Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Find the 7 bombs in the pictures

New York, New York... I cannot be any humble on this, as at last, after years of anticipation I got to spend 9 beautiful days with my friends in this amazing city. Not even the bad weather, a mix of crazy humidity, a lot of rain and freak thunderstorms could ruin it. All in all, I could easily say I felt at ease most times with the New Yorkers and had a smooth time with the officials alike. However, there is one incident, maybe the only negative story I'll share in here among many good ones, that I'd like to scribble down before I do the honours later with other blog posts.

On Saturday, 9 May, I woke up to a beautiful morning around Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Before heading to some parks in DUMBO and walking over into Manhattan through Brooklyn Bridge, we were having brunch with D., J. and C. talking about the fine lines between use of public and private spaces and issues of infiltrating into people's private realms through photography. Only 2 days before, on 7 May, I remember taking a picture of a large housing block, of which there was only one window open where a veiled lady was looking down onto the W 57th Street. As I took her picture (or rather the picture of the building) she drew back immediately. At the brunch table on Saturday, C. and J. were saying that you can make a picture of someone at their window and it is their responsibility to draw the curtains to avoid being exposed to the voyeurist's lens. The discussion went further on with gaining access to shooting films and photography on sets and getting the consent of locals, and etc...

In the afternoon, I decided to pay a visit to the Grand Central Station on my own. I've always been fascinated with train stations, as a railroad-commute-lover and the useles wandering arounds, or running into catching trains, or stopping by to catch some breath in train stations have always been part of my interests. For that matter, Sirkeci Train Station in Istanbul also holds an important place in my heart.

As I walked into the Grand Central for the first time and got easily fascinated by the overwhelming non-human scale of the whole "thing" I started to taking pictures of the interiors and the peope alike. I made may way into the train platforms, hoping to catch some more movement. A few poor shots and I walked back into the main concourse. I bought a bunch of cupcakes and made my way into the balconies with the fancy restaurants to have a final elevated view of the space...

At that moment I was approached from behind by a couple of cops with whom we have exchanged the following bizarre conversation:

"Sir, could you please stop?"
I stop.

"There have been complaints from staff that you were taking pictures of the train platforms, can we have a look at the pictures"?
I show them some of the pictures I took as I don't feel the need to end up an interrogation room for losing my calm for nonsense discussion.

"Why have you taken these pictures of the walls and lights, but not the main area or people? These are not pictures that normal tourists would take. Can I please see your ID? Where are you staying, what are you here for, how long are you going to be in New York"...

The rest was the similar treatment that I have gotten experienced to at the 2 stop and search incidents I had in London (2nd of which was accusation of stealing my own bicycle). The sheer differences were that in New York when they wrote down some of my ID details, they did it on a random piece of paper and did not tell me what they would to with them, whereas in London it was on a standard print-paper, a receipt of which I was handed afterwards, clearly stating all my rights (I keep one pink slip of that).

In general, in the States it has felt as if they have more experience in being suspicious but also handling situations. I would rather not mess with the American cops, as in Europe and especially in the UK, there is much greater sense of regulation. However I also have to admit that I despise the hypocritical royal attitude of the officials in the UK, whereby they take every step to make life miserable to people that are not from certain backgrounds (ethnically, or citizenship-wise (eg non-EU, non-US)).

So, after having had this small interrogation, I remembered the morning discussion over public space and asked the cops the following:
"Is there any regulation of taking pictures in here? This is a public space, right?"

I learn that the issue with the train platforms are different, that they are grey zones, that the lawas that once helped shelter the homeless are much tighter now and that they followed me because of taking pictures in the platforms. Well, one of the remarkable quotes they've used in this conversation was:
"The world has changed since the 1980's, right?"

What can I say? I was astonished by the retrospective. What a valid, self-reflective, intellectual criticism of the 1980's neo-liberal led conservative policies. Wish all cops had this edge!

In the meanwhile, can you spot the 7 hidden Usames in the following pictures I took at the station?!

1 comment:

miyuw said...

i caught one! there there! right behind the column hiding!