1/400th at F9, ISO 400 (51mm).
For those of you that don't know him, Chico is an incredible East Village street graffiti artist. His murals are everywhere and they have this uncanny ability to express the culture, community, and beauty of the neighborhood. It makes me happy to see how one person's art can add so much to the fabric of a neighborhood.
Anyway, I wanted to create a Chico within a Chico, so to speak. For those of you that care, this is a composite of a couple shots occurring within about a minute. The people were all in a scene together and the birds in the middle and top right were in another shot.
1/500th at F7.1, ISO 1600 (28mm).
Sometimes if I want to capture a person but have to be obvious about it, I'll walk up to them, take the photo quickly before they notice, and then ask if I can take their photo. The original shot is usually the one I prefer, but this time I'm not so sure.
He pulled up his sleeves and said, "You know my watch is three times your age."
1/80 at F2.8, ISO 3200 (24mm).
Here's a cut down version of this week's Out and About interview, but I think this one needs to be read in its entirety.
If ever there's a testament for the virtues of the bodega and why we love them, I think it's all in this interview. This is why so many people in the neighborhood are fighting to keep the corporate 7-11s from taking over the bodega business.
"I’ve lived in the neighborhood for four years and on 7th and D for three years. I’m from Rhode Island and I came here to go to the New School. I’m studying anthropology and I graduate in May. I’m actually writing my thesis about the ethnography of Zaragoza. It’s about family business.
Zaragoza is owned by the Martinez family. It’s the mom, Maria, the dad, Pompeo, and their son Reuben. Maria does all of the cooking at the restaurant and Pompeo is always here. They make all of the food at the family restaurant in Coney Island and bring it in every day. They’re the hardest working people that I’ve ever met in my life. We stay open late on the weekends and Reuben will tell his parents to go home and relax, and they’re like, “No, what are we going to do at home? Let’s just hang out here, it’s way better.” They stay all night.
I’ve been working here for three years... I started working here because I really needed a job. I used to come in here a lot and I was working at an American Apparel. That was the worst thing ever, so I had to quit that job immediately. I thought it would be great if I could just work here and then they hired me because they were planning to go to Mexico and they needed some extra help. Then it just stuck.
The thing that’s great about this place is that, since it’s a family business, they really appreciate their customers and they feel loyal to them. In this neighborhood there are a lot of small businesses, but you don’t get that everywhere. This place is very special. If I have the sniffles or a cold they give me medicine and say, “Katie do this and this.”
Also, they think rubbing alcohol is definitely going to fix any ailment that I may have. It’s rubbing alcohol and all of their cold medicines that I have no idea what they are. They take care of me. They’re like my parents here. They’re like, “Yeah we’ll adopt you.” We’ve went to soccer games and we go out to eat and all sorts of family stuff.
I always get the same questions. New people who just come in ... “Oh, how long have you worked here? Do you speak Spanish? How did you get this job? And do you live in this neighborhood?” Those are the four questions. As soon as someone new tries to talk to me, I’m like, “I know exactly what you’re going to say and I might as well just give you the answers right now.”
There are some people who seem to have some animosity toward me, like oh god she’s gentrifying this bodega. Maybe that’s true and they weren’t looking to hire some random white girl. I just kind of forced them too. And now that I’ve been here for so long, if anything, I’ve adapted to them. It’s very strange and random that I work here. For example, I’ll do deliveries and people get very uncomfortable. The last thing they expect is a little girl to show up. I show up and they’re fumbling to give me more money and I’m like you don’t have to tip me any more. I haven’t seen anyone open the door without pants yet though.
We get good reviews on Yelp. I read the Yelp reviews because I’m interested to know what people think about us and the last review that I read that mentioned me was like, “Yeah, there’s some weird white girl with a nose ring. I wonder what her deal is?”
1/500th at F7.1, ISO 1600 (28mm).
This is the stoop of Jay Maisel's studio on the Bowery. He owns and lives in a 72 room, 35,000 square foot former bank building, that he bought in the 60's when nobody wanted to go near the Bowery. I'll do a post about it one of these days as it's my favorite building in the city, but he told me that he's woken up to every type of bodily fluid possible on his front doorstep over the years.
Here's a good link to read about the studio in the meantime.
1/320th at F5, ISO 800 (28mm).
"Like a lot of us, I was doing a lot of drugs. I was experimenting. I started young. When I was 12, I started drinking and smoking weed and stuff like that. Then I started smoking angel dust and eventually that turned into heroin. And then I started shooting dope and everything blew up.
When I started getting high, that was when I started living on the street. Doing the needle exchange. Things really got bad when I was in my late 20s and into my 30s. That’s when I started living in the squats or anywhere I could find. I went to Brooklyn a lot to squat. I did tent city. It was just a bunch of tents. I lived in the band shell in Tompkins Square Park. I lived anywhere I could find where people wouldn’t bother you. Everybody looked out for each other. There would always be people to look out for you. There were always predators around too but I knew enough people to kind of escape that kind of thing. It was kind of cool. It was bad but it was also great. I still have my friends from there to this day.
Then I went to Rikers Island and that was terrible. I went into rehab for a year and a half. I have nothing to hide. I’ve done it and I’ve been [off drugs] for maybe 14 years.
I still dominatrix. I retired briefly, but that didn’t last long because I needed the money. I started in the strip clubs and I didn’t like that because I felt like I was being objectified, so now I tell people what the fuck to do. That’s fun. I’m the boss. And I don’t do anything that I don’t want to do. I don’t do anything out of my boundaries."
1/320th at F13, ISO 800 (28mm).
I was reading recently about the sex-and-the-city-afication of the city recently. I have no idea where I read it, but it talked about how all the young kids who grew up with Sex and the City and Friends grew up with dreams of moving to New York and living similar, glamorous lifestyles. You can see the effect now everywhere.
Brunch is a thing where we live, especially in Spring and there's no place with longer lines than this place Prune. There will not be a better people watching experience than these coming up weekends in the East Village.
Anyway, my version of brunch is Odessa Diner with a greasy bacon, egg and cheese and too much crappy coffee. And of course some people watching.