Tag Archives: New York City

The Stranger’s Story

So yesterday I headed back into Manhattan to pick up an Amazon order that I had shipped to a Rite-Aid locker on 24th St. After taking a detour through Union Square to check out the farmer’s market (picking up some … Continue reading

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Time Stops For No One

You’re walking home from work. You decide to stop for a few seconds to pull out your phone to check your Facebook. Or maybe you didn’t decide to stop. Maybe you are somehow programmed to stop and check your Facebook whenever your … Continue reading

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Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street

Lately, I’ve been trying to get over the habit of taking photos of buildings, structures, or still life in general. I admit I’m a bit people shy when it comes to street photography. The other day I was in Washington Square Park and saw a photographer almost get punched out when he tried to snap a photo of two middle aged men playing chess. That’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid, aside from the creep factor I may give off to a total stranger upon taking their pic. Protests and Occupy Wall Street are different. People actually want to be seen and heard. But anyways….

A few weeks ago I decided to try to stray away a bit from my comfort zone and focus on photographing people. Not going up in their face but from a non-intrusive, indirect point of view. This was shot right before taking the train home after wandering around the East Village for almost two hours without taking a single shot. Everyone seemed like copy/paste clones of each other, no individuality whatsoever. Polo shirt, khakis, bag, skirt, bag, iPhone, walking fast can’t stop gotta run call you when I get out of the train don’t forget to feed the cat.

This man didn’t have to rush anywhere. As everyone else strode forward, he pushed back. Breaking through the line of commuter ants as he went along, pushing himself on his one good leg. The only fresh and genuine face around the whole area.

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Windows

Windows

There is an alley in downtown Manhattan next to the Puck Building where many fashion shoots take place. Everytime I pass by there, models are posing for the cameras, wearing the latest styles and getting their hair and makeup done on the spot. I sometimes stop to watch for a while. Fashion photography is not my thing, but I do enjoy seeing what kind of setup they have and what kind of moods they try to convey. It’s kind of a learning experience. I also find the wardrobe and styles amusing, some look like they stepped out from the set of a sci-fi movie or a time warp leading back to the 1930’s.

When I shot this one, there was a fashion shoot in progress. After observing for a while, I noticed the windows high above and found the scene much more interesting than the actual shoot. I took out my camera, walked up while they were taking a break, and as I approached one of the crew comes up to me and tells me that I can’t take photos of the models. I told him I wasn’t interested in the models, pointed up to the windows, snapped this photo, and left. As I passed, one of the models says “Hey, I like your vest.”, referring to my black hesher punk/metal denim biker vest. Here she is wearing clothes that cost more than what I make in a month, and yet she’s complimenting my old, worn, patched-and-pinned vest. Somehow I found it amusing and ironic.

I guess the photo symbolizes different phases, or windows, in my life that have opened and closed. One closed window represents my teaching career, an open one my new career. Another closed one my old town, an open one the city and it’s infinite possibilities. Or maybe I just like the pattern, I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t feel like such a dirtbag anymore every time I wear my beloved vest.

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Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan

I have a fondness for old 70’s-80’s movies set in New York City. Escape From New York, The Warriors, Nighthawks, were all a staple of my childhood. Growing up around the NJ/NY metropolitan area from 1980-1989, I remember how New York City was considered a no-man’s land back then. Taking a trip to the city was the equivalent of wandering into Mordor. The sleaze, the shady characters, the noise, the smells, all of it terrifying yet wonderful. All serving as a banquet to feed my imagination.

Today’s New York is a sad shadow of it’s former wonder. A sterile, manufactured, mass-produced, prepackaged offering for tourists and families seeking big city thrills within their comfort zone. An urban Disneyland. Oh look it’s the Naked Cowboy, better cover Sally’s eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that I can feel somewhat safer in the city, especially when carrying around camera equipment. But Giuliani’s crackdown not only put the hookers, dealers, and sex shops out of business, it also hurt the small record shops, bookstores, weirdo bars, and other elements which made New York a surreal wonderland. I still remember the day Coney Island High closed down for good, part of the Mayor’s sweep to close down bars for fire department violations. Who was playing that day? Lagwagon? I don’t remember, since I was going to a grindcore fest at CBGB’s a few blocks away. But it still bummed me out. If you want to find the former site of your old punk bar or indie record store or obscure bookstore, just go to the nearest Starbucks.

