They say New York is the city of dreams. We idolise this place, we imagine that this is where we will fall in love, where we will become successful, where we’ll be happy and where everything will work out in the end. It tempts us with grandeur and the promise of a better more exciting future, of building an empire.
It draws us in, slowly at first, a seed that finds a home in a far corner of your soul, and later this seeds creeps into the very core of your being. The truth is that this city is so much more than that. It’s not a city of dreams, it’s a city for the brave, a city for the strong, a city that throws everything at you. This is a place that is relentless in what it takes, but also in return in what it gives. Perhaps we should rather say that it’s not a city of dreams but instead a city for the unapologetically brave and daring dreamers.
This week I was reminded of this. We build up ideals in our minds of the perfect life – always striving for a goal that is forever moving and in doing so we overlook what is around us. We live in a city surrounded by millions of people, each person with their own story, each person with their own entire life, we’re constantly surrounded by pockets of entire storylines unfolding around us but we seldom notice them. More so, we hardly ever take a chance to put ourselves out there in any sort of meaningful way to absorb or engage with any of it, perhaps because that means being vulnerable in a city where vulnerability seems to daunting .
We look at the big fantasy picture of life – of chasing the ever elusive dream, and in this chase we often forget ourselves. It’s only when you slow down, when you reflect and take a moment to notice that you start seeing the real beauty of this place that we call New York. When you stop focussing on the big picture, and you start noticing the small glimpses. That’s when you start to see the indescribable nuances of beauty in the people who give energy to these streets. The people who are the very souls that drive it.
Today was a stark reminder of the real beauty that’s held here. The train stopped at 125th street, the moment we emerged from the subway we were hit by a sensory overload. Music, the smell of bbq in the air, sirens, loud laughter and conversations – the ambience of Harlem.
Now before I carry on, those that know me, or who knows my work, would likely know that I’m usually unobtrusive in the way that I shoot, I tend to shy away from dialog, I want to observe but not necessarily interact.
Let me tell you, today was not that.
The thing that strikes me the most was how incredibly talkative everyone was, instead of just capturing photo’s as I moved through the streets we asked to take portraits, this in turn opened up dialog which often resulted in laughing with strangers. Around one corner we stumbled into a sidewalk summer feast of food, music and games of dominos. Within minutes we were asked to take portraits, we were offered food and seats at tables – the generosity of it all and the willingness to engage was overwhelming for me as I generally prefer to go unnoticed. It was uncomfortable, it was overwhelming, but more than anything, it was so incredibly beautiful. I can not count how many conversations with strangers we had today, how many times I thought to myself ‘I’ve never experienced this before’ or how many times I turned to my friend Justin saying ‘This is crazy’.
I’m sitting on my bed typing this post, it’s gone by midnight, and I’m still digesting the wonders of today. I’m still digesting everything that has happened this week since I arrived exactly 7 days ago’s. My heart is a mess of emotions from one side of the spectrum to the other, my mind is racing, my eyes are tired, my feet are numb, but through it all I’m inspired and so extremely thankful for my love of photography as without this passion I would be missing all of this.
Thank you Justin for likely unbeknownst to you pushing me outside of my comfort zone, from the massive photowalk through to the madness of today and thank you Harlem for opening my eyes a new to the wonders and generosity of this city. (Go have a look at his Instagram)Anyway, here’s more shots from my first week in the city.
Life is wild, it’s senseless and ruthless, it guts us and somehow it still manages to give us moments of such euphoria that pushes us further in our journey of self discovery.