Tag Archives: New York

Treasure trove: amazing photos kept hidden from the world

Check out these photos the Daily Mail ran last week:

Photo by Vivian Maier, who often explored poor neighborhoods with her camera

The Daily Mail reports:

Maier observed it all without judgment. This was her hobby, not her job. But over the decades, it also was her life. She shot tens of thousands of photos. Most were never printed. Many weren’t even developed. And few were seen by anyone but her.

Vivian Maier wanted it that way. She guarded her privacy so zealously that she didn’t even want people to know her full name.

She and her photos seemed destined for obscurity until a young man with an eye for bargains stopped by an auction house one day. He paid about $400 for a huge grocery box stuffed with tens of thousands of negatives.

. . .

Vivian Maier, it turned out, had two distinct identities: A nanny for the Gensburgs and several other families in a 40-year career on the affluent North Shore. And before, during and after work, a photographer who chronicled the gritty drama and tender moments of street life in and around Chicago. She was fiercely independent. Eccentric. Opinionated. Private, yet confrontational.

Kind of a Jane-Goodall-meets-The-Sartorialist. Cool.

Two more photos after the jump.

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Rach the Parks

Rach the Parks

This week New York City will join three other cities worldwide in featuring a new kind of installation art. Sixty pianos will be scattered throughout the city, designed to encourage passers-by to sit down and play.

After fighting for years to meet pedestrians’ demand for benches and public bathrooms, Play Me, I’m Yours is representative of New York’s push to embrace its creative class.

Decades of rent controlled buildings sent prices skyrocketing in the city for those not fortunate to score a price-capped apartment. Artists in residence who once thrived in the city have found themselves pushed out of New York seeking a lifestyle that permits artists to focus on their creative product.

London, Sao Paolo, and Sydney have already embraced the “Play Me, I’m Yours” Project. New York’s sixty pianos will double the Project’s reigning largest installation; London had only thirty pianos last year.

Charitable organization Sing for Hope asked local artists to decorate the pianos, all of which were donated for the event. Each instrument will rest from June 21st to July 5th across public areas and parks in fifty locations.

Sing for Hope cites “bringing people together” as its purpose:

[Project Founder] Luke Jerram got the idea at his local coin-operated laundry, according to a website about the project. He saw the same people there every weekend, but none of them talked to each other. He thought a piano might help bring people together in places like that.

The results in other cities have been surprising and life-changing, he said in an interview. A woman in Sao Paulo heard her daughter play for the first time on one of Jerram’s pianos in a train station. The mother had worked to pay for lessons for four years, but the family had no piano at home.

In Sydney, a couple met at a piano and are now married, Jerram said.

There will be twenty-seven pianos in Manhattan, ten in Brooklyn, five in Queens and four each in Staten Island and the Bronx.

Each piano will come equipped with an “anti-theft device” — a cinder block chained to its case — and a protective tarp for nights and rainy days. “Piano buddies” will attend each instrument, unlocking its cover at 9:00 every morning, securing it at 10pm and remaining generally responsible for its care.

Even in the embryonic stage the project encourages communities to cooperate. Asked why she asked volunteers to paint the pianos, Sing for Hope co-founder Camille Zamora cited a desire to keep the pianos accessible, according to the New York Times. Ms. Zamora told a Times reporter: “We want communities where the pianos go to feel the pianos are theirs, that you don’t have to take 20 years of lessons.”

Even should the pianos fail to cohere divergent communities, this project will permit individuals to tap into their creative sides. Statistically this spurs innovation, which in turn rejuvenates morale overall.

The pianos will be installed in the following locations around New York City:


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Art History, Art Present

Dear New York Peeps:

Get excited, we’re going to see Bas Princen’s photo show, called “Refuge,” at the Storefront for Art and Architecture.

Princen has been running around 5 cities in the Middle East and Turkey — Cairo, Dubai, Istanbul, Amman, Beirut — capturing examples of these intensely-organic pockets of civilization.

Rather than some coalesced, planned community, these images are supposed to conjure a “city without a center, populated by extraordinary and at times implausible architectural artefacts; an urban laboratory whose physical traits are defined by migratory flows, spatial transformation and geopolitical flux on a continental scale.”

What’s neat about these, from an art history perspective, is that the images are so evocative of this region’s ancient architecture.  This is an almost primordial response to the elements, to nature.  These buildings look exactly like this region’s original attempt to secure “refuge.”

This looks like Mecca, right?  And the higher photo above — it’s an outcropping in a parking lot in Dubai, but could it look more like an ancient Mesopotamian Ziggurat?

