Union square. These days, I think maybe we all need one of these.
Last night I was crossing Columbus and the sky was so remarkable that I stopped in the middle of the street (I know, I’m going to get hurt one of these days) hurriedly grabbed my “real” camera out of my bag to snap one photo before the light could change.
Downloaded it today. I actually started making some color corrections as one does with all raw images, and then dumped them all because the original was just so, well…
And this is why I always carry my camera. No matter how good the phones get, they just don’t get this.
Chalk sidewalk art with a fitting message for today. And everyday.
A little more going on downtown before I return to the normal. Friday night, I went downtown for an appointment, and I was there a bit early, so I was able to walk over to the oculus, which had opened right around the same time I left for my trip. I had seen photos of the interior, and I’ve seen the exterior construction over the years, and…of course, I had been somewhat deflated by its transformation from imaginary bird with open wings to somewhat more grounded…dinosaur with massive spiky exoskeleton…
But upon walking inside the massive space, it really did take my breath away.
And yes, you can criticize the commercialism, but you know what? It replaces a much less beautiful shopping plaza that was destroyed. I spent a few minutes talking to one of the concierges (yes, it has concierges), and he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about everything that was going on. Every time we go through a travesty like Penn Station we should be reminded that we can (and do) do better with our public spaces. Even if this isn’t everyone’s taste, it’s grand and ambitious.
Then, of course, when I finished up my evening, they were testing out the tribute in lights. Always beautiful.
15 years ago, I left my apartment on a perfect, clear, beautiful morning and headed in a different direction than normal because I had to vote.
One month ago, on the first day of my summer vacation, before I left for my actual trip, I found myself in lower manhattan. And then I found myself inexorably drawn to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I had visited the Memorial before, when it first opened and still required tickets (and still inspired solemnity rather than selfies on the part of most visitors), but I had not gone to the museum since its opening. One month ago I did.
I’m not going to post a gallery of pictures here, because photos don’t really do it justice. I spent most of my visit trying to simply experience the space. There were, of course, as seems to be everywhere these days, the inconsiderate and completely inappropriate visitors who have no respect for the purpose of the exhibit, but I largely put those people in the background and simply stood still while they nattered on around me until they eventually disappeared from my field of view (which they all eventually would), and I could simply absorb each exhibit and moment in the timeline at my own speed.
The moment that I finally broke down in tears was a small one in the context of the day. Amidst trucks and plane debris, and half burned SEC releases and…shoes, there was a small display of camera equipment pulled from the debris, with an explanation of the two photojournalists who were injured and the one who was killed on that day.
In my essay ten years ago, I wrote about a lot of things, but I left out a lot of small details, and when I was looking at that small display last month, one discrete memory came flooding back.
In the moments after the second plane hit, and I gathered with hundreds of others along 6th avenue to watch in shock at the two buildings on fire…those long, first minutes when we knew for certain that this was intentional and not some horrific accident, I saw a man go running at full speed downtown in the middle of the street. He wasn’t a police officer or firefighter. He was laden down with cameras. He was a photographer, and he was also going to do his job.
And standing there last month, that memory came flooding back, because it was the very first time that I had ever heard with specificity that photographers were killed and injured that day.
I thought I had prepared myself for the emotion of revisiting the history of that day, a history that we’ve all lived through and seen so many times. But I wasn’t actually prepared for everything. And in the end, I’m grateful that I could still feel so deeply about it.
another ivy-covered loading dock in chelsea. also the not-so-subtly hidden studio of a fairly well known photographer.
now that I’ve gotten through the massive job of sorting through my iceland photos, I can go back to the daily (or semi-daily) routine of uploading my backlog of miscellaneous shots. I’ve finally made it to July! Taken down on 18th street in Chelsea, where even the loading docks are quaint, ivy-covered and well-appointed.
for this summer’s vacation, I took myself to iceland. I went on the Nat Geo/G Adventures “Explore Iceland” tour of the southern part of the country, with a few extra days in Reykjavik at the beginning. It was a great time, our guide was great (both as a guide and a lot of fun), and my only complaint is that I managed to come home with a cold, but I’m blaming that on the guy next to me on one of my flights who coughed the entire trip and wouldn’t cover his mouth, no matter how many dirty looks I gave him. I’ve managed to whittle down the 1,500 pictures to the 125 or so below (plus one attempt at a stop motion thingamajig). Without further ado…
I flew to Reykjavik on Thursday, landing in the middle of the night, so I really had Friday/Saturday/Sunday to get over my jet lag and explore before meeting up with the tour group on Sunday afternoon/evening. I didn’t really plan this when I planned the overall trip, but Saturday was basically the biggest day of the year in Reykjavik – the Culture Night, a combination of the city marathon, a giant street fair, and massive concert/party all day and night that coincides with the anniversary of the city. it’s like July 4th and New Years’ rolled into one, in the politest city on earth. so that was fun. The entire country of iceland only has a population of 350,000, which I think is smaller than the number of people who ride my subway train in the morning, so the scale of things is just a bit different. This first batch of photos is from my wanderings around Reykjavik for the first couple of days. I did venture into a few museums, but I generally don’t take pictures inside those (and the few I did aren’t particularly…photogenic), so nothing to show for that. Other highlights include a lot of random statues, doors, and a trip to the top of the Reykjavik Cathedral. There’s an elevator.