That is why I usually avoid Midtown Manhattan, unless I’m on the way home through Port Authority. But on this day I wanted to experiment with slow shutter speeds, and the area does serve as a good training ground for the technique. I’ll admit I didn’t know what the Hell I was doing, my knowledge limited to a few pages I quickly read in a photo guide book.

I shot this one during the summer of 2004, using my trusty ol’ Canon Elan 7 film camera. Although I don’t recall the day or month, I do remember carrying a cheap tripod all around Manhattan and leaving it sprawled upside-down in a trash can after the base mechanism broke. I don’t need no steenkin’ tripod!

Turns out I did need a steenkin’ tripod, since all the photos I took during that day came out as blurry messes that resembled Jackson Pollock paintings. Ironically, when I shot this one, I braced the camera against a vibrating street light pole for about 30 seconds. I guess it’s a lucky shot under the circumstances. Oh well, I think it would make a good postcard for tourists who braved the G-rated streets of New York City.

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Occupy the Moment

Occupy the Moment

The first time I visited the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park, I was coming back from helping my friend move his air conditioner from his old Harlem apartment into his new place a few blocks away. We tied the unit to my skateboard and pulled it along like a doggy on a leash. People on the street got a kick out of it, as I called out “Here Fido, Fido! Good boy Fido!” My left hand was bloodied and wrapped in a bandanna after I cut it while removing the air conditioner. As we walked, I asked him “Hey, have you heard about those people camping out in Wall Street? Wanna check it out after we’re done?” He didn’t think much as he responded “Eh, sure, we’ll check it out and have a few beers afterwards.” So that was that, and we didn’t think much of it as we took the downtown train later on that day.

There were less than a hundred people at Zuccotti Park. We walked around and chatted with a few occupiers, before heading out to St. Marks to have a few beers. As we sat and drank our ales, I asked him if he’d like to come down with me to take some photos of the occupiers at Zuccotti Park. “Eh sure, we’ll have some beers afterwards.”, he replied, and we didn’t think much of it as we sat there staring out the window as we sipped our beers.

A week later we were back at Zuccotti Park after coming back from the Slut Walk march that we heard about during the week and decided to check out before going down to Occupy Wall Street (I’ll talk more about that in a future entry). The park was nearly empty and we asked a friendly girl if she knew where everyone was. She said everyone was heading to march across the Brooklyn Bridge and she was walking there herself, so we tagged along.

A few minutes later, we were right smack in the middle of the bridge, in the midst of a sea of people, all marching, chanting, and getting arrested on the car lanes below. NYPD had us all penned in like a herd and began bringing in police trucks and buses to carry off those arrested. The sea of people swelled and roared like an ocean during a storm, as I wondered how the Hell I was going to get out of this one. After realizing that I was stuck in there for a while (having lost my friend a few hundred people back and he shook his head like a terrified child being forced to sit on a scary mall Santa’s lap), I began to chnt and even started some of my own chants. I belted out “Hell no! We won’t go!” and it caught one, first a handful then a few dozen, then the whole crowd. At that moment I felt like there was no place on Earth I would rather be. My old punk rock miscreant self was brought back to life with the energy and electricity that ran through the human tidal wave that flooded the Brooklyn Bridge.

A few hours later, I was reunited with my friend and we decided to go to St. Marks for some beers. As we sat at the bar drinking our ales, I asked my friend “So, wanna go again next week?”. He sipped his beer and said “Sure, we can have some beers afterwards.”, and we sat there staring out the window and not thinking much of it for the rest of the evening.

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Fire Escape

Fire Escape

I was never good at Math, and much less Geometry. In high school they had to pull me out of Geometry class and put me in Baking/Home Economics in order to save me from failing the grade. Oddly enough, I could easily recognize patterns, symmetry, and angles. The real problem was when we had to apply formulas and numbers to the whole thing. My brain would come to a screeching halt and I would sit there with a confused look on my face as if I were staring at some hieroglyphs from some obscure civilization.

My Geometry teacher would poke fun at me, telling me to never become a carpenter because my house would end up with a mismatched roof and sloping, uneven walls. Yet, during his tests, when the paper would still be blank after half an hour, I would find myself staring at the beams in the classroom ceiling, admiring the shapes and intersections they created.

If he were still teaching, I would like to drop by his classroom one day and place this photo on his desk and ask if he could give me extra credit for it, even though I graduated 17 years ago. Chances are he’ll just wave me away and tell me to bake a cake or something.

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