Saturday, September 30, 2006

Midtown East, June 2006

This limestone retaining wall supports the foundation of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, on E. 42nd Street. I liked the colorful patina.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Rose Hill, February/July 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

Sunnyside, Queens, July 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

East Village, Sept. 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.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fashion District, Sept. 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.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Upper West Side, July 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

E. 26th Street, July 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

NoLIta, July 2006

A wall on Spring Street near Mulberry, in an area that has come to be known as NoLIta, for "North of Little Italy." The graffiti in the lower right appears to repeat "regs" three times; maybe it's someone's tag.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

LaGuardia Airport, Queens, May 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

Park Avenue South, May/Sept. 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

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Sept. 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

Chelsea, July 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

Upper East Side, August 2006

The Upper East Side is a great neighborhood, but it's generally not considered very "groovy." Guess this person's trying to change that! This sticker was on a trash bin on 74th Street, or thereabouts, near Second Avenue.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

East Village, August 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

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, June 2006

This is the door to a place called Tiki on Wyckoff Street. For some reason, I thought it was a bar - instead, it's a design studio for children's clothing.

Monday, September 11, 2006

East Village, Sept. 2006

A memorial to the World Trade Center, located behind a coffee shop on Avenue A, near Tompkins Square Park.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Zimbabwe, August 2006

One last Africa photo. Tomorrow we'll get back to New York City.

I really liked this photo of a blossom that fell in the driveway of the lodge where I stayed in Victoria Falls. But even as I took it, I was aware that I'd done it before.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Zimbabwe, August 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

Zimbabwe, August 2006

My Africa trip included a brief stay in Zimbabwe, where I went to see Victoria Falls. I was walking with my friend Liz one morning when she spotted this terrific shadow, thrown by a frangipani tree on a hotel's garden wall.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Botswana, August 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 giraffe...

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

Botswana, August 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.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Greenwich Village, June 2006

I can't quite remember where this was - somewhere near Grove Street, I think. I liked the flowers on the windowsill contrasting with the floral motif of the building's ornamentation.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

E. 28th Street, July 2006

In the middle of summer, a hint of fall outside The Ascot apartment tower.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Eighth Avenue, June 2006

Sometimes the sun on the city's glass skyscrapers creates a huge disco ball effect.