I don’t have the hard numbers, but the turn out for both shows of Saturday’s MP3 Experiment was outstanding! I would estimate at least 2,000 people at each show, and I suspect that is a low ball number. Now you have to imagine 2,000 plus people in a series of enormous Kick Line. (For a better idea of what this looks like see Arin Sang-urai’s photos, who caught it better than I.) I’ve been to a LOT of MP3 Experiments, this was sublimely silly and utterly awesome.
It’s again time for Steve the Omnipotent Voice from Above to grace us with his whimsical presence. Improv Everywhere’s MP3 Experiment returns for the eleventh year, this time to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park as part of the BEAT Festival. Using on your phone or MP3 player and the materials you brought, Steve guides through a theater of the absurd.
Basically, you listen to the track and do what Steve says. Don’t worry, Steve is a Benevolent Omnipotent Voice.
There are two shows this, starting at 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM, come to one or both. Just make sure you bring your balloon and grocery bag. Steve is Benevolent but unforgiving.
Beneath the flickering glow of old neon a kind of magic remains, a step through time if you dare. On one side modernity, wired, frenetic churning forth narcissism like sewage into a river. On the other a darker, slower, perhaps thoughtful era geared to community and not the individual. One might imagine as the letters fade in these old signs, the portals they prop inch closed.
It might sound odd to wax prosaic over an old neon sign which doesn’t even sit above a liquor store or dive bar any longer. Indeed this sign sits above the relic of a defunct dive bar now occupied by a JAbercrombieExchangeister shithole like festering herpes on the genitalia of memory. (You can read an elegy to the Liquor Store in Rosie Schapp’s stellar memoir “Drinking with Men”) Six years I walked beneath the lifeless sign longing to step inside, only to find a high-end clothing store.
Those are the times.
Nor is The Liquor Store the only darkening dive, the once ubiquitous watering holes are faltering around the country. An article in Newsweek laments the growing trend toward designer drinks and top shelf cocktails. A genuine New York legend, the Subway Inn battles for survival as developers swallow real estate en-mass to fuel the gluttony for luxury high rises, upscale shops and tapas bars that seems to drop like turds in a dog park. Those that survive morph from dark, moody sanctuaries where a drinker can enjoy a shot and a beer in peace to purveyors of cutesy, saccharine and staggeringly expensive cocktails to Sex in the City wannabes.
If one more bartender offers me a fucking “milk stout” when I order a Guinness I am going to start setting fires. No matter what YOU say, a small vat artisan Irish Whiskey is not superior to a shot of Jameson. Ordering a damn shot and beer does not require a sampling menu!
The Dive Bar is, or was, a place where a person could sit and drink, perhaps carry on a conversation without the incessant din of blaring pop hits and piercing shrill of twenty-somethings skreeing over their latest handbag acquisition. A refuge from the pomp and strut of post college frat boys chest bumping their way through whatever sport constitutes their latest dick measuring contest. The bartenders know your name, favorite drink and two for one you on the buy back. The jukebox music is two generations behind, and the televisions all play sports with the sound turned off. (Except for the play-offs naturally.) A dive is a grown up bar for grown up drinking.
Worse, when one finds a surviving dive bar, you dither between keeping it secret from the trendy asshats searching for a slice of “authentic old New York” thereby ruining the bar, or risk it going out of business by saying nothing. Selfishly, I find the trendification of the dive the worse choice. You can spot the signs, one day the stained single menu becomes an ornate paper affair. The sudden appearance of arugula, white wine vinaigrette or (god forbid) anything involving Brie forbore ill tidings. Soon a row of microbrew taps arrive, followed by a “signature drink”. (Universally an overpriced whiskey beverage consisting of various bar mixes not used since the Eisenhower Administration and ground catnip, garnished with passion fruit. Passion-fucking-fruit.) Soon, the bathroom is clean and sans graffiti and your favorite bartender’s replacement is a struggling actor who want you at his one-man show next weekend.
