Juggalo March On Washington – 9.16.17

At 3am on Saturday I got on a train headed for DC. My band had just played and I was wired from the horrifying 5 hour energy and rum cocktail I down 20 minutes before I play a show. I didn’t sleep a wink on the train. It was 7am when I arrived. I ended up getting about 90 minutes of sleep before heading down to the Lincoln Memorial for Juggalo March on Washington.

I have been photographing juggalos since 2010 and in that time I have grown very protective of them. Juggalos are the most mocked subculture on the planet but if you spend a day with a bunch of juggalos you will come away with a completely different opinion of them. They are the nicest, most accepting, down to earth people you could possibly meet and every journalist I have met covering juggalos comes away with the exact same feeling.

So in 2011 when the FBI classified juggalos as a gang I was mystified. It made no fucking sense to me. Yeah of course some juggalos commit crimes but so do fans of every genre of music. The Insane Clown Posse is a horror movie in music form. Should we be locking up the millions of people who watched IT last weekend?

At the Gathering of the Juggalos in 2012 ICP held a talk to discuss the FBI designation. They had their lawyer come out and talk as well. They then set up an area of the festival where people could come and tell their stories about how this bullshit designation had fucked up their lives. Here’s how I covered it at the time.

Eventually the ACLU got involved and it seemed like this was such an easy to fix mistake but the mistake was never fixed. ICP had their lawsuit thrown out two times and even though they won an appeal in 2015 the lawsuit doesn’t even start until October! It’s been 6 years since this started and they still haven’t had their day in court.

When the Juggalo March on Washington was announced it was met with mostly mockery and not much else. Just a couple months ago when I was at the Gathering of the Juggalos even juggalos didn’t seem to be taking it that seriously. It was sort of an attitude of “this won’t change anything”. It wasn’t until the blog Metal Sucks wrote about the Juggalo March being held at the same time as a pro-Trump rally called the Mother of All Rallies (MOAR) that people started paying attention.

Once the Metal Sucks blog came out I saw people on Twitter making joke after joke about juggalos fighting nazis and these (truthfully hilarious) memes about some sort of progressive mob of juggalos rising up and murdering nazis with hatchets in league with Antifa. People kept Tweeting me about these things over and over because they know me as the juggalo photographer, but I wanted to take this seriously.

At the Gathering fellow juggalo journalist Camille Dodero and I were talking about how we thought leftist groups should really get behind the juggalos because it’s a civil rights issue. This FBI think is such bullshit and this feels very important even if you don’t care about juggalos. So when people started making juggalo antifa memes I figured I had to explain to my followers why juggalos were actually marching. They weren’t fighting nazis or protesting Trump… they wanted the FBI (and local law enforcement) to leave them the fuck alone.

I started a thread of Tweets that got a few likes and then nothing, but whenever I would see memes I would respond and link them to my Twitter thread. A couple days later as I was going to bed someone retweeted them, and then a few more and when I woke up my phone had exploded and thousands of people were liking and RTing them. People from both sides of the political aisle were retweeting them and it actually became an official Twitter Moment. It was pretty crazy for me, but the really surprising thing was that the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

For the first time in the history of the Insane Clown Posse people were on their side. (Side note: I am not taking credit for this, I just wanted to talk about my small part in it.) Article after article came out about ICP and editors started assigning the march to journalists. Playboy reached out to me about covering it and DCist interviewed me for a story. Former juggalo clients of mine like Vice and Rolling Stone sent teams of people instead. Time and the Guardian and the Washington Post took notice. People started paying attention to this travesty of justice.

So that brings us to the march and me on 90 minutes of sleep getting out of an Uber 100 yards from the Lincoln Memorial. I get out of the car and see hundreds of juggalos gathering around the stage set up in front of the Reflecting Pool on the Mall. The event hadn’t even started yet and there were juggalos everywhere intermingling with tourists.

But it wasn’t just tourists, there were random punk kids and a sprinkling of Antifa (I didn’t shoot them because they had journalists interviewing them at all times).  I met middle aged people wearing juggalo march shirts who didn’t know anything about juggalos but wanted to support. A big group of Democratic Socialists were out handing out flyers and Faygo Not Fascism signs. There were all sorts of people who were just there to back up the juggalo cause.

As far as the juggalos, I saw so many people I knew from Gatherings and ICP events. There were juggalos from every type of background, color and age. There were babies and old men in wheelchairs and veterans and priests and even cthulhu. I met people from all over the country and everyone was hugging everyone, meeting strangers and having a blast.

