I cannot read a map, so ever since my parents were no longer leading my excursions I have hit up gas stations to tell me where to go.
Maps are impossible, Mapquest imperfect, pedestrians misleading, but gas station attendants are spot on with directions. In fact they do more than give you the most straightforward run down of lefts, rights, straights and street names; they give you a little taste for the area’s flavor. Maybe, in order to clarify directions, the attendant will reference some monument or billboard, a piece of the landscape that would have otherwise gone unnoticed had Mapquest been the guide. Or perhaps their voice will be the first you’ve heard of the local accent and their manner different from what you know.
The station can also give you an impression of the area. In Massachusetts, at least, people must really be into truffles because they are always sitting there for you to grab when checking out.
Although I’m limited to traveling in areas where the gas stations are plentiful, at least I can take a little more away from a place than I would have by using a map.
I wanted to pay homage to the gas clerks and the experience that allows me to find my way.
For this project I choose to emulate Bob Dylan. Dylan once said about his lyrics, “I have nothing to say about these things I write, I mean just write them. I’m not gonna say anything them, I don’t write them for any reason, there’s no great message.” Though Dylan’s music seems to try to convey a message, there is often no meaning behind his poetry, he simply constructs language and gives it to his audience to do with what they will. I tried to do the same with images, constructing them very intentionally without having any message I was trying to convey behind them.
I wanted to use this project to discuss the different primary agents that play a role in determining persona. The middle collage represents societies/ our role in stereotyping who someone is. Rather then trying to say that we judge blindly I was thinking about how we perceive the way someone presents him or herself to the surrounding environment. The panel to the left is meant to separate the notion that the individual has her own power regarding how she is perceived. The last panel refers to my own agency as the photographer to manipulate the situation and mediate the way society determines the subject’s persona. My intent is not to suggest that anyone agent has more power over the situation then any other but just to reference the various ways different parties interact in the formation of an individuals’ persona.
Most of the people I have met from New York have a connection to their hometown that takes on a different flavor than the way non-New Yorkers understand home. While there are a few people I know who aren’t completely keen on “The City,” many natives build up New York to almost paradise status, always comparing other cities to their utopia of a home.
For this project I examined two different ways to understand New York.
The first perspective I examined, addressed by the top six photos, is that of my Grandpa. My Grandpa, who has lived in the apartment on the corner of East 3rd and Avenue A from which I shot since 1963, spends much of his time alternating between looking out his bedroom window and his kitchen window staring at the street life. I would always pity my Grandpa when I saw him doing so, figuring he was resigned to the activity because his old age limited him from doing other more exciting activities. But, when I sat in my Grandpa’s seat with my camera, I understood the pleasure of simply enjoying the street life and characters of New York, especially when I saw one of my 14 year old campers walk past, my Dad coming back from a walk, and a man walk by in an aluminum suit. For my Grandpa, New York and the ability to watch the street life is a perfect match and I doubt he could love living anywhere else so much.
The second perspective views New York in the way it is consumed and presented commercially. The bottom three images were all taken outside of Macys on 5th Ave on Black Friday this year. This is one the Utopian image of New York I find being presented in popular culture.
I choose to combine these two perspectives to juxtapose a more personal Utopia and a commercialized Utopia.