NoHo, SoHo, Tribeca, NoLita - New Yorkers love their geographical acronyms - NoHo - north of Houston, SoHo - south of Houston, Tribeca - the triangle below Canal Street , NoLita - north of Little Italy...
Maybe it's because the rest of their city is boringly street-named (we were staying on the corner of 1st Avenue and 1st Street... I mean, come on! Think of something more original!) So the little streets and blocks develop personalities and identities that make living in this mad metropolis easier to handle - they even call parts of it a 'Village'.
So when our friend suggested we meet in 'Dumbo' it was no surprise.
"cool!" our other friends said, "everyone loves dumbo"
Luckily, everyone did love Dumbo - Down Under Manhatten Bridge Overpass.
Dumbo is the old warehouse district on the waterside of Brooklyn with views of the Manhatten skyscrapers and with the great arching bridges raising across the redeveloped waterside.
The Brooklyn and Manhatten bridges soar around you on both sides, carrying trains, cars and people into and out of central New York everyday. Like iron rainbows, these bridges span not only the East River but also the story of New
Yorks residents, the lives of all the people who travel back and forth every day, the hopes and dreams of young folk who come to the city to create new stories, to rise above where they started and maybe to return one day to their families and hometowns.
Down in Dumbo you are literally surrounded by the city - the Skyscrapers do actually scrape across the sky, the walls of the warehouses box you in, the Overpasses pass right over you and even the ground is scarred with old traintracks and cobblestones - yet down here you can also get a grasp on New York, evaluate its scale, feel the peoples' movement and reflect on its beauty.
We got there as the sun was doing its daily showpiece of setting, burning up the glass and concrete of Downtown, oozing its light down the avenues and alleyways. This was providing the antiquated members of a photography class an almost pornographic opportunity to indulge in their filters, lenses and tripods. Seventy or eighty seventy and eighty year olds were assembled, ready for the show.
We hung out on a grassy knoll, eating chocolate, taking photos of handstands and soaking
up the sunset.
On a flying 4 day visit, jet lag doesn't exist - it has no time to figure itself out - but weariness from late nights and city strolling does take it toll.
When I turned my camera on the huddled masses of camerafolk, a sixty year old lady saw me and turned her camera on me. Possibly I looked a good subject, possibly she was fighting back against the invasion of her privacy, but she was taking pictures of me, taking pictures of people, taking pictures of the sunset. Slightly embarrassed, I turned my lens back to the performance unfolding in the skies.
Young guys, Korean or Chinese, were trying to take sexy photos of their girlfriends against the backdrop of the city. The girls dressed in short skirts, full make up and whistfull looks, while their boyfriends worked around them, snapping away and getting frantically worked up, equipment bulging in their pockets.
The girls were loving posing, the guys were engrossed in their f-stops, yet the couples were trying to create the image of romance without actually being romantic. She had her make up, He had his camera, the photo would prove they were in
love, and it would be captured forever.
What could be more romantic?
By now, the old crowd were also getting worked up by the sun's teasing.
Wolf-whistles and little whoops and cheers jumped out of the group as the sexy sunset increased, and everyone was keen to pop their killer sunset shot before the whole thing was over. Ohhs and ahhs groaned out of the gloaming as they saw each others photographs and the sun carried on disrobing behind the screen of the city.
Theres always something weirdly sexual about photography. Even the word looks like 'pornography'. Its a two-way thing, not just the watcher, but the feeling of being watched, the attention, the feeling of 'now or never', the roles of 'who's on top', the fantasies being played out.
I know that that night, down in Dumbo, the Sun was loving her naughty show and all the attention she was getting from the crowd. She gave a little flourish as she turned and disappeared behind the concrete curtains, and all the snappers packed up their toys and tools and sheepishly, quietly, headed home, satisfied until next time.
Most photography seems to involve the desire
to re-create a famous image, to get 'the shot' - the classic sunset photo opportunity that the cameraman has lusted over on the pages of a holiday brochure, or a beautiful pose of a lady recreated month after month on magazine pages.
I got my standard holiday sunset photos too, but hopefully me and the sixty year old snapper went home with a couple of of shots of what some people were actually doing, what odd things humans get up to, was going on that evening, down in DUMBO...
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