29 December 2009

A couple of months ago I was out shooting on Visitation Street, and the girl in the middle here called me over to take a photo. The guys were a little reluctant at first, but when we all got a closer look at each other it seemed like a group photo would be a good idea and so we made this one. They were hanging out right next to the Community Justice Center so it's a little ironic that they're throwing up signs.

06 December 2009

A snake-like hose. A sinking green cone. A plywood bridge over a driveway stream. A right-angled street light that doesn't reach the ground. I just found something (or everything) unexpected and un-New York City about this humble lot on Van Brunt Street. (as always, the photos look better bigger. and you can see them that way if you click on them.)

27 September 2009

(You can see it bigger if you click on it.) Every photo I've posted on this blog for the past year has been taken on medium format film with my Hasselblad camera. But a month ago I got an Olympus XA, an old Japanese rangefinder that fits in my pocket. This picture and the next one are taken with it. It doesn't capture quite as much detail as the Hasselblad, but I can keep it with me and pull it out when something in the neighborhood catches my eye... like this caution tape on Mill Street.
I was watching some boys play baseball on Verona Street and someone hit it over the church yard fence. While the pitcher went after it, this guy showed off how he could climb those wires on the right (which was impressive but the landing on the jump down interested me more photographically).

06 August 2009

(please click on this image to see it bigger) I love the people and streets and strange old buildings of this neighborhood, but after a couple of years photographing those things, I loved shooting some wildflowers in Red Hook. Down on Van Brunt Street, past the shipping terminal there is this little lot. The sign on the fence says it's some sort of public protected meadow. One summer evening the gate was open and I stepped in and made this picture.

29 May 2009

I see this man very often, never in the same place. I've only talked to him this once, interrupting him from his cleaning because the light on him was so beautiful. He was very willing to be photographed, though skeptical. I love that he didn't completely stop wiping his windshield as he turned to me for the picture.

29 April 2009

This photograph is from the part of the neighborhood where the buildings have forklifts coming in and out of them and where trucks are being loaded and unloaded. I don't know if these boxes are made there, of if they're used for packaging other things made there or for packaging things made somewhere else. I didn't ask. I just liked the stacks of flat boxes and the men moving them around and shooting the breeze.

02 April 2009

A year after I first met and photographed them, I spent part of an afternoon with the Red Hook born and raised brothers Raquan (foreground) and Raheem. The first picture I took of them was in an exhibit called "The Changing Faces of Brooklyn." And if you look back at how they looked a year ago it's clear that they really have changed.

They were really excited about how the photos from last year looked, but I think seeing them made the guys even more aware of how they'd look in these shots, and these are guys who care about looking good (don't we all), so there was an extra layer of cool as I shot this time.

Their friends Jason (black hat) and Jose (red hat) ran into us, saw the prints and wanted to be in some photos too. Here the brothers are looking at some of the prints I gave them. Jason, a middle school student, was especially striking looking in his green colored contacts- which seem to be gaining popularity with some of the Latino teens I know. A troubling pursuit of the bluest eye or just a playful fashion statement?

16 March 2009

(Please click on these pictures so you can see them a little bigger!) For the first time in several years NYC had a snow day where schools were closed, so I got to shoot for a couple hours in the middle of the day. The woman with the box (actually a drawer from an old dresser) was using it to shake salt out onto the sidewalk. She and I talked about how she had extra work to do on a day when lots of us got to stay home. That run down house, which I've been into for a while, is now pretty overshadowed by that great street art. And the father and son were sledding in Coffey Park, which has no hills. (Is it still called sledding if your dad just pulls you around on the sled?)

