Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
Here's something you don't see every day - a graffiti portrait! This is on E. 27th Street, just west of Lexington Avenue. It looks like the artist used a single continuous line, more or less.
I think the same artist is responsible for this...
...which used to be on a wall right next door to the first painting. At first I thought this was a group of miniature portraits or maybe even space aliens, my favorite graffiti subject - but after looking more closely, I believe it's a single, highly abstract face. (It has since been painted over.)
And then there's this...
...on E. 31st Street, a few blocks away, between Park and Madison avenues. Definitely the same style, and also a face.
By the way, this area of the East 20s and lower 30s is sort of a "gray zone" on the map of Manhattan, sandwiched between Gramercy Park and Murray Hill. My AIA guide calls it "Rose Hill," while acknowledging that it's "a precinct seeking a name." So for the purposes of today's post, I'm following the AIA's lead.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
I was taking a walk on Skillman Avenue with my friends Dan and Rob when we came across an apartment building with a very dramatic doorway. The black-and-gold ceramic tile was impressive enough, as you can see above. But to get the full effect, you really need to see the whole door...
Pretty fabulous, huh? Don't you expect Norma Desmond to step out at any moment, ready for her close-up?
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
When I passed the handball courts at Tompkins Square Park and saw this wall, I had to get a picture. A woman was entering the court just ahead of me, preparing to play. Fortunately she was cool with waiting a minute or two until I got the shot.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Monday, September 25, 2006
These stickers have been plastered all over New York for many months, and no one seems to know what BNE means. (Except, presumably, the person(s) who did the plastering.) When I first started seeing them, I assumed it was an Asian political party or revolutionary movement.
But according to an article in The New York Times, the Japanese lettering means "visit" or "come to," which seems to suggest some kind of promotion. The stickers have shown up in Tokyo and in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsome has famously offered a bounty of $2,500 for the perpetrator's arrest. (It's kind of amusing that folks in San Francisco flipped out while in New York no one batted an eye.)
The Internet, meanwhile, is awash in speculation about the meaning of BNE. I've seen suggestions ranging from "Breaking and Entering" to "Be Nice to Everyone."
I think it will turn out to be some kind of Web site or technology venture, and I think there's obviously more than one person behind it. This particular sticker was at Ninth Avenue and 38th Street, but they really are all over Manhattan.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Saturday, September 23, 2006
The apartment buildings on West End Avenue are mostly big, blocky pre-war structures. This particular wall was near 100th Street.
I find West End Avenue and Riverside Drive incredibly hard to photograph. Although the buildings are nice, even elegant, most of the ornamentation is up near the roofline. At sidewalk level, they're sort of blank.
Friday, September 22, 2006
I like the opposing diagonal lines of the shadow and the stairway railing. Unfortunately, this fence with its spear-tip points has recently been replaced by one that's very plain.
My AIA guide says this building was originally called the "I Love You Kathy" apartments.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
This is actually one of my favorite buildings - the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia. The AIA Guide calls it a "fantastic Art Deco extravaganza," designed by Delano & Aldrich and built in 1939-40 to serve flying boats like the famous Yankee Clipper. Today it serves shuttle flights to Boston and Washington, D.C. You gotta love the flying fish circling the roofline.
This photo brings up an interesting question. The fish are a bit blown out on the left, but I've had a longstanding aversion to correcting or "Photoshopping" my pictures. I've grown comfortable with the idea of nudging up contrast one notch, but that's about all I ever do. I guess I want people to see what IS, not what I think ideally should be. But then, is my camera accurately recording what IS? Is a tweaked photo any less real than one that's left alone?
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Three mail transfer boxes on the west side of Park Avenue, just north of 28th Street, have been given faces. They seem to be saying, "We are not amused." But I was.
They all look basically the same, but since I have photos of all three, I'll post them - just to keep the family together. I took the top one in May, and the bottom two last week.
