Just as we wear skincare to cover our blemishes and makeup to… wait, why do people wear makeup? We wear masks to hide our pain or secrets. Ultimately, we find a commonality in pain, suffering, joy, happiness and art. As divided as we may seem at times. Many of us, maybe even most, are connected on some level. During my recent travels along the east coast. I photographed many of the murals featuring the many faces and moods painted on the walls, parks, boardwalks and buildings. Each time, trying to understand the message/messages that artist was trying to convey. I’d love to read your thoughts.
It’s become quite evident that art is quite conducive to the mental health of others. Whether you’re creating art or witnessing it. The overall benefits are overwhelmingly positive. After stopping and taking in the creativity of Baltimore’a Graffiti Alley. I thanked my wife for always nourishing my soul by supporting and fueling my love of creativity.
Looking back, it all started as a young child and my Mom. She was a secretary at a rather large advertising company. Though she never made much money. She was always bringing home art and movie posters. Some of which I still have today. On the days I visited her at work. I’d find myself in the art room watching illustrators bring new characters and ideas to life.
I often look back at those times and my Mother’s influence as the gateway drug that inspired my long love affair with art, photography and the people who create it. Over the years, it’s help me process, heal and strive to create. Let art be your muse, the shoulder to lean on and that big blue pill that cures all.
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.
When I think about my return to Jackson Heights after graduating from High School, I can’t help but recall how much the New York Hardcore scene became the center of my world. During my year and a half in Wayne, New Jersey, I produced a fanzine called “Boredom” It featured a lot of bad creative writing and a few music reviews. When I moved back to my old neighborhood and became more involved with music, I started a new fanzine called “Unite” Each issue would feature five interviews. One being a newly formed, yet up and coming band.
That first issue would include an interview with Fit of Anger. In the months leading up to the interview, I had gotten to know the group pretty well. During the time leading up to their first demo, we’d often meet up and hang out at a place called Monkey Hill Studios. In what was a relatively short time, I got to experience the band perform live while getting to know the singer Nick and the guitarist Chris (pictured here) pretty well. Fit of Anger would appear on the New Breed tape compilation and members, particularly Nick and Chris would go on to perform in as well as form other notable acts in the New York’s 90’s hardcore scene.
Perhaps due to the wide array of lenses, the weight of my camera or the size of the bag I carry them around with. I have been getting into the habit of leaving it all at home. Leaving me dependent on my iPhone or jotting down the addresses in the hope that one day, I’ll make my triumphant return with my camera loaded, charged and ready to go. Did I fail to mention the look I get from my wife whenever she finds me packing up my gear when we’re preparing to go out? Or her “We’re just going out for breakfast. Why are you bringing your your camera?” The best answer to that question should always be the classic “It’s better to have it and not need it. Than to need it and not have it.” and to quote the great Forrest Gump. “That’s all I have to say about that.”
With my wife feeling under the weather and my hopes to stay somewhat close to home this weekend. I cooked breakfast with what was left in the refrigerator and made sure she stay buried under the covers and slept late. And while we did get out on both days. We made it a point to stay somewhat local while running errands, and making stops for the important things like ice cream and coffee. Most importantly, or maybe most relative to this blog. I made sure to charge my new camera battery and bring my camera with me. The pictures posted here were taken at Judkins Park and in the alleyway adjacent to Blanchard St. between 2nd and 3rd avenue. As time passes, I’ve come to notice that the pictures I take serve as somewhat of a road map to where i’ve been, who I was with and even what I was feeling at the time. Kind of cool, no?
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.
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.
It’s been quite a while since I last posted to PhotoGeek. Too, too long for my own liking. Since returning from Japan I’ve gotten back to shooting and trying to get my work out there. I’m still going through those photos from my two weeks abroad and spending a lot of time discussing the idea of moving there full time. I know its kind of half ass but just realized that I hadn’t posted since mid January. If I went a full calendar month without posting something. I’d feel somewhat incomplete. So, stay tuned. There’s plenty more to come.