Bond Street & 64th Street, Southwest Corner

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I stopped posting to this blog a couple of weeks ago when I felt that I'd run out of things to say. Maybe I'd overdone it with 31 posts in 30 days — friends warned me against this hazard when I started but of course I ignored them. So call it "burn out" or whatever.

But actually there's a little more to it than that, or just that, I think.

I started making notes towards what became New York in Plain Sight now already five years ago; started the planning in earnest four and a half years ago; and started the photography proper four years and nearly three months ago. Followed by three years of editing, processing, cataloging, keywording (still not finished, not by a long shot), prepping for the website, and general cleaning-up (including catching corners that I'd missed and reshooting ones that had, in my judgment, not turned out well enough, for whatever reasons).

All this gave simple purpose and meaning to my life (at least in this respect) throughout these past four to five years — and then, more or less all of a sudden, most of that work was done (though there's still a lot of clean-up to do), which has left something of a hole in my days, and brought with a lot of uncertainty about what's next.

NO, I am not going to move on to tackle on the street corners in Brooklyn, or Queens, or the Bronx, or Staten Island!

And starting the blog helped fill that void — until I began to run out of things to say (I'd accumulated a bunch of ideas over the last few years, and recorded a lot of them in a project journal, and the blog has been a way to give them a first approximation of order, and even to try out developing them a little in one direction or another without getting too caught up in trying to make something too finished out of them too soon.

But more than running out of things to say — maybe I did, maybe I didn't — came a very disorienting sense of not knowing what to do next, whether with New York in Plain Sight or with something else, entirely different, possibly not even photography-related.

It seemed premature to call New York in Plain Sight "done done" when in truth it was scarcely even "done" and at the same time I was — and in a way still am — rather at a loss as to what to do with it now.

One obvious thing to do, and which I did do, was to notify and/or update a lot people about the "done" if not "done done" status of the thing.

Then it occurred to me, mostly in consequence of a wonderful meeting with some terrific sociologists and urbanists to look at and discuss the project last week (I'll report on this in another post soon), that I'd been conceiving New York in Plain Sight too narrowly, namely as a photography project, and conceiving my role in it equally narrowly, namely as a photographer.

It's entirely possible that finishing up the photography isn't the end of New York in Plain Sight but instead is just barely the beginning of something.

But what?

Well, one of the great principles that I've resorted to from time to time in my life (though of course only when forced by circumstances) is that when you don't know what to do next with some project or undertaking, and have spent enough time considering that to be pretty sure that this is a correct assessment, then the thing to do is to do something — almost anything will do — and have at it, vigorously, just to see what turns up as a result.

And if the first "something" turns out to be a dead-end (it does happen), well, then, try another something, and so on.

So here goes: with only the vaguest idea of what I'm about, I'm taking the Tenth Avenue corners and plan to have a serious look, or actually multiple serious looks at all of them, and see what comes of that.

And to record the process here, on the blog, so to speak as daily or near-daily "field notes" of the process.

So far, the only thing to report is that for speed and convenience I made a set of full size JPGs (meaning the same size, pixel-wise, as the archival files) this morning of all the Tenth Avenue corners and imported them into their very own LightRoom catalog (so as not to run the risk of messing up the master catalog).

This evening I'll walk through the whole set, just to see what I can see and, especially, to see whether there are any surprises, not that I'm expecting any: I've been looking at all these photographs over and over again for several years now and actually they've all gotten to be pretty familiar to me, so the biggest surprise would be to be surprised at all.

At the same time I do know that the real surprises more often come from looking longer and more closely at what one already "knows" than from looking at what is unfamiliar and thus most vulnerable to being seen with all one's stereotypes, expectations, and prejudices as filters.

I'll let you know what happens tomorrow or the next day — expect new posts every day or two now, at least for a while, while I see how this turns out.

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