September 7, 2006 7:57 pm
It’s been almost a couple weeks since I last posted, and for the majority of those weeks, this blog has been on my mind. See, I’ve been having a really hard time here. Ben in Japan was so easy. I walked out the door to phenomenal beauty, adventures, people who were happy to be photographed, and a lot of stuff that the majority of my readers had never seen before. An elementary school classroom in Japan was an interesting thing to photograph, beautiful in a way, and the sort of thing I wanted to show everyone back home. Photographing for the blog was so natural and fun that I never even thought about it. I just brought my camera wherever I went and took pictures. I picked the best ones, and wrote about what I had done.
Now I am in Brooklyn, and I had pretty much planned to keep doing the same thing as before. Go out, take the camera, take pictures, blog about it. It seemed pretty fail safe. Not so. I spent last week in Brooklyn, not much to do, so almost every day I went out with my camera. I went to places I liked, did some things, and all I saw every day were cliched pictures of New York, the same old skyscrapers, crazy people, groups of tourists, and packed city streets. Every now and then I would see something that would have made a good photo, but it was always some tired image that fifty thousand people have photographed before - the group of leering construction workers, the guy packed into a tiny newsstand - they would be fine pictures, and probably somebody would like them, but I didn’t come back here to take crappy generic pictures of New York. I had hoped to put a little part of myself into them, make them unique to my life in the city, and I had no idea how difficult that would be. I left the city last weekend, and as soon as I was in a new place, the camera was out and I was taking dozens of pictures, some of which I like. When I came back to the city, suddenly I was bored again.
It probably has to do with familiarity. Nothing here is really new and strange to me, and I don’t feel like I’ve been seeing a lot of things worth sharing with the world. Most of my readers are Americans, and while photos of my house in Japan could be interesting, photos of my house here - not so much. I’m struggling here, and having a kind of hard time of it. I am looking for ideas, or ways to approach the problem, so if you have experience in photographing the stuff millions of people see every day but making it look good, leave a comment or something. I could really use some other opinions.
So anyway, with that enormous preamble, let’s see what I came up with:
The one thing I did that I wasn’t bored out of my mind with was walk deeper into Brooklyn. Staying away from the high traffic areas let me see some nicer, quieter things, and gave me the time to think about the pictures I was taking. That said, when I got home I felt like most of my pictures were trash and I didn’t much like them, but at least I took pictures. After three or four days of going out every day with the camera and coming having never taken it out of the bag, this was a start. Look at that grafitti! The crew that did it had to have been out there in a boat, a thought that gives me no end of pleasure. I imagine them in two old rotting rowboats, two people in each, one person sculling expertly with an oar in the back, the grafitti artist in front, squinting through the fog and holding a lantern.
People used to say that if you fell into the Gowanus canal, you would probably instantly die. If you didn’t die, you would most likely grow a third arm or something, and then die of twenty different diseases in the year that followed. It has gotten cleaner recently, now you will only most likely die in the next seven to ten years. Apparently someone saw a seal in there.
A garden on Union Street in Park Slope.
And that was about all I got. Imagine, a week with nothing but a few semi-decent pictures. I was frustrated. At the end of the week I went upstate to Ithaca, to visit Sabrina at Cornell. Now maybe it’s just that I’m more used to taking pictures of natural beauty, or maybe it was that I was in a new place, but as soon as I got there, I was taking pictures without thinking about it, just pointing the camera at things I liked, and at the end of the day the pictures were better than anything I had come up with in a week of frustration in Brooklyn.
There are these t-shirts, maybe you have seen them. They say “Ithaca is Gorges” - that is because Ithaca has these two enormous gorges. They are criscrossed by little narrow bridges, and around Cornell campus it really feels like you are never far from the sound of rushing water echoed off huge walls of stone.
The town of Ithaca is really fun. I didn’t spend a very long time there, but in the couple days I was there, I had excellent food, I went to my first hippie food co-op, and I walked about nine thousand miles. That sounds pretty crappy written out like that, but it was cool, really.
Coolest thing ever: An abandoned hydraulic power station in one of the gorges. I hear you can get inside it, but you need to rappel down through the ceiling. Maybe another time. How amazing would it be in there though?
Ithaca - so I went from this…
…to this. I actually took this picture a few days later, but It’s one that I actually like. Back in the city for a day, I met up with Fred and we drove to a Japanese restaurant in New Jersey. That is another story for another time, but I took these pictures.
And that is about it for the last couple weeks. I am having trouble with this blog, but you can be sure that I will whine and complain in this public forum for everyone to read. For now, I leave you with one last picture of the city that I took yesterday.
Eh, I did my best.
From the 11th to the 18th, I’ll be in Paris. Prepare yourselves for Ben in