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McCarren Park Pool is one of the largest pools in New York City, holding over a million gallons of water, with a 1,500-person capacity. Located on the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it reopened the summer of 2012, when these photographs were made, after being closed for 28 years. The pool was one of eleven giant pools built by the Works Progress Administration that opened in 1936. A beautiful, grand space that once held as many as 6,500 swimmers, it closed in 1984 after falling into disrepair. I write about my unique experience making this truncated series that never quite got off the ground in "When Photographing Is Forbidden: Making Portraits McCarren Park Pool Locker Room," published by Reading the Pictures.
These bodies of work use the streets of New York City as subject matter, three "portrait profiles" that identify and examine certain populations I encounter while walking around:
The Insiders is a collection that examines individuality. A profound trait that is especially prominent in a population as diverse and massive as New York City's, The Insiders shows this singularity has the unique dual ability to inspire both vulnerability and liberation, suggesting the two are interrelated.
Us is a collection of people—related and unrelated—who conjoin by adopting each other's mannerism, style, or behavior. Although a fairly rare breed, these one-of-a-kind synergisms portray the deep and genuine connection capable in humans, a social theme that often inspires me to photograph. Equally compelling about this population is precisely how the individuals merge, a range that spans from a mirror reflection to a counterpoint.
New York Young is a collection of young people in New York City. Ranging in ages from about seven to 18, this portrayal of urban burgeoning shows today's young both alone and with peers.
Shoot the Arrow: A Portrait of The World Famous *BOB*
The World Famous *BOB* is a female burlesque dancer based in Brooklyn, who is a central part of the neo burlesque movement that began in New York City in the 1990s. Raised on an isolated, 115-acre farm in the California Valley, she renamed herself "Bob" after Robert Smith of The Cure when she was a teenager and was later crowned "The World Famous *BOB*"—now her legal name—by her "drag mother" Jackie Beat when she performed in her first Wigstock. Born female, she nevertheless aspired to be a drag queen from a young age, which led to years of searching for her true gender identity, drug abuse, hustling, and alienation from family. A self-described "female-female spiritual transsexual," this intense, often painful personal journey eventually drew her to burlesque, which allowed her to embrace her femininity in a way that finally made her comfortable. She currently shares her life story with college students in a highly moving, theatrical, one-person show, "One Man Show: the True Story of Miss World Famous *BOB*," in order to spread a message of hope and survival to the younger queer and queer-friendly community. An expanded version of Shoot the Arrow: A Portrait of The World Famous *BOB* was published by Un-Gyve Press (Boston) in October, 2013.
When there is a language barrier, people communicate using a more personal form of expression. Had a common language been available to me and the people I met in Macao, Vietnam, and Italy, it would have been the long path to take.
"Inspiration doesn't lie in the mud;
it lies in the clean and wholesome life of ordinary man."
Street Dailies is a personal documentary survey of humankind that I conduct on a daily basis. My subjects are everyday people who live in New York City: people seemingly so familiar, they're often overlooked.
What started as a way for me to photograph the street around me in a more candid and spontaneous way than my medium-format street work has blossomed into a project far more profound than what I initially imagined it could be.
To photograph the city streets of New York—ones so diverse even misfits belong—is to gain a lesson in living. It's here I've found the most affirmative traces of humanity. The palpable relationships we have with family and friends, the way we gather and act collectively on the street, on the subway, on the job, while enjoying life and caring for our young: it's all wonderfully similar.
We so often fixate on what divides us—ethnicity, gender, age, class, personal circumstances—instead of the profundity of what unites us: a heart that feels, eyes that watch, ears that listen, arms that embrace, a brain that responds and creates, a soul that yearns to live on...
Everyday I seek evidence that we do wholly echo each other despite our myriad differences—that we do have connections, far and wide, including an appreciation for the individual—and every day, much to my deep delight, I find that evidence.
Street Dailies currently comprises over 800 6"x6" images and counting, and the more it expands, the more its breadth is a major component to its story. Each person I photograph is unique, that's what draws me to them. But I've come to realize that capturing what is unique about the people around me has put focus on what is universal.
Collectively examining our differences, in the end, reveals not what divides us, but what unites us.
1 Interview with Rose Feld, New York Times Book Review, Sunday, October 21, 1923