Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bob

I hated taking this photo, so closed my eyes when I did it.

Memorial for Bob

I'm sick with grief.  It was only yesterday I learned of the passing of my friend and mentor, Bob Arihood.  The shock and disbelief is still fresh.

I can't remember exactly how or when I discovered Bob's blog, but I do remember pouring through the entire site as soon as I found it.  Bob documented the intersection of Avenue A and 7th Street, Tompkins Square Park, Ray's Candy, and the East Village like no other.  He was a true journalist - his objectivity clear in his photos and reporting.

I met Bob in Tompkins Square where he was instantly recognizable with his Leica.  I introduced myself and was surprised to discover he was familiar with my photos.  We exchanged tips on taking pictures and using the internet.  After that day, we met often and he was always eager to talk.

What impressed me about Bob was his success at bringing humanity to the people of Tompkins Square and his relentless pursuit of the immediate truth - always there to document and record crimes and events as they happened.  Bob was the only one to report on several beatings of homeless people in the neighborhood.  Where the mainstream media failed to care, Bob was on the scene, ensuring news of the crimes reached the general public.

One such series of reports that touched me was on Markey Bena.  Without Bob, Markey's story would never have been told.  This can be said for so many other EV residents whose names and faces we know thanks to Bob.

Protest at the BMW/Guggenheim Lab 

Bob was always kind and encouraging to me as a photographer.  I'd been getting some flack about digital processing and I mentioned this to him one day.  He just smiled at me and said, "No photo that has ever been published has ever come out of the camera that way."  When I asked how he managed to get such great lighting for his night portraits in TSP, he laughed and told me, "All the magic happens in post-processing."  That said, Bob possessed a fantastically sensitive photographic eye.  He could take a picture of rat running through the park and bring a whimsical, human touch to it.

Although we shared many happy conversations, there was an underlying sadness to Bob.  He loved the neighborhood and hated the changes that have come to it.  Gentrification, the apparent apathy of the younger generation, greed, and ignorance took their toll on his spirit.  In one of the last conversations we had, he expressed his anger and disappointment in the current political and social state of affairs.   In an email conversation about the growing divide between the rich and poor, Bob said:
As long as the people run things we'll be OK , it won't be perfect but it won't be a tyranny either. We don't need "experts" subsidized by great wealth to tell us how to live and then  go even further in shaping our lives and controlling us by redesigning our environment. 

The battle is eternal Goggla, and we may not prevail. Bloomberg, Giuliani and Koch made all this possible, they laid the foundation. The building dept was gutted by these dudes.  They saw to it that the wealthy were encouraged by new rules on investment in property to bid the price of property sky high.  This capital should have been invested in productive enterprise, jobs. That was too much work and too risky though, property was a safer and more reliable investment. Its all mortgaged too. Developers can now do what they want and they and the banks take all the  money. Its not over but the people are going to have to take back their government and their lives. The battle continues...
It is with pride that we should take up our cameras, raise our voices, make ourselves seen and heard.

Bob, you were an inspiration to me and I admired your passion to follow the truth in your heart.  Never give up the quest for justice, truth and peace.

The sun is always shining somewhere

To see Bob in action, doing what he did best, see the video below. He appears at the 1:50 mark.

13 comments:

  1. Great tribute to Bob, Goggla. I really feel lucky to have met him. You're right, there was an underlying sadness to him, but when he smiled it really made me feel good. I guess because I knew it was genuine. Just like his photos and writing. No one can ever take his place.

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  2. Marty - I really can't do him justice. Above all else, Bob was a very intelligent and kind man. You could see it in his eyes.

    I don't know if he fully appreciated the work he did. I'm glad I was able to tell him how much I liked his photos and how important I thought his reporting was. He always seemed kind of surprised to get so many compliments, but he graciously accepted them. :)

    Has anyone told the Chillmaster? I went by there earlier today, but his window was closed and the chair was empty.

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  3. You guys, Goggla & Marty, have both written so beautifully about Bob. I'm sorry I didn't have time to get to know him better, but I feel privileged to have met him, & to be able to have followed his blogs. So honest & unflinching. RIP.
    You two do such good work in catching the life of the city, celebrating the good & decrying the stupidities & tragedies of change & loss. I'll always follow what you're up to, & think of Bob's influence. Thanks.

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  4. Kate - that means a lot. Thank you.

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  5. Thanks for the kind words, Kate, Bob influenced all of us and I enjoy and appreciate your work as well. I don't think the Chillmaster knows, Goggla, I may try and go there tomorrow if I can get out of work early.

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  6. Beautiful tribute Goggla. Bob was my mentor too. He was a great teacher. He told me you had to be an asshole with a camera a lot of the time to get the shot. That was a lesson he taught me. What a sharp and sympathetic eye. He was proud of bringing the ratstravaganza to light.I enjoyed so much hanging around the park with him watching and recording and interacting there.

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  7. Very nice tribute, Goggla. Like I posted over at Jeremiah's, I wish I had met him, but I feel like he was a friend anyway - as I feel about you, Marty, and Jeremiah. Please don't ever stop being who you are and doing what you do - It means more to more people than you can imagine.

    I loved his work, and I will miss him - he is one we could not ever afford to lose, and he cannot ever be replaced.



    RIP Bob

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  8. Melanie - thinking of the Ratstravaganza makes me smile. I was taking pictures of the rats in TSP last Wednesday and they were being so cute and playful, I laughed out loud. They kept poking their heads up out of their holes like this:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/goggla/6190277903/

    At the time, I kept looking around for Bob, thinking, "He's GOT to see this!" Now that I think about it, he may have already been gone...or maybe he was there after all.

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  9. JAZ - thank you so much.

    I'm glad I was able to tell Bob how much I appreciated his work and I know many others did, too. Even so, I don't think we've fully realized the treasure we've lost. The outpouring of love and grief for him speaks volumes and I hope he can feel it, where ever he is now.

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  10. Such a beautifully written tribute, Goggla. So extremely touching. His photography will continue to inspire, as will yours. Hope to see you tomorrow. If it wasn't for meeting Bob, as Marty pointed out, I wouldn't have met any of you. For that, I am most extremely grateful.

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  11. That was heart-wrenching. Thank you.

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  12. goggla...it's funny, i live in colorado, but consider nyc (and more specifically the east village) my spiritual home. used to be there 4 or 5 times a year for work and i always, always counted the days between visits until i arrived. found bob's blog thru some wierd coincidence, and it always sustained me between visits - and it led me to you, to evgrieve, to slumgoddess, and to ray's (where i always get delicious iced tea). i may be 1600 miles away, but his passing has affected me in ways i can not express - and my heart goes out to you and everyone who knew him. always hoped i would run into him some late night on avenue a...that will never be, and now i can only hope to meet you, melanie, ev, marty, chillmaster...and all the other wonderful ev people some night outside rays...and we can celebrate bob and the wonderful way he brought so many people together. my best to you in this very difficult time...

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  13. That was a beautiful tribute, he will really be missed. The street feels empty now. Each loss seems more and more intense.

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