9/11 Memorial on Staten Island — © Brian Rose
My wife and headed down to Staten Island Saturday afternoon to take part in the latest installment of stillspotting nyc, a series of art projects dealing with the urban environment sponsored by the Guggenheim Museum. This one, called Telettrofono, was an audio walking tour of the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island. It told the story of Antonio Meucci and his wife Esterre who came to Staten Island from Italy. Meucci, an inventor, who also worked in the theater, developed a precursor to the telephone, a telettrofono, some years before Alexander Graham Bell patented his ultimately successful invention.
I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived on the Staten Island Ferry. The weather was threatening as a storm cell slid by to the northwest. We were given iPod Nano’s and a map and sent out along the harbor promenade to begin our walk. The audio accompaniment was created by sound artist Justin Bennett and poet Mathea Harvey and blended the factual and imaginative into a mesmerizing aural experience. It has been described by others as like being in a movie.
Along the waterfront of Staten Island — © Brian Rose
I hadn’t planned to take photographs of the walk in a comprehensive way–I figured I’d snap a few pictures here and there. But as we stepped out onto the promenade and walked by the 9/11 memorial nearby, I was struck by the strange, preternatural light and warm breeze caused by the passing storm. The atmosphere felt almost tropical and the comical potted palms near the memorial added to the effect. I began taking photographs, the soundscape and voices of Telettrofono in my ear.
Staten Island waterfront — © Brian Rose
There were others participating in the walk as well, though not so many as to be distracting. We passed through an industrial area, now used for salt storage, directly by the main shipping channel leading to the port of Elizabeth. We then headed uphill past a farmer’s market, some rundown apartment buildings and housing projects, and then into a neighborhood of large early 20th century houses, many of significant architectural character.
Richmond Terrace, Staten Island — © Brian Rose
St. Mark’s Place, Staten Island — © Brian Rose
The St. George Theatre, Staten Island — © Brian Rose
We then descended the hill toward the ferry terminal and entered the St. George Theatre, an elaborately baroque, shabby interior, and sat in the balcony as the story of the Meucci’s came to a close and the voice in our ear said “curtain.” From there we walked back to the ferry terminal, returned out iPods and headed back to Manhattan on the ferry. In the end I took over 30 photographs during the walk.
St. George ferry terminal, Staten Island — © BrianRose
Many of the photographs in this blog have been made during walks, sometimes of short duration, other times over several hours. It has become part of my modus operandi as a photographer. Sometimes I regret not having a higher resolution camera, or my view camera, with me. But the reality is that many of these short bursts of photography are only possible because I can carry a digital camera in the pocket of my cargo pants.
After looking through the photographs I took in Staten Island I decided to make the whole walk available on my website. It was inspired by what I was experiencing aurally, but it’s also a perfect example of the kind of thing I do as a photographer, a visual reconnaissance –to borrow from my Lower East Side book title–of time and space.
The full walk can be seen here.