Welcome to the Essential Light Photography Blog By Jim Sabiston

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Could it be the smog's playing tricks on my eyes
Or it's a rollerskater in some kind of headphone disguise
Maybe somebody who just ran out of gas
Makin his way back to the pumps the best way he can

Walking in LA
Walking in LA
Nobody walks in LA

- Missing Persons

These lyrics reminded me of something I saw on 34th Street in Manhattan one afternoon. A slickly dressed executive sort, young, very well dressed. He was clearly upset and yelling into his cell phone. As I closed on him, the conversation became more intelligible and I overheard these words: "These people are CRAZY!! They walk EVERYWHERE!!".

The funny thing is, he was right. Well, about the walking part. I'll leave the crazy bit for another day.

Walking is a lost art for most people. The modern convenience of the automobile has changed our collective perception of mobility and not always for the best. This convenience comes at a price, one where we have lost touch with our immediate neighborhood and surroundings. As  a kid, personal transportation was limited to feet or pedals. Both of these require a much more intimate relationship with our surroundings. For one, weather becomes something you experience, not just talk about. For another, you are far more likely to develop a working relationship with your neighborhood landscape. When walking, things pass by slowly enough to actually be noticed and considered. One of my favorite quotes is by Rebecca Solnit, who authored an impressive treatise on walking titled "Wanderlust: A History of Walking".

"I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness."

I walk several miles a day going to and from work, the larger part of that being the 1.5 mile stretch between Penn Station and my office near the UN on the East Side. One might think walking the same path every day must be monotonous. In fact, if I were driving the same route, it would probably be deadly monotonous. Not so when walking, however. There are so many little details that one simply can't see when flying by in a car. Actually feeling the changing of the seasons and witnessing, first hand and close up, the world change as it moves through the seasons. Manhattan is simply filled to the brim - quite literally - with fascinating details. A day hasn't passed when I haven't noticed something new.

Carrying a small camera is essential, for as a photographer I realize how transient these moments of discovery can be. For this weeks blog entry, I provide some examples of little discoveries, unseen and unnoticed by the anonymous drivers passing by. The first is a small granite wall in Herald Square, covered in a shower of flower petals after a rain shower.

(click on image to enlarge)

Next is an architectural detail on a brownstone on 36th St. I was fascinated by the detail and textures on this old building.

Lastly, is a real find. I happened to notice this single orchid, seemingly staring out of a street level brownstone window. The framing, the reflection in the glass and the flower spoke to me of a quiet longing.  I almost walked by it myself when it caught my eye.

Here is the gift to the walkers, only we know the nature of our world.

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