02 March 2009

Yaritza was a student at the school where I work-- I was her advocate counselor until January when she passed her last NY state regents exam and graduated! I took this in front of the school during the students' lunch break one day last year. Yaritza is a small person, but there's some serious power in how she carries herself and I think some of that is communicated in this portrait. Also, I love how the white "Brooklyn" on her jacket is echoed by the white grafiti on the fence behind her. Teens from Red Hook like to wear red. It's a touchy subject to mention because the Bloods gang (whose color is red) is the prevelent gang in the neighborhood. But my impression is that it's both deeper and simpler than any gang connection. They're from Red Hook, so they like red.

21 February 2009

Michael (another guy)

(Click on the picture above for a bigger version so you can really see this guy.) I met Michael one morning when we were both on our way to school- him to MS 378 where he's a student and me to South Brooklyn Community High School where I'm an advocate counselor. Later that week I saw him again when he came to use the gym at my school with an after-school program he attends.

The past seven portraits I've posted have been of guys. Overall I've photographed many more men than women for this project. I have a few thoughts about why. First, the neighborhood is filled with garages, workshops and factories so the economy (and sexism) bring more men into the neighborhood to work, and often to work in outdoor or open spaces. Women in our society, statistically, do more hours of work than men but in the city a lot of that work is inside childcare, and household work. So my guess is women in Red Hook are busy that way while men are outside (where I meet them) working, or relaxing and socializing. Likewise boys usually get more encouragement to play outside than girls.

Another factor is that even when I do see and take interest in a woman as the subject for a photograph, she often declines my request to be in a picture. This may be because our culture particularly targets women around physical appearance and gives constant messages about how women should and shouldn't look. Given these factors, it's not surprising that a woman might say no to a stranger asking to take her picture. And when that stranger is me, personally, I'm sure that there are ways that (as a man) I still have a lot to learn about how to approach and engage women as respectfully and skillfully as I could.

Given these obstacles, I particularly value those times when I do find a comfortable engagement with women in the neighborhood, and I value the portraits that result. I'll plan to show a woman in my next post.

16 February 2009

Fine-Fare Flags

Sometimes, in my explorations of Red Hook and in my images I see suggestions of mysterious, secret worlds, hidden just beyond, through or under what is visible. This crack in parking-lot asphalt does that for me. It seems to be a little opening into the other, subterranean Red Hook that we will never fully see.

In case that seems overly fanciful, a technical note: The internet displays colors in a limited way. Some images are affected by this noticeably and others not. I was a little dismayed when I saw how this looked uploaded, but I think I'll post it anyway.

26 January 2009

Football on Richards Street

Shivering a little in the deep mid-winter, I went back into my archives from the early fall for this picture of boys who were pausing from playing football in the street. I love how differences make themselves evident in a group portrait (each subject standing in the same light in front of the same photographer but presenting themselves differently) and in this one they're pretty striking.

16 January 2009

Reunited With Raheem

Early in this project I met two boys smoking cigars on a cold morning before school. The portrait I took of them ended up hanging in the Brooklyn Museum and was important to my decision to stick with this Red Hook work. I showed that picture in this August 19 entry. Since last winter I've keep my eyes out for those boys. It turns out my friend Brian ran into them first, but two days later I ran into one of them, Raheem. He had heard from from Brian that his picture was in the Museum and told his friend about it excitedly as I stood there with my camera. It turns out the boys were brothers, Raheem and Raequan, which they hadn't mentioned when we first met last year. Raheem and the friend he was with wanted to be in another picture, and so here they are, with cups this time, instead of cigars. I got Raheem's number and hope to get together with the brothers to give them some prints and hopefully make another portrait soon.

01 January 2009

Conover Street At Dusk

Conover Street is one of the last blocks in Red Hook, furthest from the rest of Brooklyn and closest to the bay. It mostly contains small industrial buildings as well as some empty brick apartments waiting to be torn down, and the school where I work. But there are one or two blocks with little wood-frame houses lining one side of the street, facing towards the water. They seem so secret and so nestled and I wonder what it would be like to live tucked in one of their bastment apartments. I took these pictures as the sunset was casting the last bits of light down the cobblestone street.