New York/Houston Street

Houston and Lafayette Streets — © Brian Rose

Sometimes it seems like half he pictures on this blog are from Houston Street, especially the area between Broadway and Lafayette Street. It’s just that I’m there all the time coming and going, heading for the subway, walking across town, whatever. There’s been construction going on for years, rebuilding the underground infrastructure, resurfacing the pavement, and redesigning the streetscape.

Houston Street was–a long time ago–an ordinary width New York street. But at some point in the first half of the 20th century it was greatly expanded as subway tunnels were excavated, buildings were torn down, and we were left with this great gash across the urban landscape. It remains a noisy, near freeway–scene of much pedestrian and bicycle carnage–in the middle of this otherwise ped-friendly city.

That said, I love the visual chaos of it all, and today I was headed for the West 4th Street basketball court–sometimes called the cage–to continue working on this crazy project of photographing basketball with a 4×5 view camera. I set up my tripod just out of bounds behind one of the baskets, positioning myself as discreetly as possible, to avoid players crashing into me and my camera. You can’t shoot from behind the chain link fence because there’s not enough space for a wide angle lens to poke through.

At one point someone kicked a stray basketball from the other end of the court sending it rocketing directly, though not intentionally, at my camera. With the practiced awareness and dexterity of years of playing street basketball, I reached around the camera, and knocked the ball away. After the game, one of the players came over and expressed his surprise, if not amazement, that I had reacted so quickly.