Looking back, I’d say my journey as a photographer began during my early days in Hell’s Kitchen. Though I had been fascinated with taking pictures since my teens. It wasn’t until I was occupying a one-bedroom in the heart of the west midtown area of Manhattan that my then boss gave me his old Nikon EM SLR along with some film and a couple of photo books that my hobby turned into an obsession. I quickly began documenting my surroundings while graduating from one-hour photo chains to professional printing services such as Duggal and B&H. Within a short time, the towels and sheets that fit neatly in my apartment linen closet were displaced by boxes of photos and trays of slides. My trips to places like Duggal and B&H quickly quadrupled. From my eight years in Hell’s Kitchen to my married life in New Jersey and Washington state. My passion and obsession for photography never waned. My need for living space grew, and the number of photo boxes, enlargements, and ane studio gear morphed. Quickly realizing less is more, I used the premise of moving to digitize all those negatives, slides, photo boxes, and albums before tossing them in the garbage.
As I begin to get the digitized photos back, I can see the vast progress I’ve made over the years. Kicking myself, in a sense, for holding on to the past for so long. Undoubtedly, many photos accurately documented the time and people. Most of it, unfortunately, was junk. Luckily though, there were a few that jogged some serious memories. Photo’s that still show a measure of intent and purpose.
Taken on 48th street and 10th avenue shortly after a snow storm. You can hopefully see the emphasis on the reflections the puddles give. You should also get a rare view of a traffic-free New York City street. Not bad for a photo I took more than twenty-five years ago.
I first met Al when he was playing bass for New Jersey’s Dog Tired. A punk band heavily influenced by bands such as the Pogues and Still Little Fingers with lyrical muscle that might find itself swimming with more emotive bands such as Dischord Records Rites of Spring and Embrace.
When I moved to Manhattan in 1994, I began to see more and more of Al. I always and still do, consider him a good friend. Enjoying going to see him in a number of bands including The Fury’s (Who eventually changed their name to The Truents.) and (pictured here.) The Deviators. Though I haven’t seen Al in years, I’m sure if we ran int0 one another, we’d be able to pick up just where we left off. If interested, you can find more information about Dog Tired, The Truents and The Deviators on Discogs. I’ll leave a link just below.
My initial introduction to New York’s Turbo A.C’s came at a random New Jersey bar. On that particular night I was visiting a friend whose New Jersey thrash core band happened to be playing. With my hopes to get a bus back to the city dashed, I turned to the only band heading back to New York City that night. The alternative of sleeping on my friends bedroom floor was my only other option and to be honest, I’d hitch a ride with a serial killer before choosing to do so. Luckily, Mike and Kevin were more than happy to oblige with the caveate that we stop at local dinner before hitting the Lincoln Tunnel and escaping to Manhattan to secure our freedom.
After that night I stayed in touch with Kevin and Mike as I began to explore the punk revival happening in and around New York City’s the Continental. Of all the bands I went to see there, I found their music to be most relatable. Often reminding me of bands such as The Hellacopters, Supersuckers and Hard-Ons.
The ’90s were often a strange time for New York Hardcore and what was, for the most part, post-core. While bands like Quicksand, Into Another, Burn, and Orange 9mm each thrived to some extent. There were many more that seemed to flicker, yet quickly burn out before making much of a name for themselves. I got to see many of these acts at places like CBGB’s, The Wetlands, Brownies, and The Continental, to name a few. Lady Luck (pictured below) was one of those bands. Featuring a cleaned up looking Roger Miret (Agnostic Front) on bass and his wife Denise on vocals. They recorded a ‘7-inch ep for Mendit in ’97. A split LP in ‘ with another promising band named Fully the same year and a full length ‘Life in Between’ in 2000. I only saw them this one time at what was pretty much a hippie club in the Tribeca area of Manhattan. I remember Denise having a beautiful voice and, if memory serves, they delivered an excellent set, but as someone who was used to seeing Miret work the stage covered in sweat, tattoos, and screaming into the mic with a sense of primal rage. Seeing a subdued version with slicked-back hair and a velour shirt was just a little too surreal for me.