BLDG BLOG cites at length from an interview w/ Princen:

Grima suggests that, as a tactic for assembling buildings, this construction technique is “strongly reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Maison Domino.” Princen’s response is brilliant, and worth quoting at length:

It is fascinating that Maison Domino, the quintessential modernist prototype conceived as a universal answer to the housing problem, has in the end inspired the method of choice for informal construction, with or without the help of architects. The many interpretations of the famous Maison Domino prototype I’ve seen are a clear indication that is has become the most universally successful type of construction, but nothing prepared me for Cairo, where this structural system is really pushed to the limits—not only because these buildings in red-brick-and-concrete grids rise to 16 or 17 floors, but also because three quarters of the city is constructed in this way. It is a mesmerizing fictional experience: driving on an elevated highway through this city of red brick towers, trying to imagine who is actually living there.

This latter remark—Princen’s difficulty in imagining these sorts of landscape humanly inhabited—sets the stage for a remark, later in the interview, when Princen mentions that he attempts to maintain a human presence in his photographs—in other words, they are not anthropologically empty landscapes.

He adds that “the so-called ‘middle distance'”—the scale inhabited by humans—”has not been used much in recent architectural photography,” an industry that tends now to focus on one of two extremes: “the architectural object on the one hand and the cityscape on the other.” But “it is exactly in this middle distance,” Princen counters, “that the human figure becomes an interesting element: it cannot be shown as the main subject, but will always be defined by the relationship with its surroundings, to put an extra meaning or layer on the landscape or object that is photographed.”

As a result, Princen’s photos show us diminutive humans, stranded amidst incomprehensible architectural forms and massive landscapes, neither urban nor rural, pursuing admirably self-directed goals through which to give themselves meaning or, depending on how you look at it, utterly vacuous tasks that they refuse to admit should be abandoned.

[Images: “Former sugarcane field, Cairo,” (2009) and “Ringroad, Cairo,” (2009) by Bas Princen].

BLDG goes on to the meta description, what happens in the aggregate when everything is organic and few rules preside, see, e.g., this photo of unregulated trash distro:

The ultimate green recycling plant, no?  Chaos to chaos, dust to dust.

Here’s the Storefront exhibition announcement, May 12 2010 – Jun 26 2010, describing the exhibition:

An architect by training, Princen has for many years used photography as a tool to observe, record and interpret the contemporary landscape. His photographs – themselves unmanipulated representations of reality – invite the viewer to construct an imaginary landscape that lies beyond the frame, outside the limits of the viewfinder.

Refuge is not, however, an exercise in abstraction. It is a documentation of the spatial products of refuge, ranging from migrant worker camps to gated satellite cities in the desert or the frequent proximity between abject poverty and extreme wealth, that at the same time sidesteps the cliches and the iconic emblems of segregation and seclusion. Starting from its peripheries, Princen’s photographs conduct the viewer through a cityscape that is both familiar and remote, ominous and beautiful.

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New York: Vox Populi, Vox Machina

Love the composition of this pic from the most photographed city in the world:

Says Gothamist of the city that’s worth so many thousands of words:

A recent Cornell University study [PDF] filed through Flickr pictures and determined photogs’ favorite places and things. It found that New York City is the most frequently photographed location on Earth, with London and San Francisco following. The Empire State Building is the 7th most-photographed landmark. Twenty-eighth on the list? The glass-encased Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in Midtown.

The Mac store also made it onto the list of most-photographed places in the city, the Observer noted, coming in fifth after Times Square and Grand Central, but beating out perennial favorites like Liberty Island.

According to a press release, Cornell was able to automatically identify places that people like to photograph using a new technique. “We developed classification methods for characterizing these locations from visual, textual and temporal features,” says Daniel Huttenlocher, Professor of Computing, Information Science and Business. “These methods reveal that both visual and temporal features improve the ability to estimate the location of a photo compared to using just textual tags.”

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Salt of the Earth, But Not of New York

First they came for our cigarettes, but I did not speak out–bc I was not a smoker.

Then they came for the trans fats, but I did not speak out–bc I had no real relationship with hydrogenated oil.

Then they came for . . . salt?!  What the heck, New York?

“No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises,” the bill, A. 10129 , states in part.

The legislation, which Assemblyman Felix Ortiz , D-Brooklyn, introduced on March 5, would fine restaurants $1,000 for each violation.

And whatever happened to this New York, the Sidney Morgenbesser age of irony and intelligence and wit?

Morgenbesser was leaving a subway station in New York City and put his pipe in his mouth as he was ascending the steps. A police officer told him that there was no smoking on the subway. Morgenbesser pointed out that he was leaving the subway, not entering it, and hadn’t lit up yet anyway. The cop repeated his injunction. Morgenbesser repeated his observation.

After a few such exchanges, the cop saw he was beaten and fell back on the oldest standby of enfeebled authority: “If I let you do it, I’d have to let everyone do it.” To this the old professor replied, “Who do you think you are, Kant?

The word “Kant” was mistaken for a vulgar epithet and Morgenbesser had to explain the situation at the police station.

Has America grown so helpless that we need suckle at that big regulating teat rather than buck up and take responsibility for our choices?  Are we so unwaveringly concerned for Our Fellow Man that we can’t stand the idea that we cannot protect him from himself?