After everyone gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial the speeches started. We heard from juggalos across the country who had their lives turned upside down from this FBI gang designation. There was woman who had lost her job as a parole officer and a woman who had been kicked out of the military. It was just story after story of completely unfair consequences all because of this absurd gang list. ICP’s lawyer spoke and read a letter from the ACLU and a bunch of my fellow juggalo journalists spoke. Camille spoke, as did Mitchell Sunderland, Nathan Rabin, Steve Miller and Scottie D. Mitchell has covered juggalos for Vice and Broadly and Nathan and Steve have both written books about juggalos. Scottie is the founder of Faygo Luvers the biggest juggalo blog on the planet and someone who has always spread the word about my juggalo photos.

Finally ICP got on stage. They gave an impassioned speech about the gang designation and brought their families and friends out. The stage was packed with everyone from Psychopathic records and their families. After getting the crowd going they had everyone assemble and we begun to march.

I took a ton of photos as we walked around the mall but at some point I just got really into it. I have spent years of my life trying to explain juggalos to the world and this seemed like this really magical moment where people were actually listening. Random onlookers seemed really interested in what was going on and everyone I talked to seemed to support what the juggalos were doing. I even started leading chants and getting involved in the protesting as much as the documenting.

At some point during the march I ran into Anna Merlan a journalist I know (her work on conspiracy theorists is incredible) and she had left the MOAR event because it was completely pointless and decided to check out the Juggalo March. She said it was a couple hundred people and a total bust which made me really happy. As the day went on I heard more and more about how pathetic the MOAR event was and that contrast with the really successful Juggalo March made the juggalos look even better. It was perfect.

This article is getting really long and I feel like I have so much to say but let me just pause to mention that I grew up in DC going to protests and the DC Police are so good at crowd control and not letting things get out of hand. I have seen protests in other cities go haywire so quickly, but in DC the cops know exactly what they are doing. And I point this out because there were almost no cops at all at the juggalo march. There were a few spread out mostly blocking traffic. They clearly understood what was going on with the march and just left everyone alone. I didn’t see a single police interaction or any negative event at all to be honest.

As the march wrapped up back at the Lincoln Memorial I was pretty much destroyed. I was running all around the route trying to capture everything on 90 minutes of sleep the day after my band had played a show where I had beat the hell out of myself. I chugged a gatorade and chased it with a bottle of water and walked around the Lincoln Memorial with some punk girls I met when we both happened to notice that Ian MacKaye was watching the juggalos. One of them gave me a bunch of stickers with her boobs on them which I appreciated.

As we walked around some bands played and I took it easy waiting until ICP would finally headline the post march concert. After the girls dipped I talked to some more journalists and juggalos and ate some cold McDonald’s cheeseburgers that Psychopathic TV had laying around backstage. All I could think about was passing out but I couldn’t miss this set. Finally around 9PM, more than 8 hours after I got there ICP started to play. I tell everyone who hasn’t seen them that no matter what you think of their music you need to see one of their shows. They put on this wild set and it’s like a religious experience to their fans. That combination makes for an incredible moment even if you don’t like their music, but after all the shows I have seen, it was still surreal to watch them with the Lincoln Memorial on one side and the Washington Monument on the other.

When I finally got back to my parents apartment I was just done with being alive but I had to send images to my clients that night. I dumped the images and took a bath and washed the Faygo, sweat and sunblock off me while they transferred. One of my old friends came over and he and his girlfriend hung out while I edited. He and I liked ICP back in the 90’s when we were kids so it was cool to hang out with him while I worked. I finally finished editing around 3am and got a couple hours of sleep before I headed back to NYC for a hurricane Irma fundraiser I had to host in the afternoon. That night I slept for 10 hours. It was a hell of a weekend.

The best part of this whole thing was that nearly all the press coverage was super positive. I really think this is a big moment for juggalos. Maybe people will finally respect them a little bit or at least just leave them alone. So before I get to my coverage I wanna share with you a couple videos I thought were particularly good. Both of them feature my friend Chris AKA Mankini who to be honest is the perfect subject for a video about the march. He’s from the area so he let dozens of people stay with him, he is super nice and of course he’s a giant dude who wears a bikini all the time. You can’t beat that. So check out the Reason video about the march and then check out the Guardian video which I am actually in the background of a couple of times.