Though some of my negatives haven’t stood the test of time, my memories have remarkably held up pretty well. At the time this image of New York City’s The Candy Snatchers was taken at 3rd avenues The Continental. I had just begun dating my future wife and working nights at a record store a few doors down. At the time, the Continental was hosting a lot of great bands that seemed to fit into the cities punk rock revival. During a relatively short time, I got to see bands with names like The Deviators, The Turbo AC’s, The Suicide King (Featuring Nick Marden of the legendary Stimulators, The Snake Charmers and (pictured here) the Candy Snatchers. The Continental was tiny with the bar on the left and the stage in the back. Like most of Manhattan, the Continental and the adjacent St. Marks Street bare little or no resemblance to the once edgy character it was once known. The last time I visited the area, The Continental was a yuppie bar, and St. Marks was lined with trendy restaurants and frozen yogurt chains. What I liked most about this particular band was that element of danger tthey always seemed to carry. That kind of Stooges vibe. Being in my twenties at the time. I liked the element of anything can happen at any time. A stark contrast to today, where so many people at shows are more engaged with their phones and social media, than the actual event.
Everybody has a story to tell. Rich or poor. Young or old. Black or White. We all come from diverse backgrounds and have lived different lives. Yes, we’re all related to this earth and one another to a certain degree and share a common bond, but in so many other ways, we are unique. As I get older, I’ve tried to become less of a talker and more of a listener. Though it’s taken a lifetime, I’ve come to understand and embrace that the only time we learn is when we listen. So, after years of talking, I look forward to the hopes I can become a better listener.
After my Father wrecked or sold ever car he owned. He began using his Mother Veronica’s decade old, beat up car to get from A to B and not much further. The trunk was so dirty that your hands would instantly turn black once you unlocked it. The seats were torn and tattered and the floorboards were often covered with debris and weeks worth of empty fast food containers. Regardless, we were able to fit my Father’s 6’4 frame, our dog, myself and up to eight kids piled up in the backseat. The Hawkins brothers Keith, Petey and M.J., Glen, Tommy and whoever else would risk the trip on that day. (Aside from those named. The cast would always change depending on the day and who was willing to brave the back seat.
Once there, we would often disperse into two separate tribes or war parties as my Dad would set up camp and build a fire to roast hot dogs, marsh mellows or whatever supplies we manged to gather before our voyage. In the few hours we’d stay we’d play war, burn tires and grab whatever we could from the abandoned cars and the nearby railroad tracks. In truth, there was no Tarzan or nearby water to be found. For the life of me, I may never learn how or why it came to be called “Tarzan Island.” But as I would come to learn at the time and many years later. It was what everybody called it. Year later, I’m talking decades. I returned to Sunnyside Queens to seek out the area. The train yard itself was still there, but it had been closed off and closely patrolled. Whoever said, “You can’t go back.” was probably speaking from countless heartbreaking attempts.
As I’ve returned to many of my original stomping grounds, I find that most things are best left to memory and the mystique many things and places held when we were young impressionable and somewhat fearless. Things definitely felt a lot bigger back then. Something that helped us grow up and mature. And while there’s no diminishing the risks we took and the element of danger we were always drawn to. I feel very lucky to have taken chances and not letting those fears get the best of me. In the end, I’m happy to be able to recall so many adventures from younger years. Like my wife always says. “Maybe one day you’ll write that book.”
As we were celebrating my brother’s 21st birthday over a couple of tasty lobsters yesterday. I wanted to share with him the little wisdom I still had to offer. For the most part, we talked about school and the new baby our other brother had welcomed into the world just a day earlier. Though I wanted to speak as few words as possible and listen to the words of someone in the throes of becoming a unique and very intelligent adult. He seemed more interested in the city I grew up in years before he was born. My brother’s curiosity and curious nature had me on the hot seat.
