Images vs. Words

July 27, 2011

I’ve been struggling lately with my words. I have always been a somewhat private person in many ways and to share with the internet my thoughts and feelings seems.. well, scary to put it bluntly. I try to throw caution to the wind and express myself, but the fact of the matter is that I am simply not a writer. I am many things, but writing is not my strongest suit. Being a photographer in this day and age where every person with a computer is a blogger, somewhat makes me a writer by default by choosing to have a blog to display my work. I go back and forth with myself over whether my blogs should let the images stand alone or if there should be some kind of story that accompanies the photos. I have always been part of the school that likes the combinations of words and images and feel that they often contribute to one another. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but on the other hand that words can confuse and complicate things. I will be experimenting with both forms of blogging- including photos with no story, some story and some full on paragraphs. I’d love love love if some of you can let me know which ones you like best 🙂

It was Rachel, Simon, Eric, and I. Three months of a full time internship had just ended for me and we went out to celebrate. It was my first time back out in the world wearing not-work clothes and actually enjoying myself after a few months of non stop work. We were sitting at dinner at the restaurant I work in, ABC Kitchen, when Ann Marie came up to our table. She told us about the few ideas that she had for all of us to start getting involved in good community causes. Food banks, urban organic community gardening, and the AIDS Walk, to name a few. We jumped on the AIDS walk idea automatically. I remember it well, Ann Marie saying “There’s so many of us, we can do so much good if we just put ourselves to use”. Over the next few weeks we signed up, created a team, campaigned for funds, even dropped flyers off with the checks at our tables just to get the word out that we were walking. On the day of, everyone was super excited, the energy was great and even through it rained, we still had 30 staffers from ABC, raised $2,000 and represented ourselves with a great cause. I wanted to document it right so I brought along my camera. Heres a few shots from the day 😀

Ann Marie

One of our star bartenders who also happens to be a cheerleader. We didn’t even know he would be there!

Rachel and I

I haven’t been much for blogging these days and have just been getting out of the winter slump so bear with me!

We went to East Hampton this year for Mother’s day. It was the first time i’d been to the Hamptons as an adult, and it was an interesting experience to say the least. My mom has gone there the past few years on Mother’s Day weekend to spend time with her group of girlfriends. Instead of her rushing back on Sunday and us brunching in the city, we decided to spend the weekend out there with her and enjoy the sights and scenery. To be honest, i’d always avoided going out there because we have a place in the mountains and I never saw the point in spending four hours in traffic when I could zip up north in two. But after being there that weekend, I will definitely be back this summer.

Its taken me quite a while to write this blog post for a few reasons. It begun as a birthday post for my mother in January. Obviously the ball was dropped. I kept trying to think of reasons to post these wonderful photos of my mother for a few months until alas, Mothers Day was upon us, but again, I missed the blogging boat for putting these up on that particular day. ( We were too busy sitting on the sunny deck and brunching and walking on the beach ). But the other day my mother came home from a woman’s retreat in Connecticut and when I got home from work there was a small package on my desk. She’d brought me back beautiful earring and a painted box filled with wonderful smelling scents. There was no reason for these gifts. In my family, we don’t need holidays or birthdays to appreciate each other, so I figured why wait until another holiday to put these up! My mother is a wonderful, strong woman and while there are albums worth of photographs, these particular shots stood out and I wanted to share them. Plus and they were all taken by my dad so you can see where I get it from 🙂

Mothers Day brunch in East Hampton

Rachel and Simon

April 11, 2011

He rolls the cigarettes. She cooks. They came to NYC only a year ago and have already become established in the community, working for one of the best restaurants in the city, have an apartment with an amazing view, and generally look out for one another on an continual basis. What is nice about Rachel and Simon is that they are two very different people, and yet something about being with the other brings out the best they can both offer, and it just works. They are beautiful, individually and together. They are two of my favorite people and I’m always glad when I can photograph them.

Rachel is just hot. Period. Just sayin’…


Competitive Swimming

March 17, 2011

“If I were just curious, it would be very hard to say to someone, ‘I want to come to your house and have you talk to me and tell me the story of your life.’ I mean people are going to say, ‘You’re crazy.’ Plus they’re going to keep mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that much attention and thats a reasonable kind of attention to be paid” -Diane Arbus

I got to thinking about this quote this year and thought it would be interesting to test it out and photograph one, if not several people in their own habitats, in private sessions. I do not think it is easy to photograph people on the street by any means, but I am much more fascinated with people in their own dwellings. A person’s residence has the ability to say everything and nothing about their personalities all at once and its very overwhelming and exciting and  peculiar all at the same time. Sometimes there are a lot of books and furniture and rugs and photographs. Other times there are just books and a mattress. Still others, just a bed and a set of drapes. Everyone being so disarmingly different, to be accepted into their home, it is this sort of vulnerability that they are offering to display to you. It is a portrait that you will not receive on a park bench or in a field of grass. It is the most intimate and the most mysterious.

I was off and running with this idea, but when the time came, I had a lot of doubts. I’m not a good enough photographer. What if I forget how to work my camera. What’s the point of doing this if you know everyone else has done it before. You probably know them, many of us have these irrational types of nervous doubts about ourselves. Still, I kept on.

I chose one man in particular that I was acquainted with. He fascinated me. I knew he was somewhat soft spoken, and that he had many beautiful tattoos, but there was something behind his black-framed-glasses-bike-riding-i-wear-tight-pants facade that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I arrived at his apartment one cold evening with my travel case and my camera. At first I did indeed feel like my camera was the only thing protecting me from feeling awkward, and I’m not going to lie it was slightly strange. All of the doubts were hitting me hard as I was unpacking my camera and shakily fitting it with the right lens. But still, I thought of Diane, and just began to shoot.

