Tag Archives: New York

Checked Out & Photographed

March 07, 2016



Many, many, years ago, sitting on the library floor, reading a book about careers in journalism, I came across a passage on photography. My life turned at that point and I began to pursue a career as a photographer. Fast forward to today and I wanted to find a way to combine the enlightenment that can be found through the library, reading and photography and so I began a new project.

I have been documenting the New York Public Library books I have read over the last two years and have made a visual reading list that I would like to share with you. Photographing the back covers because, let’s face it, the back is where the cover action is. The place for a continuation of design or an abandonment of it. A place to host a photograph that may be complicated, a list of endorsements or even a colorful blank! Beyond the actual cover & the content of the book though, these photographs are also a meditation on the beauty of the physical object. A paper, card, cloth and plastic covered object, pocket sized or unwieldy, found often by accident, passed from hand to hand, neighborhood to neighborhood. Finally the photographs tell a story about the NYPL system too. The specific books I borrowed came to me via my local branch at East 96th Street, each one labelled with the names of the different NYPL branches they originated from.

Alongside the books, I also wanted to photograph the magnificent Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the famous NYPL building at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. Walking the corridors I was struck by the spill of light which almost seemed to illustrate the quote by Thomas Jefferson featured on the mantel of the fireplace in the Trustees room:

“Look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the conditions, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.” Thomas Jefferson.

I’ve compiled these two sets of images into one project – Checked out & Photographed. Produced as a visual reading list in the form of a magazine, each photograph of a book has the NYPL call number and the name, title and publishing information for each book. An encouragement to look up and check out each one!

One of the joys of the library is to find the most perfect book that you never knew you were looking for. Maybe you will find that book in this list. Maybe you will discover your next favorite author. Maybe, as happened with me, you will find one book that will resonate so perfectly with your own vision that you will buy it multiple times and end up borrowing it from the library because you keep giving your own copy away!

Click below to see the inside pages, when you are there, click on the ‘i’ for more information. You will be able to download the FREE Ebook, or you can buy a physical copy if you like.

I am also attaching a PDF version below that you can download from this page. The best way to view the PDf is with the free acrobat reader (that is probably already on your computer or you can easily download it from the internet) To see it like a book, two pages at a time, select view, page display, two page view on the toolbar.

PDF of Checked Out & Photographed to download

The library system has a large staff, mostly hidden from the public’s eyes, but there are two women who personally have handed me and received back 90% of the books in this project. I’d like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to Regina Valentine and Patricia Small who work at the 96th Street branch library and have made it always a pleasure to visit!


I’d love to hear about your library, and if you read any of the books in this list let me know! Happy reading!

Gone. Now?

June 05, 2015

I like to ride the bus. Early morning, pre-dawn, and late at night. The M15 is my bus of choice. Down 2nd Avenue and up First. There’s not so much traffic at 5am and it’s actually quicker than making my way to the train and then waiting for one to arrive. More importantly, unlike the subway, there’s a view. Mind you, for a city that supposedly never sleeps, the M15 route has a surprisingly dark, slow view. I sit morning after morning, enveloped by the darkness, my reverie broken occasionally by neon signs and 24 hour bodegas catching my attention. So, I decided to get off the bus and begin to photograph, in the dark.

Although my initial visual interest was in the dark emptiness that made up the route I got seduced by the glowing neons that popped forcefully out of the night and so began to photograph them. On March 26th though I changed my mind and stopped. On Second Avenue at 7th Street there was an explosion that demolished three buildings and two people’s lives. After the initial shock and thoughts for those affected, I cynically thought that this would be a wonderful opportunity for some real estate developer. Instead of 100+ year old, low rise buildings with tens of rent stabilized apartments, there could be a big building with 30 floors and MARKET RATE apartments.

Back on the bus, I continued looking out of the window and realized that the darkness was not just a sleepy night. It was emptiness I was looking into. That’s why it felt so different from the daylight hours when people rushing about distract you from the urban landscape. There were gaping holes in the urban fabric. Empty lots. Some empty for years, not even noticed anymore. Buildings knocked down and land held until its value begins to rise. Buildings with residents and businesses, there one minute, gone in the blink of an eye. Grand plans for new builds, some will materialize soon, others, maybe not.

