Sunday, July 18, 2010

June 14 No Sleep Til Brooklyn

I started my day walking up Smith Street looking for a place to eat breakfast. I found a French bistro, Provence en Boite. I was going to keep walking when I was greeted with "Bon Matin et accueille" by a stunningly beautiful black woman with a smile so contagious that I had to smile myself. The look on my face made her repeat it in English, "Good Morning and welcome." The accent was the knockout punch. I sat down and had an amazing breakfast of challah bread French toast with fresh fruit and a berry coulis. Then I took a quick trip to B&H Photography in Midtown Manhattan to pick up a lens I will need to shoot portraits in Coney Island. Our first official meeting was at the Coney Island library on Mermaid Avenue. I got to meet the rest of the photographers, most were from NYC. We each introduced ourselves and talked about our photography work. Andy repeated something he told me on the subway last night. He told the group that I was here for the right reason. That reason being that I really cared what happens to Coney Island. Andy & Kevin covered their plans for the week and we discussed ideas for developing a story for the week. Then we were set free in Coney Island. My first stop was the Amethyst Women's Project since they were setting a table up right next to the library.

I eventually talked with Aida Leon who is the Executive Director. She was very interested in getting some coverage for her charity. She provides HIV testing in the neighborhood. They also help women in abusive situations and help all who seek rehabilitation services. I quickly realized this story would be better told by Handen Erek, the female photographer from London who said that she covers women issues with her photography. Handen & Aida were a perfect match. Aida told her story about having to leave Coney Island to get clean as a kid. Then she returned and decided to help others in the neighborhood. Aida had that certain something that many New Yorkers seem to possess. Determination, drive, ambition come close but don't fully describe it. The line from New York, New York describes it best, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." Add to that she is Puerto Rican, so you know she doesn't take shit from anyone, that makes her the perfect person to run a place like this in Coney Island. I left completely impressed with Aida but I still had to develop a story line for my project. I walked past the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium where I found a tribute for firefighters that died on September 11th.
After paying my tribute at the memorial. I walked down the boardwalk looking for photography storyline. Maybe food on the boardwalk. That would mean every time I ate I would be researching my story. Hmmm... interesting thought. The signs of Coney Island would be less fattening. Of course the rides of CI would be fun.

I made my way to the Coney Island USA building. I was hoping to do something with them for my project.

I have supported this group of artists for years. It was my longtime membership and the help of the house manager, Patrick, that got me a few minutes with Marie Roberts, the Artist in Residence for Coney Island USA. I understood that everyone was very busy preparing for the Mermaid Parade on Saturday so I felt  fortunate to get this opportunity. I started by interviewing Marie in her second floor studio.

Over the next two hours she worked on banners for the parade, I took pictures and we discussed a wide variety of topics including art, Coney Island and family. Since Marie teaches college art classes she offered me advice on techniques and several artists to check out like Bruce Gilden, Walker Evans and Thomas Rowlandson. She agreed to let me follow her class around Coney Island tomorrow. I began to think I had found the perfect subject for my project. Had to leave CI. I had plans for tonight. Subway to Carrol Gardens. Showered and back onto the subway. Next stop Little Italy for dinner at Sal's. Slice of pizza while I waited for my linguine & clams. I sat outside since it cooled down when the sun set. Damn good dinner. Then to the Lower East Side to see The Heavy at the Bowery Ballroom. Great show. Grabbed an Italian ice on Delancey Street and F train back to Brooklyn. Finally much needed sleep.

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