For a split second right after I took the first picture, everything froze, and I didn’t realize until later but I’d remembered where I’d had felt this feeling before. I used to swim competitively on a swimteam when I was younger and right before each race, they’d sit us on this row of benches until it was your turn to race. You’d move up towards the starting blocks with each next person. I remember sitting on those benches and being incredibly nervous about any and all aspects of the two or four laps I was about to swim. I kept having to psych myself up to discourage fleeing the pool area all-together. Eventually, it was my turn and the second I dove into the water, the mind was quiet. In that split second, all of the fear and nervousness and doubt melted away. The body took over. It was just me and the strokes and my breathing.

As I continued to photograph this man on that cold evening, we talked about his past and how’d he found himself in New York. Later, what I realized had hit me after the first photograph, what had made itself abundantly clear to me, was that the project itself was just as much an experiment in portraiture as it was a matter of me pushing past my own doubts as a photographer. I acknowledged that if I can get myself to dive off the blocks into the pool, the rest of my instinct takes over. Once i’m shooting, i’m not thinking about whether i’m good enough, or if anyone will care about the pictures, or if it’s going to come out right. All of the fear and nervousness and doubt melts away. Its just me and the strokes and my breathing.

In his apartment, all the walls were white and bare, however I cannot tell you this man’s story. It is as if it was told for the camera, it holds the secrets I cannot share.

I’ve been taking the subway in New York City since I was very young. I remember the first time or close to the very first time that I rode the subway with my mother as she showed me how to get to my high school which was forty-five minutes away, in another borough. I was shorter than I am now, and bright eyed at the prospect of this traveling independence. It was like learning a new language. Which trains go where – how many stops till here – where to transfer – the exact place on the platform that will put you next to the exact door in the train car to make it faster to exit at your stop. I became quickly fluent, parents rules of not riding the train at night became riding the train with a friend at night, and again became riding whenever and wherever. The rides were meditative. After spending a considerable amount of time traveling to and from school for four years, I developed a deep appreciation for the quiet time. Reading, thinking, listening to music, people watching. I would fall asleep and wake up moments before the doors open at my stop, never missing it. I have a long standing personal history attached to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The tunnels run through my bloodstream. There was something about trains that had always just calmed me down.

In September of 2001, I was riding on the 2/3 line directly underneath the World Trade Center station on my way to school just one hour before Flight 11 hit the North Tower. We watched the rest of the morning unfold from across the river. For the remainder of that school year, the trains were rerouted and I found a different way to get to Brooklyn. It required both transferring trains in each trip as well as traveling over the Manhattan Bridge. While the view was beautiful, for a long time I couldn’t go over the bridge without holding my breath. I was terrified there would be another attack in some capacity. If the train was stalled for even a minute on the bridge, I had these horrible thoughts that there would be an attack on the bridges and we would happen to be in mid-bridge at that very moment. I got so paralyzed by my fear that I would occasionally get off the train at Canal Street right before it went over the bridge, just to calm myself down in order to get back on the next one that came.

The fear subsided eventually (I after all had another three years of subwaying in order to complete my high school education) and when I went to college in Philadelphia, I started taking Amtrak back and forth from one city to the other to visit home and my love affair with trains began to grow again. There is something romantic, nostalgic, and tragic about trains and their stations. Maybe its just me, but Rick reading Ilsa’s letter in the pouring rain as the ink is running off the page just before he lets the train carry him away in Casablanca, or as Samuel and Susannah with conviction and love step off the train that has taken them into the Montana mountains to the Colonel’s retreat from the madness of war in Legends of the Fall both get me every time. Aside from my emotional sentiment, trains are one of the oldest, strongest symbols of human expansion. The Transcontinental Railroad was the first built to link the East and West coasts, create a transport system that would modernize the movement of people and goods, and populate the West. In India, the trains are a symbol of independence and freedom and in China, they are known for their speed and efficiency.

I have always seen the light in the ability to connect closely with the human condition through the heart of movement. We stand inches from each other sometimes, knowing nothing more about the other person than perhaps what perfume they wear, if they’re solitaire or sudoku fans, whether they washed their hair this morning, or that they enjoy listening to Justin Timberlake at eight o’clock in the morning on a Wednesday. Sometimes we’re shown how children are treated by frustrated parents, racial fights between young men, homeless men and women, and one-legged beggars. Still other times we’re privy to lovers’ embraces, best friends giggling, babies being carried in the bodies of their mothers, and old school acapella groups singing Motown just right when you didn’t even know you needed to smile.

Nothing about any of them will ever be the same as it was before. The train car is the quintessential blank canvas over and over. The combination of lives and energy in the same space will never look or feel the same again. This is not a project, but something that runs deep into the fabric of my being. I know nothing of these people except what they choose to show me. The way they sit, if they’re reading, sleeping, thinking, watching. They are chosen for their communal solitude. They are not chosen at all. They choose me. We live our lives separately, and as yet, are constantly colliding with one another.

Wilkins and Monica

February 20, 2011

Seriously, I don’t have the words. This couple really blew me away. These two ladies are from Australia, and it was their first time in New York City. They wrote me because they wanted some really great pictures to take back home to commemorate their trip, and bring home to their families and friends to showcase their love for one another. We spent two hours hanging out in the city at some very “Classic New York” spots – the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, Grand Central Station, and the Public Library. We had become Facebook friends prior to the shoot and when we met up last week, I felt like we already knew each other. They were so much fun, had tons of ideas for photos and we really had a wonderful time.

It was really tough to choose favorites.. There were so many I wanted to put up, I had to narrow it down from 50 images! Hope you enjoy 🙂

ummm.. gorgeous much?

its confirmed.. they’re adorable