Speaking in the most positive way this old coot could muster. I explained that much of the city I grew up in was gone. Yet my own personal experiences and stories kept it alive in my heart. How, while the drastic changes to the both the cities landscape and overall chemistry did not appeal to me. There was no reason they should deter him from finding his favorite corners, nooks and destinations. Change is inevitable and an integral part in our growth process. Without movement and change, we become stagnant. For me, or anyone else for that matter, to expect things to remain the same would not only be selfish. It would be downright foolish. And as much as I find myself shaking my fists at tourists and the franchises that have replaced many of my old haunts. I’m finding new and exciting things that appeal to my senses.Later that day, just blocks from the Bleeker St. corner where we enjoyed our meal. I came upon some pretty eye-popping street art. A convenient reminder how change brings possibilities. As I get older, I’m coming to realize it is not healthy to live in the past or worry about the future. To live in the moment. To enjoy the now. That’s my happy place.
I was in downtown Manhattan this afternoon enjoying a beautiful day when I decided to stop in to a photo gallery in which I was once a member of. As I walked in, one of the members popped her head out of the office to greet and ask if I was familiar with the gallery. I said yes and even went on to add that I was once a member of the coop.She took a closer look, but did not recognize me.”You must have been here for a short time.” I replied “Maybe two years, but I lit some fires and even thought of planting a bomb before I burned my membership card.” Without much more than a glance, she returned to the office as I proceeded to check out what was currently showing. While my words had no intent to intimidate her. I always prefer to interpret art as I see it. As opposed to the person who’s day it was to handle office duties.
As I enjoyed my walk through. I was reminded of the reasons I left in the first place. I simply couldn’t connect or relate with a lot of work the group and the gallery was producing. Not to say that mine was any better or more insightful then or now. My two or so years as a member where a growing process. A testing ground. I was able to regularly display my work in a gallery that was built from scratch in the seventies and nurtured with creativity and love. However, unlike many of the members. I did not look to remain there until my ashes were scattered amongst the wood and brick it’s foundation was built on.
In the end. I’m glad I had a chance to go back and see what was happening since the ten or so years I turned in my scouts badge. In recent conversation with a friend and professional photographer. I shared with him my thoughts or becoming a member again. Perhaps, for the sole chance of having new work displayed monthly in the gallery. He scoffed, adding that many of these coops, important as they may be, somewhat mirror a sewing circle where old photographers go to die. While I found that to be harsh. It was honest and true. I’ll never be able to move forward if I keep looking back.
(The pictures posted above were taken during my tenure at the gallery.)
It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since we visited Harlem. Having spent so many past weekends and holidays eating, exploring and searching for a home in the area. It’s hard to imagine. Perhaps the eventual move to Jersey City or our ever-changing tastes and appetites can be blamed. Getting soft in my old age and not venturing as far uptown as I used can also be sited. As in most case, all set habits fall to the wayside when it comes to seeking out good food. In this particular case, Moroccan brunch at La Shuck. While it had been over a decade when I would dine with neighborhood friends at the local Hell’s Kitchen Moroccan joint on 46th St. The scents, color and taste kept my memories and taste buds longing for a return. While not the the whole story. I couldn’t go without mentioning what a great experience eat brunch at La Shuk was. Everything from the food to the design to the people made us want to linger long enough to savor each bite while plotting a quick return.
As we headed out with our belly’s full and a need to “walk it off”. We headed towards the East River before eventually walking downtown. Unlike most of the times I’ve visited the area. The sky was overcast and the temperature was just cool enough to warrant wearing a jacket. Perfect being that I never really had the opportunity to photograph much due to harsh mid day sun. As my taste buds expand and my ever-growing need to get away from the everyday build. I hope to spend most of my weekends exploring as Winter continues to show itself. Thanks to my wife for insisting it was due time for a new winter coat.