Beauty (2010)

I met Nanni in Washington Square Park. On first seeing him, I was instantly reminded of the bird woman from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. I was cautious to photograph this man at first because I didn’t want to upset the animals. However, as Nanni later explained to me, the birds train him. They call to him and train him to treat them for their attention. I wasn’t allowed to touch the animals (pigeons and squirrels) because they didn’t know my sound. I wasn’t familiar to them. They were very relaxed sitting on Nanni and let me come up to only a couple inches away from them while they pecked his cheeks, leaving little kiss prints behind. Another part of Nanni, which was only striking once he spoke, was his smile. I love teeth with character. Even his golden yellow, uneven, rotting teeth were beautiful to me. But why? The reason is simply that I have never met someone so happy and honored to share his life with anyone who was interested, even for only a moment. He said, “Come by anytime, I’ll ask you questions and help you find answers for free.” I shared a conversation over an hour in that park and learned about why the animals had such an influence over him. He was intelligent, thoughtful, and taught me that names are close to worthless. Nanni said, “forget my name. When you see me, you’ll know who I am and I’ll know who you are. Names have nothing to do with this recognition. The animals don’t respond to names, but to sounds.”

I’m interested in what is real and what surrounds us but is often unnoticed. I think trees are beautiful and concrete and the sun and smiles and laughter. I am most thankful for laughter. I still resurface the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and can’t ever be questioned.

Every time I return to New York I would go to WSP to look for Nanni. I haven’t seen him since that summer. I still find myself looking for him now that I live here. What a lovely person. I feel so honored to have met him.

#WashingtonSquarePark #NYC