A little game I like to play while walking around the city is taking photos that seem to suggest utter desolation. The joke is there are millions of people lurking just out of frame in these locations and, sometimes, a silent place may actually be quite noisy.
Take Battery Maritime Building, for example:
True, this building did sit quiet and lonely for a time, but on the day this photo was taken, it played host to the opening of a David Byrne art/music installation and it was teeming with people. Not only that, but Mr Byrne's piece - Playing the Building - involved what can best be described as a pipe organ that made a booming, echoing sound. Standing here felt like being inside the stomach of a whale.
One of my favorite (and all but dead) areas of the city is/was the Fulton Fish Market:
Until 9/11, this was a bustling business district, especially in the early dawn hours. After it was suddenly shut down, the buildings remained, nearly unoccupied and slowly rotting. All that is changing, though, as the Seaport has become a major tourist destination and old warehouses are being converted to luxury housing. Runners, bikers and pedestrians use the path along the river 24/7. When this photo was taken, there were probably 50 people around me, and the loud traffic on the FDR Drive overhead is never-ending.
Ooo, what is this? The torture room in a Mob lair out by the abandoned docks? Almost...
It's just an innocent chair in an innocent building that happens to be overrun with artists and construction workers. Half of this floor was being remodeled, the other half serving as an art gallery. Outside the windows is the raucous and smelly West Side Highway.
When visiting DUMBO these days, it's difficult to remember just how eerily empty it used to be, even though it wasn't that long ago. I used to explore the area on weekends and felt I was the only person around for miles. These days, I have difficulty finding any corner where I can stand alone.
Here we are in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. And, at the time, I wondered who on earth would ever sit at that picnic table...try getting a private table on the lawn without a reservation now.
A friend once asked to accompany me one night on a photo-trek through Tribeca. He wanted to see where I "find these places" that he, being a native New Yorker, had never found himself. "They're everywhere!" I said. You just have to look.
I took him down to Staple Street, one of the most well-known and photographed "secret" alleys in the city:
Of course, this street is no secret at all and sits in the heart of a busy daytime business district and nighttime dining/cocktail scene. We each took the same shot. Mine is as you see here and I complained about the cars being in the way. His not only included the cars, but several people as well.
Four eyes, two lenses, one street...endless possibilities.