Ben Zucker at the Pratt Student Art Exhibit

Brooklyn, NY

Photo Credit – Ben Zucker

Walking into the Pratt Student Art Gallery, I notice a large framed print of a homeless man whose face is obscured by the metallic structure of New York City. “This is one of those pieces where you can clearly identify New York as the geography.” The picture centers the man on a signature example of objective street life.

Perpendicular to this opening piece, an incredibly close profile of a woman’s hands are captured in vivid detail. Their self-embrace is intimate. Every piece in the show has this sort of candid, subjective quality, rich with personal urban narratives. Some are warm despite the cold, and some leave us wondering what, why, and how.

Amanda's Hands
Photo Credit – Ben Zucker

Some of these pictures offer an odd distance between the subject and the viewer. There is no need to identify the subject. An old, feeble hand, decorated with golden rings and a manicure, holds an expensive bottle of prescription heart medicine.

One photo shows a woman emptying her purse on the street among pedestrians and shadowy strangers. That is not what draws my eye. The contents of her purse sprawled on the dirty sidewalk offer a glimpse into her life and culture. Chase Manhattan bank card, iTunes gift card, stamp-set “Get Healthy America” food and fitness cards, business cards and post-its, half-regurgitated out of the mouth of a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag. Perhaps she’s waiting for the bus.

Photo Credit – Ben Zucker

A retail space under construction was once an ATM kiosk, and the last remaining proof of it remains in a window’s wax labeling, almost scraped away, much like the retail space inside. Desolation, destruction, a passive interpretation of future creations that will one day cover up the past.

“I’m only giving you views I want you to see.”

Roughly one foot from the ground, the photographer’s camera captures a letter of emotion and sincerity. The keywords “My dearest… jail… streets… dead or in jail…” stick out. This letter had so much brevity, and yet it’s cast aside, littered and left to no voice, a watery pickup of sewer streets, a dirty home for a dirty life.

Photo Credit – Ben Zucker

A Styrofoam food container hangs motionlessly between the belly of a city trash can and the unidentified hand that releases it. More human interaction exists around it, but only to further illustrate the scene aptly captured in visual clarity. What will happen when time catches up with it, transforming the passive to active?

Ben Zucker’s exhibit “In Between Before and After” and other works are available for purchase through his Blurb page here.

Hooray for Earth – “True Loves” Album Premiere

Hooray For Earth - True Loves

Today, SPIN Magazine opened the floodgates for avid fans of Hooray For Earth (HFE) by streaming their entire upcoming album “True Loves” online. I wasted no time in listening to it here. I urge to do the same, before this offer disappears. The album goes public on June 7th.

For everyone who got here late, HFE is a guitar band originally from Boston. They now operate in New York, and have since then exploded. Their heavy-hitting presence from years ago (i.e their EP “Momo”) has not changed. If anything, they have complimented that energy with music that makes people feel alive. The vocals resonate on almost every track, as if welcoming listeners to sing along. Check out songs like “Last Minute” and “True Loves” to get a feel for what I mean.

There are layers to their music that simply never existed before. They’ve been exploring the boundaries of guitar rock with electronic enthusiasm, and their hard work has paid off. I sense a very strong and positive reaction to their new release from Dovecote Records. Check out their music video for “True Loves” below. It aptly demonstrates the caliber of their work.

Gravesend Bay

Finally the first warm Saturday of the year! Time to get up out of my small hard empty bed, throw on some gym clothes and hit the jogging path. Before I left I choked down a cold pork and leek dumpling with some orange juice and grabbed my iPod and keys. I hit play. Com Truise, the band Zucker and I saw last week in Greenwich Village, made for some great running music. I took off down 18th Avenue towards Gravesend Bay and lost my self in the pure electronic soundscape. Fifteen minutes into the run I was at the water. Thirsty, I longed for a Red Fish Ale, water from the bubbler I spied at the park across the street would suffice though. I paused the music to listen to the waves hit the barrier rocks below me. I saw seagulls pick at the garbage floating amid the otherwise clear water. There were huge ships further out into the bay. I couldn’t let the moment linger much longer though, I had to keep going. Running faster and faster on the asphalt, passing families of Hassidic Jews pushing strollers, dressed head to toe in black traditional wear and Chinese families with their packs of rambunctious little kids running circles around them made for some difficult maneuvering and interesting company.

The jogging path goes for miles, I ran two of them at the most. Along it are rather unremarkable sights; running west I had the bay to my left and the Shore Parkway to my right. The occasional grassy hill gave way to unobstructed views of the highway and the surrounding neighborhood of Bay Ridge. Along the wall separating the path from the water are numerous highly detailed signs explaining how, during a severe storm, the massive pipes below said signs connect the New York City sewer system to the bay where it can dump any overflow from the system in to the water. Lovely. Just think, Coney Island beaches are all but a few miles down stream from the drains. Looks like I won’t be swimming in those I thought.

At a corner of the path there were a few benches where people were sitting. One notable character was sitting directly in the sun, wearing a black suit, reading and sweating profusely. I took a seat not too from him and looked out onto the bay. The view was calming. I could see New Jersey in the distance and the Verrazzano bridge towering above me. Taking a moment to reflect, thoughts of spending summer afternoons on the Newport cliffs gazing out onto the Atlantic filled my mind. I wished I could relive those moments now.

It was getting late and I was hungry. I jogged my way back to the foot bridge that went over the highway and made my way back up 18th Avenue. People were getting out of church, there were cars everywhere, even parked fully on the sidewalks. Further up the avenue the crowds of people got more dense. I saw an ambulance up ahead one block from me. There was a group of people standing around an old lady who had apparently fallen. I felt bad for her and wondered what happened. Closer to my apartment I saw the police pull a lady over for no apparent reason. There was no way she could have been speeding as I was easily keeping up with the traffic on foot. I figured he was probably just trying to get his quota for the day.

Back at the apartment I had some lunch and thought about going to Central Park the next day. This is a good way to start my summer in New York.

On the Train – 2

Brooklyn, NY

Photo credit: Elizabeth Latten

On Super Bowl Sunday, my brother, his girlfriend, PK and those two girlfriends from my last visit took me out bowling. Melody Lanes. You couldn’t ask for a more convincing epitome of dive-y bowling alleys. It was fitting; there was only one other group playing on the ten-odd lanes, and we chose to hug their company by using the two lanes beside them. Two portly women and a convincingly gay man had been playing long before we got there. They were the regulars, and they welcomed us. U2 was on the jukebox, signing “where the streets have no name,” and the woman in red sang, “Where the balls have no game.” Whether or not that was a taunt for the men to man up, or a simple play on bowling lingo, I’ll never know.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Latten

On the Train – 1

Hey everyone, this is Zucker. In February 2011, I rode a train around the country. I did it for a month, stopping about a dozen times across the nation. I didn’t see every state, every city, apart from the ones I visited and passed on the train. There was no rhyme or reason to my trip, other than the act of getting out and traveling through a personally-unexplored frontier. I had never seen the country like this. I usually see it from 30,000 feet in the sky, or perhaps on the mindless roads and highways.

This was better; more intimate, and more involved with the country’s side. Taking the train has shown me so much, and it’s allowed me to broaden my mind a bit. I wrote about it, took pictures, experienced new cultures and listened to people. It was a month I will never forget, and I’ll share it with you here, one bit at a time.

Boston to New York – “Northeast Regional Blur”