Wednesday, July 26, 2017


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL, April 14, 2017:  I am writing from my hotel room in Jersey City where an easy commute to lower Manhattan has made this hard-working town posh. From my window I can almost touch the World Trade Center. It is my third night here. My friend, Gary, and I spent the day exploring Bayonne and the two long fingers that reach into the center of New York Bay. I wondered what, if anything, remained of the bay in which Henry Hudson dropped anchor, or even of the shore frequented by Yachtsmen and vacationers after the Civil War. Between 1880 and 1920 Standard Oil transformed the landscape and the two fingers are piers built in the 1930s that have long been at the center of world's shipping stream in war and peace.

As expected, this is a high-security area, and finding places to shoot the giant cranes and gantries was difficult. This is a surreal patch of Jersey wasteland, and I am amazed at the strange things one can compose into a photo that includes the World Trade Center. At one point we got tangled up in traffic where a six-lane stream of tractor trailers pulling container flatbeds was cued waiting to pick up or deliver containers. Every few seconds another six trucks would be released from the cargo gate to drive beneath the cranes for loading and unloading. The line may have been as much as 50 trucks long. We were row boats amid a convoy of freighters coming and going, and we scrambled to make a u-turn and get out of their way. We were told that this was a slow day due to Good Friday, but I have a hunch the stream of trucks flows thru here 24/7.

In the afternoon we found our way to the closed Military Ocean Terminal where roads made alleys between abandoned truck bays no longer appropriate for a world that flows through shipping containers. The road ends at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port where all was still, and on our way out we passed again between alleys of bays still as quiet as a ghost town, but as we approached the far end of the last alley of shipping bays there were festively painted, patchwork food trucks waiting, and suddenly a stream of men and women dressed from head to toe all in black flowed into the street in front of us. All was commotion as they swarmed the food trucks, and transit buses began arriving to take them away. Where had they come from? What did they do here? Where were they going? In the late day shadows their dark faces and coveralls were featureless. I thought of Niebelungen dwarves emerging from Niebelheim. It might have made remarkable pictures, but neither my friend nor I had the nerve.

Most of the day lacked the clouds that might compose desolate, flat pictures, but in the middle of the day we had found a wasteland “park” at the edge of the busy shipping complex. As I photographed amid broken culverts, industrial rubble, and a forest that was struggling to be reborn, two mockingbirds began an ever-changing musical dialogue, and as I continued making pictures I found myself singing along. When I emerged from the park back on Goldsborough Drive the clouds had shifted. Across Upper New York Bay to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, all of New York Harbor was talking to the sky.