Of the many strange things I have done in my life, one of them was deciding to live in Roosevelt Island. I did that for a year and every morning, the strangeness of that place grew and every evening I wondered why is it that a place can make you feel that way. A small island across the East River on the side of Manhattan, where no cars are allowed and the whole width of the island is 240 meters and length of about 3 km, it is owned by the city of Manhattan but feels like worlds away.
Some experiences remain etched in our minds not because of their importance, but sometimes because of their simplicity. I was riding the roosevelt island tram one evening (you know this strange red cable car that crosses over at 60th street to the island), and next to me sat a beautiful old lady in her 70’s. She said hello and then she said “pearl necklaces”. On seeing my puzzled face she went on to say: “the bridges, they are so beautiful at night, don’t they look like pearl necklaces?”. Since that evening, I can only think of pearl necklaces when I see a bridge lit up at night as the Queensborough bridge was on that evening. That lady had the gift of seeing beauty and art in everything and she left me so inspired.
Every desert houses an oasis, and for New York City, central park is just that vital. One of the largest and most visited urban parks in the world, the park has bucket loads of charm to offer. Even when you don’t have time to visit during the rush of life, knowing that it is there, a slice of uninterrupted natural life in the middle of all the concrete, is a release of stress. Funny how despite all the gadgets we create, the technological advancements we champion, all it takes is little walk in the park to confirm our sense of being.
There was a time in the late 80’s and early 90’s when Soho and its converted lofts and warehouses, was home to art and artists that were seeking a place far enough from the mundane to be able to create. It was a time when this area felt so unique, so inspiring and so special. Actors, artists, writers, musicians, dancer, they all moved there and lived in wonderful anonymity. Then commercialism arrived and we watched it slowly transform this area into a huge faceless mall. And as Art appears to be shy, it fled and found new areas to inhabit. Nolita was one new home and later Chelsea and the meat packing district. Because somehow art and commercialism cannot be good roommates.
When you ride the subway trains in New York City everyday with their strong smell, the shrieking brake noise of the arriving trains, the unintelligible speech of the conductors, and the repeating “stand clear of the closing doors”, you beging to feel a sense of belonging in those underground tunnels, almost like a city rat. You pick a spot that is convenient for you stand in each day while you wait for the train, you decide weather you are in the mood to look for a seat or simply just stand, and the train ride becomes a kind of a meditation. I always loved people watching while on the subway, and trying to imagine the stories behind each face while trying hard to keep mine anonymous.
I still remember riding my bike to work in Soho with wet hair and arriving with jingling frozen dreadlocks from the blistering New York City wind that blew in the maze between the tall buildings, and then suddenly the first tulips appeared and with them the slightly more mild and beautiful weather that makes the city so special in the Spring time. At this time of year, you feel hope very strongly as it floods the place with the promise of Spring and warmth emanating from every single flower on every city street.
When you live like me in a city like Shanghai, a city of 18+ million people, something strange starts to happen to you, you start walking the city walk. This used to happen to me also when I lived in New York City. What I mean by the city walk is walking a bit like a zombie, not seeing people, not looking into their faces, not really acknowledging them. It is a very unfortunate result of city living. But when you carry your camera around all day, you sometimes see, really see people, your eyes meet, you connect to them for a moment or two, a human connection, and you stop for a second to have awe and fascination, like I did today. I saw a worker at the end of his work day walking tall, walking proud, walking happy and walking alive. I was very glad I ‘saw’ him.
Nothing is more elegant than holiday windows in New York City. Beautiful attention to details, incredible richness of decoration, haunting drama in the windows of Bergdorfs this year. I was lucky to shoot this at sunset the buildings of 5th avenue were reflected in the window adding to he eeriness of the window.