Saturday, January 23, 2010
Last August, a few nights after I arrived in Sete on the south coast of France, I walked up a hill with a backpack filled with my Rollei, film and flash.
I was exhausted. It was 2 or 3 am in the morning. The city was still busy with masses of people you had come to Sete for the Festival of St. Louis! Dancing, plastic glasses once filled with drunken concoctions littered the street, as I called it quits and headed to my comfortable residency home.
Just before hitting the final climb, three adolescents walked past me. An old Renault was parked off to the side on a narrow street. In a few minutes, I had photographed a young man. Not until later, did Gilles Favier, the organizer of my residency with Ce Ta Voir, notice two green glimmering eyes popping out in the back round. Magic does happen.
We are getting close to the end of putting "Juliana Beasley Sete 2010" together.
This will probably be my last posting about the book until it comes out in the early spring or even as early as late winter. But, ya' never know.
Friday, January 15, 2010
I mentioned that my friend and subject Bryan Mcquire died out in Rockaway Park over a month ago.
I took these back in the spring of 2008 in his old apartment.
The last image I took in the summer of 2008 on the boardwalk with him and a local Irish woman.
I would like to write a piece about Bryan, but for now, before the summer comes and reminds me that he is no longer part of my summer days out on the boardwalk in the Rock, I will post these images.
The last photographs that I took of him was in his condo. I posted them on this blog back in November of 2009.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
John Trainer. I miss him. He died of an aneurysm in 2004. Word went around that he keeled over a display rack of pretzels and potato chips in a local Arab owned botega.
We became friends out in Rockaway Park in the winter of 2002 when I first started going out there to photograph. He was usually the first person I saw when I got off the S Train. He was either passed out under some benches or standing by the radiators trying to keep warm in the MTA station on 116th St. He was flirtatious, but not dangerous. What he lacked in his alcoholic boundaries, he always made up for it with his staid respect for my space, despite his flirtatious ways with me.
I wanted to post these photos. They were shot with my Contax, not the T2 but another awesome Contax 35mm camera before I began to shoot the project much later entirely with my Rollei Twin Lens. All of these photographs have never been posted except the one, "Trainer as James Dean".
On one frigid day, he took me into the squat where he lived. He guided me through a dark hallway, holding my hand as we walked over a beat up mattress under are feet. As he explained to me the way toward the stairs, I held tightly onto him, not only to steady myself, but to catch him from falling over in a drunken state.
As they say the blind leading the blind. He was more disabled, despite knowing the territory than I was as we tried to locate a glimpse of light. My fear dissipated when I realized he was no more than a child afraid of falling.
I had just given him a portrait of himself. He placed the photograph of himself next to in an article from the Daily News that was leaning up against a wall in a special nook where he kept his belongings. He chuckled with pride.
"Trainer as James Dean", Rockaway Park, 2004(?). Juliana Beasley. The photograph that I gave to John.
In a low-lit room, I sit on a once dark orange carpet now turned brown through years of spilled beer, bitter cigarettes butts, and rancid dog urine. I look to the ground. I am in a lotus position; like the child I once was, sitting “Indian style” at a friend’s birthday party. Looking down to the carpet…I notice several cockroaches scurrying around me. I am probably more at home than I should be, my Contax on my lap as I change rolls of VC-400.
No, I am not at a relative’s house, but instead sitting center stage in a circle of frayed and worn Lazy Boys. I am at Paddy’s boarding house in Rockaway Park, surrounded by a bunch of grumbling older Irish men with rosaceous drinking cans of Cobra and Guinness beer, engaging in a silent exchange. They share mutual glances every so often while eyeballing an old television. It sits upon a pedestal—another broken black and white television. The reception is shot; skin tones are fluorescent pink. Occasionally, a cackling grumble spills over.
“Oh, the fuggin’ cunt!”
and a look of half acknowledgement and laughter at the crassness of it all.
The broken windows are covered in a blue tarp and the cold winter gusts whip against them and into the living room. Last week, when I back at home in Jersey, Paddy had thrown a chair out of the window in a belligerent drunken fit. It’s all makeshift and make-do around here. Charlie, Paddy and Deuce, the guy who lives in an adult residence down the boardwalk seem not to care about the chill in the air. Deuce appears at Paddy’s maligned boarding house to sit with the boys. He drinks for free. In his shirt pocket is a Xerox photo of a pet cocker spaniel that he talks about with loving nostalgia.
Trainer arrives to the scene and picks up a gallon plastic bottle of generic vodka lying on the floor next to Paddy’s amputated toes. He guzzles it down, sits down on a milk crate. He’s a mooch. Everyone hates John Trainer, the itinerant thirty-something alcoholic. He owes everyone either a drink or a cigarette in this town. He looks like a forlorn Irish James Dean. They say he comes from money and he likes to say it’s his choice for being out on the streets, homeless.
The others tolerate his presence.
I hear a gurgle and look to my right. John is foaming at the mouth. His eyes are rolling back. Boom. Man down. He’s fallen off the crate and presently, is on his back, twisting and bucking. His head is spilled into the kitchen, his torso in the living room. Drool covers his chin. I put my camera down, rush to his side.
“Are you alright, John? I’m right here with you…you’ll be O.K. don’t worry, John.”
The blokes remain careened back in their majesty, completely disassociated from the events. unfolding.
“Throw me a pillow,” I say calmly.
I put it under John’s bobbing head.
Then, “Call the cops!”
I drill like a captain at the helm. I turn John’s head to the side. He won’t choke on his saliva this way. I make sure that his mouth remains agape so that he won’t bite his tongue in two.
This is the shot! This is the action shot. This is the shot that explains in one photograph the level of self-destruction and dire loneliness I have been witnessing for the last several weeks. This is the shot that will make my book complete.
Again, the voice in my head, “Take the picture! Leave his side and pick up your camera!”
I don’t. I can’t. The voice that has always had its way…goes away.
The police have arrived. John has become conscious and returned from the world of cerebral thunderstorms and in congruencies. They strap him to what appears to be a hand truck and pull him through the door. I hold it open. They know John well.
“You’re going over to the Pennisula, John. It’s the best we can do for you”.
I can hear the boredom and callousness in their voices becoming more faint as they roll him down the path and into the darkness of the Rockaway Boulevard.
I wrote the following story a couple of years ago for Will Steacy's book project entitled "The Picture Not Taken". When you get the chance take a look at the website. There are some interesting quotes from some interesting photographers.