Finally. A photograph that is not Death Valley. Don’t worry, there are still more Death Valley photographs, and this one did come from the same trip. On our return from Death Valley we swung through the LA Basin to visit our daughter and son-in-law, replacing natural pleasures with the distinctly urban experiences of Los Angeles. On April 1 we went to Venice Beach to visit the G2 Gallery, where photographer friends exhibit from time to time. (We enjoyed the gallery quite a bit — some lovely photographs by Clyde Butcher and Jack Dykinga were featured that week.)
Out of the gallery and on the street I had an opportunity to play with a new camera, my Fujifilm X-Pro2, which had arrived shortly before we left for Death Valley. The street being the perfect place for such a camera, I pulled it out and made a few photographs. Initially I expected that this would be a color photograph, but as I worked on it in post I began to feel that it had potential in black and white.
Windows, a metal chimney, and a brick wall in Manhattan
This is yet another photograph from the High Line Park in Manhattan, made on the same gray day as the photograph I shared yesterday. The soft, gray light fills in the shadows and reveals details that are not visible in midday sunshine light.
The geometries of old brick buildings with exterior detail of fire escapes, pipes and wires fascinate me, and the elevated perspective from this location allows straight-on photographs of the subject. Yet, while making these photographs it did occur to me that people living along this park must, from time to time, get a bit tired of thousands of folks wandering by outside their windows and some of them (us!) stopping to photograph.
Near the end of our late-2015 visit to New York City we ended up heading over to Chelsea (which we did more than once on this trip) for various reasons, and we ended up walking along the High Line Park. This popular elevated park snakes above Chelsea, starting near the new Whitney Museum, and runs north a good distance. It is a fascinating place for a photographer, both for the people watching possibilities and for the views of the city it provides.
This Californian is fascinated by this kind of “dull” gray winter day of a sort that we don’t see that often in my part of the world. The temperature hovers in the just-above-freezing range, and the sky remains gray, and in many ways the city can look very old.
A man in a hat inside an antique subway car, Manhattan
I had been hearing about the “nostalgia” train days in New York for some time, mostly from my sons, who now live there and who are big fans of the infrastructure (and more) of New York. This year the timing of our visit allowed us to go to the nostalgia event, a day when lots of the old trains are out and running on the subway lines, and open to riders who want to get a feeling for what the system was like in the past.
People seem to show up for all kinds of reasons. Some seem like your standard railroad fans. Others seem to come mostly for the history. A few other, somewhat like me perhaps, simply go because we heard that it was going on. But some folks do all sorts of fun and idiosyncratic things. In one car I ran into a crowd of photographers, many of whom were using really old and impressive film gear. Others dress up in period clothing. As I photographed this car I was taken by the image of this smiling man in a color accented bright white shirt. As I photographed, furtively at first, I could tell that he wanted me to photograph him and he encouraged me to make more than one photograph.
I’ve used the subway system in New York as much as any out-of-town visitor, enjoying the fact that I can get to so many places all over the city on the subway plus a little bit of walking. But I don’t give the system all that much thought beyond trying to get on the right time at the right time at the right place. But when you stop to think about what it is and what it does it is quite an amazing thing. Hidden away beneath the surface of the extraordinary busy city is an entire transportation system and only rarely comes to the surface, and then mostly as it leaves Manhattan or heads out into more distant areas.
On our recent visit to New York we managed to go visit the subway museum in Brooklyn. (Hard to avoid this, since it was literally walking distance from where we stayed this time.) The museum holds many things, but perhaps most intriguing is the collection of historic rolling stock, going way back to the beginning of the system. A visit got me to take the system a bit less for granted. We saw this car at the museum, but then again a few days later on one of the “nostalgia” train days, when the old trains run once again and subway fans turn out by the thousands. By framing this photograph so tightly and from a direct point if view, I hoped to “see” the train a bit more for what it is as a shape, and a bit of an odd one at that.
Street signs stored next to a funeral parlor doorway, New York City
I can state with certainty that this is the only time I have made night photographs of funeral homes in Manhattan on Christmas Eve. Go ahead! Prove me wrong! ;-)
So, how did this happen? As many street/urban photographs happen. I have a camera with me wherever I go, day and night, in places like this, and when I see something that catches my eye I make a photograph. We had started the evening by briefly joining the throng up on 5th Avenue where there are tons of holiday lights and displays. After leaving that madhouse we headed down toward Chinatown to find a place where we have had dinner a few times before — but we arrived to find that it had apparently become very popular since our last visit. We were told that the wait might be two hours. So we set out to find something less crowded nearly. We eventually found a nice quite Vietnamese restaurant but first we passed this side street with the doors and glowing windows of this funeral parlor.
I actually was not stalking this photographer, though he ended up in more than one of my photographs from this morning, and it two subway stations. We had taken the holiday historic subway train uptown and were waiting in a station for another train, so I spent a little time photographing my surroundings and the very interesting people — a combination of the usual subway riders and a slightly different crowd that came out for this event.
Standing on the platform I kept my eyes open for anyone who “looked like a photo,” and this fellow, standing apart and not interacting much at all, caught my attention. When I saw him here the only thing that gave him away as a possible street photographer was the camera bag, but no camera came out of it. However, later, as I photographed out the train window as it stopped at another station, I made a photograph of several women lined up near a turnstile plus other assorted people arranged in the scene — and I realized later that the same fellow appeared in the shot, this time taking out his camera as he headed to the station exit.