Jeanna and Dan

October 26, 2011

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Irene Part 2

September 6, 2011

180,000 Central Hudson customers lost power during the storm.
Shandaken Residents were being boated out of their homes, some in other areas trapped for days.
Upstate, NY experienced massive flooding and power outages. Homes uprooted 50 feet from their foundations. Roads completely washed away. I took a drive on Monday, to try and find out information about the areas affected, but only went as far as Phonecia. In Big Indian, Windham, Prattsvile, and Margritville there was so much damage that it was declared a State of Emergency and the National Guard came in. FEMA, Social Services and the Red Cross are still at Belleayre Mountain every day to this day to offer laundry services and hot showers.

Hurricane Irene
Woodstock, Mt. Tremper, and Phonecia, NY
August 29, 2011

Irene Part 1

August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene
Kingston, New York
August 28, 2011

Clair and Sam

August 23, 2011

They couldn’t be cuter. Jetting over to NYC from England, these two celebrated their love with their closest family and friends on a wonderful day in June. We started at the Ladies Pavillion and made our way over to the Central Park Zoo in a horse and buggy ride. Although my tendency to tear up at weddings seems to have subsided in the past couple of events that I’ve shot, Clair and Sam’s ceremony was especially emotional as the two recited their own vows to one another, and I found myself loving them dearly. When you can see the love that couples have for one another written all over their face, it is the most beautiful and most wonderful thing that you can be privy to.

With the recent closing of iconic NYC locations like Mars Bar and Film Center Cafe, I thought it appropriate to render a tribute to the city that I am from.

I have always been nostalgic. Even for places and events and people that I have never been to or attended or met. Certain weights that tug on my heartstrings. They are simple, like fire escapes, or fading painted advertisements on the sides of older buildings. They are ghosts of the past of a city that was raised by ambition and seems to be taken down by the natural element of ‘progress’. Establishments that have existed for years are closing. Huge skyscrapers are being built in the midst of beautiful characteristic low-rises. I am interested in documenting the things that are fading. In the buildings and the blocks. In the telephone wires and the phone booths. The neon signs.

I once wrote a letter to the Landmarks Commission in attempts at saving 35 Cooper Square which as a federal style house is one of the oldest surviving buildings on the Bowery. The following is an excerpt from that letter;

“There are reasons why tourists come to Manhattan. There are reasons why people from all over the world come with not more than a weeks’ saved wages to try to ‘make it’ here. There are reasons why numerous artists, writers, revolutionaries, business people, great thinkers, and big dreamers have chosen New York as their home base. I can tell you right now, its not because of our newly built glass towers, or the gastro-pubs, or the bottle service nightlife clubs. It’s because Manhattan was raised with charm. It has a grace that not many cities posses. It gives off the potential that anything is possible and part of this element is the structures that exist here. There are buildings that have dated back to the 19th century. They hold the city’s secrets. They have been standing throughout fires and floods, bombings and shootings. They are older than all of us, and deserve to have a chance to continue to show newcomers what the city is really made of. That throughout everything, New York buildings, like New Yorkers themselves, are durable, are resilient. That they have a strong history and past to settle their roots to, and because of that past, have a chance to to root their future in something promising, something real.”

Place is extremely powerful. There are spirits and lives that are buried beneath these streets. Under the concrete, under the cobblestone. They permeate every inch of the air on this island. I wish to document what’s been left and what is soon to go. Not only for a cartographical basis to determine footprints of the city’s mindframe, but for an artistic sense of seeing as well, creating in our time, a similar likeness to the times of those past.

I have lived in New York City for my whole life, and just this year I have begun to document it correctly. Here are a few images from this journey.

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.