Monday, March 17, 2008


It's around this time every year (Spring Break) that I lead a small photography workshop for college students attending the College Media Advisers (CMA) national convention at the Roosevelt Hotel at 45th and Madison. It's called the Visual Diaries Workshop and this was the third year in a row I've done it. The basic idea of the workshop is simple: a full-day, hands-on shooting and editing workshop open to anybody who's interested. This past Friday at 9 a.m. I met with the photographers, there were 17 this year (at the first and second workshops we only had six and eight shooters, respectively). I showed them the slide shows from the previous two workshops to give them a general idea of what to expect. We talked about photographing in New York, where all the good spots are, what to avoid, the best subway trains to take, the logistics of meeting back up for the critique, etc. But mainly, the idea is to just let them loose and see what they came back with. Once they got back to the hotel I had them edit their pictures down to a group of 20 or so selects. Then I had them burn those pictures onto a CD. I put the CD into my laptop, which is connected to an LCD projector, and I went through and critiqued their edits as everybody else was able to watch along on the projection screen. Tomorrow I am presenting a slideshow of their work to the entire CMA convention as part of the closing awards ceremony. I've already posted it on YouTube so that people who can't attend the slide show tomorrow will be able to see it. Unfortunately, when exporting out of iPhoto into Quicktime to post on YouTube, it gets quite dark, and Tom Petty's "It's Good to be King" doesn't time out as well as it does in my live presentation. But you get the idea. Please take a look.Each year is a little different. This year I actually had one shooter show up with a Canon film SLR loaded with C-41 black and white film. We discussed where she could get it processed and put onto a CD. This shot of a man near the Brooklyn Bridge is hers. Two other photographers weren't photographers at all, one was a reporter and the other was a managing editor of her school paper. Some of the kids were inclined to attack the city solo while others went out in pairs. So it's fun to have a nice mix of timid beginners along with the more gung-ho types. Geographically, the group was from all over the country––from North Dakota to South Carolina, Seattle to Baltimore. For about half of the shooters it was their first time visiting New York, so it was cool to see how they interpreted the city. I've included a selection of shots from the day. Photo credits from top to bottom are as follows: Lori Gallagher, Cedar Crest College (Allentown, PA); Whitney Little, University of Washington; Caitlin Musick, Indiana Northwest University (Gary, IN); Brian O'Shaughnessy, Truman State University (Kirksville, MO); Chris Henry, University of Baltimore.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The state of Washington Square Park

I can't remember what year it was that I first heard about the plan to renovate Washington Square Park. Regardless of when it was, it was brought to my attention by some protesters who had spread out an artist's rendition of the proposed redesign. In May of 2005 I was asked by the Voice to send some pictures of the park's fountain to accompany an article being written about the renovation and its growing unpopularity. I haven't given it much thought lately. The little I have heard about the renovation revolves around the "centerpiece" of the project, which is the city's plan to realign the central fountain 22 or so feet to the east so that it lines up with the arch and Fifth Avenue.It used to be that I'd go to the park once a week, or at least a handful of times every few months. But recently I haven't been going so much. I had been there in late September to photograph a massive Barack Obama rally. And so it was such a shock when this past Christmas Day Yvonne and I went to the park and saw that a majority of the park was closed off with chain link fence. It's like the renovation had begun without me even really knowing about it. Above are two current views that show the project is well underway. What's most alarming to me is that I'm reading that the renovation isn't scheduled for completion until spring 2009. That seems like an awful long time to keep so much of the park closed. There was a little vignette in the City section this past September that can be read here. In it is the best justification I've come across for the fountain realignment, albeit somewhat facetious, which is that moving the fountain will "please symmetry-obsessed aerial photographers." I find this funny because the fountain in its old location was in the exact center of the park (the arch at the bottom of Fifth Avenue was added later). On the other hand, I've read elsewhere that the drainage/pump/pipe systems underneath the fountain are pretty much shot and in need of replacement. So now that the fountain has been reduced to rubble, it's impossible for me not to do a search for pictures of the park "as it was" (although I must admit, not many of them show the fountain's off-centeredness to the arch; the vertical night shot at left probably does that best, you can see the fountain in the lower left corner). Here are some random photos taken in or around the fountain:One of my favorite images of Washington Square Park can be seen here. It's a picture taken by Robert Otter in the 1960s, back when cars were "sometimes permitted" in the park. I know of Otter's work because I keep running into his son, Ned, who can be seen everywhere selling his father's prints. Here's another random link to some more pictures and artwork, mostly of the arch, that show a nice sense of the park. Below is a rendering of the park as it will look when finished (click here for a high resolution version).Finally, another shot from a few weeks ago of the arch with the Empire State Building off in the distance.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

From the archive: thinking of the Twin Towers

I took this picture August 5, 1995. It was my first time visiting New York City. I was working in Maine that summer and had taken the bus down from Portland to meet my college friends Darren and Azalea, who were living in Pennsylvania and had driven their car into the city. In several hours we went everywhere from the top of the Empire State Building (our rendezvous point) up to International Center of Photography (back when it was at 94th and Fifth Avenue) and then down to Canal, where we had a nice meal. After that it was time for them to start heading back to Pennsylvania, but not before a nighttime drive around Lower Manhattan. We even went into Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge. I took this picture as we were driving down West Street to get a closer view of the World Trade Center.

I can't believe that was only six years before 9/11. And I can't believe more than six years have passed since 9/11. The six-year periods before and after 9/11, the bookends if you will, couldn't be more different from one another. Obviously I wish I had taken more pictures of the buildings in the thirteen months I lived here leading up to 9/11. After that day, every picture of the World Trade Center had a new significance. I remember combing through all my negatives in search of every picture I had taken of the towers, even pictures in which the towers weren't featured prominently. The picture above is one of my favorites, one that I paid very little attention to in 1995. I think it's the least "cookie cutter" out of all my WTC images: only one tower is visible, there's some motion blur, and of course the low-hanging clouds give it a kind of ominous feel.

I am a religious follower of the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. I am fortunate to have worked once with the Times' David Dunlap, whose beat includes Ground Zero. I love that he covers not only the big issues, but also small details like this, this and this. I would like to hear his opinion on the current plan for Ground Zero. Personally, I was a fan of Norman Foster's proposal back in late 2002 or whenever it was when they had narrowed it down to several proposals from big-name architects. I liked Foster's proposal so much that I even made my own smaller replicas of his towers in order to truly understand their shape-shifting design. At right is a picture I took of a professional model that was on display in the Winter Garden, and beside it is a detail of a photo I shot of my model. I think one main reason Foster didn't get the nod was because he already had a building underway (the Hearst tower) that utilized a similar design. I am kind of iffy on the current version of the Freedom Tower, and anyone who hasn't seen it should take a look at this video. I'm definitely not crazy about any of the other three towers planned, and I wish they were all being designed by the same architect. But the skyline from afar does look kind of cool. Speaking of the skyline from afar, below is a picture I took the morning of August 9, 2000, as I was approaching the city during my "big move" to New York. I had driven a U-Haul from Michigan ten hours straight through the night and was glad to finally be arriving. Everybody has their moving to NYC story, and I'm glad I have a photo that includes the Twin Towers to tell mine.