A recent New York Times article by Sewell Chan, Street Photography in an Image-Filled Age, presents a light gloss of the art of street photography, the elevation of pedestrian photography to high art. Mentioned in the article is Frank O’Hara and his Lunch Poems, a collection of poems in which the poet did pedestrian poetry, motivated by his lunch breaks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. What’s interesting to me is the democratization of the photograph and, as noted in the article, the rising level of sophistication of amateur photographers. (Of course, the written word has been democratized for some years now, but something of the ease of street photography and its immediacy draws more people than poems do.) Something I plan to write on more sometime soon is the exchange between Jeff Mermelstein and Gus Powell, in which Mr. Mermelstein is asked if he feels like he is doing something wrong when photographing someone in public without their knowledge and consent. His reply, apparently “jokingly” according to the NYT: “A little bit.”
In any case, Gus Powell has a solo show at the Museum of the City of New York until April 20. I wish I could check it out.
Here’s a poem of mine that touches on a related theme, the feeling of being a pedestrian and reporting on the city. I especially feel the second stanza touches on the very public aspect that city photographers capture, and I can still see the image of this beggar on the street corner. I suppose this poem captures the public (and private) city in a different way: through sound.
Sounds (You Hear Without Your Ipod)
Pour your tea just right
and you unlock
a high pitch, nasconded by
the rush filling the void.
At the Chinatown gates
you’ll hear the handicapped bum
make his ambient ditonal plea.
he is a windchime;
you are a shopper,
We make love with the window open
breathing invigorating freshness
and finish to chickadees,
rats, and leaves.