New York on black and white film

There must be a million photos taken in New York city every day, but there seems to always be room for more. I spent a weekend walking around Manhattan with a Pen FT and a Stereo Realist loaded with Ilford HP5. I think that, when taking photos in a new city, it is nice to warm up by taking the famous and perhaps cliched shots you've seen before, and then dig a little deeper to get shots with your own experience dissolved in. 

The trip was centered around art and architecture. The MET had an exhibit on David Hockney who is an artist who grew up near my hometown in Yorkshire and spent most of his life in California (where I spent some of my favorite years, too). He manages to capture the vibrancy of California in his paintings, and his double portraits are full of the metaphor and symbolism you'd expect from a renaissance master. 

The buildings of New York, new and old, are engraved in our brains whether we have visited the city or not. One of the newer constructions is the Oculus - a subway hub that seems, to me, to invoke both life and death. Depending on your perspective or even mood, it may look like a rising phoenix or the white-washed rib cage of a giant being. It was the surprise highlight of my trip. 

I made sure to point my camera at some of the more cliched sites, too - the Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo, some subway stations, the high line, street portraits of some guys smoking pipes. But you have seen all those before. I can't wait to be there again.

Exploring downtown Houston

Houston doesn't hand out great images freely, but with some work, there are some gems to discover.

A little background

I've taken snapshots of Houston ever since we moved here in 2011. It is not an obviously photogenic city. There are no internationally recognizable landmarks - we are equidistant from the Golden Gate and the Statue of Liberty. But over time I've started to think my lack of great city photographs are my own fault, not the city's. Time to work on that.

Downtown Houston

Houston is a sprawling city with different neighborhoods for different functions. More so than other cities, Houston's downtown is not the sole focus of activity. There is no ground floor commerce, so the bustling streets of a lively city are absent. All that foot traffic is in malls, parks, museums or underground in the tunnels. All that remain are grand entrance lobbies, some very elaborate and interesting, but only staff and corporate guests are likely to see them. Open parking lots are common sights between skyscrapers. Pedestrians also miss out on tree- or awning-shaded sidewalks or arcades that are a given in many cities that suffer hot summers.

This put me off exploring downtown for years, but it turns out that was a mistake. I purposefully spent time one winter walking the streets (and tunnels) and began to appreciate aspects of the city hidden from view. There are no longer any high-elevation viewing decks available to the public downtown, so most pictures have to be found at street level.  There is some truly impressive architecture here. The Bank of America building and Pennzoil Tower are the first to come to mind, but once the eye is on the hunt, there are a wealth of interesting places to see. The backstreets near the Dynamo stadium has some industrial charm and great views of downtown, for instance.

And the area is being improved all the time. The George R Brown conference center / Discovery Green area has recently been redeveloped encouraging crowds of people to spend time outside. The bayous are also in redevelopment. I think the downtown segments have a lot of untapped potential for leisure or even tourism.

Houston's landscapes

There are plenty of other photogenic parts of the city, each with a different style. The industrial landscapes east of downtown, the cottages of the inner suburbs, wildlife on the bayous and in the parks, sculptures, highways, people. I'll post images from these places as I explore, especially over the cooler months.