Sunday, July 1, 2018

Searching For Soul

Last July, Jeremiah Moss's book 'Vanishing New York: How A Great City Lost Its Soul' hit bookstores. Last Thursday, I attended a panel at the Museum of the City of New York, where Moss and three others had a discussion about the impact of hyper-gentrification on the city. It was thrilling to be in a room full of other people as passionate about this subject as I am, as I'm the only person across all of my groups of friends who cares about this at all.

I read (almost) exclusively historical non-fiction about the city these days, and the list of books I've devoured is growing. This is a subject I've been passionate about for a couple of years, and Moss's book helped to clarify exactly what is going on in New York; from the High Line's massive impact on the west side, to mail-order services killing the local shops, to the "glass monstrosities" built on the rubble of entire city blocks, razed for the elite to move in.

During the panel, Moss elaborated on a point he made in the book: the people who are moving into the city now, into areas steeped in historical and cultural significance, don't have a shred of nostalgia for the neighborhood in which they've chosen to reside. For example, folks my age move into the East Village on the wings of trust funds, spend $4,000/month on studio apartments in glass boxes, and turn a blind, ignorant eye to how that section of the city came to be trendy in the first place. Moss said, "Nostalgia gets a bad rap in our current culture," and I couldn't agree more: that's exactly why the soul of this city is slipping away. In this age of instant-gratification and Instagram stories, most millennials won't care if a historic corner store is bulldozed, as long as a shiny new restaurant rises in its place.

However, after the four speakers on the panel had brought their conversation to a close, and opened up a Q & A with the [at capacity] audience, one person made a comment that has stuck with me. Susan Mayer is a 74-year old graphic design teacher who moved into a tenement building on the Lower East Side in her late teens/early twenties. It was the kind of space where the bathtub was in the kitchen, a cubicle in the corner that looked like a phone booth held the toilet, and two faux fireplaces did nothing to heat the $65/month apartment, and it was the kind of place where the whole building was a community, everyone knew their neighbors, and people would stop to say hello.
Susan said, "The soul of the city resides in the lived-in spaces."

From the outside, it's getting harder to see the remains of the old New York, the cultural beacons in the form of bars, restaurants, and event spaces that were the hangouts of so many influential artists, writers, and taste-makers of past eras. I make it my business when reading about any particular area of the city to frequent the neighborhood as often as possible, and to look for remnants of the past. Right now, I'm reading John Strausbaugh's 'The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village,' and I've been hopping off the train at West 4th with my camera every chance I get. My Roaming project has always been about New York from my perspective, and there's been a subconscious shift toward the more historically significant areas within the last year. It's much more difficult to access those lived-in spaces, but I'm hopeful they still exist.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Stephen Shore: Retrospective

On November 19, 2017, the Stephen Shore Retrospective opened to the public at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Mr. Shore's unique perspective has been a source of inspiration since college, when I was handed his "Uncommon Places" by my professor, after a successful critique of a series I'd been working on. Since that day, he's become my favorite photographer and his work has had a profound influence on my own. Seeing his massive body of work renewed my enthusiasm, and reminded me just how much I love documenting the world in my view.

Two weeks later, the Strand Bookstore was holding a book signing for the monograph from the Retrospective. I was so excited to meet Mr. Shore and have him sign my copy that I could barely contain myself. I never know what to say when meeting anyone remotely noteworthy, but Mr. Shore holds idol status for me. When it was my turn, I managed to utter a compliment and asked for a photo with him.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Governors Island

When my parents visited in mid-July, we made the long train ride and surprisingly quick ferry voyage to Governors Island, New York City’s little oasis. As it turns out, the island is my little oasis as well.

