Construction Deconstructed, New York City
My fascination with construction began as a child when I first started learning how to build. Growing up in a family filled with carpenters and tradesmen, I became both familiar and comfortable with being and working on construction sites from a very young age. Each project has the power to completely change the way an area looks and feels, sometimes many times over, during an extended period of time. Throughout the past few years construction sites, with their workspaces, covered walkways, and protective barriers, have become more and more common in many neighborhoods across New York City.
A historic increase in New York City's new building permits in 2015 and 2016, particularly in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, has created a recent boom in the city that has not been seen since the early 1960's. The sudden urgently in the past few years to start breaking ground is partially due to a 421 tax abatement program, that was designed to expire on June 15th 2016. Under this program, in exchange for providing some affordable housing and completing each project by 2019, owners could potentially waive property taxes on these properties for periods of 15-25 years.
All this new construction combined with ongoing repairs from hurricane Sandy, existing projects, and recent infrastructure upgrades including bridges, roads, and water pipes, has turned NYC into one large construction site.
Finding and Losing My Father
When I was very young my parents separated. A few years later my father moved to New Brunswick, one of Canada’s Atlantic maritime provinces, to live closer to his mother and family. Directly northeast of Maine, the region is sparsely populated. The town of Connors, where my father settled, is near the border between Canada and the U.S., very close to where he was born.
After my father left, I continued to live in suburban Long Island, New York with my mother. Every year after school my mother drove me up to Maine to spend the summer with my maternal grandparents. My grandparents would take me across the border to visit my father, or he would come to see me at their place. I always had a summer job in Maine, so my time with him amounted to no more than a few days or weeks. That limited time once a year was not enough for me to feel as if I really knew my father, and they ended once I graduated from high school.
In the summer of 2008 I visited my father for the first time in years. He didn’t look well. A lifelong addiction to cigarettes seemed to have caught up with him. By the folloing winter, I had lost my job in New York City and was unable to keep my apartment in Brooklyn, so I decided to move in with my father. It seemed a good opportunity to spend some time with him, and I might not have another chance.
There was always a lot to do around my father’s property during the warmer months. In summer he preferred to be out boating, fishing, and generally enjoying the countryside. A few months after I arrived, I learned that winter in those parts was altogether different—longer and more brutal than anything I had ever experienced. My father lived indoors, spending much of his time cooking soup, watching TV, or gazing at the landscape outside his house.
Coming from New York City, I found the pace of his life to be mercilessly slow. I also realized that despite my father’s nearness to the homes of friends and family, in winter he lived a life of solitude and loneliness. And along with discovering the traits I shared with my father, or didn’t, I came to the realization that my own life—even in busy New York City, with all my friends and family—was solitary and lonely in its own way. In my case, though, the solitude and loneliness were not external. They were deep inside me.
After four months of living with my father and another four months with an uncle in Val-Des-Montes, Quebec I headed back to Brooklyn. For the next five years, until my father passed away, I visited him many times. I logged over 30,000 miles on the road. The trips reminded me of driving with my mother to Maine when I was young, always an important part of seeing my father, with many of the same stops and familiar landmarks along the way. Perhaps in an impulse to capture the significance of this experience for me, I began to make photographs along the way. I also took pictures at my father’s place, and of its rural environs.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
This is a collection of photographs inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, its architecture, ambience and interior spaces. Working for the museum for three years had been an enlightening experience, drawing me closer to art, architecture, history, and religion. It has also afforded me the opportunity to photograph while the building is closed to the public and late into the night.
One of the many influences for this work is a children’s book called, “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler” by E. L. Konigsburg. It is a story that centers around two children exploring and secretly living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In many ways the Met has become my own personal playground and a home. Though, unlike the characters in the book, I have control of the gallery lighting and never have to run from the guards.
In these deliberately soft-focused portraits of the museum, I am simultaneously highlighting and unraveling the structural relationship between different art pieces, objects and their environments. Using a pinhole camera and alternative processes allows for certain qualities I couldn’t achieve any other way; such as color aberrations and lens distortions. Through these vignettes and skewed proportions, I have idealized the space by finding a balance between the claustrophobic, opulent and intimate.