“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
-Henry David Thoreau
As I begin to go through the film, a memory springs to mind; I was walking on 6th Avenue on the west side of the street. The light was good and golden, and the air was brisk and without wind. The kind of day that makes you think quickly, and walk quickly, and the sound of your boots on the concrete is ‘tap, tap, tap’ – that creates a rhythm, and it makes you feel like you are finally getting somewhere, even if you do not have any place to go. Just south of 23rd street, across the street from the Siegel-Cooper building with its garish green façade, I came across a young man squatting down on his haunches. He had a full beard and pudgy face. One of those generic faces from Iowa or Kansas or somewhere in the mid-west. He was bleeding badly, from his hands. There was blood on the ground. There was blood on his blue jeans and on his flannel shirt. No one seemed to notice. Everyone was rushing to get home from work, it was Friday.
Hey pal, I said.
You’re bleeding, are you ok?
He just looked at me and smiled, a polite smile with just the corners of his mouth, the kind of smile that makes you really worry about someone.
I reached into my bag and gave him my red handkerchief.
Wrap it tight, I said. Twist it into a ball, and then twist the knot hard.
Do you have someone getting you help?
He nodded yes.
It was then that I realized we were standing on a hundred thousand tiny stars. We were flying above the sidewalk, the city seemed to swirl beneath us. Each star reflected it’s own piece of the city; a green street sign and the number 2, the top of a building, the street, a yellow cab, flaking paint, his face, my face… A hundred thousand stars, a hundred thousand memories, all speckled with some Iowa boy’s blood.
Then his friend arrived with a first-aid kit, and few people who seemed to know what to do with it. I asked the friend;
We dropped a huge mirror and it broke on the sidewalk and he got cut.
It shattered, I said.
That’s what I said. It broke, he said.
While sorting through the film of this “Lost Archive”, each strip of negative, each individual frame is a part of a greater whole. As I study the photographs, I remember some of the people and most the places. I recognize in them, the themes I would go on to develop in my work in the future; the subdivided window shots, the hard-worn faces and characters, the classic hats, the blurry subway photographs… etc. Each physical aspect seems loaded with meaning, with a heightened sense of awareness, like the reunion with a lover you have dearly missed. The act of cutting the film proves satisfying and frightening, unlike the tens of thousands of rolls I have cut before. The fact that the film will not lie flat, and seem to curl up in protest like a wounded caterpillar, gives pause
All of these photographs are pieces, fragments, splinters – seemingly reflecting, at random, the concrete and the sky. Yet they are not random. I chose them. Choice and accident (but what else is photography?) – my past, my present and my future – like a broken mirror on the sidewalk.