A good bar used to dot the corners of neighborhoods, lined with old drunks, working stiffs or perhaps the random artist. Finding a place to drown the sorrows of modern life is rarer than an intelligent conversation. No longer, just chain stores and boutique bars serving the swelling spawn of the Upper Middle and Upper Class.
Those are the times.
When the dive bar closes, the last working stiff in New York City get’s priced out of their apartment only the ghost signs remain. Shop J Crew.
So you’ve decided to take some photographs of yourself or someone you love in their all together. Being the time, you use the closest image taking device to hand, a device notoriously and continuously connected to the Internet. You likely never intended these photos being seen beyond the privacy of your relationship. (If you are planning to send unsolicited photos of YOUR all together, see here.) Next thing you know: naked on the Internets.
Clearly, the theft of the latest celebrity sex pics is a crime. To be specific, this is a sex crime the same as peeking through windows or cameras beneath bathroom stalls. The only persons wrong in this fiasco are the pathetic individual(s) who broke into personal accounts and stole the photographs. Nothing is inherently wrong with consensual taking, posing in or possession sexual images of yourself or your lovers. (Consensual being the operative word there, kids.)
Still, one needs to consider the incredibly naive act of trusting anything remotely associated with the Internet to preserve your privacy. Best case scenario, everything online is but an illusion of privacy. Someone, somewhere has access to EVERYTHING you post, upload, share, send or store. No amount of security compensates for the simple act of surrendering the information. The most secure information in the world is vulnerable to someone with a grudge, cause or empty bank account.
The Internet is like that friend in Middle School who convinces you tell all your secrets and then blabs EVERYTHING to Sheila Malinowski who you ALWAYS HATED! FUCK YOU PAMMY! I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU! You want to trust the Internet because you like it, it’s fun, never boring and full of good gossip. But the Internet is this way because it betrays people. Just like Pammy.
I’m not sure when we started trusting
Pammy the Internet. I remember a sense of caution in those early days, I didn’t use my real name online for the seven or eight years. (I am also thankful Google wasn’t yet indexing everything done on the Web.) It seems generational, this wild trust. Baby Boomers said trust no one over thirty. Generation X trusted no one. The Millennials don’t trust anyone over thirty, the government, or corporations. Except for the ones really convenient, or cool. It’s not surprising which generation comprises the hacked celebrities. (Of course, most forty-year old’s are not snapping nude selfies, we’ve seen our bodies and time is not kind.)
Our lives are connected to the world via a stream of information, the more we share the more the Internet will eventually betray. The corporations who are the Internet possess a vested interest in you surrendering everything about you. The Illusion of Privacy is a curtain to keep you contributing, sadly the man behind the curtain is busy whacking off. The only way to keep anything private off the Internet is KEEP IT OFF THE INTERNET. This extends to your phones, which are less secure than your computers, if such is even possible. Let me put it another way. Once upon a time when we wanted private nekkid pictures we took them on a Polaroid and put them in a shoe box.
Also, and this perhaps is the most important piece of advice I will dispense today. When it comes to naked pictures of you, trust no one. Seriously, don’t trust ANYONE. The person you love today is only one bad break up away from your bare ass being plastered over creation. If you feel you MUST have naked photographs, at least see a professional photographer with whom you sign contracts and can seek some redress if your boudoir shot appears on Porn Weasel. Better yet, do an oil painting, at least your bare ass might hang in a museum some day.
I guess what I am saying is that taking nude photos is not morally wrong, you still really shouldn’t do it. The ratio of regret to reward is just too great.
Honestly, Polaroid should restart and use this all as a marketing tool. “Keep your personal porn private: Keep it Polaroid”
This weekend I photographed the wedding of two dear friends, who marry after seven years together. The cherry on top was my best friend officiating the ceremony. The entire weekend affirmed love and family transcending the conventional. I am honored to contribute.
