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Saturday, November 1, 2014
A photographer is reborn in retirement
(Page 2 of 3)
Photo by Karl Tepfer
Tepfer volunteered as a psychologist at ground zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Ever since, he has documented New York’s skyline as a way of restoring order to the world. Above, Tepfer’s image of the 9/11 memorial lights above Manhattan.

Tepfer said he feels Sandy victims’ pain. He is starting to see signs of hope, though. He recently photographed a carnival and concert on a restored stretch of the Long Beach boardwalk, built stronger than before, with aluminum tidal barriers to hold back future storms. Tepfer shot the scene at night, and in one time-lapse photo, a Ferris wheel shimmers against the black sky, its red, yellow and blue lights forming long circular streaks. The photo is fun and whimsical, a reminder that life goes on after tragedy.

To Tepfer, the event symbolized the rebirth of Long Beach. “It was like the resurrection of the boardwalk,” he said.

Finding his focus

The picture was more in line with the photography that Tepfer has pursued since he retired in June 2011 as a psychologist working with severely emotionally disturbed children at the Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ Jerusalem Avenue School in North Bellmore. Tepfer, who earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from Hofstra, worked at BOCES and in private practice from 1982 until his retirement. Before that, he was chief psychologist at St. Mary’s Children and Family Services in Syosset for six years.

He dealt with the hardest cases at BOCES, with many of the children’s behavior bordering on criminal. His days were long, with little time to reflect.

In retirement, however, he finds comfort in his photography, which he began after high school, keeping a darkroom in his parents’ garage for five years before he put his camera down for nearly three decades as he raised a family and pursued a career.

The 9/11 attacks renewed his interest in photography. Tepfer, who volunteered as a psychologist for the American Red Cross at ground zero, saw the destruction up close. “I wanted to document the beautiful skyline of New York City,” he said. It was his way of helping to restore order in a chaotic world.

Tepfer taught himself digital photography. Now he shoots pastoral scenes — autumnal leaves lit up in kaleidoscopes of yellow, orange and red; babbling brooks dotted by well-worn river stones; evening skies burning in fiery hues.

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