Winter Walking: A Question of Endurance

December 24th, 2008 § 3 comments

Perhaps in winter I should become a devoted photographer of interiors…

In a recent fit of exasperation I was going to write a long diatribe entitled what is wrong with winter?, on the value of having a winter, suggesting that the beauty of seasons—real seasons—is that they provide contrast and therefore appreciation of ones environment. I was spared writing this post, however, by an amusing turn of events. Places (and people) that rarely see snow or truly cold temperatures, such as Southern California or Las Vegas, received a good amount of cold weather long before we did.  A cousin of mine took some lovely, although surreal, images of the Las Vegas strip covered in a light layer of snow, and T-shirt wearing west coasters were holed up for days because of closed roads. All this, happening before it even snowed in Gotham, seemed to lessen the necessity of my argument. There is, obviously, nothing wrong with winter, but now that it has come to stay in Gotham, I remember how problematic it can be for “wandering” photographers.

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For the first time since August I have time to make, instead of edit, work. I feel like grasping onto the days and stretching them as far as I can, like a semester break I know too well how quickly they are going to slip past. The ecstasy of my first day of vacation was not brought on by the lovely falling snow, I found, but because I grabbed a camera from the shelf with no other purpose than taking a few random pictures. I laugh at myself—if there ever is doubt about my chosen “profession,” at least it can be said to put me into some kind of euphoric mood.

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My beginning project, now in its beginning stages, is a documentation of my neighborhood; the Inwood I am just now coming to know and enjoy. It takes time, I find, to know a place well enough to see something in it that needs repeating. Setting out Monday for walk through Inwood, over the river, and into the Bronx, I found that having a destination en route is necessary if only for the sake of not losing a finger, toe, hand, or foot to the cold. I believe I realized this around the time my hands were so cold I could no longer release the shutter. It was a lovely day, however, bright and clear, and I didn’t let numb feet stop me from trudging down side streets I had never seen or noticed before. By the time I shuffled myself back toward Manhattan it was sunset, and when I reached my intersection with Broadway it was dark.

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The walk proved not only how careful I am going to have to be of the cold, stopping into places of warmth every so often to defrost and recoup, but also how rusty and lazy my eye/hand coordination has become. Based simply on some “fun” pictures I take here and then when we go out, I made two images of all my subjects, an idea that turned out to be as necessary as bracketing. Normally when I do that I get the same image twice, both look fine or not, but on this walk it was quite clear that the latter of the two was the better image. I have also forgotten the odd way my camera crops edges, it is almost harder to predict than my Holga. It was a great feeling to be outside, walking, looking, capturing, and experiencing the place I live in a way that surpasses my usual hasty pace of purpose. The leisure to step back from the throng of people and their destinations casts a shadow of contentment on this discontented new new yorker.

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§ 3 Responses to Winter Walking: A Question of Endurance"

  • a guzman says:

    In fact both the hateful photographer and the antisocial fibroid filter was on.

    I agree, the way we talk about “winter,” in most cases, makes it sound much worse than it really is–as I frown at west coasters and their talk about sunshine. The problem, for me, is what you just stated…I behave the same way, turning down streets that turn a thirty minute walk into a three hour long walk. It is almost as though I can’t help myself…who cares about toes anyhow…I hate walking by something I will only go back to see later.

  • bayman-townie says:

    funny as you were writing this with your new technologies i was writing a slow blog more or less along the same lines. but briefly – hah! – i find the thought of winter worse than it is in actuality. if i ignore the dire forecasts and the small talk of how cold it is and get out in it, i am fine. i do the usual – keep going to see what is up ahead then what’s beyond that, then…

  • M says:

    I very much like the first and last images – the ones with snow – perhaps because I am a westcoaster and it is so exotic for me 😉 However, I must insist that toes are extremely important and need to be looked after properly with warm socks and such . . . . . .

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