A Tale of Two Cities

I was in New York City just now for 48 hours, give or take an hour or two. It’s hard for me to visit New York without sensing a bit of personal dislocation. It’s as though there is one Harold who stayed in New York, where I grew up, and had a photography studio for a number of years. There’s another Harold who moved out of “the city” twenty-odd years ago, as in fact I did on the time line that feels most like reality. It is possible, of course, that all the hours on the plane getting to New York, jet lag, and internally being confused about the time zone may have added to my somewhat incoherent feeling that the universe had jolted, and that part of me was on one timeline (the Harold that stayed in New York) while most of (the happily married Harold with four kids living in California) never looked back.

Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade © Harold Davis

Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade © Harold Davis

Incoherent tears in my personal space-time continuum to the despite, I had a great time in New York City, and it was a good trip both from a photographic viewpoint, and also the professional meetings I had went very well. I met with friends both old and new. New York City in holiday season can be a fantastic place, with great food, and wonderful things to see and touch. Breaking away from friends and business meetings, I photographed Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade (above). I made abstractions using the mirrored windows of the Hudson Yards construction. This massive project consists of twelve skyscraper towers, with the master plan designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, my photos will follow in a later story. And I visited upper Manhattan, where I walked across the newly reopened High Bridge to the Bronx at sunset, and made a photo of traffic jammed like a pinball game on the Cross Bronx Expressway (and, why isn’t “Cross Bronx” hypenated?), shown below.

Cross Bronx Expwy © Harold Davis

Cross Bronx Expwy © Harold Davis

My real sense of dislocation in New York doesn’t so much have to do with my personal history. Of course, today’s New York city is not the city I grew up in, or the city whose art scene I was a small part of, or the city where I was married and divorced, or drank and got sober. Of course the world has moved on. New York is one of the greatest cities the world has ever known, and as such of course it is both very beautiful and terribly ugly.

The dislocation I sense in New York is a tale of two cities, even more so than when I grew up here. In other words, it is the best of times, and the worst of times. There’s an infinite amount of luxury high-rise construction. Folks drop mind-blowing sums on fancy dining and clothing. The homeless sleep on the streets of New York. If you look carefully, homeless people are everywhere. Outside the gilded towers and a few fabulously wealthy areas, it is a hardscrabble existence, with most people running double-time not to lose their place on the ladder. It is the best of times and the worst of times.

This entry was posted in New York, Photography.

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  1. By Best of 2015: Backwards and Forwards on December 31, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    […] I was in New York City just now for 48 hours, give or take an hour or two. It’s hard for me to visit New York without sensing a bit of personal dislocation. It’s as though there is one Harold who stayed in New York, where I grew up, and had a photography studio for a number of years. There’s another Harold who moved out of “the city” twenty-odd years ago, as in fact I did on the time line that feels most like reality. Read more. […]

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