In NY at the opening of my solo show I meet Corey Kilgannon, a veteran New York Times city reporter. He is intrigued by my work, so soon after we are off on a night shoot. Photojournalist Robert Stolarik is also there, taking photos of me at work. In the first 10 minutes, he shoots more pictures than I’ve taken in 10 years.
We head to the spots I’d already staked out in Brooklyn – the first is by the East River, across from Manhattan. This is my star location, where remnants of a pier lie, along with old, fallen girders from a long gone structure, and in the background, the beautiful and ubiquitous Manhattan skyline. I set up, figure out my lighting and exposure, and shoot a test polaroid that requires a heavy dose of my own lighting. After 2 minutes of processing, I peel away the sealing strip on the instant film (which doesn’t seem so instant in the digital age) and the shot looks good! I’m always excited when I know I’m zeroing in on a great photograph, but I’m extra happy since I have two distinguished guests with me. I show them the polaroid, excited at the picture I’m constructing. I replace the polaroid-back with the film-back and I get ready to do the real shots. Just then a cop car rolls in.
Oh, did I forget to mention we had snuck through a break in the fence and were clearly tresspassing? The officers are angry and yelling at us to return. Corey volunteers to speak to them and see if his credentials can get us a break before I take the camera off the tripod. He returns with bad news. The cops have threatened to cuff us and lock us up for the night unless we leave immediately. I am fucking pissed! I had spent 2 days driving around staking out dozens of locations, taking notes and digital pictures. This spot, through the fence, by the East River was really a treasured spot. I wasn’t mad at the cops, I was mad because it was a form of death. I wanted to give life to this image, instead, here it will lie, buried.
We pack up and leave because neither of us wants to take a ride in a cop car, and we head to my number two spot.
This is a more subtle location, but it has great potential. The first thing I’d loved about it was what looked like a battle between the ancient steel doors and the orange foam that was trying to burst through. And the setting for this tug of war was no slouch! Once again the shot required a lot of my lighting – Robert took lots of photos of me while I lit both scenes so you get a glimpse at how I work in the slideshow.
I head back to NYC April 18. The East River ruins will still be there, and I’m hoping for a second chance at that image.
Alley no. 137, Portal (2011, Brooklyn, NY, 12:15am)