An omnipresent photo-documentarian (via social media) of our town—and promoter and exemplar of its civic virtues—refused to select just one favorite picture to display of what he calls “New Heaven.”
Instead, he offered many of them, in a new display at the public library.
“New Haven is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere,” said hat man-with-a-camera-about town, Michael Morand, who besides filling social media with his New Haven photos works as a Yale spokesman and a longtime public library booster.
“There are numerous quintessential spots and one of the glories of social media is that people share their spots and help build the essential quilt of community.”
Many of those quintessential images were on view Friday night at the new Ives Gallery downstairs at the New Haven Free Public Library.
There some 50 (times two) friends of Morand ushered in InstaMimo, 50 Views of New Haven #gscia, an exhibition of Morand’s photographs to mark his 50 birthday. The occasion served to honor him and—this is the essential Morand—to raise money for the the library.
All prints are selling for $50 in remembrance, noted roast-master Bitsie Clark, of the tenth anniversary of Morand’s 40th birthday.
Friday night admirers of Morand such as George and Darlene Gost all told bought $4,000 worth of prints.The show and the sale of the prints continue through Aug. 10.
The library has been close to Morand’s heart since he began his career as a Ward One alderman close to three decades ago. The library had fallen on particularly hard times back then.
There are two youth centers across from the Green on Elm Street, Morand observed: the library and the courthouse. If you empty one out, you’ll be filling the other up, he said, recalling some of the rallying cries of that era. Today he serves both on the library’s fundraising foundation and as the current chairman of its board of directors.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, dropped by to deliver a gift and a hug. She said of Morand: ” He has a deep love [for the city] and transmits that. He also represents his institution [Yale]. He helps bridge the gap between town and gown. I’m a townie. Michael is an honorary townie.”
People circulated among the spiffy movable walls in the new gallery where Morand had hung 17 blow-ups of his many Instagram images. He said his filter was simply that he chose those that had received the most “likes.”
Accompanying the photos quotations from folks ranging from St. Peter to Rita Mae Brown, all of which Morand, who holds a degree from Yale Divinity School, had also selected.
As she paused in front of a quotation by photographer Dorothea Lange, Yale English Professor Jill Campbell characterized Morand as “a ligament, a connection between New Haven and Yale. One would wish there were more.”
I asked her if she had noticed, as I had, that very few, if any, of the Morand images contained real live New Haveners—that is, people.
“Maybe that’s because he interacts with people so much, his interest is more in finding these glimpses of unpeopled spaces,” she surmised.
It was an evening with much wit in the air. Among the gifts Morand received: A pair of snazzy “library book due date socks.” Former library board Chair Claudia Merson quipped that “because he’s the king of social media, we’ve given Michael a list of all your I.P. addresses.”
Amid the fun and the warmth, an inspiring core story was on display—Morand’s unabashed and unapologetic double love for “the greatest small city in America” and “the greatest university in the world.”
All that was perhaps captured best in a poem read by one of the many Morand proteges at the gathering, Yale Woodbridge Fellow Ifeanyi Awachi.
When New Haven is somewhat Yale-less
And the faces of the city transform
These people populating Cross Campus & the tables by the glass doors at Koffee with a K—the good tables
They are beautiful and sun-kissed & I will meet them all sooner or later
There’s something about living in a kingdom this size
Like living along the ridges of a penny resting on God’s green thumb
Where someone who smiles at you, whizzing down Elm Street on their bike
Might end up at your next community meeting, in an artist’s studio in Westville, or in your backyard
I’ve gotten so used to this small world
That I’m surprised—offended, sometimes—
when I meet someone I’ve never seen around
I take a census of the characters
Gaggles of puffy-haired girls on the Green
Cool woman in all black & white carrying a bag from Wave
Bearded, unwashed man reading Ulysses
Gentle doe-eyed cops & cops who round up teens of color on street corners
New heaven of earthly delights
Watching the world play soccer at Pitkin Plaza
Watching local artists kill it at Lyric Hall & Stella Blues
Tasting the samples outside the Green Teahouse every single time
Loading up on toppings at Go Greenly
Loading up on toppings at Froyo World
Loading up on toppings at Flavors
Loading up on toppings at Polar Delight
Dancing at Harvest on a floor full of friends
Moving to beats by Dooley-o at Rudy’s
(I try so hard to like Miya’s & I fail every time)
What’s your favorite thing to do here?
[Audience contributes answers]
Soaking up art on my daily pedestrian commute
Lightweb & before it, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks
Square with Four Circles
Swoon’s graffiti in a grassy lot on Chapel Street makes me daydream
I remind myself to focus on the road, on my feet walking New York fast to Jojo’s
There’s always world music playing at Jojo’s & it makes me feel at home
After all, I was caught in the rain with Angelique Kidjo last week
I’ve been gallivanting with South Asian spiritual leaders & screen stars
Gone dancing in a Nairobi nightclub
All without walking more than four blocks
The man at the next table at Jojo’s asks his female friend, “Is that your poem thing?”
And I think yes, this is my poem thing to New Haven, Connecticut
This is what I’m still doing here
Tattooing this city to the back of my hand
Drinking a lot of coffee
And not yearning for elsewhere