Escape from New York

So last week was the annual PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, and I attended for the first time.  It was fun and exciting and I met a lot of great people, and just being in New York again was great.  I got to spend the week hanging out with my brother!  We went to a taping of The Colbert Report!  It was an eventful trip for sure, and full of fun fodder for blog posts.  But the really big deal was Hurricane Sandy.

The expo began on the 25th of October and ran only through the 27th, but I decided to linger in town afterward and see some things, as you do when you visit New York.  How long to stay was kind of up in the air.  Halloween was the deciding factor.  It’s my favorite holiday (obviously), and my brother clued me in to the Village Halloween Parade, which has been a yearly tradition since 1974, and one that by all accounts is pretty outstanding.  It’s the largest Halloween event in the country, often referred to as “New York’s Carnival”, and the New York Times described it as “the best entertainment the people of this city ever give the people of this city”.  USA Today says to “be prepared to drop your jaw”, and that “anything goes”.  The Fodor’s travel guide calls it “bizarre but brilliant”.
So, done.  Sold.  I had me at “largest Halloween event”, and I didn’t see why I would want to miss such a thing, so I got a return ticket home for the first of November.  As it happened, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record hit the eastern coast on Monday, October 29.

I didn’t have the full, miserable Sandy experience that those on the lower east side did, let alone the unfortunate inhabitants of the Jersey shore.  I was staying in Midtown with my brother.  It was windy and we got a little wet, but that was about the extent of it.  We didn’t even lose power.  Actually, if you’d like to see how the ordeal played out in the two areas of Manhattan, The Daily Show did their usual excellent job of highlighting the difference.

I went out and walked around with my camera in loafers, jeans, and a sweatshirt when the storm hit (I’d left my hurricane parka and waders at home because I didn’t think I’d need them).  The winds were stronger than anything I’d ever experienced.  I don’t weigh much, and a few times was almost blown off my feet.  Still, I fared better than the construction crane at 57th and 6th, which collapsed and dangled about 80 stories above the street.  Police swarmed the area and cordoned it off a couple blocks in every direction.  Neighboring hotels were evacuated, displacing guests onto the wet and windy sidewalks, where they huddled under awnings as they waited to hear where to go next.

Down on the lower east side, Sandy rearranged cars like an angry valet and Consolidated Edison killed power to protect its equipment, should underground conduits become flooded.  Everything south of 39th street would eventually go dark.  I walked down Broadway and across to the water the next day, and took more pictures.  Here are some of the things I saw:

The collapsed crane.

Wicked wind blows leaves, caution tape, and cops as they block the streets surrounding the crane.

I’m not at all dressed for a hurricane.  How embarrassing.

Guests of hotels surrounding the crane line the streets after being evicted.

Mayor Bloomberg shut down the subway system on Sunday night, the 28th, in preparation for the storm.

Outages south of 39th Street.

Breathe easy—the IHOP weathered the storm.

A hurricane enthusiast.

People look through the gate into the garage, where standing water still envelops cars.

The previous night’s water level is still clearly marked on the brick.

Stuyvesant Town cleanup.

The on ramp to the FDR freeway.  There’s typically less pedestrian traffic.

The FDR is shut down, and people walk, bike, and jog on it.  Surreal.

I felt like I was in a zombie movie.

Moody.

Two days after the hurricane, streets in Midtown are still closed because of the crane.

And people are still taking pictures of it.

On my last day in town, with much of Midtown still closed, I decided I’d go for a walk through Central Park.  Ever seen Central Park completely empty?  No?  Neither had I, but the park was closed too, out of concern for the structural integrity of its trees.

A cleanup crew clears downed trees and branches.

Open 24 hours.  Usually.

By the way, the Village Halloween Parade?  Canceled.

SEAF 2012, June 16-17 and 22-24

The annual Seattle Erotic Arts Festival is celebrating its tenth year this month, and I’m thrilled to report that of the more than two thousand pieces of visual art submitted this time around, my photo was one of the two hundred or so that made the cut and will be hanging on the wall.  I feel like that’s quite an accomplishment, and I can’t wait to attend the festival these next two weekends to see all the other work.  I hope you’ll be able to come out and say hello.  To that end, here is a link to purchase tickets, and here is a link with the event schedule.  See you there!

The New Place

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.  After months of searching, I have at long last found a new studio space.  It’s not far from the old studio, actually—just a couple blocks from Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market—and it’s similar in character to the old building but without the baggage of fatal structural flaws.  I’m expecting to sign lease papers next week and move in at the beginning of December, and I can’t wait to share more details and images once it’s been fixed up.  More to come…

Washington State Senator Scott White, 1970-2011

I just learned that this past Friday, Washington State Senator Scott White suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 41.  I am terribly sorry to hear the news.  I didn’t know him well, but what little I knew, I liked very much.  He really didn’t seem like a politician to me—there was nothing about him that came across as even remotely artificial—he just seemed like a regular guy who wanted to do what he could to make a positive difference.

