I was only seven years old when I wandered onto my first construction site in Jackson Heights, Queens and just weeks after that I watched a close friend fall to his death at the same site. Though tragic in every way, it never deterred me from hopping a fence or overlooking any signs that bore the words “NO TRESPASSING!” As an adult, I discovered a passion for photography and though that passion consumed me. My love and appreciation for things like construction sites, junk yards, factories and the numerous locations that are often deemed “Off Limits.” Having a camera and a desire to document my surroundings led me to many destinations. A few years ago, I attended a Q&A in downtown NYC where the author of a book whose title escapes me would speak about his experiences shooting his factory themed images for his book. Imagine how disappointed I was when he talked about getting permission and a time frame to capture the images for his project. “What a jip!” I thought. This guy got an all access pass and chose to shoot from the cushy balcony. Where was the rush of adrenaline coming from? Where was the risk? Undaunted, I returned to my passion and that rush that comes from not knowing what will happen next. That feeling you get when the hairs on your neck stand on end and tingle. While I’m too old and too sick to climb fences, outrun police or feel the breath of an angry guard dog on the chase,. I’m still holding out that there’s a gallery exhibit or even a book in the future. And while I’ve begun to gather and post pictures on my social media page, I know I still have a long way to go. Here’s a link to some of the images I’ve come across. Left Behind
While it’s seldom discussed outside the photographers circle. I am pretty sure there is something equivalent to a photographers boner. Though not thoroughly researched. I can assure you that there are a number of subjects that bring tingles to my lower parts. One of them is industrial photography and the kind that just might include a little trespassing. As someone who, at the age of seven considered construction sites part of his urban playground. I have a long history of being both physically and creatively drawn to industrial types of art, architecture and style.
Deciding to turn down a different street, take a different route and cross that bridge yesterday in Tacoma paid endless dividends. While we had already been having a stellar day of beautiful weather, good food, record shopping and coffee. The tail end of our visit, was by far the most rewarding. My eyes lit up as I spotted a collection of out of commission train cars just outside one of the industrial parks businesses. loudly urged “Stop.” “Stop.” “Stop the car.” As I jumped out of my seat toretrieve my camera from the trunk. Though I can’t wait to go back and further explore that particular area. I feel lucky to have a few worthwhile images to go home with.
Though hard to imagine. In all my trips to Pennsylvania, I have never been to Bethlehem or Easton. Yet, thanks to a recent video from a band I never cared for. One that will remain nameless due to my waining respect for much of my wife’s taste in music, we set our sights on the area, its food and its long history. Once there, I found some really inspiring photo opportunities, a warm, welcoming community and a cafe that takes thirty plus minutes to serve a plate of eggs and toast. Then scowls at you when you ask for syrup. Below are a few favorites from our stop in at Bethlehem Steel. We’re both hoping to get as many weekend trips under our belt before the onset of the holiday madness.
As I began to plan my route back home last night I ran into more than several dead ends and locked fences. Feeling a bit worn and self aware that I wasn’t exactly walking through territory that saw much heavy foot traffic. The rocky, uneven and muddy ground below me had already began to take it’s tole on my new pair of Nike’s and a slight sense of paranoia had start to set in. Weary of being sighted by any construction foreman’s or pulled over by the authorities. My pace quickened as my eyes widened searching for an opening in one of the fences. As the night grew dark and my path became more like an obstacle course. I kept my eyes close to the ground. That’s when I found buried treasure just below the muddy terrain. Without wasted breath I leaned forward, scooped up a couple and headed towards home. The experience quickly reminded me of my elementary school days when my friends and me would explore the train yards of Sunnyside Queens looking for buried treasure. While I may not be hoping any fences or climbing up on roofs these days. The explorer in me is still alive and well.
Over the last several weekends my wife and I have turned our attention from NYC’s Chinatown and it’s yummy dim sum and directed it south towards Newark, NJ’s tasty Portuguese bakeries. Though I certainly brought my appetite the first time around. My camera was nowhere to be found. When our first trip produced a series of ooooh’s and ahhh’s. I couldn’t wait to come back with my camera to document the historic beauty, history and texture Newark had to offer. So after a tasty breakfast of grilled cheese and sonhas at Suissa’s. We drove off to do some exploring while on our way to Clifton.
As we headed on to Passaic Ave. I began to recognize the factories and warehouses. “I was here a few years back.” I exclaimed. Just then, I noticed a Newark patrol care and quickly recalled being held and questioned by a task force I had no idea ever existed. Quickly, I shoved the camera back in the bag until I was sure we were not being tailed and were completely out of the range of any city or state authorities. Within minutes we found a local strip mall, parked and took to foot. I can’t pinpoint just what attracts me to what most see as ugly and broken down. Sometimes it makes me think of the excitement those early trips to the junkyards with my Dad or the trashy treats my Mom would find at local flea market. Whatever the roots may be. I’m grateful that something so simple can make me feel like a kid in a candy store. Isn’t that what life’s all about anyway?
My passion for finding and photographing industrial articles is pretty insane. Many is the time I’ve gone to factories and industrial parks to find those pieces that peak my interest and curiosity. One of my dreams in life is to buy an industrial loft somewhere in Brooklyn. Not one of those completely converted ones they advertise with such glee. Something raw and bare that has character. A raw canvas craving for a creative and twisted makeover. A few years back I presented a portfolio entitled “Left Behind.” to SOHO Photo Gallery. They fully understood the message I was trying to convey and granted me admission to the COOP. Since then I’ve worked hard to find pieces to update and refresh that port. Often being chased out of construction sites, being questioned/detained by Police or both. But for me, the reward outweighs the hassle. I didn’t get into any such shenanigans capturing the ones below. But I enjoyed taking them just the same.
This morning a friend of mine posted “You’re slacking on your blog.” on my Facebook wall. She was absolutely right. It hasn’t been due to any stoppage on my taking pictures or having adventures, It’s just that I’ve been at a loss for words lately. Even in conversation I feel that my thoughts aren’t flowing like they should. I’m not the least bit concerned though. We all go through down cycles. Sometimes it’s art. Other times it’s relationships. Luckily for me those cycles never last very long. Too much to do and see. Too many adventures to be had and stories to be told. The blog is not dead. Long live the blog.
While running errands here in Hoboken I stopped off at the Monroe Center for the Arts to drop off some promotional material. I’ve been going to the Monroe Center for years now. It’s an awesome five floor building filled with artists from just about every medium. Over the years I’ve displayed my work often at their Open Sunday events and managed to make a few friends in the process. Every now and then I bring the models I work with there to shoot. The hallways and large windows produce a nice soft light and create some cool shadows. Every time I go there I see this old GMC truck in the same exact spot. I’m almost positive it hasn’t been moved an inch in all these years. Sometimes I sit in my car and just stare at it for hours. I admire it’s detail, texture and think about it’s history. Today I brought my camera and took a few shots. There aren’t many angles to shoot from because it’s flanked by automobiles on both it’s left and right side and is backed into the fence behind it. It’s a really amazing piece of history.