This was the first “formal” wedding I’ve photographed. I had no real idea what I was doing, one can read any number of articles on how and still not know until one does. My biggest good idea was renting equipment to supplement my own. (The cherry being playing with camera’s and lenses I can’t currently afford.) The downside was shooting on a Full Frame changes the perspective of your photos, what you see is not exactly what you get. (I had warning, I didn’t listen.) I shoot editorial and street style photos, which lends itself well to a wedding if the participants are up for the idea. Still, the challenges of group portraiture were greater than I expected. I am not unhappy with my work and my friends knew they were not getting a professional wedding photographer, so everything worked. The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone shooting a wedding as a favor is reinforce repeatedly you are not a wedding professional, my friends were great. Your mileage may vary.
It was great experience and a real portfolio builder, yet I will stick 5,000 pantless people on the subway versus 90 people at a wedding. The half naked people are a LOT easier.
Leaving town for Boston in a few minutes where I will photographing my friend’s Wedding. It’s my first “formal” wedding, so I will be as out of my element as these good folks. (See how I tied that together? You should make me your photo editor!)
It’s confession time: I miss being a cop. There were, and are, very good reasons why I am not, I will always hold that police work left me, not vice versa. Yet, I look on the women and men who do The Job and I remember I was once part of something important, something bigger than just me.
I became a cop at nineteen years old when I was young and filled with naïve ideas about heroism and duty. Worse still, I believed in those ideas the way a pious man believes in their divinity. Certainly, I enjoyed the adrenaline rush, the idea of being “powerful” and feel of a gun on my hip. (What nineteen year old wouldn’t?) Still, good teachersimpressed on me a tempered sense of responsibility . You are, they told me, first and foremost a servant. A servant of the law and of the people you protect.
I saw the worst moments in people’s lives for fifteen years: deaths, marital strife, suicide attempts and mental breakdowns. I met victims of crimes that scarred them forever. I put in people in jail, and yes they committed the crime, depriving someone of their freedom is a terrible thing.
I sacrificed my personal life, devoting myself to the work. I endured endless midnight shifts, missed holidays with family and surrendered vacations for years. I placed myself willingly in harm’s way so others did not. I lack a single regret, part of me wishes I did so still.
The world changes, I change, no longer the young man who believes in heroes and noble callings. I’ve taken off my shining armor and placed my white steed out to pasture. Sadly, I likely wasn’t the paragon twenty years of rose-colored nostalgia recalls. It’s more likely I miss the youth and not the work.
As said by a great detective, “I am too old for this shit”.
That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it, however.
Yesterday was the Pakistan Day Parade in New York City, celebrating Pakistan’s culture, heritage and independence. New York City’s heritage parades span the globe, from the ubiquitous St Patrick’s Day to the esoteric Hare Krishna Parade. I am working on photographing every cultural parade in the City, which could take years given their number.
Yesterday, however, I found myself with sense of discomfort. It was difficult to find the rhythm of the shoot and finding out why took some time. Eventually, I discovered my problem: I was afraid in a crowd of Muslims. Not something I like admitting, yet true.
The feeling started when I notice the NYPD Bomb Dog team sweeping the parade vehicle:
I’ve done dozens of parades over the past five years, this is the first time I’ve seen a dog team checking the area. (As a former Explosive Detector Dog Handler myself, I knew the patterns of his search, it was definitely explosive detection.)
Now, combine thirty years of television news footage of Muslim people waving flags and shouting stretching back to Iran in the late 1970’s. Where I should see Americans celebrating their heritage from their adopted country, I could only see Arabic letters and foreign flags. My brain, filled with decades of fear baiting and sensationalist rhetoric reacted with the same unease I experience upon seeing a clown: a small nagging fear.
Once I owned that bias, faced my irrational discomfort, I was able to stop seeing the good people around me as a faceless entity and recognize them as Americans. Waving the flag of Pakistan is no different from waving Ireland, Italy, Germany or Korea, just to name a few of the ethnic parades I’ve photographed. When we stop seeing a people through the lens of prejudice surrender our primitive xenophobia and turn off the damn television feed in our memory, we only see others as people.
People with cool hats and hijabs.