As I took these, two young Japanese women looked to see what I was photographing. They immediately laughed and got out their own camera, and draped themselves over one of these boxes while I took the picture. "They're so cute!" one of the women said.
The new "Hello Kitty" - you saw it here first.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Yesterday I went on a "graffiti walking tour" in Brooklyn, and this was one of the sights we saw. I'm not sure what it means, but I thought it was pretty funny.
The tour was associated with the Conflux Festival and hosted by Jake Dobkin of Streetsy, BlueJake and Gothamist. Armed with a megaphone, Jake and a couple of other guys led our mob on a loop around Williamsburg and pointed out the work of some of the most prominent street artists and taggers.
Several times we wound up standing before walls like this one. I learned some new graffiti terminology, such as "fills" (the graffiti with the big, filled-in lettering) and "buffing" (erasing or altering someone else's work). We also talked about graffiti methods, from paint rollers to acid etching to, god forbid, paint-filled fire extinguishers.
We headed down to the Brooklyn waterfront, which is graffiti heaven, and made our way to the shore of the East River. There, we had an excellent view of Manhattan, as well as of walls like this:
All in all, it was an excellent tour. I learned a lot and took about a bazillion photos, which will no doubt slowly surface here over the next many months. Thanks to Jake and Conflux!
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Every time I pass this niche on West 24th Street, near Sixth Avenue, I find something different. Sometimes it's inhabited by trash cans; sometimes it's empty. On this particular day, a shopping cart was living there.
If you haven't seen Julian Montague's "Stray Shopping Cart Project," check out this site. Montague has developed an extensive library of shopping cart photos, and a complex, entertaining classification system for determining each cart's place in the world.
According to his system, the cart above seems to be a B/1 “open true,” as well as a B/18 “refuse receptacle” and possibly a B/15 “gap marginalization.” But it could also be a B/4 “as personal property,” if it belongs to a homeless person, as well as an A/9 “remote false,” if it was eventually reclaimed by the store of origin.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Someone's been sticking googly eyes onto standpipes along Broadway near Houston Street, turning them into surprised-looking creatures.
And some standpipes already look like they come with a pair of eyes, like this one (below) on Second Avenue...
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Saturday, September 9, 2006
The Victoria Falls Hotel is an elegant colonial-era structure where palms cast feathery shadows on the courtyard walls. You half expect Robert Redford and Meryl Streep to come strolling through the lobby, with all its Rhodesian memorabilia.
It wasn't until I got home that I realized there's a fly in this photo!
Friday, September 8, 2006
Thursday, September 7, 2006
I went to Botswana to see wildlife, and I wasn't disappointed. These elephants meandered past our truck in one of the national parks. They followed a pathway to a watering hole, where they were joined by a family of warthogs.
We also saw lions snoozing in the grass beneath a tree in the Moremi nature preserve...
and we found zebra...
and blue wildebeest, which certainly do look like wild beasts...
And that was just the beginning. We also saw hippos, wild dogs, jackals, buffalo, and a wide variety of antelopes including impala, kudu, tsessebe, red lechwe, sable antelope and roan antelope. And incredible, colorful birds.
One of the limitations of my camera is that, being a simple point-and-shoot, it tends to make objects seem farther away than they really are. In most of these cases, the animals were just a few meters from me. So unfortunately, I couldn't do any close-up animal shots - I have to rely on my friend Liz, with her elaborate camera and zoom lenses, for those.
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
How's this for a change of pace? Apologies to those who read my blog purely for its New York-centric focus, because for the next couple of days, we're taking a detour to Africa.
I've spent the last three weeks in southern Africa, mostly camping in Botswana. I took these shots on my third night in the country, when I was with my tour group in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans - vast flat expanses where animals and birds roam. We saw wandering ostrich and springbok and slept out under a spectacular array of stars.
I was fascinated by this small tree at our campsite. It was literally the only one for miles around. What made it grow there?
I took all these shots in this order within about 20 minutes; it amazed me how much the light varied within so short a period.