Where to begin? The best place, I suppose is in the beginning. When I was younger, I liked to read. A lot. I still do, but back then I had more time for it. It was my main hobby, aside from creating whole “films” and “TV shows” with intricate plots just from playing with my toys. Now, I still love to read, but it’s displaced by other things, like music, parkour, acting, filmmaking and exploring. Exploring…what is that, exactly? Exploring the beautiful rivers and meadows that span miles over the City…yeah, right. It’s exploring the built environment. Its architecture. Its history. Its life.
How did I start off on such a strange “hobby”, if you’d call it that? Well, one day I read a National Geographic article about Parisian catacombs - mazes of tunnels sometimes built entirely out of human skulls and bones. There was a short section on people who explored these areas, called, “cataphiles”. They set up illicit movie theaters, threw parties, came down at 1 am to feast. After they were evicted by the police, they then left a note for them saying, “We are leaving. Do not look for us.” What captivation! What mystery! Who are these cataphile people, anyway? Well, after some research, I found that these people did not only find interest in the catacombs. They went out to many places. Abandoned, restricted, or off the beaten path. The road less traveled. I found something beautiful in the imperfection of these places, and wanted to go off on my own. New York City is a haven for these types of places if you look hard enough. My photos have captured the many types of places I have gone to, including:
Buildings that have gone forgotten
Derelict Railway Tracks
Still Active Subway Tunnels
It’s not just about the adventure. It’s not just about the thrill. It’s not just about the memory. Perhaps it goes deeper - maybe as a sort of soul searching. Trying to quell the flood of people in the city with those few quiet places, and find yourself. One thing that it definitely does is lead to a greater appreciation of the city.
Still active subway tunnels? You’re insane! You could get hurt.
Yes, I suppose I could, if I were anyone else but me. I know my limits and don’t do anything beyond them. Some people climb bridges and other tall structures. The following is not my picture, though that’s not to say that I won’t try it when I feel more comfortable with the idea.
That is the Coney Island Parachute Jump. I pass it on the way to my classes every day, not ever expecting that at the sleepy hours of the morning, people may be climbing it to get an astounding view from the top. Maybe.
When I started out, no one was willing to view these sometimes post-apocalyptic scenes with me. I was alone. But as I advanced and grew…saw more places and met more people, I began seeing eccentric types who shared a common interest. Some of them were my friends and I didn’t know that sometimes my best exploring partners would be right under my nose. Remember that, “active subway tunnel” picture? I have been there many times, each time taking along someone new, who was totally shifted by the experience. During one of my more recent trips to the Freedom Tunnel, as the tunnel in the picture is called, I sat against a wall with a friend who was feeling disillusioned with life in the big city and as we watched the train rush by, she confided to me, “Now I can see why you want to stay in the city.”
And so, that’s my story. It’s something I enjoy doing and hope that I can continue doing for a long time. Because this city is also someone. A living and breathing person, with a story to tell. And as long as the city is alive, I too, will be.