Last time it was 9/11 I looked for a long time at two photos that I had found on the web, on "joesnyc.streetnine.com" - the phlog featuring the work of Joseph Holmes, Joe's New York City, Joe's NYC.
The first photo was a cityscape of Manhattan, taken from the banks of New Jersey, clear weather, blue sky with very white clouds, but all high-rises kept in the dark in a slant of sinister light, where's the sun! An odd formation of clouds outside the photo blocked the rays. The upper halves of the Twin Towers solemnly stood in the shadow, the lower halves in the light, not bright and glaring, and not orange colored. Would Joe have made a photograph of the clouds over New Jersey, which held up the light, just for the record? It moved me to think of the times that I made photos of the towers from the same side of the river, always on sunny moments of the day, clear and optimistic views, proud images that my client wanted to print in his publication. This photo by Joe looks as if it's a preview of the drama that was to happen, an ominous look into destiny of life in this metropolis, and it made me intensely think back to the moment when it happened. "Here were you when it happened?" This is more than a monumental photo! Was it a coincidence that a hit upon this photo, exactly five years after the Towers disappeared from the skyline?
After five years I'm virtually back in New York.
Zapping through Joe's archive I discovered a second photo connected to the spot, taken from the top of the South Tower, Tower 2, Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge, on which you may cross the quiet East river. Between the real office estates we'll come across the approach roads to the bridges and Broadway and Wall Street, from the ground we'll look up to a classic skyscraper and in the afternoon in the evening light we'll see the high-rises that were built later. At the end of Brooklyn Bridge we'll see the tower of the Watchtower Society. I looked at these world photos for a long time before I zapped to the mother and her son looking up on Ground Zero. What were they seeing?
Every morning I am in New York for a while.
When I open my browser I see the last photo Travis Ruse posted to his phlog, people traveling with the underground to Manhattan. Great shots they are, dramatically composed, but natural, very life like, men and women in transit, on their way to work. Next step is the phlog of Joe's NYC, photos of New Yorkers amidst and behind the scenes we know, often far from Broadway and Fifth, where we can see glimpses of the earlier turn of the century. We also see Central Park, and dreary, desolate views of inner courts, and heaps of junk, and bums. A flood of yellow cab goldfish in the crowded streets, and the occasional shining black limo. One morning I down loaded more than 150 photos and I was back on the electrified sidewalks, in the center of the world, where we all died a bit on 9/11, most images 900 pixel's wide, and some even 1000, at that size with so much more impact than the standard blogs.
Quality adds another dimension.
The images are taken amidst daily street life, with a high definition and with a lustre you'll rarely find in a blog or phlog. The photos made by Joseph Holmes have the endurance you'd find in the framed photographs that you'll find in a gallery, to be hung in your house or, depending on the subject, in an office or the boardroom of a company. The selection we made for De FOTOgraaf couldn't show you more than just a few images but when you're triggered find more on Joe's website: www.joesnyc.streetnine.com .
What made Joe want to become a photographer?
I grew up, he said, in a little industrial town of only 3000 inhabitants. My father was a serious amateur photographer, and I really started in photography when he sold his Leica and bought an SLR with a built-in light meter, to make it easier for my sister and me to take photographs. Later he taught us developing and printing and technical tricks in the darkroom, and for many years after that I shot only Tri-X. I couldn't have wished for a better start. That's the only education in photography I've ever had, though eventually I ended up teaching digital photography at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies at New York University.
Naturally I have been influenced by many of the great photographers, but among those who inspired me the most is Thomas Roma, who lives here in Brooklyn. His books Higher Ground, Come Sunday, Sunset Park and Enduring Justice have been a great influence on my street photography.
I've also found inspiration from my friends and fellow New York photobloggers Keith Kin Yan <http://overshadowed.com>, Eliot Shepard <http:// slower.net>, Raul Gutierrez <http://mexpix.com>, and some others. Keith, especially, taught me techniques and ideas and attitudes that influence every picture I take.
Don't you find it dicey to make photos in the street?
New Yorkers have become quite thin-skinned when they see a camera. Many hide their faces with their hands when they see me lifting the camera. So I've gradually become more creative about getting what I want, because street photography has become my great passion. There's something very special about taking photos of people in a way that becomes transparently personal, close and intense, and even obtrusive I'd say, almost beyond the boundaries of the permissible, the tolerable.
What are you after, businesslike?
I'm only interested in pure, fine art photography. In the early days I thought I might become an actor, and then I was a lawyer, a screenwriter, and a writer of fiction for a while. Finally I discovered that photography was the work I loved best. For a time I sold prints through my web site, but I recently became represented by the Jen Bekman Gallery here in New York, a wonderful development for me, and so now that's the only way to buy my prints.