I am writing this article en 2017.
30 years already since I arrived in the US for a year-long university exchange program!
1987 was also the year photography became really important for me.
I had dreamed of this opportunity for years, and worked very hard to make it happen.
The New York City skyline at night was one of the first things I saw after landing, as a bus was driving me and the other 9 selected French students to our campus in Philadelphia (stay tuned for an upcoming series of articles…)
I was in awe, and the jet lag made the experience feel even more eerie. To me, Manhattan looked like a magic island floating in space.
A few weeks after arriving, I seized the opportunity of an extended weekend to go visit the city with some friends. I also went again a few months later.
The Staten Island ferry is in my opinion the best (and most budget friendly!) way to get a fist “grasp” of Manhattan. Although obviously almost everything changed, it also gave me a hint of what immigrants arriving by sea may have felt. I took the ferry several times, enjoying the amazing view change as the sun started dipping.
The ride also gave me the chance to see iconic sights in unusual settings – and in some amazing light.
Verticality is the defining dimension in Manhattan… (as Baudrillard compellingly described it in “Amérique”, one of my bedside books at the time)
… and this gave me the opportunity to make one of my first street portraits – and still one of my favorites to date.
In this world, the surreal is never far… and Rodin’s Balzac seems a bit lost!
From the top of the World Trade Center, up close and looking down, vertigo Isn’t far …
… and the sweeping views are breathtaking, whether looking South …
For me, the striking Art Deco Chrysler building is a great illustration of the daring core of the city.
The first day I was on Wall Street (October 19th, 1987), as I was reflecting on how much power is wielded there, I wondered why so many TV trucks were parked all around… It’s only when I got back to Philly that I learnt that on that day, the most famous stock exchange in the world had one of its worst ever crashes. It went down in history as “Black Monday“… When I went back several months later, traders grabbing a bite for lunch in the nearby park/cemetery seemed a lot more relaxed…
Walking uptown, the ultra-modern lines of the financial district gradually recede and allow more human-sized architecture to exist…
While a few scenes and some occasional buildings somewhat reminded me of Europe …
… I was generally in culture shock. New York lives 24/7 – and its intensity is felt throughout its varied neighborhoods.
As usual, I found the people most fascinating, as they forcefully expressed their believes… or just stood in a daydreaming awe.
Some of the Time Square boards looked like they were straight from a dystopian future – Blade Runner definitely echoed.
I indulged in a couple portraits, taken by my friend Henri – same place (the marina a couple blocks from the World Trade Center), different day and time:
The Greek Orthodox Saint Nicholas church, located right next to the World Trade Center towers, got completely destroyed on 9/11/2001 when the South Tower collapsed. Retrospectively, the picture I took is quite ominous, looking like a tombstone against the towers, but with sunbursts of hope still cutting through…
It is being rebuilt as a church and national shrine.
I went back to New York City several times since – more articles are on their way.
More to come, stay tuned!
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