By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — Early one morning, Michael Weitzman decided to go for a walk along the rocky cliffs of Maine’s Acadia National Park. The result of his 4 a.m. jaunt is captured in a stunning photo that now hangs on the wall of West End Bagels in Clifton Park.
Weitzman, now 73, is proud to have his work hanging locally. Still, he doesn’t consider himself a professional photographer — he’s had two different careers before he made photography his main focus.
Weitzman worked for the New York State Office of Mental Health for 35 years before “retiring” and taking another job with AYCO, which is part of Goldman Sachs. At AYCO, Weitzman travelled far and wide working as a financial counselor for people who had lost a spouse.
“There are certain things I’m good at,” he said. “I’m a good communicator and a good listener. I have a lot of empathy,” said Weitzman. A friend thought Weitzman had what it takes to work in financial counselling and suggested he give it a try.
“I travelled all over the country. I met with maybe 1,000 clients in my time. It’s one of the most satisfactory things I’ve ever done,” he said.
In the last six years, Weitzman has shifted gears to focus on photography. “I’ve always been a photographer, like most people, at family events,” he said. Eventually, people who saw his photos began to encourage him to show his work. He and his wife, Harriette,who both grew up in New York City, moved to Clifton Park in 1968. They now split their time between Clifton Park and North Carolina.
“I want to show people the beauty of what is around us,” he said. “I see beautiful things and want to share them with people,” he added.
He enjoys the freedom that comes with digital cameras, saying he doesn’t have to worry about using up his film anymore.
Of all his achievements, what brings him most pride is the fact that Duke Hospital in North Carolina chose to hang six of his photos in a cancer treatment hospital. “They were seeking things for patient’s rooms. They were looking for things that were beautiful, calming and that would contribute to the healing process,” he said.
Of all the seasons, fall is his favorite season to take photos.
He has been experimenting with different canvases and sometimes prints his photos on a shiny metallic surface. “It brings out the image a little bit more,” he said. A photograph of Banff National Park, located in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, along with several other nature shots, hang on the bagel shop’s wall, bringing customers to far off places in their minds.
Though Weitzman has traveled far and wide, if he could go anywhere he would return to Banff National Park. “There’s something that touches you… the beauty of the mountains, the fields and the streams. Doesn’t it refresh your soul?” he asked.
Weitzman once took part in a three day photography workshop in Yosemite four years ago and hasmade an effort to coordinate vacations with photograph opportunities. For instance, he and his wife recently travelled to Amsterdam just to photograph windmills and tulips.
While she isn’t especially interested in taking photos, Weitzman said, “She’s patient with me.” The couple raised three children, all of whom graduated from Shenendehowa.
While he’s no stranger to travel, Weitzman doesn’t have to go far to find inspiration. Some of his photos show ponds in Clifton Park edged with a dusting of fresh snow. Before our interview, Weitzman noticed a small pond outside Ellis Hospital and was struck by its modest beauty so he decided to snap some photos. A camera is always at his side.