We are off to New York this weekend. It is not really about taking photographs, but so we can spend some time with friends who we rarely see. Of course I will have a camera with me just in case.
A few years ago while visiting, we were in Madison Square Park and I spotted this guy with his dog. They were both wearing sunglasses. I asked him if I could take his picture and he agreed. Thank god he was a cool dude and did not smile. I have been asking people a lot these days for permission to photograph them. It is something new that I am trying out and it seems to be working but every now and then they give me this stupid grin and it just turns me off. I tell them to ignore me but they just keep grinning. In a way I prefer looking at paintings where the subjects who had to sit still for long periods while their portraits were being painted kept up various serious expressions. They were usually big shots who had an image of themselves and wished to keep it. This is now the age of the common man and they just grin. Who ever you are man—thank you.
It has been a while since I put anything up. I have been thinking about New York lately. Usually when I get this way, it is because I am feeling a bit restless. I am considering going to a photo workshop in Europe, My new iMac fell apart after 6 days and I am now waiting for a new one, Its cold (for Florida) outside, My old cat has started to drool, and a few other things that always seem to get me in this mood. So, when things are down, dream_and dream about far off places where you may think (only think) that you will be better off if you were there. Of course that is not it. You are never better off somewhere else because you take your shit with you. I know that. At least I think I do—because whenever it starts, I keep falling for it over and over again. It usually takes a week or so and then I catch up with reality again. In the meantime I wait it out—I eat, drink, get some work done and get my life in sync with boredom. It works every time.
I am still thinking about a workshop in Europe but its because its what I want, not what I think I need.
In 1961, my friend Harvey and I took a trip to New York. We were just a bunch of young kids, desperate to find a place that was not Montreal. We took the overnight Greyhound , endlessly starring out the window watching the blurred nighttime sky, anticipating my first trip on my own. We arrived early next morning at Penn Station and disembarked, in a sleep-deprived stupor onto 34th Street. A black kid about 10 years old ran by, followed by a white guy in an apron shouting “stop thief!” The street was full of guys selling anything from ballpoint pens to neck ties and the rumble of racks of clothes on push-carts, car horns, music, guys/girls yelling, the screams of bible-punchers trying to save my soul filled my ears. The street was packed with people and it scared the shit out of me. That was my first impression of the city—a real city and I never forgot it.
That afternoon we went to Times Square. It was a very sleazy Times Square in the 60’s, inhabited by street vendors, hookers, musicians moving on to their next gig, and bums—lots of bums. The street was lit by neon lights which flashed above the porn theaters, and nightclubs. For an 18-year-old kid from Montreal it was all very exciting—very American! I would return every year to this city and after one or two more visits I became very used to the streets and sounds. It no longer scared me when I walked out of Penn Station onto 34th street and hanging out in Times Square, the Village or the Jazz clubs became second nature to me. At that time I wasn’t taking pictures and even if I was, I lacked the confidence to walk around with a camera around my neck so all I can do is look at pictures taken by others. I was still an 18-20 year old schmuck who knew thought he knew everything but in fact knew very little
Over the years things began to change and eventually about 15 years ago it became a respectable place thanks to Disney et al. The slime was cleared out and it became a place to visit with the family. I was visiting now with a camera around my neck, but it wasn’t the Times Square that I knew as a snot-nosed kid. It was just boring. Mommy, daddy and the two kids, The Lion King, souvenirs from the Disney store—really disgusting. Now I just visited the area if we were going to a play, or walking uptown to a museum. The sidewalks were packed with people and the streets were stuffed with traffic.
I have noticed though that change continues to happen in Times Square. Now that cars have been banned there is more space for the people to walk and since the area is crawling with tourists, small time hustlers have been hanging around offering to pose for pictures with the family. The Naked Cowboy, Naked Cowgirl (there are actually two of them. One is an attractive 24-year-old with nice tits and the other was once an attractive 24-year-old who is now 60 with sagging tits), Minnie Mouse (not officially sanctioned by Disney) are all over the place and other characters. Maybe things are going back to the good old days. I am ready for it now. Now if they could only bring back neon.
I love New York! (as the jingle goes). I visited there twice this year. The second time I hung out below 26th street and wandered, ate, drank and made a few photographs. Since I am off to Florida on Saturday, my style will have to make an adjustment from northern cloudy light to southern Sunbelt bright. It’s really funny though because when i first started out, I only would shoot on cloudy overcast days. I hated the shadows and what they did to my pictures but alas, I grew up, had another got at it and discovered that it was not much different from what I had been doing all along. My attitude changed—that’s all
So chances are, my next posting will have lots of bright contrasty shadows.
New York has one of the most interesting parks that I have seen in a long time. The High Line was a railway line which ran from the docks at 35th street to the meat-packing district at 14th street. It was abandoned in the 30’s and resurrected as a park a few years ago. It makes for a very pleasant walk. A few weeks ago while visiting I looked up and saw these guys in their tee shirts hanging around smoking so I took a few shots. On the surface, it looks like a scene for West Side Story but alas, it is simply some models from a fashion show taking a break. Only in NYC can some models be mistaken for a bunch of juvenile delinquents. Maria… Maria… Maria
I think New York has to be one of my favorite cities. There is nothing like it. This photo is 14th Street in Chelsea. The streets are alive, bustling with energy, in motion. There is a certain pulse about it that is unique. Paris, Rome, London, all have their distinct charms but this town is different. Probably because, depending on where you are in this city, there is a bit of Paris, Rome, London, or any other place on earth. This is where all the world meets and it is streets like 14th Street where they sell their goods. I love the merchandise displayed on the sidewalks, the peddlers yelling at you to come in, the whole beat of the place —its like so Jazzy.
This was my second visit to NYC this year. We try to make it an annual event but this year, I wanted to hang out below 26th Street and that is what I did. If someone were to ask me what my favorite activity is these days it would be hanging out. When I was younger I had other desires and yearnings but as an old fart, its just hanging out. Come to think of it, that is how I started out as a youth. Hanging out on Stanley Street in Montreal was where I started out as a young, met most of my friends, grew up, acted out and most of all found an ever-loving appreciation of just hanging out and watching what was going on in the street. The birth of a voyeur!
Its been a while since I put anything here so I was seriously overdue. We were in NYC earlier this summer, and it is always very stimulating as usual. One thing in abundance there are street musicians—there are many of them, and they are good! It is also the only place where they seem to play Jazz instead of the regular shit. For me that is always worth a few extra bucks. I even hang around to listen to these guys. This one in particular was excellent and Sharon and I listened for about 15 minutes to this guy. (Its a fucking shame, there is not enough work for the good ones.) When we were done, I put 5 bucks in his cap. He nodded thank you, and life continues for better or worse.