Manhattan Skyline from the Governors Island Ferry - Chelsea Pathiakis

We spent a few hours walking around the island. My favorite area is Colonel’s Row – eight very old brick buildings once home to military officers and currently used as studio space for local artists. Since there was no one telling me I couldn’t, I spent some time in two of the houses photographing the empty upper floors. This was the first time I felt photographically inspired in months. The sweltering, stagnant heat inside normally would have been unbearable but my mind was whirring and I barely noticed. 
Chelsea Pathiakis

I returned two weeks later on my own to discover we had missed an entire half of the island. I found Nolan Park and the Admiral’s House, where I camped out in a rocking chair on the porch for a couple of hours writing. It was a blissful day of self-reflection.

Chelsea Pathiakis

This past weekend I took the ferry with a friend, from Long Island City all the way down the coast of Brooklyn, to the island once more. The ferry ride gave me a chance to view Manhattan and Brooklyn from a distinct perspective, and I have added a few places to my list of areas to see. It was a gorgeous, cool Labor Day weekend and we laid in the grass in front of Colonel’s Row. The annual art fair was going on, with some unusual pieces on display. 

Chelsea Pathiakis

Art Fair Installation - Chelsea Pathiakis

I hope to return in late October to see the Night of 1,000 Jack-O’-Lanterns.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Central Park Conservatory Garden

Saturday I visited the breathtakingly beautiful Conservatory Garden at the top of Central Park. Prior to this weekend, I had only visited the more popular southern parts of the Park: Sheep Meadow, the Lake, Belvedere Castle, and was once helplessly lost in the Bramble. The Conservatory Garden felt like it didn't belong in the same park; it was quiet and relatively free of tourists.

Chelsea Pathiakis, Conservatory Garden, 2017 

There were several fountains in the Garden, and a wedding taking place around the most gorgeous one, surrounded by willows and rows of flowers in every color. A cellist was playing as we walked through, and I found myself absolutely content in that moment. I plan to return soon.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Irving Penn: Centennial

In the nearly debilitating humidity of this weekend, I made my way over to The Met to view the Irving Penn: Centennial, on display through July 30. Penn's work was a staple in lessons throughout art school: as a pioneer in studio portraiture, an example of medium format mastery, and a precedent for composition. I have always admired his work, especially his "Small Trades" series, and his still life work. 

Irving Penn, Small Trades, 1950-1951

Irving Penn, Small Trades, Chamois Seller, London, 1950

Irving Penn, Still Life with Watermelon, 1947

When I turned the corner into one of the last exhibition rooms, I was pleasantly surprised to see a portrait of Joan Didion. I've been reading her "White Album" over the past few weeks, and while I'm no stranger to her appearance, it's always interesting to be reminded of the wide scope of her impact.

Irving Penn, Joan Didion, New York, 1996

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Julia Hetta, Part II

Further inspiration courtesy of Julia Hetta. Her work is currently on view at the Grundemark Nilsson Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden

Anyone want to send me a ticket?

Julia Hetta, The Sealed Room, Rodeo Magazine, Fall 2011 

I recently learned her brother, Hannes Hetta, is a stylist, also represented by Art + Commerce. The siblings have collaborated on several editorials.

Julia Hetta, Between the Folds, Dazed and Confused Magazine, March 2016
Styled by Hannes Hetta 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Roaming for A Year

As this is not a Leap Year, I have chosen today to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of my Roaming project. 

Over the last year, I have learned so much about myself as a photographer. I've learned to slow down, even more so than when I was in Greece, I've made an effort to focus more on the composition of my shots - an extra few seconds of set up make so much difference, and I've learned when not to take a photo. The third lesson has been the most important one so far. 

If I'm setting up a shot and I can't see a use for the photo beyond taking up space, if I can't see it posted to my website or my Instagram feed, if it doesn't truly excite me, I walk away. While the lesson doesn't apply to everything - goofing off with my friends or boyfriend, maybe there's a cute dog - it applies strongly to my art. It's another shift in perspective that I wasn't expecting, just like the one that put me on the path to this project.

So what comes next? I'll keep Roaming, searching for scenes that inspire me, and discovering new parts of New York City.