Ground Zero


All of these images were made within a ten minute time span. I’ve never specifically made a trip to Ground Zero. I was just passing by. The sky was for me uncommon, but I live in Southern California so cloud cover is a rarity. Walking within a block of this place and you could feel a palpable sense of unease. There were lookers and onlookers and watchers and viewers, all trying to make peace with the place, the event, etc. I also noticed there were a few eyes on me, wondering eyes, which I see far more of these days, so I made myself quiet.

There was a majesty to the cranes operating and this place holds a sense of power. Perhaps it always did, but in another way. Everyone it seemed needed to catch a peak, to see a little more, even those you would least expect to climb a fence or peak through a hole.

About a half an hour ago I wrote something that I think does justice to this place, and before I could save it, my internet connect went out and I didn’t notice. So when I went to save the post, it was gone. Completely gone. Normally I can remember exactly what I wrote, but this stuff just came pouring out and I can’t remember a single line of it. Not a single line. Maybe it was my internal purge? I sat here and tried to reboot my brain but it just didn’t work. It was as if the thoughts I had put down were not even mine.

Looking back, what I find remarkable is the invisible wall surrounding this place. Sure there are screens, and gates, and fences, and barriers and warning signs, etc, but there is also an invisible line you cross when you even get close to this place. I’m not well versed in Manhattan at all. I’ve been there many times, but always for business and I come and go to the places I need and then depart. I’ve never really explored. Rounding a street corner, making my way back uptown I just felt something. I would imagine it is a combination of ingredients. The physical structure yes, but also the feelings of other people around me. You can feel their experience and their reaction. I honestly didn’t know where I was. And then suddenly I did.

Cashio Street. Los Angeles. Where I was that day. Three hours behind in the global clock, but just happened to turn on my television. “Hey honey, you should come take a look at this.” My first response was not the attack, the buildings coming down or the death toll. I found myself looking into the future, our collective future, and having a vision of a new world. I saw a chain of events. I saw armies and desolate places. Just brief flashes and blips, incoherent pulses trying to paint a picture.
When I return to New York I’m going to return to this place once again. I don’t know if I’ll shoot more images, but I just want to feel it again.

Long Lost Friend


Somewhere in the Sahara

The idea was to attend the Visa festival in France and then head south and go to Morocco. Amy and I, and another couple, a photographer and his wife. The other photographer had family in Morocco so our logistics were somewhat worked out for us. We had a plan, a vague one, and a map.

We landed in Casablanca then made our way north. The route took on the look of a 2,000 kilometer circle which just happened to be flat in parts. Fez, south through the mountains, into the desert, back through the gorges, through Marrakesh, on to Essaouira and then back to Casablanca.

A white Fiat Uno. No radio. No air conditioning. Lots of water.

Between us, French, Spanish, English and Japanese. And a pinch of Yiddish.

This trip took place in 2000, I know because I had a mini theme going which was Polaroids of my wife, one each day every day of the trip, and the last shot I made was her in the cockpit on the flight home from Casablanca to New York. I knocked on the door, pre-9/11, and asked the pilots if I could get a shot of her in between the two of them as they commanded the plane. “No problem, come on in!” In a blast of flash it was done. I look at it from time to time, and the others, as I made a huge book of the images after returning home. It’s tangible, tactile and homemade. I love it.

This trip was not a “shooting trip,” but rather a real vacation, but we all know what happens when photographers go on vacation. But even so, I only shot about eight or ten rolls of film the entire trip. I never made contact sheets. I just processed the film, made an edit and then moved on.

But recently, out of the blue, after ten years, my phone rang. My phone rang with an unknown number, which meant I didn’t answer it.

It was someone I had worked with prior to this Morocco trip, someone who I happened to run into IN Morocco as we were leaving the medina in Fez. He looked at the four of us and said, “Would you like to go somewhere you could normally never go?” We said, “Yes.”

He took us back into the medina and into a mosque where Islamic musicians were learning ancient scripts which are passed from generation to generation only through verbal means. We shot photos.

Well ten years after my friend called to see about using these images for a book cover and CD cover.

All you digital folks take notice, in less than one minute the images were in my hand. Yes, in less than one minute. I had good scans of all the images, but I made new ones just because I like scanning, and in the process of examining the negatives I found something. I found several things.

New images.

There were several but the one in this post is my favorite. This was shot with my Leica, which was the only camera I took with me on this trip. We had spent the night in the Sahara, lucked out with a full moon, and were milling around the next day, just out in the dunes.

I love this picture because of the light and because it is simple. I also like the fact I’ve caught a gesture. On the negatives it lives as one frame, which for me is how most of my good images are made. There is no motor sequence, no posing, no manipulation, just watching, waiting and pouncing when things are right.

Like I do with all my good images, I printed this thing. I made a digital print, 17×22, but on paper I’m not happy with, so next week I’ll enter the dark and make a silver print. I can’t wait to see how it reads in the dark. I can’t wait for the time alone so that my relationship with this image gets deeper. I might print three of these new images, 16×20 and frame them for the house, or maybe just keep them in the file for now. I just know I need to do it. I can feel it.

When I look at this image the entire scene comes rushing back. Ten years ago but it feels like a blink of the eye.