Do you ever travel to a place and feel like maybe you might belong there? Ever since the first time I went to NY 11 years ago, I have felt this way. I can't fully explain it but when I am there I feel like it's right where I should be. At the very least, I feel like I am a part of something really cool and BIG. As a photographer, it is my Mecca. There is never not anything interesting to photograph and more galleries, workshops, and inspiration than one could ever dream of.
But the best thing about New York is its people. I don't feel invisible there like I sometimes do in Vancouver. When I sneeze on the subway, someone blesses me. If I am carrying my suitcase and camera equipment, someone always comes to help me carry it up the subway stairs or onto a train. I know this is not everyone's experience, but every trip has always brought kind and interesting people into my life.
Top: Cait at St. Anne's Warehouse (Photoville), Left: Photographer Louis Mendes with his Speed Graphic Camera, Right: Manhattan from DUMBO
I arrived to my friend Cait's place on Wednesday after taking an overnight flight from Vancouver, where I had been just a few hours after arriving back from Saskatchewan. Jet lagged from the flight, I walked around her neighbourhood in Brooklyn until she got home. Cait and I met in Thailand in '08 on a jungle trek and have managed to keep in touch and see each other fairly regularly since.
Finally feeling half human on Thursday, Cait and I took in a talk by combat photographer, Finbarr O'Reilly and retired U.S. Marine, Thomas J. Brennan at Columbia University. Long time Facebook friends, I had met Finbarr 5 years ago when he was in Vancouver briefly and was delighted to learn that he was in NY promoting his book that evening, Shooting Ghosts. Cait is a Social Worker at the Veteran's Hospital so she was especially interested in the subject matter. It is an authentic and powerful book shedding much light on the aftermath of war and the toll it can take from both a soldier's and journalist's perspective. Definitely check it out!
Afterwards, we took in a bit of Photoville which takes place at Brooklyn Bridge Park. It is a modular event built out of shipping containers where you can view exhibitions, lectures, workshops and outdoor screenings. I could have just camped out there all week! I actually had a moment while alone in an exhibit where I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was SO grateful to be there. My soul needed a location change badly and to be nourished with photographic inspiration.
I spent Friday at Photoville as well and had "planned" to go again on Saturday. Before I left for NY, I kept repeating this mantra: "Thank you for allowing me to lead a divinely guided life." Meaning that I would have a plan but I wasn't going to try and control it too much and be open to detours and other goodies the universe might have in store for me.
So after FINALLY getting on the "right" train Saturday (there was so much subway construction!) to go back to the photo festival, I realized I was instead going the exact opposite way of my intended destination and well on my way towards Rockaway Beach in Queens. Oopsies!
I got off the train to regroup. I was really looking forward to the lectures that day, in particular the one on conservation and was not at all dressed for the beach, nor did I have my long lens, battery charger, sweater, proper shoes etc. After texting with Cait and being reminded of my mantra, I got back on that train in good faith that I was indeed on the "right" one and continued onward to Rockaway Beach.
I went to Elegante for my usual "White Pizza" (mozzarella and cottage cheese on the most scrumptious, heavenly dough) and then over to Boarders to say hello to the owner, Steve, before heading to the water to catch some beach action.
Rockaway Beach, Queens
The weather was hot and hurricane season was bringing in a nice swell. I was stoked. I first went there to shoot when I attended David Alan Harvey's workshop in 2009, went back again in 2010 and then for Red Bulletin in 2016. Since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it has rapidly gentrified and become a popular hipster destination with wine bars, fashion boutiques and popular restaurants. I am glad I was able to experience it for the little known surf paradise it was pre-Sandy, but still love it all the same.
I had texted my friend Mike on my way out there and we made plans to meet up after I was done shooting. Meanwhile, my friend Sean who I had also hoped to see, texted to say he was back from sailing and making dinner if I wanted to join him, but Cait and I had also talked about meeting in Little Italy for a festival later on. I had a stressful moment trying to figure out what I should do before I calmed myself with the mantra yet again...thank you for allowing me to lead a divinely guided life.
I connected to wi-fi to check on Mike's whereabouts but hadn't received a text yet. Around the same time, Cait texted to say her beau was going to meet her at the festival so I didn't need to feel pressure to join since he was already there. I felt that I was being lead to only one choice. So, I went with the flow and headed down to Sean's to have dinner with him!
Beach 60th, Rockaway Beach, Queens
Beach 90th, Rockaway Beach, Queens
This lead to a long, lingering meal and a fantastic evening of catching up on the last year of our lives. Sean was one of the first people that I met in Rockaway in '09. He has introduced me to many of the locals there, let me crash at his place so I didn't have to keep making the 90 minute subway ride to Brooklyn and back and been the subject of many of my photos.
Getting to hang out with him again turned out to be exactly what my spirit needed and I spent 3 more days shooting on the beach and around town, eating MORE white pizza, making new friends, indulging in some quality hammock time and the biggest highlight - sailing around Jamaica Bay on a sunny afternoon with Sean! Not at all what I had "planned" for this trip but certainly better than what I could have dreamed up.
What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting than what you try to manifest.
I did finally hit Manhattan the last 2 days I was there to check out photography galleries and to wander with my camera in my favourite neighbourhoods. I did not want to leave. Alas, duty was calling back in Vancouver where I had committed to doing the Etsy show.
Greenwich Village, NY
As much as I wanted to stay, I was so happy that I got to go on this trip at all. More proof that the universe is always conspiring in our favour when we do things that light up our soul...which in turn, lights up the world!
Over and over and over again it has been proven to me that surrendering to what is, instead of trying so hard to control everything, is the most peaceful, abundant path. Add a little faith and there is no telling what magic will come.
Do you have any stories like this? If so, I'd love to read about them!
Beach 90th, Rockaway Beach, Queens
Upcoming Holiday Markets
Really, I have no business writing this blog right now because I am so outrageously busy prepping for the upcoming holiday markets!! But I had to finish it now or it would certainly have ended up in the graveyard of unwritten blogs.
I will be making the trek to Make It Edmonton again but this time I am also popping up to Calgary to do Market Collective! This will be my first show there and I am amped to get to see so many Calgarian friends.