Alleys & Ruins no. 138, New York, New York (2011, Brooklyn, NY, 9pm)

Alleys & Ruins no. 138, New York, New York (2011, Brooklyn, NY, 9pm)

In March 2011 I was in NYC for the opening of my Alleys & Ruins solo show at the Condé Nast Gallery in Times Square. The New York Times wanted to document my work and my night shoots for a story, and at the show I'm introduced to Corey Kilgannon, a veteran New York Times city reporter. We arrange to meet a few days later to head off on one of my night adventures. Times 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 a spot I’d already staked out – by the East River in Brooklyn, across from Manhattan. This is an absolutely majestic 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 the freakin New York Times with me! I show them the polaroid, excited at the picture I’m constructing. I get the film ready and prepare my lights for the actual photo. Just then a cop car rolls in, lights flashing.

Oh, I forgot to mention, to get to this location we had crawled through an opening in the chain link fence and we were clearly trespassing... 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. Its a heart-breaking moment and I am fucking pissed! I had spent 2 days driving around staking out dozens of locations, taking notes, digital pictures... This spot, through the fence, by the East River was 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, but instead, here it would lie, buried.

I'm miserable as I'm packing my gear, and Corey notices. Then I see that he's smiling, "You don't understand, this is great," he says. "The story just got way better." Its something of a consolation, but I'm determined to get this shot.

We pack up and leave because neither of us wants to take a ride in a cop car, and we head to another good location I had found, which in the end, becomes Alleys & Ruins no. 137, Portal

I have to leave NY the next day, but two months later I'm back and I head straight to this location and through the fence again. If the same cop catches me, I am totally screwed. Instead, the second attempt goes great and I get the shot. 

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