New York City, notes from the 2nd of September till the 31th of October.
Sad and lonely, as I was, I sat down on a bench next to the Hudson river and realized how much I needed to pee. This is what I wanted: a toilet. And, obviously, loneliness, freedom, the vibration of a new city. Congratulations, you have that now! The vibrations.
‘And, is it like the movies?’, my Mom asked me on the phone.
No. NO! NO! NO! NO! Huge dumps of waste on every corner, rats the size of our dog. Everything I ever heard about New York are lies.
A man walked by making a phone call and said; ‘I just had the best conversation with Emily’. I feel like everyone in this city either has a great conversation with somebody here or is making a phone call just saying that they had. People just want to go fucking home here.
So I find myself on a bench in the city I wanted to be in since I was fifteen. Took me six years. What do I scream? Sometimes I think it’s the uncomfortable. I feel like people can see it in my eyes and hear it in my voice.
There has to be some force wanting me here I realize. If it wasn’t for synchronization I wouldn’t be here. New York contains nice elements, right? Apart from those Godzilla rats and all.
The only thing I did in the city the first couple of days was reading and walking.
Only fear was present, for men’s unpredictability and for the two months I had to survive with only my notebook, books and dreams.
The first nights I dreamed lucidly. I would wake up repeatedly in the middle of the night with random sentences. I felt like the narrator of Poe’s Tell Tale Heart. Why will you say I am mad?
I would lay on my bed with my eyes wide open and repeat time after time: ‘You’re in the city that never sleeps. You’re in the city that never sleeps. You’re in the city that never sleeps.’
A few days of the last month in the city, I had this new ritual. Every day I would stand in front of Woody Allen’s house and smoke cigarettes. My camera was hidden underneath my scarf and as a way of passing time I took photos of dogs passing by, leading their rich owners – I met a dog named Milo. When I realized I had better things to do with my time, I wrote Mr. Allen a letter and posted it in what I thought was his door (Dear Mr Allen, First of all I’m sorry that I’m writing to you in this informal way. You see, I bought broccoli today. And I tied my shoelaces.)
There must be a random CEO - the house was big - wondering right now: at which position of the moon did I become Mr. Allen?
I think a lot of people treat the photography medium like dirt. With dirt I mean the opposite of using it clean, using the medium purely, without reasons and meaning which would compose something called beautiful. Aesthetic standards are dirty. The purity of the current state of photography in our modern times, makes me wonder if I should get fillers.
How much I love my camera.
In the first month of living in the city I used a tiny camera to shoot my pictures. The lens felt spiritually installed. Every time when I would develop my black and white film, the film would come back with surprising lines of light in the photo or structures of contrast I didn’t even see in real life. Every photo I took during my walks in the city, I took without expectations, and the photos would come back to me with elements which were there, but I hadn’t seen.
Then: camera breaks. I go to B&H Photo Video, this enormous photography store at 34th and 9th, with hope that it can be repaired, I get passed through the floors in three different ways:
‘You should ask the film department about this kind of stuff.’
‘Hey, I once shot Princess Di with this camera! You say it’s broken? No way it can be made dear when it’s broken it’s done. They break after being used a lot. Apart from breaking a very comforting statement: they’re worth hundreds of dollars now! Followed by, you can buy a new similar camera at the camera department.’
‘Oh no we don’t sell these kind of film cameras. You should go to the film department. This is a great camera, you say it’s broken, right?’
Some days later I buy a new different tiny camera somewhere else, but it misses all the magic. Depressed, I photograph like I did in the first month, knowing my photos are going to come out boring now. Even the click sounds wrong.
It’s always this way. I get my film back, and the photos look the same as they did with my first camera.
I’m not reshaping a world here. Different camera, different ally. Circles of sunlight that show secrets of people walking through the park. They aren’t on to it, not aware anymore. The high buildings are resting still on the corner. Their shadows taking over the streets.
Written by Sophie Saddington, Edited by Bodhi Verboon. For Naïfs Magazine issue 3.