Friday, July 31, 2009

Two Bridges

It wasn't until about two months ago that I first heard of the neighborhood known as "Two Bridges." Well, I knew of the neighborhood, I just never knew it went by that name. It was early June and Yvonne and I had just looked at an apartment there that we really liked. That night as I was checking out the neighborhood on Google Maps I was surprised to see the neighborhood labeled as such.

I'm happy to report that we ended up taking the apartment. And so at the end of June, as the world was glued to the Michael Jackson story, we were in the thick of our move. But all throughout July we still had access to our old apartment (on Allen at Delancey), so there were of course a few odds and ends that I put off moving until a few days ago (processing equipment and other random stuff). It wasn't until yesterday that I dropped off the keys to the old place. So it's "Goodbye, 285 square feet of gridlocked traffic and carhorns at Allen and Delancey" and "Hello, 510 square feet of subway cars rumbling crossing the Manhattan Bridge." (Trust me, I'll take the latter any day).But back back to the neighborhood. It's always interesting when somebody asks where we live. To people I've just met, I say "Lower East Side." If they ask where, I say, "Way down, it's Chinatown near the Manhattan Bridge." Telling people that we live at Market and Madison rarely offers any help, but if I say "It's near the East Broadway F train" people instantly get it. A couple times people have clung to the words "Under the Manhattan Bridge" and said "Wait, you moved to DUMBO?" I've already started telling people, "Okay, so next time you are flipping the channels at night and see David Letterman doing his opening monologue, look at the miniature skyline behind him. That's our neighborhood, Two Bridges."What's really cool is that a 15-minute walk puts us squarely into the South Street Seaport and Financial District. That same walking time starting at our old place would have gotten us to Tompkins Square Park or Astor Place. So even though we're still in the same general vicinity as far as Manhattan is concerned, being further downtown and a lot closer to the waterline gives the place a very different vibe.

In a retail sense, the neighborhood is largely unchanged over the past however-many years. There are a lot of printing businesses and other light industrial shops, a ton of inexpensive Chinese restaurants with bare florescent lighting, mom and pop laundromats, etc. There are absolutely no bars or high-end clothing boutiques, and only an occasional internet cafe. I haven't heard any clever new real estate acronyms yet. It's the southern edge of Chinatown so I wouldn't be surprised to see something with "SOCHI" in it. We're truly in the DUMBO of Manhattan, but I'm pretty sure we'll never see it called "DUMBOOM." Just playing around in this vein, I also came up with "B-BAMB" for Between Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, which inevitably lead to the dreaded "BAMBI" for Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges Interchange. (Here's a shot from the Manhattan Bridge looking west toward the Financial District. Our rooftop is not visible from this angle because it's a short building, but it's directly down beyond where those two white plastic coat hangers are dangling).
On a more photography-related note, I wonder how any of this might affect my picture taking. I can definitely feel the lure of Lower Manhattan, and the World Trade Center site looms large, a mere 20-minute walk from our front door. I suspect once One World Trade Center eventually is topped out we'll be within its long wintertime shadow. But I have to say, it's all about the bridges down here. Just living within 100 feet of the Manhattan Bridge has its own unique gravitational pull. I've been comparing the bridges a lot lately. I wrote a Twitter update a few weeks ago: "Contrasting three NYC bridges: Brooklyn = gothic stone cathedral. Williamsburg = rugged Sherman tank. Manhattan = elegant ocean liner." The Manhattan Bridge is the youngest of these three, and in fact (you read it here first) turns 100 this year, on New Year's Eve.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Best Portfolio at FHPW-Marcella Brooks

Every summer for five days in July it is my great honor and privilege to work with high school students at the Flint Hills Publications Workshop in Manhattan, Kansas. I just finished my 12th year teaching photography at this workshop. Usually we have about 25 kids enroll in the class, but this year we had about half that. I just wanted to give a quick shout out to Marcella Brooks of Kapaun Mount Carmel High School in Wichita for winning the annual "Best Portfolio" award at the workshop. I've selected two images of hers to post here, the first of which (top) was the very first image I saw from anybody at the entire workshop. The picture has a simplicity to it that I find very appealing. It ran lead on the center spread double truck in the workshop's newspaper, The Kedzie Krier. For another picture, taken at the all-workshop dance, she used the DJ's strobe lights to take the relatively mundane setting of a Holiday Inn banquet room and make it look like some ultra-chic nightclub.

Marcella will be the photo editor for her yearbook this coming fall and I wish her the best. I sent her an email asking for a little back story on how she got into photography: "My photography story isn't particularly inspiring but it really started with some of my dad's old yearbooks that I came across while cleaning my attic a couple of years back. Every single picture was filled with colorful expressions that made you forget that the picture was taken in black and white. The photographer had captured all these great moments that otherwise would have been forgotten. From that moment on, I wanted to be the person to take those pictures that immortalize everyone's high school years."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Eye on the Strand

Last November I entered some photographs in the "Eye on the Strand" photography contest. The contest was a call for submissions from anybody with interesting, creative pictures taken inside or outside of the Strand bookstore. I entered on somewhat of a whim, but to make a long story short my picture of a woman carrying an upside-down baby outside Strand won second place in the contest. Co-sponsors of the contest were the Aperture Foundation and Pratt Institute, so along with a collection of over 50 photography books I will receive from Aperture I also get to enroll in a photography or computer class at Pratt this fall. Not bad for uploading a few jpegs! So if you're in New York in next few weeks I hope you will stop by the Pratt Institute Center for Continuing and Professional Studies Gallery on 14th Street in Manhattan to check out the exhibition. The opening is tonight, July 15th, from 6pm to 8pm. All are invited.

Eye on the Strand
July 15 to August 26th
Pratt Institute CCPS Gallery
144 West 14th Street, 2nd Floor
(The gallery is open weekdays from 10am until 8pm; Saturdays 10am until 4pm)