What Inspires Me? New York City Does.


Edward Hopper, Summer Interior, 1909, Oil on c...

Edward Hopper, Summer Interior, 1909 (image via Wikipedia)

Edward Hopper said,  “Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.”

What he said was dead on.

How can an artist, or at least someone who aspires to create, not have an inner life worth discussing, reflecting on or enriching in some meaningful way?

And more importantly, how can an artist even have a personal vision of the world if he cuts his inner life off from that very world he seeks to comment on through his art?

To me, cultivating an inner life so that it connects fully with our outward expression is something that we all should be engaged in, regardless of whether or not we are engaged in creating and expressing ourselves artistically.  To me, it’s just a mark of an evolved human being.

I don’t know…. but sometimes, as creatives, I think we have an obligation (to ourselves, if no one else) to stop and reflect on these matters.  To me, its about constant and precise calibration, checking to make sure that the outward direction in which we’re headed with our writing, photography, painting, etc., is aligned with what we’re thinking and feeling in the darkest of nights when no one else cares that we’re up, pacing the floor, obsessed by but not enslaved to the cacophony of sounds, sights, scents, tastes and caresses of random but powerful influences from our environment.  It’s about being true to ourselves and striving for a level of expression that transcends the whims of popular culture.

I can say that I didn’t just decide one day out of the blue to pick up a camera and start snapping photos.   And now, I’ve reached a critical point in my own development that I must go back and sort all of these things out.  I do recognize that my inner life was influenced by a number of factors (family, environment, culture) from an early age.  To what degree those factors influenced me?  I’m still turning these puzzle pieces around in my mind to figure out how they all fit, and I plan to delve into those elements in future posts.

At any rate, I believe that by asking myself what inspires me, I can get closer to exposing the core of my inner life, allowing it to breathe and expand and stretch and ultimately, evolve, knowing that when it does, my art will, as well.  The bottom line is this:  Closing off our inner lives to our outward expression, no matter what form that takes,  does it and me, and you, and the world, a huge disservice and an exercise in the most pernicious form of self-delusion.

Continuing with my “What Inspires Me” series of blog posts, I wanted to present a few videos of the city that stole my heart:  New York City, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island; the city that never sleeps; the Big Apple;  concrete jungle where dreams are made of; home of the best delis, the best shopping, the best place to find street food (food trucks on every corner); the home of Central Park, the Yankees and that other baseball team; the city that inspired me to pick up a camera again and rediscover my passion for photography and the streets; and the place where we will never forget.  Oh yeah, I fell in love with NYC’s dirty, crowded, loud, screechy train, rat-infested subway.  Yes, the subway.

New York was everything I imagined it would be and more.  It tempted me, sometimes repulsed and disgusted me, but it made me want more and more of its essence….put me in a trance with its hypnotic energy…..boasted, bragged and rubbed my nose in its greatness….drew me in and seduced me in a way that I had never been seduced before.  It was unlike no other place I had ever been…..

Call it dirty, call it wanton, call it uncivilized…call it whatever you want.  I call it the place of my own rebirth. So those of you who reject NYC out of your own fears of what may be different from what you’re accustomed to, reject my own evolution.

New York is the place where unformed, unshaped, nascent dreams come to be born.  It challenges you to kill off those parts of yourself that refuse to be seduced by the constant motion and poetry and chaos.   New York reaches out and cold cocks you in the face, beckoning you to wake up and look around.  It forces you to check your own pulse.  Are you alive, or dead?

New York….. *sigh*

Anyway, watch the videos.  Watch at least one.  Do it for the babies…do it for the puppies….

And if you want to view some of my photography from my time spent in NYC go here and here.

Those of you who have never been to NYC, you must find a way to visit this one of a kind destination at least once.  Put it on your bucket list.  Make it happen. Those of you who are native New Yorkers, current or former transplants or frequent travelers to NYC, holla at me and share what inspires you about NYC.

Video #1:  24 Hours in NYC (or, places you would go in Manhattan if you had lots of money and lots of free time)

Hey, one can dream, right?

Video #2:  5 Train at 42nd Street-Grand Central Terminal #2 (or one of the trains on the Lexington Line Where You’re Least Likely to Get a Seat During Rush Hour) 

“Stand clear of the closing doors” *ding-dong*

Some people take medications to calm their nerves.  Me? When I was stressed out, I would just ride the train.  The rhythm and cadence of the train zipping along the tracks, the motion blur, even the monotonous train announcements, all of these things would lull me into a state of zen-like calm that I couldn’t get from popping pills.  Go figure.

I spent a lot of time (and money – MetroCards are like gold, well they are at least gold-colored) riding the Lexington line, commuting back and forth from north Jersey where I lived, to the Bronx where my old job was located.  Once I got off the PATH train in lower Manhattan, I would hustle over to the Fulton Street station and catch the 4 or 5 train uptown to 125th Street, and change there for the 6 train to Westchester Square.  Coming back downtown, I would take the 6 train to 59th street and transfer to the N/Q/R trains to 34th Street, where I would catch the PATH train back into north Jersey.  I did that everyday for 3 long years…..And to be honest, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  That’s how much I loved the subway; that’s how much I love New York City.

When I decided I was going to take the plunge and dive back into photography, my original plan was to buy a new camera, map out a plan to ride each and every subway line, and take photos.  I did take photos of the Westchester Square station on the 6 line, though, so I tried to make good on my original vision!?!?! *shrugs*

Video #3: Battery Park City (or one of the best spots to just chillax and enjoy the riverfront views)

In my humble and unimportant opinion, Battery Park City is one of most serene and beautiful spots in lower Manhattan. Took one my most viewed images here.

Video #4:  Central Park (yeah, it’s that big)

Video #5:  Downtown Brooklyn 

Now all y’all Brooklynites, please do not hate on me because I didn’t rep your hood here.  I see you and have mad luv for you all the same. I love your borough.

Video #6:  Streets of The Bronx (The Boogie-Down)

What can I say, I have a soft spot in my heart and a whole lot of love for the Bronx.  And no, it’s not burning.  One thing I will say about the Bronx though, that some folks may not like:  folks up in the Bronx cannot drive worth a damn. And they will go out of their way to run your ass over if you’re not careful.

Video #7:  El Barrio, Harlem, New York

Video #8: A cool time-lapse video offering a stunning view of the Empire State Building from across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

Anyway, that’s all.  Wanted to share with you one of my greatest inspirations and show love to the place that helped me find myself and my love for photography.  Leave your love for NYC in the comments or send me a private message.  But don’t complain that I left out Times Square, please and thank you. Oh, and have a great Memorial Day weekend!

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3 thoughts on “What Inspires Me? New York City Does.

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