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by Genghis

Photo by Genghis


If a photographer is in a particularly artistic mood, then he can perceive his photographs as a form of musical expression, whose notes create a mood every bit as melancholy as the most heartfelt blues, and as exhiliratingly epiphanous as an electric guitar riff full of great clarity and logic. If he can perceive his pictures musically, then so can others. All this, in not one aural perception, but one visual glance. Photographs are able to cause such emotional reaction, because our mental receptors are attuned to visual imagery as it relates to associations from experiences from our past. The past is the key. The past is the reservoir from which we draw our feelings when we hear music, and see pictures. Heightened feelings of joy, long-repressed feelings of sadness, these are the children of our memories. Feelings and thoughts long believed repressed by the opressive nature of time, are brought to the mental foreground post-haste, by these triggers seen in photographs.

Take "Last Gasp" for example. I took this photograph from my 21st floor apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City. The window I made this exposure from faces north toward midtown and uptown Manhattan. In fact, if you scrutinize the center of the background carefully, you can see the Empire State Building off in the far distance, it's spire obscured by atmospheric haze. The part of the Lower East Side that I live in which is known as Corlear's Hook, has a sordid but fascinating history. Corlear's Hook was essentially a red-light district settlement established by the Dutch and British during the British occupation of Corlear's Hook during the revolution. The settlement of Corlear's Hook was at that time, separated from the rest of the heavily populated city by large swaths of unpopulated rolling hills. By 1816, Corlear's Hook was known for its prostitutes. The prostitutes of this notorious nub of debauchery became known as "hookers" as a geographical signifier of where they plied their wares. The term "hookers" then went viral all over the world.

Is there some ingrained memory that rises from the area's historical lifestyle, that seeps up from the very ground itself, and the collective memories of the distant past, to become entrenched subconsciously in current residents' minds? Are the people who live in Corlear's Hook subconsciously stained with the libidinous culture of the past? Possibly. All I can tell you is, I feel the history of Corlear's Hook whenever I walk through my neighborhood. I also have this emotional reaction when I take, or look at photographs of Corlear's Hook.

The ghosts of the past, the brightly dressed young women who seduced their clientele's passion and money away from their patrons' grasp, and those men who sought these symbiotic entanglements almost two centuries ago right on the street where I live, whisper their muted cries of passion, faded but uneradicated by the sanitizing tincture of time, in my ear. Talk about "ghost whispering." I can see them, smell them, and feel their excitement when I look at "Last Gasp." In fact, the trees in "Last Gasp" look as if they are entwined in intimate congress themselves, mimicking hot-blooded New Yorkers of the past, except they are dressed in cool-whip-white instead. Cool is as cool does, baby.

It is like hearing the beauty of unwinding guitar solos lurking in the canyons between the buildings in the photograph. One can hear the complexity of the guitarist's mind, as he transmits the melodies in his note-engorged head to his skillfully fretting fingers, in the intertwining trees with snow on them. Yet, the snow on the trees' branches, is subdued compared to the pure white snow drifts on the roofs of the buildings. It is like hearing the guitar riffs at a lower volume, compared to the brash and insistent accompaniment of the others in the band. The guitar soloist is weaving complex melodies in and around the stout construct of the rest of the band, like the quiet driving creative force of the band. The stout elements of the picture provide support and harmony, while the mastermind of the soloist creates the tapestry of his magic.

The buildings you are looking at in "Last Gasp" are across Water Street where I live. My apartment building is straddled by Water Street at the front, and contiguously in this order, South Street, the FDR Drive and the East River at the back. Actually, there two separate Water Streets in New York City. I live on the lesser known Water Street, the better known Water Street being in the Wall Street area further south in Manhattan. An interesting fact: the Water Street in Corlear's Hook is so obscure, that most taxi drivers in New York don't know its location. When given the address, they inevitably drive to the Water Street in the Wall Street zone.

I took "Last Gasp" during the last snowstorm, a mild snowstorm that I suspect will be the final one this year before spring show's green and sunny disposition. Hence the title, "Last Gasp." For the technically minded, I took the picture with a Nikon D1x with a 12-24 Nikkor zoom lens set at 12mm. The shutter speed was 1/250th of second, and the aperture setting was f/5.6. No cropping was done. There was a heavy dose of dodging and burning in photoshop. I made the exposure through an open window with the screen lifted. Tell me the truth, can't you hear the laughter on the street when our ancestors met and mingled, and played their raunchy games, when you look at "Last Gasp?" Doesn't it sound like Jerry Garcia's and Warren Haynes' guitars at full song? Doesn't it make you want to tap your feet, and drum your fingers on the nearest percussive surface? Later.