NYC Grid is a photo blog dedicated to exploring New York block-by-block and corner-by-corner. Each post covers a new street or feature with a focus on the mundane and ephemeral.

  

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Tuesday
Jan202009

Documenting A Moment In New York

Now that I've been posting here for a few months I'd like to muse about the blog and why I do it for just a moment...

Part of me likes to think that there's a sense of urgency to this site; to know that visiting one street on a certain day will yield a completely different result than if I were to visit it just a month later. This seems particularly true in the tough economic climate that the city and country is enduring right now. To tell you the truth I'm not sure if it's simply that I'm paying attention more than I used to or if there is an actual shift going on, but the rise and fall of neighborhoods seems to be taking up an accelerated pace. And now my original goals for NYC Grid, which were simply to discover and explore - selfish goals admittedly - have since turned to a wider one: documentation.

I've mentioned here several times that I don't share the hopeless sense of loss that many other NY bloggers and writers express. I don't dislike modern architecture, I don't fear gentrification, I enjoy change and relish new ideas.  But I do feel there's something special about the time we're experiencing here. Once this time, this moment, has passed it will never return. Depending on the scope of "time" you wish to observe will determine how much change will have taken place. And that's the way it's always been. Every moment in time is special, and will never happen again. Heck, I often regret not being able to experience the city back in the 40's or 50's - but even if I did, would I have appreciated it?

While it may be unrealistic, and even a little ego-centric, I like to think that taking these photos and documenting the city like this is providing a glimpse into this moment for future generations. Granted, the landscape is now far more crowded than it was 60 years ago. Visual documentation is not the rarity it once was. Open Google Earth and you'll see New York in painful detail. Or simply go to Flickr and you can see practically every corner of New York. You could ask what makes my photos different from those? In terms of content, usually nothing. In fact, I'd be willing to bet a great deal of them are far more aesthetically pleasing than what I offer up here. No, what they lack is urgency - the loss of the mundane is perhaps the biggest thing I fear in this moment. When and if the Empire State Building is ever disassembled, perhaps to make room for a taller, "better" glass structure in 120 years, there will be no shortage of photos and videos to remind historians what made the building special. But what about the blue door on West 4th, the old sign on 79th, the curved wall on E10th. These are the things that may only be photographed once every few years, and sometimes only by mistake. Google Earth (and Street View) are stitch-ups....when you look at the city through those lenses, you're seeing it over the course of several years sometimes. I know we've all looked at our streets on those services only to see something's different or changed since those images were captured. While great, those are an approximation of the city.

I know this post sounds like something that belongs on Lost City, or Jeremiah's Vanishing New York -both fantastic sites. But I maintain that I'm not here to document what we're going to lose...Nor am I here to mourn what has been lost. This is not a news site, and I assume nothing about the future. I'm constantly amazed but what's weathered the decades around town, and I'm certain even more will amaze me in the years to come. So it's with that in mind that I go out and take these photos. If something is lost before I find it, then so be it.

This is simply a snapshot: New York as we live in it now.

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Reader Comments (1)

I admire your hutzpah...is that spelled right?

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBioya

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