Alleys & Ruins no. 68, Gated (2005, Buffalo, NY, 11:15pm)
I’m in Buffalo where I meet Hector, a young man who is willing and eager to be my bodyguard for the night. We exchange numbers and I call him later that night to meet. He tells me some of his friends want to come along, and I think, Great! More protection.
They show up and these guys are ready for Saturday night clubbing – loud dance music is thumping and they’re all dressed up... one guy is already hammered and another is wearing a silk shirt. Do they understand we'll be trudging through alleys? I lose faith in them instantly but they’re all I have.
“How long's this gonna take, bro?” asks Hector. 'Like, an hour?'
“Um, at least a few hours,” I say. “Let’s hurry.”
I take them into a narrow alley between two rusted out industrial buildings. The long alley opens up onto a haunting enclosed courtyard. So far so good. I walk around, looking for a shot, and find an intense looking scene - Alley no. 68.
Excited, I walk to their massive Cadillac SUV, the loud music has long been turned off and it’s very quiet around us. “This is a great area. I think I found a good shot.”
“How long this gonna take?” he whispers, “like, 5-10 minutes?”
“No, this one’s a very long exposure; more like forty-five minutes.”
“Cause we gotta go. Our friend Jimmy's been calling. We gotta pick him up.”
I stare at Hector, then at the alley around me. I never would have scoped out a location like this alone.
“You telling me you're leaving?”
“Yea, sorry bro.”
“Well... that’s fucked up. What’s this neighborhood like?”
“Not good.” says the guy with the silk shirt.
“Um... are there any gangs? Do people get killed around here??”
“Not here”, says the drunk dude. “This is just where they dump the bodies.” He laughs nervously.
“Nah,” says Hector. “There was a gas station back there on the main road, so there's people around - I'm sure its safe. But we gotta go. Sorry bro.”
He rolls up his window and gravel starts crunching under the rolling wheels. They slowly drive back out the long narrow alley. Now I feel stranded and vulnerable. I look at the shot again. Dammit! It’s a good one and it’s hard to leave. 'Motherfuckers!' I say out loud. I simply cannot leave - I’ve already found the shot and I feel somehow it has to be saved - captured and set free, otherwise it will never get out; it will never be seen again. I quickly grab my gear and work furiously. I try to get lost in my work, while remaining vigilant. It’s not easy. I set up the camera and trigger the shutter release. Forty minutes later, I’ve got the image. I throw the gear in the van and race out, cursing Hector as I leave.
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