Sunday night, I met up with the tour group, and we went for a ‘traditional’ icelandic tasting menu. I managed to take pictures of everything except for dessert. As a bonus, one of my tour-mates took a not horrible photo of me, so this is the rare trip where I will actually appear in some of the photos. If anyone is curious, the dessert was icelandic skyr.
The first day of our tour was the “golden circle”, which a lot of folks do as a day trip from Reykjavik – it took us first to a geothermal power plant, where we learned how iceland is 100% powered by the volcanoes that the entire country sits on, then to site of the original icelandic parliament, which is really just a gorgeous lake, and then to the mid-atlantic ridge. Then we went to lunch at a hydroponic tomato farm greenhouse where they serve nothing but tomato-based foods, saw some icelandic horses, then, went to Geysir, which you can probably guess is the site of a lot of geysers, and finally to Gulfoss, the first of about a zillion waterfalls that cover this gorgeous country.
Lest you think the little geyser in the photos above was the only geyser I photographed, I saved the best for last. below is (an attempt at) a compilation of all of the photos I took of the main geyser going off. Note at the very beginning the perfect bubble that forms before the geyser actually explodes. We had to wait for about six explosions before I managed to catch that split-second moment on film.
Day two of the tour (yes, we’re only on day 2) involved traveling to Vik, the southernmost point in iceland, with stops at some major waterfalls and the coastline along the way. This is a stunningly beautiful country, entirely formed by volcanoes. The beaches are black volcanic sand and the waterfalls are runoff from the volcanic glaciers, and there are these crazy basalt pillars rising up from the earth all over the place.
Day three was more (smaller) waterfalls, glacier lagoons, crystal beaches where icebergs wash up on shore, and turf-roofed churches. and sheep. The sheep simply roam the entire country during the warm months and you’ll see them everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
Day four of the trip was hiking on a glacier! unfortunately, while the actual scenery was beautiful, the volcanic-ash covered ice wasn’t particularly photogenic up close. Then we went to yet another waterfall in the afternoon (seriously. There are a lot of waterfalls).
The final day of the tour involved driving back across southern iceland, with a few stops – first to a bridge monument that is the last remnants of a bridge that was wiped out by a volcanic eruption and massive flood in 1996. Then to Fjaorargijufur, a beautiful gorge that is probably *now* most famous for being used in a (ugh) Justin Bieber video. (it’s even prettier when the sun is actually shining – we were avoiding rain all day). Lastly, to a settlement museum where we learned a bit more about the history of iceland and visited a historic village that had been relocated to the museum grounds. And that was it (at least for public consumption – pictures from the bar in Reykjavik later in the evening are under lock and key!)
In 2009, I took this photo below of the Grace Building plaza. At the time it was an empty, windswept “public space” in name only, that lent itself to nice photographs but was otherwise just a drab, unwelcoming empty space. The very epitome of many of the “privately owned public spaces”* around the city, where the public got little-to-nothing in return for the rights that were ceded to building owners in exchange.
In the intervening six years, the explosion of ‘pop-up’ restaurants and other food truck-adjacent businesses have exploded around the city, and the owners of this plaza took notice. There are a few small shops, and actual seating now. Not just tables and chairs, but they replaces the sad planters along the right wall with trees that have surrounding benches. In addition, it even looks like they’ve replaced the ominous black glass on the building doors with something more open and inviting. A little worse for photographic aesthetics. Much better for humanity.
*Privately Owned Public Spaces, or “POPS”, are spaces that building owners agree to build for the public in exchange for various rights to construct buildings that don’t entirely conform to existing zoning regulations – so a building could be taller than its neighbors, if it has a plaza, or a public atrium, or some sort of park. There’s been some news about these recently because the lobby of Trump Tower is technically a POPS, but Trump had removed the benches and installed a ‘gift’ counter. After some press, the benches were returned.