Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Cloisters

I have had the view camera on my mind. How can I take street pictures that are worth my while with this heavy camera and its equally heavy tripod. I thought I would go out with the digital camera and scout possible photo ideas. I went to Tribeca in the evening, big mistake. Everything is so freshly renovated and clean, the wealthy wander through the neighborhood pushing their young heirs in luxury strollers. It was all so boring. I found some fun construction plywood with those mysterious symbols painted on to show where the gas lines are, and other things. But I was feeling discouraged. Maybe the inspiration for view camera pictures comes on one its own.

It is frustrating to have so much time because it is the summer and to have so few ideas of what to do with it. Every project I am working on seems to have some obstacle. As my beloved has suggested, perhaps I should be happy just having several projects at all, obstacles or not. But I was restless. Recently, I have been reading murder mysteries set in the Tang dynasty in China.
The detective meets a Taoist monk in one story, who says that only an empty gourd is useful and it helps the detective solve the mystery because he empties his mind. Inspired, I decided that I too needed to empty my mind. So I went to the Cloisters.

I have had so many different experiences at the Cloisters; the horrible realization of the Unicorn Tapestry's violence springs to mind. The grim medieval sculptures surge up. Coming back from years in France, I remember my disdain at the cobbled together nature of the space. However, there are the gardens. Once I was in the gardens when the peonies were blooming. It was so beautiful. I could just avoid all the dark galleries with representations of the

It was getting hot out when I arrived at the 181st street station in the company of a small group of tourists. They set off down hill with determination. I remembered going up hill to get to the Cloisters so I wandered into Fort Tyron Park.

Under the bright noonday sun, the heather garden looked as if it were in the South of France. There was even a little lavender growing. The park is on the cliffs hanging over the Henry Hudson Parkway. The peaceful stillness of the heather garden was broken by the distant growl of cars. From there I could see that the Cloisters was indeed down hill from me. The tourists were right!

There is no avoiding the fact that the Cloisters are laid out strangely and I couldn't find any maps. So I would wander around dark halls surrounded by groups of children on summer camp trips. The city belongs to the children on the summer afternoons. They ride in the subways in large groups dressed in the colored t-shirt of their day camps. Some shits are red, others yellow, the color coding makes it easier for the councilors to track everyone. There were also tour guides leading other groups around. It was very busy and then one of the hallways led to this.

It was all about emptiness here. The fountain in the middle made a gentle sound. The arches of the arcade were intricately carved.

The gardens were behind some rather forbidding black doors that looked as if they led to an employee only area. Again, the tourists showed the way, swinging open the doors and striding through.

The Bonnefont garden has a happily overgrown look to it, the arches are carved from marble.

The capitals have some pretty bizarre cavings, a little bit like medieval horror movies.

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A second garden had two quince trees growing in the middle.

I loved the twisted tree trunk. There were all sorts of herbs including magic herbs. But I was particularly impressed with the fennel.

It was huge, towering over the visitors. I had no idea that fennel grew so high.

The third garden was also a cafe, so it wasn't as relaxing as the other gardens. I just can't get into my meditative state when people around me are wrestling with giant green wraps and munching on salads. But overall it was exactly what I needed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The view camera pictures worked out. I had seen this building on Third Avenue in Brooklyn and I found it intriguing. It is all alone, surrounded by empty lots. The jarring banners advertising demolitions really caught my eye.

I went out early, hoping the morning light would be nice and there wouldn't be too many people. Indeed, the only person around was a man with a shopping cart. He came up to chat and told me that his girlfriend had locked him out so he decided to earn some money collecting bottles. He was interested in the view camera and offered to find me cheap photo equipment. I thanked him and he moved on. Unfortunately the exchange was extremely distracting and I lost the first shot to underexposure. I am used to using the 4x5 camera in the studio where everything is calm and controlled. It is a little more difficult on the street, the camera is most unwieldy. I preferred coming in closer to the building.

I liked the idea of the long shot with the banners, but I felt more of a sense of the building when I was closer. And then there was the attacking army.

I would love to do more work with the view camera. The images are so detailed, they would look great printed large. But it takes some planning. I can't just go for a stroll looking for things to shoot.

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Frog Blogging

Things are still a little slow. I did some photos with my view camera last weekend but I will not know if it worked out until Friday. Meanwhile, I thought I would indulge myself in a little pet blogging. Traditionally, cats are the subject of this form of cuteness, and I have two cats who would make excellent subjects. But I think amphibians are sorely neglected when it comes to blogging.

Crogunk (named for a Pokemon) came into our home about a year ago at the end of school. I do not know what I was thinking when I said yes to adopting one of the frogs from Science class. Maybe I thought it would teach the young son responsibility. In fact, it just gave me another creature to care for. But Crogunk is a fine frog with a zen personality and very cute in its own way.

We are not sure if Crogunk is a boy or a girl. I say girl, because why not?
She isn't going to argue with me.

She often stares outside her tank, I wonder what she sees, what does she think of us, of the world on the other side of the plastic wall.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summer Daze

Things have been slow recently. I have been waiting for promised photos to continue my Wish You Were Here project. One of the parcours traceurs I have been working with hurt his knee. Over the weekend we were out in the country. The young son and his friend were playing on a trampoline.

But that is it. I have been waiting for some good light to photograph a really cool building, but it has been too hazy, or cloudy. It isn't the light I am waiting for. Hopefully I will have some new images in the next week. In the meantime, one more parcours picture to sum up my current feeling...

Just kind of hanging around.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Weeds Will Save the World

The New York Times had an article on Sunday about weeds in the warming climate. The beginning was mostly dire. The weed ecologist Lewis Ziska has discovered that CO2 gases cause weeds to grow more abundantly, and he ponders the costs to farmers and land managers. The he indulges in a little weed love.

Still, even as he contemplated this, Ziska says he couldn’t repress a certain admiration. He traces his interest in weeds to an epiphany during his undergraduate years at the University of California at Riverside: noticing a weed springing up through a crack in the Southern California pavement, he was suddenly struck with wonder at any organism that could flourish in such a hot, dry, hostile environment.

The article gets more cheerful as it goes on. Weeds are not actually invading, they are just filling in the spaces left by plants that don't do so well in a high CO2 environment with warmer temperatures. Weeds protect the soil and are the origins of may of our cultivated crops.

Reading the article, I was reminded of a playground nearby where weeds grew in the curving cracks on the asphalt, another forbidding environment.

I love the way nature always moves in curves and branches, especially when it does it on squares.

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There is moss sharing space with the weeds. I keep seeing moss on the street, it fades in the heat and springs back to life after a thunderstorm. There is a little pillow of moss near my house that has spread out over the crack in the sidewalk.

Everything is still green and fresh.

This puddle is reflecting the overhanging trees in the morning light.