via NYT Lens Blog - A Lonely Gaze on The Times and Its City by Robert Frank
In 1958, the promotion department of The New York Times hired a young Swiss expat to take pictures that were collected in a slim hardcover book for prospective advertisers. The book, “New York Is,” extolled the virtues of the city and of the newspaper as the best way to tap its prosperous postwar consumers.
There are all sorts of reasons why people become New York City police officers. Tradition. Family ties. The pension. Antonio Bolfo’s reasoning was simple.
“I was bored,” he said.
It was 2006, and Mr. Bolfo – a born-and-bred New Yorker with a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design – was an animator working on PlayStation games like Guitar Hero and Amplitude. Still, he was unfulfilled. The attack on the World Trade Center had gotten him thinking about law enforcement.
“It’s not a cop drama where it’s just black and white,” he said. “Cops grow, and this is where they learn their skills and have a trial by fire. They’re put in the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City. They have to learn superfast.”
THERE are precious few real estate secrets in the United States. Web sites have turned nearly every neighborhood into a big open-house, with slide shows, video tours and price histories, while celebrities, from A-listers to D-listers, regularly open their doors to TV cameras and magazine photographers.
But here in Mexico, only vacation properties receive such treatment. The homes where well-heeled Mexicans actually live are usually surrounded by gates or walls that guard residents’ privacy and protect against intruders. And none are more hidden than the homes owned by the country’s drug lords.
The hill in question — in Lincoln Park in Chicago, overlooking Lake Michigan — is not very big, and didn’t occur naturally. It was born in the 1940s, when a pile of dirt was moved to make room for a tunnel.
When Mr. Octavious first saw the hill, not too far from where he lives in the city, he felt an immediate connection. “When I was little in class and I drew a hill,” he said, “I would draw that shape. That’s the hill in my head.”
On the lineup platform at the police headquarters. Circa 1936.
Steps away from the sanitized, commercialized and pacified Times Square is a portal to a sinister urban past, where two-bit hoods lay sprawled in pools of blood with stogies clenched in their lifeless jaws, watched over by the police and the curious alike. It’s a world of men with guns and hats who played their final hands under elevated tracks and tenements that have long since vanished.
“I wanted to live with this original hunter-gatherer, nomadic society in the modern world,” she said. “I didn’t want to just go and do a photo project; I really wanted to live with them. I wanted to learn what they do…
To really start to understand what my images had been teaching me, I needed to really learn the language.”
“Soon after shooting memorial concerts on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, my sister called to tell me that our father had died unexpectedly. Two days later, I returned to Japan for the first time in 20 years to attend his funeral. I felt constant vertigo, like I had been violently cut and pasted from New York to Tokyo.”
In the project “Fatescapes,” the visual artist Pavel Maria Smejkal goes a step further and forces us to reconsider the veracity of historical images and the photographer’s role by digitally removing the people that made these images resonant. What is left is the scene as it might have looked just minutes before or after the photographer passed by. These images are reminiscent of a time, before Photoshop, when photographs were believed to be a reflection of reality. Mr. Smejkal’s alterations question whether photographs should be viewed as accurate representation.
“I tend to think about historical processes as something really fatal,” he said, “Something much bigger than we are.”
“I’m looking for photos that have a greater level of ambiguity,” he said. “It’s more a matter of questioning or enigma than we usually associate with photojournalism, whatever that is. I’m looking for photos that ask questions. I’m not sure I’m able to provide an answer, but you ask a lot of good questions.”