's Cartoon Carnivals are popular enough to sell out, as evidenced by his show at Nitehawk Cinema on Sept. 30.
Some inevitable cutoff, but the message is clear: Tom Stathes’s Cartoon Carnivals are popular enough to sell out, as evidenced by his show at Nitehawk Cinema on Sept. 30.
Tom Stathes often uses digital for his screenings, but says he vastly prefers screening in 16mm, even if it means he has to be his own tech support.
Tom Stathes often uses digital for his screenings, but says he vastly prefers screening in 16mm, even if it means he has to be his own tech support.
Tom Stathes had a custom disclaimer made for his shows presented on film. "People are more understanding than you'd think though," he commented.
Tom Stathes had a custom disclaimer made for his shows presented on film. “People are more understanding than you’d think though,” he commented.
The charming face of Mickey Mouse, swiped from a public domain video cover, encourages patrons of Tom Stathes's that every cent helps towards further film preservation.
The charming face of Mickey Mouse, swiped from a public domain video cover, encourages patrons of Tom Stathes’s that every cent helps towards further film preservation.

A Preservationist Vocation
Thad Komorowski

Tom Stathes of Flushing, N.Y., has spent most of his lifetime assembling the largest collection of silent animation in the world. He’s an internationally recognized film scholar who hosts screenings all over New York City and whose findings have been screened on Turner Classic Movies. He’s also only 24 years old and operates out of his mother’s apartment.

“People are usually shocked to know that a person in his 20s is interested in this material and especially working with it professionally,” Stathes commented. “It’s usually a flattering form of attention, which is nice.”

In the digital era where film is facing extinction, Stathes clings onto the past to ensure its origins’ survival, specializing in preserving animation from the first quarter of the twentieth century. Be it 16mm, 35mm, 8mm, or even the obscure 9.5mm, if it’s silent and animated, Stathes needs to save it.

“The need to preserve these films exists because there just has not been other large undertakings to focus specifically on this period and to address the survival status and preservation of as many of these early cartoons as possible,” he said. “I’m trying to fill that void in film history studies and archiving.”

Crude as it may seem, the smell test is the easiest way to determine how far along in deterioration a film may be. Here Tom Stathes examines one of the lost Max Fleischer Inkwell Imps. "Nothing here," Stathes happily reports.
Crude as it may seem, the smell test is the easiest way to determine how far along in deterioration a film may be. Here Tom Stathes examines one of the lost Max Fleischer Inkwell Imps. “Nothing here,” Stathes happily reports.
The Tobin TVT-16, a professional telecine unit, allows Tom Stathes to make high-quality digital transfers of his valuable, one-of-a-kind 16mm prints. Has he gotten to every single one of his 1,000 prints? "Some day," he said.
The Tobin TVT-16, a professional telecine unit, allows Tom Stathes to make high-quality digital transfers of his valuable, one-of-a-kind 16mm prints. Has he gotten to every single one of his 1,000 prints? “Some day,” he said.
Take a peek as "Noise Annoys Ko-Ko" is transferred to DVD, because that's all you'll see for now. Though this is a lost film, it's still under copyright and Tom Stathes therefore can't sell copies of it himself. "We collectors do what the studios can't do, but we can't make any money off of it," he exasperated.
Take a peek as “Noise Annoys Ko-Ko” is transferred to DVD, because that’s all you’ll see for now. Though this is a lost film, it’s still under copyright and Tom Stathes therefore can’t sell copies of it himself. “We collectors do what the studios can’t do, but we can’t make any money off of it,” he exasperated.
Vinegar syndrome: every film collector's worst nightmare. This particular victim in Tom Stathes's collection is from the teens and impossible to run on any kind of proejctor. Fortunately, he said, it's not a one-of-a-kind element.
Vinegar syndrome: every film collector’s worst nightmare. This particular victim in Tom Stathes’s collection is from the teens and impossible to run on any kind of projector. Fortunately, he said, it’s not a one-of-a-kind element.

While some of his income comes from selling homemade DVD transfers of his films in the public domain, Stathes’ bread and butter is hosting Cartoon Carnivals all over town, ranging from Brooklyn art houses to outdoor parks in Queens. Sometimes he acquiesces to the more easily managed digital projection, but Stathes vastly prefers using his Telex slot-load 16mm projector to screen his rarities.

“These films were shot on and distributed on film, and I feel it’s necessary to stay true to the original technology as much as possible,” Stathes explains. “Guests always love seeing the technology up close, how it works, and it enriches the overall experience for them.”

Tom Stathes bought his first cartoon on film over 15 years ago, never dreaming he'd have to clear out his mother's closet to house them all.
Tom Stathes bought his first cartoon on film over 15 years ago, never dreaming he’d have to clear out his mother’s closet to house them all.

So what still needs to be done once you’ve amassed over 1,000 individual short subjects on celluloid? It’s less of a hobby and more of a vocation, Stathes says.

