I had a fun and heartwarming weekend in New York for a self-directed 10 year reunion for Pratt Institute. Some kind of magic came together so that I could see all of my friends within the same weekend and take long walks in charming weather. Thanks for the drinks, meals, special discount, and best of all - lodging! I laughed so hard at Alex's stories of the freshman dorm that my eyes teared and my stomach ached.
The $1 bus dropped me off in chinatown, close to the brooklyn bridge. There are so many helpful signs now to direct you to the bridge, which probably explains the dense foot traffic I don't remember from the past. Or, it could be that I was the nut job flying by in the bike lane chastising meandering tourists to stay on their side of the line.
My first shock upon descending the bridge to dumbo was seeing a friendly map of the area. And people walking the streets. I used to be able to stuff all my laundry into the duffel bag I got as a high school graduation present, sling it over my back and bike up hill to the laundromat in the heights. Now it takes an hour to get into the unmarked posh restaurant of the moment.
This was only the second year of the dumbo photo fest, so they're still working out the kinks, but it was still impressive to descend upon new york's new photo district. Soho and later Chelsea, never appealed to me - especially b/c the photo exhibits were few and far between. In fact, once I got through the photo exhibit at MOMA today, Lynda and I used the other exhibit spaces for portrait sessions - I knew she wanted her photo in front of the pink wall and I had to get her next to a sculpture with fluorescent lights that made a reflection on the shellacked gallery floor (the guard didn't notice I backed into "art" by accident as I was framing Lynda in the camera).
After one of the artist talks on Friday, Carey and I took in the late day glow over the river. As a student and resident of new york, I never walked around with a camera. a) I thought I'd get mugged b) I was too shy to do anything. As a visitor, I gleefully accepted my role and in shooting around the park came upon the cutest red heads. One was 5, swinging from a tree, and the other was 3, wishing he could do everything his big brother could do. Their mom was gracious (and flattered) as I egged them on to goof off for the camera.
As I like to remind Alex, long gone are the days we walked these ghost-like streets only to be approached by a lone merchant selling stolen cds in a small cardboard box. This is certainly a better reality, however it could not prepare me for finding a reclaimed-wood furniture showroom where the entrance to my old warehouse used to be. It used to have a shaftway with a dangling cord to operate the crude pulley system. On late nights I'd toss my bike in the wooden crate on a chain so I wouldn't have to haul it up four flights on my shoulder. In 1997 I paid $300/month. Those were the good old days.
I even got an unsolicited critique of my blog over dinner from my friend Rick (excuse me, Professor Richard) so I'm trying his suggestion of all text or all photography, rather than mixing the two. I agree that words and images should be separate, especially since the photography should speak on its own. It seems easier to take a photo than write a story; however, come to think of it - viewers go off in their own directions when they look at a photograph, whereas words give an author more control to direct the audience. Rebuttals welcomed.
The following evening, Alex and I took in the sunset over the bridge while exchanging our processes for coping with the realities of putting one's artwork out in the world. We push ourselves too hard, doubt too much and feel exhausted, but in rare moments of clarity, appreciate how far we've come, how much we are able to offer.
After the MOMA and before I had to catch the bus back to Philly today, Lynda and I walked south on broadway looking down, not up at the buildings. After last night's rain we were determined to find a decent puddle w/o trash and motor oil to shoot reflections of city life. And just as my first night in Manhattan as a freshman with the whole world in front of me, I walked and walked until I found the empire state building. I didn't go up this time, but I hope I got a good shot. Shooting film again means waiting to see what happens.
I finished off my film back in Philly while I waited for the local train to get me home to Mt. Airy. I didn't have time to wind the film and remove it from the camera so I hurried to the station and pulled it out once I was seated. A man sitting across the aisle was so excited to talk about my medium format camera I gave in. I could tell he was a real fan, not just trying to impress me. But he did - turns out he met Avedon at a party in '77. The photos he showed me on his pocket-sized digital camera included cloudscapes in a parking lot. I always want to photograph the sky in parking lots because it's the only open space in the city, but it seems too sad. Now I'll have to keep my pocket digital with me for those moments. I tend to only goof around with the little digital or lug around the "tank" but I think I'll start doing both because you can't go hiking with the heavy artilery, but why not take it on the way to the grocery store?