May 25, 2011

Here are two photographs from my jaunt into Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on Tuesday afternoon.

The last time I’d set foot in the park was many moons ago during one of the countless Asian arts festivals where I had to dress up in a cheap traditional dance costume and parade around with pink feathery fans. On Tuesday there were no other Asians except for me as well as a group playing volleyball in a lonely corner. Everybody else was Mexican, Ecuadorean, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and they all wore soccer jerseys, the two-year-olds, too, and the three-year-olds, even the dogs that had been let loose to chase a ball.

I’d spent the past three days on the couch with a sudden and painful cold, and that morning several things converged to force me out the door: it was sunshining; I was feeling marginally better; a friend, excited about a reading that night, urged me to attend it with her; I’d looked at a map of the park the night before and, though I’d known that my father went there every morning for tai chi, was amazed that it was within walking distance.

In the park I took off my leggings. I snapped photographs. I watched soccer teams doing drills. Preparing for what games? I didn’t know. I could have asked the two gentlemen in the photograph who were seated on the bench with their backs to me; each had separately turned around to wave hello. This shot is imperfect. I am still terrible with understanding how light affects a photograph. I’d wanted to establish a layered busy-ness, because I’d had Alex Webb‘s gorgeously layered shadow plays in mind, thanks to Y. But I still don’t know what I’m doing.

That night I got home a little after midnight. Walking through Flushing at this time of night is an exercise in time-light suspension. Main Street is bright and dark at the same time, giving the impression that you’re on an abandoned movie set that’s been taken over by a loosely organized, hungry gang. I started shooting the darkness using the flash, something I’d been meaning to try since March when I saw Strange Evidence, an exhibit of Mark Cohen’s photography from the past forty years set in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he’d used flash and frequently shot the torsos of his subjects, their heads cropped from the frame. The result is both eerie and sublime. Below is my amateur effort: Main Street, Flushing, 12:37 a.m. I’d forgotten about the guillotine effect, though.

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