Sure Shot

Today I saw at least 5 views out of the car that I wished I’d photographed. In New Jersey, a helium filled balloon shaped and designed as a playful red monkey drifted about unattended in a suburban driveway. It was bounding around a BMW sedan as I swooshed by, looking like it was about to jack the car. Then heading back into the city on the upper roadway of the GW (George Washington Bridge), the views to the right and left, up and down the Hudson River, were majestic accounts of how urbanity can sometimes be as striking as nature. The bridge itself is extremely photogenic; all bridges are actually. In Queens, I parked on the dead end street where the Sculpture Center is located, and where a new glass-and-steel condo building just finished being built. At the end of this street was a concrete wall with some new graffiti on it: “MSG” with a girl’s ice grill to punctuate. Nothing very special, except that it was freshly painted and colorful, and filled with a psychic charge that it may get painted over and eliminated in days. I wanted to photograph it all, but didn’t have a camera.

I found some old photographs recently as I was moving out of my office at Exit Art–prints from a film camera taken on a trip to Berlin in 2007. Flipping through them, I remembered that I wanted to photograph the most quintissentially banal scenes I could notice. And so there’s a blurry photo of my friend Daragh Reeves’ hand holding his busted cell phone, one of a blue and orange recycling bin at the Berlin airport and above it a red water hose hung on a concrete pillar, a shot of some lounging, newspaper-reading or staring-into-space travelers, and so on. Also in the stack but from New York is a photo from an art opening. Four guys, me included, and I remember giving the order to “look hard” before the picture-taker snapped it. It’s pretty thugged out and I can imagine that in 20 years or something, we’ll have a laugh and get all nostalgic looking at it.

I don’t take photographs anymore, but I think in pictures. I wish I could find my Rollei point-and -shoot because digital photography lacks texture, unpredictability and permanence. But maybe what the digital camera has taught us is that we’re all cameras. Our bodies dematerialize the world into memories of images. And therefore, photography doesn’t have to be bounded by consumer electronic devices or smart phones. It can be a purely mental process, like meditation, and can manifest in different ways. For now I’m going to think of writing as a form of photography.


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