Sunday, April 6, 2014

Two Servings of The Big Apple


My past two weekends in New York City were amazing, to say the least. The weekend before this was my first visit to the Big Apple and all I can say is, wow. The energy in the city is incredible. Even on a rainy Saturday.

I spent the weekend with my friends, Syd, who is also my mentor in the world of photography, and her partner Jay, who is what I would call an LGBTQI community elder. Jay was at Stonewall when riots started. The weekend was filled with lots of stories about our community history in and around NYC and, of course, lots of talk about photography and the business of it.

I arrived Friday afternoon very excited yet tired from the 5 hour drive from North Shore Massachusetts. Syd and I spent the evening talking about photography, making (well, I mostly happily consumed) good food and playing with their cats. Since I was pretty tired from the drive and it was pretty cold outside, we decided to change our plans and go out to the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday night. I was very sure that I really just wanted to enjoy the time with Syd and Jay and not fill the weekend too full to the point of overwhelm so we made tentative plans and just played it by ear. There were two things I really wanted to do that weekend and that was to go to Stonewall and to feel my camera in my hand again.

It felt so good to have the camera in my hand again. As good as taking a really deep, cleansing breath. It reminded me how much I need to do this every day.

On Saturday we roamed around downtown in the rain doing our best to protect our cameras with plastic bags and rubber bands, which made it hard to shoot but I was still happy to be shooting. After walking the High Line we ventured into the Steven Kasher Gallery where Jerome Leibling's collection “Matter ofLife and Death” was exhibiting. If you ever have a change to see a photographic exhibit, I highly recommend that you go. Seeing the images in print has such a huge impact. Much more so than seeing them digitally online. 

In front of The Stonewall Inn. Photo by Syd London.

After the gallery we made our way to The Stonewall Inn. Seeing it for the first time, there right in front of me, was surreal. I had read so much about what happened and saw photographs of the place both then and now, but I think that in my mind it was always this mystical place that only existed in our history. I was in awe, to be perfectly honest. So much history, so much courage, so much strength all happened right there in that place. I stood there thanking those who fought before me so that I could walk freely in this world and be my authentic self. It was truly an amazing experience.

Working in the studio
Since Syd and I had been walking around in the rain most of the day, we both decided it would be much better to head back to her apartment in Brooklyn to dry out and warm up so I still have the Brooklyn Bridge on my list of things to see. It gives me yet another reason to return for a visit. After warming up and getting some food in our bellies, I spent the evening getting some much needed alone time with my camera in Syd's studio working on a personal project. 

On Sunday I asked Syd to come with me on a project shoot I had arranged with a participant that lives in the Upper East Side of NYC. The participant had made arrangements for us to go up on her building's roof top for the shoot and I was crazy excited about it. When we arrived the landlord had locked the roof top door so we did what any normal group of photographers would do. We snuck up to the roof top through the building next door! It was awesome and so fun. We were all giggling and whispering as we climbed the flights of stairs and were so happy when we reached the top to find the doors unlocked. We had a great time up there shooting and the weather was kind enough to hold out for us! 

Here is one of the shots from that roof top shoot:

Beautiful power.
By the way, the woman who I photographed on the roof top is also working on a photo project titled Leather Women. It's a beautiful project. You should check it out.

She also photographed me while we were up there.  I love the way the photograph turned out. It makes me feel strong and powerful. Almost as if I'm about to take on the Big Apple. 

Photo by Carmelle La Sirena.
After the shoot, Syd took me to see Grand Central Station, which was....wow. Incredibly grand. There is so much beauty in the architecture. I fell in love with all of the old buildings in NYC. 


Yesterday I was lucky enough to return to the Big Apple. This time with my sister and her partner. They took me to see my first Broadway play and they couldn't have picked a better play for my first experience. It was Cyndi Lauper's KinkyBoots. If you get the opportunity to see this production, GO SEE THIS PRODUCTION! It is awesome! We had such a blast!

Afterwards we walked through Times Square then stopped in a Celtic pub for a Guinness and some food before heading back to Grand Central Station to catch the train back to Connecticut. It was such a great day full of laughter and great conversations.

I am so grateful to have had these experiences. At one point during my visit with Syd and Jay I remember stepping out of the shower and standing there in their bathroom for a moment thinking, “Who would have ever thought that I would be standing in a bathroom in a Brooklyn apartment where my friends live. In Brooklyn. New York.” Then yesterday, as I sat down in the theater, I thought the same sort of thing. It was so surreal. I've read about and seen so many photographs of people visiting this city and doing the things that I was doing but never in my life did I think that person would ever be me.

When I stop to take an assessment of my life and what I've done in the last year, it's almost like I'm seeing someone else's life. It's so hard for me to believe all that has happened in the past year. I am humbled by it all. Humbled and so very grateful.

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