Going through old slides, I found this image of a Tupac Shakur memorial mural that appeared shorty after his still unsolved murder in Los Angeles. Over the years I’ve come to love, and respect Tupac’s legacy to hip hop and life in general. Looking back, I’m grateful for making an effort to protect my slides and negatives.
After an already full day in Baltimore. We made a final stop at Graffiti Alley, which is located in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District directly behind the Motor House. It somehow reminded us of a miniature version of Long Island City, NY’s “Five Points.” (R.I.P.) Awash with colors and ripe with the smell of newly created art. We made sure to taking our time to soak it all in. As someone who grew up in graffiti culture and always admired what kind of messages would come from a can of Krylon. It energized me. Seeing that someone was using the name that I once tagged up with was just candles on my cake.
Since our arrival in Seattle, we’ve found a number of neighborhoods we’ve grown quite fond of. Pioneer Square with it’s reminders of New York’s once edgy Lower East Side was our first love. While the International Center, Capitol Hill and pockets of Queen Anne have all spirited our first months here. That said, there has been somethng special about Georgetown that keeps us coming up with reasons to visit from one week to the next. Having moved to Columbia City just over a week ago has brought us even closer to the somewhat quiet pocket of Seattle that often reminds me of the out of the way area known as Red Hook Brooklyn back in New York. It wasn’t until my wife mentioned how much she loved the area and her desire oi buy there, that I realized just how similar the areas seemed.
For it was during what seemed like an endless search to buy a condo that fit our style and needs that we found an off the beaten path area in Brooklyn known as Red Hook. In just a few visits, it felt as if the area would become our desired location for us. The problem, however, was that after we attended to underwhelming open houses. We didn’t anything else appear on the market. Short story long, we gave up on the area and rarely ever returned afterward.
Fortunately, Georgetown has all the charm of the aforementioned East Coast destination with a closer proximity and easy accessibility to where we currently call home. Who knows if we’ll find a place in Georgetown or if we’ll even stay in Seattle permanently. (With all the talk of what we miss back East. It’s hard to decide, yet.) Regardless, we’re having a great time getting to know the area.
Whenever I see any mural, graffiti or for that matter, any form of art that inspires thought. My initial reaction is to reach for my camera in order to capture the moment for future inspection. While one’s first instinct would be to back up far enough to capture my subject in its entirety. I often like to take a minute to absorb the subject in order to fully understand what it is that really grabbed my attention in the first place. In the picture posted here, I zoomed in on the lips and nose, as they reminded me of someone I love and respect. While clearly understanding that I was documenting someone else’s art. I felt that my interpretation of it made it okay to do so.
I was talking to a friend about a recent excursion that really made the hairs on my arm stand on end. A little over a month ago, I came across a spot that was as scary as it was intriguing. That day, I spent a matter of minutes exploring the area just adjacent to the old, abandoned automotive parts/repair shop. At the time, I peaked through, before briefly entering the side door. When returning a few weeks later, I found an obscured front door and entered with as much caution as I had curiosity. Almost immediately, I could feel the hair on my arms stand on end as I had entered a dragon’s lair of graffitied walls, random garbage and the remnants of a recent visitor, or worse, occupant.
As I stepped cautiously through the debris and squalor. I couldn’t help but feel the tortured spirits of those who may have preceded my visit. As I moved from room to room through hand carved holes in the walls. I couldn’t help but feel that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. The random needles, paint cans and emptied glue containers served as evidence of recent hardcore drug use. “You’re too old to be doing this. You should be enjoying a plate of eggs and hash browns with you wife right now”
As creepy as my visit might have been. I had no inkling as to how weird things were about to get. While carefully opening one of the container doors. I unveiled what seemed to be a living space, complete with mattress. Though not the unveiling of a colony of brain thirsty zombies or bat wielding crack heads I spooked myself into imagining. It quickly served as the hair-raising moment that told me “Times up. Get your ass back in the car” Thankfully, I was in complete and total agreement with that inner voice. Until the next time.
