Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Meet Leon Fradkin 93 - Like I met him.

Leon Posing with his Manischewitz and empty glass.

   The story of this man starts back in 1920 - Leon Fradkin was born Belitza, Ukraine. Having lost his birth certificate he adopted the 20th of February as his legal birthday. Moving with his family to the USA while still very young till they moved back to Ukraine then escaped to England before the war, and later on he started his business in the suburbs of Philadelphia with his wife and started his own family.

He braved opening design studio with his wife, being a commercial industrial designer and with living through many years has given this man a wealth of knowledge and opinions for many topics of conversations, his wisdom and perspective is inspiring and I would like to share that with you. 

Aside from him, my own personal reason to visit him aside from being quick friends and building a relationship with him and listen to be inspired by his stories, I was told that he has never put on Tefillin thus being called a "Karkafta". The merit of helping someone who has never put on Tefillin in his life is very special. (unfortunately this visit wasn't his time to put on Tefillin - but i'm hoping to go again soon)

Leon is a man of funny thoughts, imaginative vocabulary and an expressive tongue. He's a learned man with knowledge in so many areas, he has lived through break-through technology and is amazed to learn everything he can, including a photoshop class, he uses Skype, just upgraded to Fios internet for his computer, and flat screen TV - Wireless headphones, a Cell Phone, speed dial on his home phone, and voice recognition while calling the gas company to change info about his account.

Leon and his granddaughter Rebecca Forstater.

(He's got so many one-liners that hes said during my visit, I will try to repeat most of them.)

As I arrived and got into the car, we start talking and he says "My late wife told me that I have poor memory, so since my birthday is in February, she had an idea that we have our kids in the same month so I could remember their Birthdays."

"...And thats what we did, they were all born in the month of February" (Sadly, she also passed in February)

He plays ping pong with the most interesting outfit - a hard hat, which he says "I once tripped on someones foot and i'm afraid of falling" - he also has a waistband with pockets of soft cushions, "If I fall it will soften the impact on my back" - then he adds...

"Well, I think it also gives me leverage over my opponents because I look ridiculous"

He even had a sip of alcoholic beer and said "Lechaim" with us, he also put the bottle back in the fridge and said "I'll save that for later" and disappears into the TV room with a determined look.
Leon Fradkin poses for a photo-op in his Ping pong outfit.


He has raised a wonderful family to which he has given his confidence, showed them love, prized them as precious and loved them for who they are, for their goals they have made and cultured them along to many grandchildren and to a future similar to his own in many ways.

He has written this letter to his children this past year:

"My dear children and grandchildren,

       Speaking for my lovely louise and myself ... We are giving to each of you a gift of $10,000. Why now... And if not now ... when... Well, I would like to be around to hear your thank you or read your thank you note. At 93 is it a bit difficult to remember birthdays and at 93 only the heavens know how many more Happy Birthdays I will be around to sing.
       This gift is meant to cover all the birthdays I will now longer remember and will miss I will like one favor from all of you. On March 25 Louise and I exchanged our wedding vows and for 64 years we shared a life of happy moments. and wonderful experiences. When I asked my lovely wife several years ago what she would like for her birthday. She answered “I want to be with you.” What beautiful music to a husbands ear!
        We would like that on March 25th for the next 10 years that you do something very nice for yourself and your partner and ... to a complete stranger and if the stranger asks why? tell them ... Because once upon a time we had a grandmother and a grandfather that loved us very much...

Grand pop Leon... "

(See photo below)


Sir Fradkin lives alone, and takes care of himself, feeds himself and doesn't let anyone help him besides an occasional skype call to his grandchild for help on using the Microwave.

He likes Soup, Tomato with Olive oil and Garlic,and raw onions. He also puts Hummus and Veggie chips on his plate - Always has desert. Now thats a golden rule in his house.

Also, he only eat with a fork, whether the toast or chips  (See photo below)


I asked him three questions:

1. What does "Beauty" mean to you?

"Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" - "My teacher told me..." "he said that when I see the beauty in a salt shaker, your eyes will open to see the beauty in everything in this world.

2. How do you get through creative blocks?

"I always learned to see a 'face' in everything I see, in the dirt on the floor, like kids do in the clouds in the sky" "Can you see the face in this painting?" (See photo)

3. How do you handle yourself when you are in a bad mood?

"I go on a walk.. thats what I would always do, the fresh air and seeing the outside would take away anything negative and put me back in a good mood"


Leon has lived a life with his beautiful wife for many years, sometime after their 50th wedding anniversary he was asked to submit a little tidbit for "Happily married past 50" here is something he wrote the following:

“In every marriage there are times when argument and anger threaten to bring on a degree of dissatisfaction... I decided early on I had two choices: to stew with my anger or to give Louise a kiss and make up. In most cases I choose the kiss. Now i have added a 10-second  hug with the kiss. It is amazing how 10 seconds of her warm body melts away my anger.”
Leon Fradkin
Married to Louise. March 25, 1948


While trying to convince him to put on Tefillin, I was exploring all my tactics to convince him to put them on with me, I did the "I'll make you famous", also the "My mom would be proud" - None were successful.

A friend of mine gave me advice, said I should write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's and let him know the situation that I was  in, so I explained to Leon how the Lubavitcher Rebbe, being the leader in this generation he cared for every single person and took time to answer and personal question or request with answering him personally with love and care.

I told him how proud he would be if I would have the chance to let him know that I was with Leizer ben Chaim and that I wrote to the Rebbe that if maybe somehow he would get some instant inspiration or I would choose the right words to convince him to change his mind.

As I was saying how the Rebbe in his later years would stand for hours and give a dollar to anyone who came to see him, and thousands of people all got a chance to see him for a short moment to ask, relate, or pride the Rabbe with any good news.