I met Senator White at the end of 2009, when he was still a House Representative and I was asked to photograph him for an article about legislation he was proposing.  It was a bill that would make crimes against the homeless qualify as “bias-motivated attacks”, or hate crimes.  I photographed him under an I-5 overpass in Seattle, at the site of a homeless man’s murder that inspired his work on the issue.  It was a typical wet day.  I remember apologizing for asking him to stand in mud for the shoot, but he couldn’t have been happier to do it and he was glad to give me all the time I needed.  It was his nature to smile, I think—I asked him to keep a serious expression due to the nature of the bill highlighted in the article, but I could tell he found it difficult.

Since then, we bumped into each other several times at community functions.  The first time was quite a while after we shot together, and I didn’t even expect him to remember me, much less take the time to talk with me (there were plenty of people there more important than I).  But he came over and struck up a conversation, asked how things were, and told me that the article was up in his office, along with my photograph.  I asked him about the fate of the bill, and congratulated him on its passage.  I remember feeling glad that he was in Olympia, and it saddens me to think we’ve lost him.

So long, 619 Western, and thank you.

Yesterday the last furniture was removed and the last considerable dust bunnies were swept away from my studio space in the 619 Western building in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square district.  It was a sad day for me, and knowing it was coming didn’t help very much.  I didn’t expect to be there forever, I suppose, but who ever wants to leave a place they love only because there’s no other choice?  The city of Seattle and the Washington State DOT made that decision for me, and the scores of other artists in the building.  October 1st, 2011, that’s it.  Out.  If you missed the story and are at all curious as to why everyone was evicted, you can read about it here.

How can I tell you how I feel about the building?  Now more than a century old, 619 Western is all cement and wood and there’s not an ornate element to be found, but more than a hundred artists made that building their home away from home.  It was a vibrant and exciting community for artists of all kinds—painters, dancers, musicians, sculptors, woodworkers, clothing designers, and of course photographers—to say nothing of the city’s many artgoers.  An arts building since 1979 (the year I was born, coincidentally), it was also one of the largest art studio enclaves on the west coast.  It was, in fact, so magnificent in so many respects that it frankly made no difference to any of us that it was crumbling (I often likened it to a scone).  619 was an incredibly special place, and I can’t really express how fortunate I feel to have been a part of it for the last five years of its life.  I suspect Seattle’s art community will be feeling its loss for quite some time.  I know I will.

I’ll get to photos in just a minute, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the thing I’ll likely miss most about 619 Western.  On the first Thursday of each month, anyone and everyone could come out and enjoy work displayed in galleries and studios throughout downtown.  Other buildings were open those nights (and will continue to be), but 619 was absolutely, no question, hands down the place to be.  The monthly event was called ArtWalk, and 619′s stairs, hallways, and studios were always packed with people there to enjoy art.  You know, to be honest, given all the fire codes no doubt broken every time, I’m surprised the city never shut it down (seriously, if there had been an electrical short—not outside the realm of possibility at all—those that didn’t die in the fire would’ve certainly perished in the inevitable stampede on the only available set of stairs).
Artwork, music, wine, great friends, strangers, laughter, conversation, connection—I’ve never been in the middle of anything like it.  I will miss it terribly, and I’ll always have a warm place for it in my heart, right between thunderstorms and The Princess Bride.

Okay, photos.

This used to be my home away from home.  A lot of really wonderful things happened here.

A century of wear from a century of feet.

This crack in the cement is four or five inches wide.  Through it you can see into the north half of the building.  It’s not the only one—in fact, these cracks are so common throughout 619 that they were incorporated into the building’s logo (see above).  Unsafe, schmunsafe.

I always loved the back entrance.

Moments from an ArtWalk night.  Not the busiest we’ve ever had, but this was the night I set up the camera.

So long, 619 Western, and thank you.

lucienknuteson.com (v3.0)

What a great way to kick off a new year.  New work, new website.  If you haven’t already seen it—if you didn’t come here from the main site—have a gander.  It’s a pretty smart design, and I’m very glad to say you’re able to view the images much larger than was possible before (up to full screen size, if you click that little doohickey in the lower right).  I hope you’ll have a look, and that you’ll like it as much as I do.  As always, feel free to let me know what you think.

lucienknuteson.com is dead.
Long live lucienknuteson.com!