Now finally we get to my coverage…

First check out my Playboy article. I wrote the (heavily edited) intro, and interviewed juggalos and took all the photos. It’s almost as if I am an actual journalist.

I also did a big gallery for Voice Media Group who I always shoot juggalos for. Here’s just the LA Weekly gallery since they are all the same even though it was published via a bunch of alt weeklies.

And now finally here’s my huge gallery:

Click here for all my photos from the Juggalo March On Washington!

Juggalo March On Washington

Juggalo March On Washington

Juggalo March On Washington

Juggalo March On Washington

Juggalo March On Washington

Juggalo March On Washington

Juggalo March On Washington

Juggalo March On Washington

Juggalo March On Washington

 

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Trump Tower Protest – 8.14.17

I was in the middle of writing this post when Trump just gave a press conference where he defended neo-Nazis live on TV. I don’t even know how to fucking deal with that. I was already sick to my stomach after watching the Vice story on Charlottesville and the past few days have had me in just constant depression. All I can do is read about this shit and it’s fucking up my mental health. Honestly.

I was so fucking depressed yesterday so I decided to do something with that and go protest Trump at Trump Tower. It was his first trip back since his January 20th when he was sworn in. There would have been a protest anyway but after Charlottesville it was a completely different mood.

I got there a bit late and it was already dark. I made it about a block from Trump Tower and joined a pen of protesters. I brought my camera but I wasn’t really working. I just figured I should take a couple photos because that’s all I know how to do. There were a lot of people there but it was sort of anti-climatic. I was in a group with a bunch of people with drums singing silly chants about love trumping hate. I have too much anger for that shit. New York Hates You and Fuck Trump were the only chants I could bring myself to join in on.

I need to do more. I have used my platform to talk about this shit but that’s not enough. I wrote about my white privilege for 2000 Words yesterday and made a donation to a tattoo shop that is covering up white power and gang tattoos for people who have turned their lives around. The non-profit I run is non-political but we are making a donation to Life After Hate, an organization that tries to get people to leave a life of white supremacy behind. I listened to a Podcast with the former white power skinhead who runs it and I knew I wanted to do something to help him.

I still don’t really know what to do about any of this, but I need to do something. I need to be more involved. I hope if nothing else this week inspires more people to get involved in activism and fight these Nazi scum one way or another.

Look, these photos aren’t very good. They are mostly just photos of signs, but they are at least an excuse to do a post about this and use this blog to get some of this shit off my chest and maybe get a couple of you to do something to, whatever that may be.

Click here to see my photos from last night’s Trump Tower protest.

Trump Tower Protest

Trump Tower Protest

Trump Tower Protest

Trump Tower Protest

Trump Tower Protest

 

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Pulse Rally At The Stonewall Inn – 6.13.16

When a bi-polar Islamic radical kills 50 people at a gay night club people frame the tragedy the way they want. Is it about terrorism or gun laws or do we need to have a conversation about mental health? It’s easy to forget that this was fundamentally a hate crime and over 100 people were hurt or killed in one of the few places they feel safe.

Living in New York City it’s easy to pretend that homophobia is a thing of the past. I spend most of my life surrounded by people who think like I do who don’t think twice when discovering someone’s sexual identity. But last night as I stood 100 yards from the Stonewall Inn I watched a queer latino man crying and screaming to his friend about being kicked out of his home by his parents. He came to the New York City as a homeless teenager and this was his place. This was where 20 years before he was born gay men fought back and started a civil rights movement that is still being fought and the Pulse nightclub attack is another reminder that we have a long way to go.

Last night there was a rally at the Stonewall Inn to mourn the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack. I heard about it a little too late and I got there about twenty minutes before it ended. People were giving speeches but I couldn’t really hear what they were saying as I moved closer to the stage. The crowd chanted over the amplified voices “Read their names! Read their names!” Finally someone came up and began reading the names and ages. The crowd was silent except for the word “Presente” after every name was read. People held up candles and lights on their phones and people started to cry. I put down my camera and just tried to hold it together. It was one of the most emotional things I have ever been a part of.

As the crowd began to disperse I walked around talking to people and taking photos. I made my way to the memorial in front of the Stonewall Inn to take photos but also to pay my respects. I hugged a lot of strangers and was getting ready to make my way home when I ran into a group of Black Lives Matter protesters who were showing solidarity with the LGBTQ community. They were loudly chanting and being followed by a few dozen NYPD members so I followed them.

