While it’s true that much of what I photograph and want to photograph can often be found on the “off-limits” section of the map. There are times when an opportunity presents itself and I’m left to freely explore and photograph the things that spark my imagination. Such was the case during a weekend trip to Hudson New York’s Basilica Farm & Flea. As if the areas architecture wasn’t enough to jump from the driver’s seat. Turning on to S. Front Street and historically eye-popping visuals. I knew the long drive to Hudson was about to produce many rewards. And while the Farm & Flea provided plenty of eye-catching merchandise. The adjacant train yard was, at least for me, the real thrill.
Prior to moving to the Journal Square area of Jersey City. I had little to no knowledge of the area with the glaring exception of beautiful views of the former American Can Company we would often view from Rt. 9 and or The Pulaski Bridge. As we passed the yet to be renovated towers. We’d often comment, better yet drool about the possibilities of someday moving in to an old run down factory or industrial complex. Little did we know at the time that those run down, abandoned beauties would be reborn as loft condos.
Upon starting our four year process of searching for a home. We saw a number of properties in and around Jersey City before deciding against moving to the area. Then, all of the sudden, thanks to the wisdom and hindsight of our trusted realtor. We gave the area one last shot. On the day we came to see the very first unit the market offered us. We were both convinced that this was the place we wanted to be. This was the kind of home we always imagined but never thought we would find. And while it took some months and the loss of two units we had our hearts set on. We sealed the deal on one we both loved and still feel very happy to be in.
While the neighborhood took time getting used to. Exploring the surrounding areas has been an amazing adventure. In areas I once tip toed around for fear of trespassing or being interrogated. I know walk boldly. The neighborhood has evolved and changed for the better.The area has become quite colorful and artful with new murals being created in some of the most unexpected places and access to anywhere else I’d like to go is literally at our fingertips.
Aside from all those pretty good reasons to be positive. My neighbors and the residents here are pretty damn nice. See friends, families and pets in riding the elevators or roaming the halls daily only reassures me moved to the right place.
As the weather warms I plan to extend my walks, exploring more corners of the area and stop being so weary about those helicopters that seem to appear any time I get to close to a bridge or railroad. Wish me luck.
One morning last week there came an authoritative knock on my door. On the other side of the door was a Viking helmet adorned neighbor blowing a horn declaring a day of action. Knowing the call of a Viking and the failure to properly follow Viking code full well. I followed him down to where the bikes, horses and Viking ships are docked. It had been a couple of years since I’d been on a a bike. (My last one, as well as every bike I’ve ever know has been stolen at one point or another.) Knowing full well my history as well as my recent battles with gravity. Said friend let me take a spin around the safely enclosed garage to help me get familiar. After a few twists, turns, crashes and fall downs. I was granted my own Viking helmet and we were off. And while our buildings surroundings aren’t very bike or hike friendly. A sturdy mountain bike and a seasoned leader more than get the job done.
After a short ride down the hill and a slight turn to the right. It seemed that we hit pay dirt. For that road led to all the things I love and enjoy both exploring and photographing. Trains, factories, train yards… You name it. The only thing missing was a junk yard with featuring an unchained rabid guard dog. I felt like a kid again. We hadn’t even made it half way to the end and I was already making reservations to return. After a few stops to take in the sites atop the railroad cars We took the road all the way to Secaucas before hitting what seemed to be the river of deceit.
After a break and a survey of the land we had discovered, conquered and thoroughly photographed. We headed back on the rocky path that brought us there. As time had passed I had become more and more comfortable with the slightly oversized bike. So much so that my buddy gave me his official thumbs up. Half way back, the days heat, coupled with my lack of balance began to take their toll. Like a good soldier, I kept the pace. Assuring myself that, once we get passed this rocky strip of road and onto solid pavement, I’m home free. Then, as soon as I hit solid ground. Every ounce of strength I had left gave out and I hit the pavement like a hundred and forty pound sack of wet bricks. Aside from a few bumps, bruises and damaged ego. I was fine. Though I ended up walking the bike the rest of the way home. The trip and the overall experience, as well as the opportunity to earn my very own Viking helmet, were more than worth the spilt blood. That weekend I returned, on foot of course, and did some more exploring as a solo act. I really love that the area we chose to live in offers such a diverse and colorful landscape.
After a long, hot day in the city with my mom and wife. I was eager to go home, shower, sleep and enjoy a tasty beverage. While we exited the Journal Square PATH together. I took a much need break to separate myself from the crowd as well as my loved ones. As I stopped to allow time for the herd of exiting passengers to thin as they made their way to the escalators. Standing there exhausted, poising myself for the short, yet arduous walk home. I noticed a light peaking through the concrete and metal columns just beyond the tracks. Stopping to take this one image gave me an extra boost of energy as well as short, yet sweet moment to myself. A much needed moment to exhale.
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.
I’ve lived in New Jersey for twelve years now and in that time, done my share of driving. Wherever my travels take me, be it far or near. I always find myself feeling enamored with the factories, railroads and industrial sculptures that feel somewhat out of reach to a driver speeding down the interstate. Whether I’m driving alone or with a sidekick. The thought of pulling over or taking the next exit to seek out the adventures that often tease me to look deeper. That said, the thought is often just that. The facts that I’m usually on my way to something and driving at speeds that will most likely warrant a summons often postpone my urges to explore. Add to that, the areas that intrigue me the most are off limits and often patrolled by very suspicious security and or folks who call 911 as if it came with a free pizza.
So after moving to an area that was essentially surrounded by the same things that have intrigued me for years. I decided to take it upon myself to seek out those elusive treasures on foot. The risk of going out with a camera and photograph what is basically private property definitely has it’s risks. I learned this early on when I was innocently out shooting for a portfolio titled “Left Behind”. During that time I was confronted, chased by security guards and even detained by police as a possible terrorist suspect. Despite the possibilities of arrest and possible bodily harm. I find the rewards far outweigh the risks. It’s something I’ve been drawn since my pre – K days when my Father would bring me to the junk yards that lay just beyond Shea Stadium.
Till tis day, I find myself drawn to explore the factories, railroads and industrial centers more and more. And while I’d never recommend trespassing or breaking the law. I whole heartedly support following and documenting the things you love. Get out there, find it and document it. The world is yours.