Ex-cop: "Do you know what it means to be an anarchist?! It means I will brutally rape you and take all of your power and dominate you. It’s survival of the fittest.“
Anarchist girl: "Whatever, man.”
— Overheard at Zuccotti Park, October 25, 2011.
This was just some of the colorful and varied dialogue we were witness to while shooting this project. Ninetynineportraits.com is now live.
I’m a contrarian at heart. Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park was an event that overwhelmed my social media life. I didn’t want to be yet another photographer in NYC documenting or tweeting about it. There was something about it that was calling me however. I needed to look for myself. I needed to be a part of it. Not to protest, but to stand there and sort of “shake hands” with everybody involved (the camera gives you unprecedented access if you really let it). To witness firsthand an important event I think we’ll remember for a while.
It turned out to be one very rewarding experience, and very fruitful in my mind, despite the devil’s advocates (i.e., one Bryan Formhals…) telling me otherwise at first. Because on those two days I met all kinds of passionate and/or crazy people. Including a young man apparently so high that he was operating on a completely different level (hope you don’t get to run this country when you get a little older). The asshole that stood there and told prospective subjects not to pose for me because he claimed I would be profiting from all this. The lady who sold buttons right in the middle of the park, with the words written “WE ARE THE 99%” for five dollars. Five dollars! To visitors and tourists alike. The irony.
This is why I was fascinated with this. At first I was received with indifference. But then I felt I belonged there as much as the next person. For those two days, my seamless and my strobe lights became as much a part of Zuccotti Park as the tents and the banners. And just like they didn’t seem to mind (or care) that the button lady was selling buttons there, most of the young protesters there met me with kindness and open-mindedness, eager to pose for my camera.
This wasn’t just a protest. In my mind, this was also a reflection of who we are as a country. You may think your neighbor is out of his mind, but you let him be. And he probably thinks the same of you, but he lets you be too. (In most cases anyway.)
We are all subject to an empire of illusion, Slumbering through life beneath a veil of confusion. Wake up and see… this world is not what it seems. Wake and be free… prisoner of false dreams. Wake up and see or repeat after me: “Excuse me sir, may I have some more distractions please?”
- These words are from my own pen. Those verbalized by street poet / post-modern beat poet Speeches Beyond are his own and are also true. Video by FTH (true too).
I took the following pictures on October 21st and 25th at Zucotti Park in downtown NYC. Behind-the-scenes — sort to speak — taken with my Yashica T4 while I was shooting a personal project there, which I will unveil early next week.
Like virtually every photographer in the NYC area, I decided to visit the park and check it out. Unlike today, it was relatively calm then. The atmosphere was welcoming. The protests peaceful. The park had also become a media circus, and a tourist attraction. Businessmen stopped by on their lunch breaks. German and Japanese tourists took pictures as if this was one more stop in their Manhattan itinerary, right after walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.
So I got the crazy idea that I wanted to do something photographically about it. I wanted to take portraits of the people I encountered there, to perhaps shed a light to the whole phenomenon that Occupy Wall Street has become. In my mind, it didn’t just have to be the protesters. This had become something more… I’m oftentimes more interested in how we perceive an event in reality than the event itself. And this perception nowadays includes and is saturated by the Media, twitter, Facebook, and every passerby with their iPhone camera. But this was crazy because I thought, “how am I going to come up with something original from something I feel everybody and their mother is covering ad nauseam?”
Only time will tell.
So wait till next week for this project. I’m really excited about it. In the meantime, enjoy these.