Of course it’s not just on the M15 bus route, the city is a constantly evolving building site. But this is my usual route and so I decided to keep track of what’s going on. I photographed each empty lot that appeared to be unused or in the very early stages of being built on. From the start of the M15 route at 125th Street and Second Avenue down to the bottom of Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry terminal and back to 125th Street up First Avenue.

I’ve filed the photographs in a concertina folder, one pocket for each location and I hope to revisit and add to the file as time goes on. You can see the photographs here…. Gone. Now?

You’ll notice that I have added text underneath each photograph. The cross streets so that you can find each site (should you want to!). I have also added links to articles that correspond directly to the site photographed or that speak more generally to the current atmosphere on development, preservation and gentrification. If you live in New York you’ll be aware of many of these discussions. If you live elsewhere I think these articles will give you some insight.

I’ve photographed vacant lots but their silence speaks to more than emptiness.

This Saturday – come visit!

Three things are happening on my block this Saturday. So mark your calendar for the afternoon of the 16th August 2014.


From 12 – The East 100th Street Memories Block Party. The annual bash will happen again and East 100th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues will be closed to traffic and will be filled with people who used to live on East 100th Street, (they run the event.)

Yep, those children you saw in Bruce Davidson’s book, East 100th Street, from the late 1960s, will be here, all grown up! You might bump into some of the people from my book too!


At the corner of East 100th and 2nd Avenue there will be a street renaming ceremony honoring the Revs. Norm and Peg Eddy. After a 2pm ceremony at the Church of Resurrection on 101st Street, the unveiling of Revs. Norm and Peg Eddy Way will begin at 3pm.


Finally, for the whole weekend there will be a pop-up photographic exhibition in the 8 windows of Harlem RBI on East 100th Street.

You may remember Harlem RBI as one of Prince Harry’s stops last year! I know them as the baseball field and a great fun and educational opportunity for the local kids. Also they were kind enough to allow me their window space for my photographs. So a big THANKS is due.

The exhibition will be up for the festivities on Saturday and will come down on Monday night and will feature photographs of East 100th Street from yours truly!

Yes, finally! My photographs on East 100th Street are showing on East 100th Street! I will be floating about on the street on the Saturday so come down and say hello and see the photographs and experience the street at the same time!

Hope to see you there.

You can find out more about Harlem RBI’s mission here: https://www.harlemrbi.org


The World Family

Over at the Fier Institute in Australia (Fotographic Initiatives in Education and Research) I’m one of 22 photographers shedding light on the ‘World Family’. My images feature the bunk -bed- kids of East 100th Street, New York City. Twins, triplets, brothers, sisters and twins with an older brother.








ˈfōtō ˈfôrtˌnīt frīdē

ˈfōtō ˈfôrtˌnīt frīdē

Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace, New York, NY 10032

For this Friday’s photo I am going to step back in time, very recent photographs but an old subject…

A couple of days ago I headed to the West Side for a soiree at The Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights. Enjoying top billing as “Washington slept here” the mansion house is also Manhattan’s oldest, having been built built in 1765, the Colonial Era.

As I approached, the afternoon sun was just catching the top of the house but had made the surrounding trees, with their autumn leaves, a luminous ring around it. I’m not sure if the trees actually hid the city beyond or whether the glow of the leaves was just so mesmerizing that it was hard to look past them. It was very odd to get out of the subway, walk past the bustling C-Town supermarket and then barely a blink of the eye later to be so transported to a different time and place through the effects of light, architecture and nature.


Entering the building I was faced with decorous after decorous room, all sized to make even a wealthy New Yorker jealous, and I ended up drawn to Madame Jumel’s bedchamber. A room that she had occupied from 1810 onwards, 203 years ago from today and 45 years after it was built!


I have to say though that the Colonial Kitchen piqued my interest even more than the classical rooms. With its rough brick and industrial sized pots I found it hard to equate the elegant upstairs with the primitive cooking arrangements. It make me pause to consider just how much time and activity this house has stood through.



ˈfōtō ˈfôrtˌnīt frīdē


This building, 100 11th Avenue by Jean Nouvel, is an amazing jumble of frames when viewed from street level. Even though I took the photo and know the building I still can’t work out what is going on with all these angles.


IPA 2013

International Photography Awards 2013

2 images were nominated in the International Photography Awards in the Professional Architecture Buildings category. (Sept 25th 2013)

New York by Gehry, 8 Spruce Street


Time Warner Center, by David Childs



A. Smith Gallery
Johnson City, Texas, USA

Chair on East 100th Street Roof