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Posts Tagged ‘new york

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.

Written by Zucker

September 7, 2011 at 6:00 PM

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.

Written by Zucker

June 2, 2011 at 4:52 PM

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.

Written by jlapre

May 3, 2011 at 1:19 PM

Posted in Writing

Tagged with , , , , , ,

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

Written by Zucker

March 15, 2011 at 6:34 PM

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”

Written by Zucker

March 13, 2011 at 6:42 PM


You know what Brooklyn is like?

You know what Brooklyn is like sometimes? It’s like a sunny, satisfying day, and you’re walking down the street, saying hello to all the friendly shop-keepers who give you deals on deals when business is good, and somewhere in a window, music from the 1940’s is playing.  Brooklyn is also like a leaky underpass ahead with drops of water falling through the cracks. As hard as you try, perhaps you’re sure of passing through it without getting wet, a single, cold, dirty drop happens to find its way onto the back of your neck, and trickles down your spine, giving you that odd, awkward shudder you tried to avoid.

Written by Zucker

February 9, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Posted in Culture, Travel, Writing

Tagged with , , ,

Brooklyn Sound


22nd Street, between 4th and 5th
Brooklyn, NY
Anchor Steam

The last time I visited Brooklyn was in April, my brother lived on Classon Avenue, and we got together with the folks for a nice weekend, but that’s a different story. A shady trend was growing in his area (sky-boxes and stained brownstone buildings), and he took the move as a blessing.

Now, on the corner of 22nd street, between 4th and 5th, my brother adjusts to a life with his girlfriend. She’s a great girl, and they go well together. They love all the same things, and they even apply to the same jobs. There was nothing out-of-place in this scene, nothing except for maybe the scene itself.

“The house used to be all red, like these stairs,” my brother pointed out as we walked towards it. I was surprised not to walk up the stairs, but instead beside them to the garden-level entrance left of the house. A cozy barbecue patio looked at us as we stepped down into the apartment. It was a unique world underneath a gay couple’s paradise. The bathroom looked to be carved out of a cave, and the radiator (after an interesting story of breaking down and leaking) had a burly towel covering it.

There should be no expectations of greatness, I thought, other than the greatness you make for yourself.

My bed was the floor where the coffee table rests. There was no rug, but they prepared for me a sleeping bag and several warm blankets. I slept like a baby that first night, but not before checking out an art gallery (Under Minerva) we passed by earlier on a walk around the block. There was a painting in the front of a DJ in layers of orange and blue, playing records and mixing it up at a club of diverse colors in the background. The basic colors of the DJ washed over the pretty lights, and it truly stood out from afar.

Over ATM slips and Grizzly Bear, I was enjoying the taste of sugar on my tongue, making a list of songs I had recommended to my brother. It was appreciated over drinks and jazz in south Brooklyn on Saturday, with him and his girlfriend and two of her friends from Pratt. For moments during the show, I saw a notebook passed between the two of them, collaborating in silence while the rest of us watched and listened.

I sat behind the piano player, and on occasion he would look back at me with an odd smile. I didn’t know what to think, and continued drinking my double of Scotch, next to the Cosmopolitan and Brooklyn Lager, Mai Tai and Gin & Tonic.

The show was good. The quartet of drums, piano, bass and trumpet were like four young wolves on the street. For an amateur show, the buzz of the evening revolved around the trumpet player, an awkward sixteen year old with short black curls and bifocals.

There was a saxophonist; his instrument rested casually to my right for a long time. His wine glass was on the table we took when we first arrived, before he came over and took it away himself. He did not play with the group until much later in the set, and his cameo appearance upped the quality dramatically. The trumpet and saxophone ran together, picking up on each other’s vibe as if they knew what the score was.

And then there was that pianist. I don’t know what I did to provoke him, but he was enthusiastic, keeping the melody and giving it his all. There were times when he stood up to bang down on the piano, as if he really needed to let it out that way. Perhaps he just didn’t give a damn.

When the show was over we walked up 5th Avenue and landed at a bar called Commonwealth. It had a nice outdoor patio, with bench-tables and umbrellas. I remember red tables; a tall boy of Anchor Steam beer; the bottle so cold it had icy condensation on it. We were talking about the music and the people at the show. Art-speak and journeys and briefs on photography and music and television were shared over nightcaps, and quip upon quip upon quip… I told them about Boston, and they told me about New York.

My brother mentioned taking shots in the subway tunnels. The empty tunnels of Brooklyn are vast and incredibly dangerous to explore on your own. There is something alluring about the darkness within, and it has my brother’s lens fixed. He tried to explain it to me, but I was too concerned about his safety to go on with it.

It’s just like a butterfly and its fleeting moment in the sky.

We walked up 5th Avenue, passing the famous pizza shop Adam Sandler ate at in “Big Daddy”. I stopped at the all-night bakery ran by some lovely Hispanic ladies who enjoyed my company at 3am, in such a state, ordering cannolis and donuts and cookies and such. We laughed and smiled together for those five minutes before taking it all back home.

I slept on the floor that night, on top of a sleeping bag underneath four warm blankets.

Sunday felt like waking up without a care in the world. In a good way, I felt free to do anything. I had but the clothes on my back. One of them was my Plaid Weekender jacket, and it kept me warm during the walk down to Bagel World, a bagel shop my brother swears by. I went by myself this time to enjoy south Brooklyn’s sights and smells. I bought one of my all-famous egg and pastrami bagel sandwiches in addition to garlic bagels and cream cheese. There was a produce stand across the street, so I waited in line to buy two Macoun apples and a pint of fresh apple cider.

We spoke about music when I got back. The third roommate, PK, was making egg-shaped plaster molds on the kitchen table that looked surprisingly like mini-cities. “Don’t burn me out of your picture,” he said as I got ready for my train home. I think he made his point.

Written by Zucker

December 16, 2010 at 9:46 PM


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