"So let me give you a Dollar for Charity" - He took out his wallet and gave me a dollar, and I asked him to sign it for me. (See below) I told him "It states that no harm will come the way of a traveler who is on the way to do a Mitzva " And the importance of being a messenger to do a Mitzva for him.

I spent about an hour with him and chatted many different topics from creativity and religion, about what keeps him happy, his vision and ideas for the young who are starting out in this world.

Autographed dollar bill he gave me. It says "Safe trip" Leizer - In yiddish letters.
I will leave you with a few more images from my stay below.

Handing me the "Mitzva" money.
Reading a poster sign he collected from the IDF 6 day war. 
Dinner is served. 

Eating dinner. 
Living space. 

Photo-op. Dressed in his Ping pong outfit holding a Tanach and his blood pressure machine.
 "Hey lets do it like this" - Leon

Portrait of Leon Fradkin

A portrait he showed me from his younger years. 

What a wonderful man, a well lived person, a kind individual, soul searching, and such a jew.

Hes got yiddish in his vocabulary and old jewish folk songs humming in his head.

Meeting this man has put new perspective in my life, and I hope I was able to translate that over to you in this short little space on my blog.

He always repeated "Talk slowly, clearly, and distinctly." - Be understood, proud. Talk to be heard.

(I so much more to write about him, but I think think this is enough for now)

"Time to say Good bye" - He wanted to stand on the steps so we would be the same height.
 I printed this image, and sent it to him. Its now on his fridge.

Rebecca Forstater
My connection to meet his man - was back from my trip in January when I took a trip with artists from the USA for a free trip to Israel with the Birthright program.

Joining us was Rebecca Forstater - An artist sculpture that uses clay and ceramics as her medium, she is a crazy creative and true artist who thinks and breathes what she loves to do, she is a fearless girl with no shame being different and every conversation she has a smile.

She also loves everything pretty, kind and weird.

This post is about her Grandfather, Leon Fradkin. 


To a new day filled with new inspiration.

If you know someone that I would enjoy meeting, please send me a message.

-Levi T

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ell Tee Rebranding - Explained

You may have realized that I've put a new cover photo on Facebook. (have you liked it yet? Click here Ell Tee Photo)

- No more of that blank image with my dumb logo!

You have taken the time to come check out my work, so I might aswell give you the "feel" for who I am - and what I like to do!

I have dabbled myself in many areas of photography, the reason is because I wanted to learn and perfect myself in all those areas so one day I can be the best photographer I can be.

I'll explain: (in no specific order)

1. Commercial products -
 I wanted to learn to perfect color, shadow, detail, best angle, showing the best view per product, putting myself in the eyes of the buyer and this has brought me to shooting a detailed mirror, jewelry, chinese auction photos and many of other products.
The amount of detail and technical knowledge is what makes it difficult and thats why I wanted to learn it.

2. Commercial studio / fashion -
 I wanted to learn how to interact with models, clothing, idea of "sell this item" and I need to concentrate on the product, and not the person or the getting the best "portrait"
These are photos where the viewers eyes go to the product and not the face, these are very slight differences in posing and expression and eye direction. etc

3. Headshots -
 I like people and I like learning peoples stories, so you may have realized a few of many headshots have been posted to my blog/FB - But why?

I am working on a ongoing project, that will eventually go to print, Im building up a relationship with as many creative influential individuals that I can and get their headshot. More details will be announced in the coming few weeks.

4. Outdoor/On Location Portraits -
 From the beginning this was a strong point of mine - to have a family that will let me join them for a trip to a location and just photograph them for the most comfortable-fun-time.

I learned about family dynamics and got to study children's behavior and learned how to communicate with them at a level that i've had some tough children that I was asked to photograph and yet I can get the best portraits of them while listening (I dare you to give me a child that doesn't like to be photographed)

I find it super satisfying after I get amazing looking photographs of a child -using lots patience and carefully choosing my words till I have an companionship for a fun time and capture the best of the child.

5. Wedding photography -
I've been the 2nd shooter at more than 7 weddings, i've been getting a feel for it and learned that some I had more fun than others, this means learning on a team, on a timetable, and responsible for photographing an event that will not wait for me or listen to my direction.

With alot more on this topic - I would love to be the "comfortable wedding photographer"

Which means, I want to pursue wedding photography for the "calm, cool, collective, creative" people that I know.

6. Landscape - Sorry im not much of a nature, landscape much of a person
7. Street photography - While i think this is most fun - but i dont feel that this is my strongest field of play

8. Lechaim/ Event photography -
Believe it or not, this is where i make the most amount of money.

Events have little emotional moments that i've learned to anticipate and capture without anyone feeling like im "here to snap" - I shoot with a quiet shutter, and im polite, I've learned to sneak around and not take up to much space, and like with family portraiture, its really the personal time that I get to spend with two families who are coming together to wish the young couple the best wishes.

On a personal note: Recently, I've attended a few engagement parties of a few very special families, I felt like I connected with them and I think they have the most amazing energy, they were just so happy and smilie that I did something I almost never do - I uploaded more than double amount of photos then I usually do.

I just couldnt hold back and "not give" images that captured the moment so well, they I know in years to come, they will look through over and over again.

And I know that, because i've done it myself, and heard back from a few people I showed it to. This was their response "I started and saw 580 images and said "no way im going through all of these" ...."then I found myself going through every single image and smiling at my screen"

You can try for yourself here: http://smu.gs/18hiNN7

How does that make you feel?

And I'll leave that with you for now.

Rebrand statement:

I would like to shoot your event or engagement party, capturing the moments you want to relive.
Lets dress up a themed family photoshoot at a location of your choice, cuteness is a must!
A wedding is a special day - imagine it stress free. That would be my dream to photograph you and your family.