“A little bit of everything,” he said. “Locating many more films, raising funds for their acquisition and preservation, continuously sharing them with audiences and doing more work to distribute the films to those who can’t physically attend my local screenings.”

At Tom Stathes's archive, the only hired help is the pet hamster on hand, like Baby Jane Hudson seen here. None of them have consumed any raw film stock at this point, Stathes laughs.
At Tom Stathes’s archive, the only hired help is the pet hamster on hand, like Baby Jane Hudson seen here. None of them have consumed any raw film stock at this point, Stathes laughs.

Assignment 2: Scavenger Hunt (Thad K.)

I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure exactly what category these photos would fall under until I started looking at them in Lightroom…

All of these were taken in West New York, New Jersey. I figured since there’d be dozens of photos within NYC itself, I’d stick to my own digs.

Moment: Can I Trust?

Spotted a woman feeding a stray cat. This was when I was still figuring out how to work my camera, hence all the poor perspective and wacky ISO and aperture settings.

CAT 01
22 September 2013 – West New York, NJ. A local woman makes a regular routine of feeding stray cats in her neighborhood on Blvd. East. 9/22/13 – Photograph by Thad Komorowski/CUNY Journalism Photo
CAT 02
22 September 2013 – West New York, NJ. A cat decides whether the coast is clear for a free meal. 9/22/13 – Photograph by Thad Komorowski/CUNY Journalism Photo
CAT 03
22 September 2013 – West New York, NJ. Mr. Tibb adeptly approaches the public feeding grounds. 9/22/13 – Photograph by Thad Komorowski/CUNY Journalism Photo

CAT 04

CAT 05

CAT 06

Emotion: Sloth on Sunday

I generally dislike photographing people. Animals have more of an excuse to be obnoxious because they don’t know any better and can’t sign releases.

DUCKS 01
22 September 2013 – West New York, NJ. Ducks take to the Hudson River shore in lieu of swimming for an early Sunday afternoon nap. 9/22/13 – Photograph by Thad Komorowski/CUNY Journalism Photo

DUCKS 02

DUCKS 03

DUCKS 04

DUCKS 05

DUCKS 06

Shutter Speed/Color/Light

These were all taken within about five minutes of each other. What, can’t you tell?

NY WATERWAY 01
25 September 2013 – West New York, NJ. A familiar sight to anyone awaiting the NY Waterway in New Jersey. 9/25/13 – Photograph by Thad Komorowski/CUNY Journalism Photo

NY WATERWAY 02

NY WATERWAY 04

NY WATERWAY 08

NY WATERWAY 09

NY WATERWAY 10

NY WATERWAY 11

NY WATERWAY 12
25 September 2013 – West New York, NJ. An unplesant sight to many a New Jerseyite: missing the ferry. 9/25/13 – Photograph by Thad Komorowski/CUNY Journalism Photo

Assignment #1 – Talking About Photography – Thad Komorowski

http://www.thadkomorowski.com/portfolio/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/arp3636159.jpg
SOURCE: http://timethemoment.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/arp3636159.jpg?w=735
This photo’s use of natural light is frankly ingenious. I was taken aback at first because it almost looks like a staged photo (maybe it is) with doctored lighting. I’m sensing a bit of doctoring, but what isn’t doctored is the composition – and precisely that the sunlight is actually hitting the couple, naturally drawing your eye to them as if they were on stage in a spotlight.

http://www.thadkomorowski.com/portfolio/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/cf029828c53f4178a21bfe7bdff75706-0.jpg
SOURCE: http://media.commercialappeal.com/media/img/photos/2013/08/31/APTOPIX_Portugal_Fire_McAd_t607.jpg
The composition/framing of this photo emphasizes the devastation of the wildfire in Serra de Caramulo. The lone burnt tree is there in the center, commanding our attention, but we can’t help but notice the surrounding smoking forest behind it, putting this single victim into perspective of a much larger catastrophe.

http://www.thadkomorowski.com/portfolio/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Police.png
SOURCE: http://goo.gl/zE29DM
We’ve got the whole “horizon” filled with an entire police line. That’s a powerful effect, giving us the idea that there’s nowhere to escape. The rainstorm captured in the snapshot (both in lighting and the actual rain) adds to the sense of urgency and low spirits [we assume] the protestors being kept at bay have.

http://www.thadkomorowski.com/portfolio/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/s_y01_RTR3C7FY.jpg
SOURCE: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/08/a-year-on-the-yenisei-river/100580/
I’m not sure why, but I’m drawn to photos that depict a human’s relative unimportance in the grand scope of the universe while making said human the point of interest in the photo. Here we have a woman posing at the Yensei River, one of the largest river systems in the world and fairly easy to get lost and perish in, as made apparent by the dense mist. Yet the woman clearly stands out – our eye is drawn to her in the lower right, while we have this vast wonder of nature as, quite literally, in the ‘background’.