In my last post “Sometimes it’s better to go it alone.” Here. I mentioned going it alone when operating as a street photographer. While that thread may ring true in many cases. It can’t go without saying that she is both my greatest inspiration and a damn good lookout and second set of eyes. Often watching my back when I’m shooting in more risky areas. While also serving as a second set of eyes when it comes to security related entities.
Where as today was scheduled to be a very laid back day with a short trip to Ikea for an area rug. We spent much of our day exploring much of Newark, Elizabeth and Harrison. While not dangerous by any means. Select areas might have been a bit private and or restricted. So to my wife, a hearty thanks for being my lookout when it came to shooting and our late lunch in East Newark. I really enjoyed sharing a seat at the counter and getting to know some of the regulars.
As much as I enjoy spending the day admiring art of any kind. Being able to watch it in progress take my admiration and appreciation to new heights. For, as important the finished product remains. The creative process is where the soul lies. In the handful of times I’ve seen a work in progress or installation. I’ve found myself somewhat transfixed in awe. With graffiti and murals being my first exposure to art. Watching a piece go up on the wall can bring chills. On this particular summer day at Asbury Park. I became a bit restless after a few hours on the sand. My decision to head back to the boardwalk to stretch my legs was a good one. Watching her admire her own work as she applied little touch ups was just an added bonus.
I was standing among the endless array of graffiti art that envelopes the Queens block known as Five Pointz. Moving somewhat awkwardly from spot to spot taking pictures while juggling my camera bag and the cache of Hip Hop records I had scored that day in Greenpoint Brooklyn. I had recently read that a wrecking ball will soon meet the legendary graffiti mecca and the corner bar where many scenes from the brilliant, yet short lived show “The Black Donnely’s” were filmed. The unique space will soon be home to a soulless, unaffordable high rise condo building. Knowing full well of the ticking clock I figured it would be a good idea to stop over before transferring to the Manhattan bound E Train.
As the train cars rattled above me I noticed a couple slowly approaching hand in hand. Acknowledgement and some small talk followed and I recall sharing how bummed I was about the soon to come demolition. That’s when I realized that this lovely couple were not from these parts. “I’m losing my tourdar.” I thought. I can usually smell a tourist from a mile away. The male counterpart began asking me about graffiti and hip hop. (I know what your thinking. Typical racial and age profiling on their part) Any self respecting 30+ white guy can tell the story of how and where the now now celebrated art form started. He asked where the best places to view graffiti were and where he could explore the roots of Hip Hop. “It all started here.” He asked in an inquisitive manner. I thought for a second before referring to KRS-1’s “The Bridge is Over”. Suddenly and very quickly the moment froze. He looked at me puzzled and then “We’re in the Bronx now, right?” There was a sudden pause. Seconds that felt like hours, days, weeks. I took a deep breath, one usually reserved for the sex talk a father gives his thirteen year old daughter. A look reserved for the first time your son comes home drunk out of his mind with piss stains on his jeans. With a certain quickness I regained my composure and began pointing in the direction of Manhattan, The Bronx and Los Angeles. He asked if the Bronx was safe and if they could walk to Chinatown from where we were standing. I assured him that taking the nearby E to Canal street would be a faster route than walking and gave him a few other ways to get uptown from Canal. As for his question about the Bronx. I just told him to just use basic common sense. Hopefully my directions did them justice.
We headed out to Queens this afternoon to do some exploring in Long Island City and Astoria. Our first stop was 5 Pointz where we checked in to see what new pieces had gone up and which ones had survived since our last visit. The more often I go the more I find myself talking to both the visitors and artists. Talking about art, paint and the spots I might have missed or perhaps would like to share. Today I met up with Slone (That’s him posing in front of his latest piece) and talked a bit. We exchanged info and if things go as planned I’ll be tagging along one day to shoot a piece in the making.