Or,  in these days of funding police departments through grabby government and TSA-style blatant regulatory overreach, should we just chalk up our greedy regulatory state to the immortal words of George Harrison: “If you try to walk, they’ll tax your feet”?

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Learning and Socialism

My cab driver this morning was from Haiti.  It was refreshing, on this trip to La Guardia, to get some variety from the Ethiopian/Eritrean mix you find in DC.

Jean Marie lost two nephews and a niece in the earthquake.  One nephew had been in law school; the other, a doctor.  Family scheduled the funerals for next week, the earliest possible time the morgue can release these three, amongst three hundred thousand, bodies for burial.

Jean Marie had been a sociology professor in Port-au-Prince.  He took great pleasure in teaching us this morning.

I earned a B+ from Jean Marie.  We talked about the de facto caste system capitalism imposes.  How Americans are solipsistic, selfish in a way that every other country is not.

Granted, Jean Marie has spent all 29 of his stateside years driving a cab in New York City.  If there’s any position on earth more prone to subjecting a man to the full measure of his humility, this is it.  Indeed, from his perspective it’s no wonder he sees Americans as one monolithic sonofabitch.

My final exam in Jean Marie’s class came as a discussion on socialism. Jean Marie agrees that capitalism is better at large in the world.  Still, though, he is determined to spend “periods at intervals” living in socialism.

Interesting, no?  The idea of socialism as a state of mind that cannot exist independent of capitalism, but that’s a refreshing way to mix it up once in awhile

I agree completely, I told JM.  I am a conservative and a capitalist, but I crave cooperation and unselfish sharing.  I tend towards academia, which is necessarily a social-mentality idea-sharing pool where nobody has any money.  And anyone I’ve ever dated can quote from my treatise on the Communism of Family, where Randian transactional relationships should cede to loving, sharing, unselfish pooled well-being.

JM denied me the A bc I could not agree that gov’t imposition is necessary – or even remotely beneficial – to the “cooperation” side of socialism.  Even the sharing he remembers from Haiti – where everyone delivers a daily plate of whatever’s-for-dinner to each neighbor – that has nothing to do w/ government.  In fact, Good Samaritan laws may well – anecdotally – tamp that spirit of generosity.

We debated only cursorily – I was more interested in what JM had to teach than in probing the weak spots in his argument s – but it’s fantastic to learn something quite so valuable without having to work hard for it.  Even as JM got excited and began gesticulating in ways not conducive to safe travel, it was a huge bonus on this airport run to find a window into how the Haitian educated elite – the ones comprising Hispanola’s Brain Drain – view class, race, and history.

“America never thought of Haiti at all until the earthquake,” JM said.

“But Americans don’t think of anyone.  It’s not personal, against Haiti.  We don’t think of Canada either, or Holland.”

America profits pretty spectacularly from our position as Shining City on a Hill.  But perhaps the left-leaning periods in our history are indeed Americans’ way of taking Jean Marie’s suggestion and delving into those intervals of socialism.  Perhaps there are some benefits – political or otherwise – to looking around a bit before the earthquake hits.

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Lying Liars

Tonight I spent with one very old friend and four guys paid to lie for a living.  They’re a bunch of contractors.  When big companies – say Barnes and Noble – suspect an employee of stealing, they usually can’t prove it.  Companies can’t even accuse the employee without some hard proof.

Enter these dudes.  Contracted by the company, these dudes come in and spin unbelievable tales.  They fly in to wherever the suspicious behavior occurs.  They stay as long as it takes to elicit a response/confession.  And they lie and lie.

They lie their asses off.  Enormous, fantastical lies.  Stories so obscure that ultimately, sheepish and shamed, the stealing employee confesses.

I am not making this up.

Good lord, I want this job.

We’re in the basement of this bar.  Normally it’s all lawyers.  Tonight it was just us, the only Republicans in New York, and my very old friend.  Not casual republicans; I mean adjacent to our little group drank a former Bush official wearing administration cufflinks.  The liars were, predictably, a bunch of old Marines.

There’s something refreshing about that.  To bond with a bunch of professional liars you met because they demanded a dirty joke.  To be in exactly that former-bartender state-dependent place where all those jokes come bubbling up.

Also I’m a chick.  When one by one the lying liars made sure I had their numbers, I couldn’t help but but muse: What if I called them.  What an exercise, what an intellectual acrobatic, to date an expert liar.

The thing about lying professionally, it seems, is that you’d have to have a colorful story to begin with to pull it off.  No one just wakes up one day w/ disdain for the truth; your story has to be colorful enough to inspire a series of stretches — truth calisthenics — over the years.

One of the dudes was the third of sixteen kids.  Another is a Regan Republican who voted for Obama bc his daughter, who was murdered in 2008, desperately wanted “change.”  These were a bunch of crazy Irish Catholics interesting enough to render the truth or falsity of their statements pretty much immaterial.

And seriously how does one get this job?!


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