I was putting together a photo submission the other day and they asked for an edit about what it means to be a New Yorker, to live in the City. I’ve lived here for decades, though without going back to analog/silver that means you look at the last 15-20 years. The strange thing though was that when I looked at what I had that was really NYC, it was more like a big hole. More below…
This…. Not looking.
You live there, what do you do?
Return to it all the time, or look away,
Find a hole where it falls though into and leave it there.
To be touched every so often, but not really held onto.
Wait for the wound to heal.
15 years. It’s finishing up down there at the pit and maybe it’s time to move on.
Maybe they’ve finally wrapped on construction, removed the barricades,
and the promenade will then be open all the way from one end to the other.
I should go down, dig up the ghosts and see if they still have power over me.
I wonder if… After summer’s travelers have abandoned the plaza,
I wonder whether the winter winds off the Atlantic still cut to the bone
Whether the tower will still make it’s own weather
Relationship to NYC.
That’s a loaded thought. Hate, Love, Hate. Mostly that. Stress too. Always an underlying current of tension, of electricity, of burnt offerings – emotional and physical.My work changed a decade and a half ago, the NY work. Became disjointed, less optimistic. But that’s New York regardless, grey and jagged with trains of thought, and emotions, and memories, colliding. I really avoid it, all mention of it, but you can’t ignore what isn’t there. It’s inside you, a part best left alone. And there is the hole too, down there. I don’t go, or rarely now, except maybe on family touristings. But I live here – orbiting this place, I think ever more distantly – until then it pulls you in close.This is a strange edit for me. Pulling together selection of shots from the city – condensing what it is, re-observing my experience of the place… or at least one of them. Doing so showed me something I hadn’t realized about our relationship. My photos are not usually quite so jarring, disjointed, so uneasy. But you asked about the experience of NY and this is the edit that resulted – not the meditative, balanced world I’ve sought elsewhere. Truth is though, I like the speed of the place, the anonymity, the density of experience. What I don’t like is that there is no shelter or escape, from the intense physical presence of ‘city’, the ur-city experience. Nor do I appreciate being reminded of the past, several pasts that are always here.
And then there’s been that gorilla in the room. The one that lives ten blocks south of me who I never see – though finally that’s been changing lately. The new Trade Center tower is there now out the window. They opened The Pit, refurbished as a museum/memorial after a decade of battling back and forth over what it meant to America. And the last bit of scab was picked off this spring, when they finally opened up the rest of the PATH station as a glorious new mall.
I’ve been waiting. I’m wondering when I’ll go down there again, go for a walk. I wonder if you can wander the park in contemplation now, or if National Guard augument the police force there too, our youths in unsmiling full metal jacket mode. If tourists gawk and gaggle, hustled over by hawkers eager for out of state marks. I wonder if the winds off the atlantic still whip through the plaza in the deep of winter, or if the trees they planned for the plaza have started to take root. I wonder if they’ve brought the place into the mainstream finally, letting go of it’s past as we all must, or if the wounds are still too fresh.
Lee Day – May 30, 2016