I really love text. I love it because I love words and stories and poetry. I love big ideas concisely and precisely evoked through the choice of exactly the right images, the right words. But I also love text visually. I love typography and the extension of typography into art, from advertising design to graffiti.
One of my favourite features of la Sagrada Familia is the set of doors you pass through as you enter the church. They are metal doors, hand-carved in Catalan with the story of Christ (at least, I think that is the story, as I don’t read Catalan), the words a perfectly imperfect texture both bold and modern, and artisanally human at the same time.
It’s hard to live in Barcelona without falling, at least a little, for the architect, Antoni Gaudí. The first time I saw la Sagrada Familia, it didn’t have a roof. The center of the nave was filled with scaffolding that rose and rose and became its own sort of ceiling, from which showers of sparks rained down as the workers hammered and filed and cut and constructed. The floor was littered with pieces of mosaic that were tagged and waiting to be assembled somewhere in the arches above.
Three years later, I had the chance to visit again. Though it is still under construction, the interior is enclosed and, I think, mostly complete.
Gaudi’s vision is astounding and beautiful. There are few interior spaces so large, so filled with the soft brilliance of natural light. Spaces so open to whatever you hold sacred.
This is how we go. To move in Yokohama is to go over or under; it is a city of overpasses and underpasses, of foot bridges and elevated highways and subway trains. Much of the city is built of land reclaimed from the sea, seamed together with waterways and canals under a network of pathways held up in the air by riveted pillars and boxy beams, a strangely graceful curvature of concrete and metal woven into a future as it was imagined in the industrial age.
New York City remains elusive to me. It has such a distinct presence, such palpable character and yet I find it an extremely difficult city to photograph. It feels as though the scale of it is too big for my camera, like wherever I point the lens, whatever doesn’t quite fit in the frame is so integrally part of the picture, that the photograph I take ends up feeling diminutive, reductive, trivial. One needs either to zoom out and grapple with the full scale of Gotham or to zoom in HONY style, on the faces that make the city’s enormity irrelevant, or perhaps, in a kind of geographical inversion, put it into context. My respect for NYC photographers has grown immensely since I first tried to shoot the city.
I was in New York again this summer, in the midst of my experiments with overexposure, when I came out of the MoMA and took this photograph on West 54th. It offers some interesting possibilities, I think. Some details to focus on, the potential of story in the movement, and maybe a glimpse of scale that implies the bigger picture but doesn’t overwhelm? I’m not certain what I think yet, but it might be worth more exploration. What do you think?
And so begins another school year; from out of the seasonal interstice, a blur of bright yellow school-bags like jet-packs when standing, then beating wings in motion, and the momentary repetition of stamps of white socks in Mary-Jane’s thumping along from the train platforms to school rooms.
We were in Bangkok for a week recently and I intentionally left my camera at home. Sometimes when I am creating photographs, looking for them, planning them, waiting for the moment to develop, I am simultaneously plugged in to where I am and oblivious at the same time. On this trip, I wanted to practice being present, without preservation, noticing and letting the moments bloom and pass, small bright treasures as delicate in the memory as shooting stars, drifting afterward into that dreamy space between remembering and wondering whether they really happened at all.
This is a photograph I took a couple of years ago. Living in Southeast Asia, one becomes accustomed to the sight of orange-clad monks. In Thailand, boys who become monks for three months guarantee their mothers’ places in heaven. And yet, as common as it is, the glimpsed brilliance of that orange is always so striking, humility boldly announced, a visual catharsis of the Bangkok heat you swim through, a flame flickering in the crowd of traversing bodies, the one true thing you almost caught in the corner of your eye that leaves you head-turned and searching.
One more bicycle before summer ends. I took this one a couple of years ago, meant to post it and never quite got around to it. It encapsulates something quintessentially Japan for me. It’s not a place of big supermarkets and concrete-block malls—there are big supermarkets, don’t get me wrong, but there is still very much a culture of locally owned shops and services. Instead of pulling the family SUV into the superstore lot, for the most part in Japan, you can pedal a bike to the bakery or the or the fruit seller and buy what you need put it in the handlebar basket and pedal home.
In spite of the surrounding metropolis, it seems to keep life on a livable scale.
This is a season of bicycles. Partly it’s about the weather, and partly it’s about vacations and people having time to ride. A friend has been posting photographs from his mountain biking trip in Switzerland, with trails only a few inches wide in valleys of mountains that go on and on. The Tour de France is riding through the mountains, and apparently, for the first time, there will be a Tour de Banff in the Canadian Rockies. Yesterday families of cyclists rolled along the riverside. The five-year olds push pedal-less bikes to learn the balance of two-wheeled bliss.
Much has been made of the bicycles in Beijing. Nine million of them, the songs say. Bicycles that do not wait for seasons or free time or sunny weather. Bicycles of utility. Bicycles of necessity. Bicycles of shortening the shortest distance between points A and B.
I wonder if there’s a song about the number of cars in Beijing. I expect they are equally numerous, though not nearly as romantic.