NEW YORK RAMBLES (page 14)
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A 5 mile loop between Soho and Wall Street
Its three days after the attack on New York and I’m back on the streets of Manhattan. There are checkpoints in places but scrutiny is spotty and I get through unnoticed on my way downtown. Everything here is coated with grey ash and dust turning the city pale and lifeless like a corpse. Swirls of milky grey flow down the gutter as a store owner tries to hose off his awning. Huge wheels of telephone cable are strewn about as emergency lines are laid right over the sidewalk. A truck full of armed solders is one of the few vehicles moving on the street. I take few shots. Cameras are being confiscated at random but something else is holding me back. My camera can separate me from my environment making me a voyeur rather than a participant. I was just too aware here.
NO PICTURES TAKEN
A walk from the World Trade Center to Times Square the day of the attack on New York
I had reached 17th Street where I thought my walk would end just a minute before the first plane hit the north tower. It was some time before I became aware of what was going on. I first noticed unusual amounts of people heading north in silent streams. When I spotted soldiers with machine guns directing traffic at an intersection I knew something terrible had happened. After I heard the news it took me some time to decide what to do. By the time I backtracked to Union Square there was not a soul left on the sidewalks or streets. A lone emergency vehicle raced downtown, its siren breaking the strange stillness. I paused at a corner and just stood there for some time staring to the south. It looked as if a volcano had erupted with its heavy impenetrable ash blotting out all around it under the most beautiful of blue skies. I was drawn towards the abyss but I had no camera with me today so I headed north in an attempt to reach home. I caught up with the crowds at Times Square. There was no panic or anger in the air, everyone just seemed filled with a profound sadness and moved about in a silence.
Postscript: Being cameraless in the face of this tragedy may seem less than trivial but it filled me with a great sense of loss that I carry to this day. Capturing images is more than what I do it is who I am, and at this pivotal moment in the life of my City I was unable to act. My only solace lies in knowing that had I had a camera that day I would have placed myself in the thick of it and possibly not survived.
A Midtown ramble
Can a city have too much glass and steel? It is odd that no matter how innovative architects of modern buildings think they get, it always comes down to more of the same.
A short Downtown ramble
Everyday is truly a new day in the city. Countless permutations on the way light filters through are formed as the sun shifts its position with each hour and each minute of the year. I have walked down some streets hundreds of times and found little to take notice of, an then there is that one day for those precise seconds when all is transformed it into a new world.
A walk from the Upper East Side to Times Square
In those places in the city where the last of the sun’s rays shine upon the landscape like a spotlight upon a stage, the jumble of geometries created can be stronger than the patterns of cold steel and glass and even our giant neon billboards. We think what we build is grand but the sun mocks us all.
A walk from Soho to the Lower East Side and on to Wall Street
Not all properties come with enough land left over for gardens but some do the best they can.
A walk from Soho to Chelsea
It looks like big changes are coming to Chelsea but nothing that can ever replace the sun or the reflections on glass.
A walk from Soho to Tribeca
While many city streets are crowded, Canal Street is apart from the rest. It is not a matter of numbers as much as how it is used. This is a street of commerce not hidden from public view. Merchandise spills out of from the stores and onto bins that share the narrow pavement with locals and tourists. Here counterfeit designer handbags sell next to plumbing supplies while the aroma of cloves from incense venders mixes with the exhaust from trucks that rumble down the tarmac in continuous streams.
A ramble in the West Village
The streets of the West Village may be pleasant to live on but they have always proved difficult to photograph. The canopies of trees in summer tend to obscure these narrow streets while they sit in deep shadows for most of winter.
A loop between Soho and the Lower East Side
I could smell garlic rise from the brine filled barrels as venders sold pickles out on the street. The buildings here are old and so are the customs of the people that come with them. Suddenly I am greeted by a wall of tall apartment buildings where the tenements abruptly end. This neighborhood is only yards away but I will find no pickle venders here.
A loop between Soho and Tribeca
Even after all this time it is still a little difficult to accept good compositions where I find them when the subjects in them are of no relevance to me.
A 6 mile loop east and west of Soho
Some of the best colors are to be found on dull days.
A loop between Soho and City Hall
The lighting could not have been better than if I had planned it. As I headed downtown the sun shifted just enough to be seen through a narrow crack between two tall towers. This artificial sunburst was one any cloud would be jealous of.
A walk from Brooklyn Heights to City Hall
I returned to Brooklyn Heights to photograph the streets there again with less leaves to obscure my shots. The views were more open but I can’t say that I captured them any better. Once on the Brooklyn Bridge the new found light made up for everything.
A ramble in Kissena Hollow
The swans, ducks, and geese seem to have come to the lake today to take part in some lyrical dance apart from their yearly migration.
A loop from Brooklyn Heights to Vinegar Hill
Keeping my shadow out of photos with raking light has driven me crazy for years. I’ve now come to accept this like a runny paint drip on a canvas that I don’t bother to wipe away. My presence is already in every shot I take.
A 6 mile walk between Soho and Brooklyn Heights
At certain times these streets sparkle with light but as the sun shifts toward the horizon they turn into dark shadow filled corridors as if under an eclipse. Often this transformation is so complete I expect the birds to halt their singing and turn in to roost for the night.
A walk between Soho and the East Village
There are many picture books on New York that show idealize views of the city. While there are some that seem to try to capture more natural looking scenes they to are stylized, just in more artistic ways. Few capture the way we actually live least we wake from our dreams.
A ramble between Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens
Light rakes, shadows fall, I shoot. It feels good to walk on these streets.
A walk from Times Square to Union Square
I enjoy looking at the scale models architects create of buildings they would like to construct. They always seem impressive but this is because they never take their future surroundings into consideration. Buildings rise here in a hodgepodge as if there is no such thing as consequences.
A ramble through Central Park
There are times that Central Park seems a picture book.
A 7 mile walk between Gowanus and Soho
The City is often nondescript when backlit by the setting sun but today the colors were both dramatic and subtle beyond belief. This shimmering light fills a world complete of our own making.
A ramble in Kissena Hollow
I always think of fog in terms of my travels to the New England coast. This is what the City has done to me, make me forget that I live on an island off the mainland, even if not far out into the Atlantic. Todat the fog reminds me where I am.
A ramble between Sunnyside and Hunters Point
A new skyscraper rises on the Manhattan skyline. It reminds me of a giant mausoleum. You would think we would learn from our mistakes.
A ramble on the Lower East Side
Years ago vacant lots became local playgrounds. In out litigious age everything is now fenced off as kids go out on play dates.
An 8 mile walk between Red Hook and City Hall
It is sometimes amazing to find such elegant proportions and frames where least expected.
A ramble through Central Park on Halloween
A seasonal surprise made my day.
A Downtown ramble
The high winds ripping down these narrow streets made the ticker tape parade seem more like the onslaught of a winter blizzard. Small pieces of paper having just fallen swirled back upwards in small tornadoes while heavier ribbons gathered in tangled piles like drifts of snow.
A walk from the Upper West Side through Central Park and on to Times Square
Times Square used to be filled with traditional looking buildings that were overly decorated with billboards and electric lights. Today many of the newer structures are built in shapes so unusual and garish they would be outcasts anywhere else.
A 8 mile ramble between Boerum Hill and Sunset Park
This City has many brownstones and houses with yards, but brownstones with yards though more unusual are an integral part of our character. Though these small plots lend themselves to formal design they are for the most part representative of individual whim.
Copyright 2009 Alan Petrulis All Rights Reserved