As they marched a trans woman named Mariah Lopez from the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform would speak about landmarks in the LGBTQ struggle. Someone referred to her as a revolutionary tour guide. When we got to the West Village Pier she spoke of Marsha P. Johnson a trans woman who’s body was pulled out of the Hudson after Pride Week in 1992. It was an incredibly emotional moment. There were some more words said by other activists and the names of the victims were read again and then everyone held hands and chanted. I put down my camera and held Mariah’s hand and just took part in the moment.

When I finally made my way back home I felt this crazy feeling of sadness and togetherness that I haven’t felt since probably September 12th, 2001 when I went to a vigil in DC after a plane crashed into the Pentagon a mile from my home at the time.

It’s unfortunate that it takes a tragedy to bring strangers together like what I took part in last night. And with the Pulse nightclub attacks it’s even harder to feel that closeness with your fellow man. With so many different agendas it’s hard to see that almost everyone wants this shit to stop. We just disagree on how to make that happen.

So take a look at my photos and get off Twitter and Facebook for a second and go hug a stranger.

Click here to see my pictures from the Pulse nightclub rally at the Stonewall Inn.

The Stonewall Inn

Pulse Rally @ The Stonewall Inn

Pulse Rally @ The Stonewall Inn

Pulse Rally @ The Stonewall Inn

Pulse Rally @ The Stonewall Inn

Pulse Rally @ The Stonewall Inn

Pulse Rally @ The Stonewall Inn

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Dead Democrats Vote – My Twitter War With The Right

This is going to be an extremely long post, but it ends with a really cool graphic at the end! See how much of it you can get through! Once you get bored skip to the 10th paragraph. That’s about where I get to the point.

On Tuesday the news of Shirley Temple broke on Twitter. My timeline quickly filled with RIP Shirley Temple Tweets. Every time a celebrity dies everyone on Twitter has the need to post something mourning the death of whoever. The bulk of Shirley Temple’s acting career happened during the depression and while I am sure at some point in all of our lives we had to watch a grainy video of a small child singing I doubt it had any real impact on all of my friends Tweeting about how tragic the death of an 85 year old woman (who most people probably didn’t even know was still alive) is. In a particularly antagonistic an grumpy mood I tweeted the following:

That Tweet was then picked up by a site called Twichy in an article about people talking shit about Shirley Temple for being a conservative.  That article was then picked up by sites like Free Republic and Independent Journal Review and for the last three days I have had all sorts of amazing hate Tweets sent to me from conservatives all over the world wide web.

Now to start with, I don’t have a real problem with Shirley Temple. She seems like a nice enough person. She did a lot of good with breast cancer and Multiple Sclerosis awareness and has been praised for her work as the ambassador to Ghana. Plus the Melvins loved her.  But, she was also very active in the Republican party in California and a lifelong conservative. The truth is I don’t care one way or another about Shirley Temple. She lived a long life and her death isn’t at all tragic. So why did I even comment at all?

So the point of my Tweet was a) to piss people off b) to remind my liberal friends of her conservative leanings and c) to make a “joke” about how the GOP is out of touch and hopefully dying off. At least I hope the social right is dying off. I don’t agree with purely fiscal republicans but I also don’t wish ill on them. I just tend to think they are greedy and selfish, not morally repugnant like I do anyone who wants to restrict other peoples civil rights.

So yeah, I don’t regret the Tweet but it’s pretty hard to defend too. I was really just trying to piss people off and boy did I ever!

(Read the article)

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Breezy Point One Month After Hurricane Sandy

When I posted the photos I took from Roxbury, Queens one month after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast I mentioned that I would be posting even more devastating photos later in the week. Last November when I visited Roxbury with Camille Dodero our second stop was Breezy Point, Queens. Breezy Point is a small isolated community at the far end of the Rockaways between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. When Sandy hit it was completely flooded. During the storm a fire broke out and because of the storm no one could get to it to put it out. 111 homes were completely destroyed and of course it received major media coverage all over the world.

A month after the storm most of the media was gone. We met people with homes still standing just feet from where their neighbors lost everything. Their homes were flooded, without power and heat and in some cases slightly melted because of the fire. These people felt so lucky to even have a home and even luckier to still be alive. We met people who were still living in their heat free homes in late November despite everything. Not to sound corny but it really was a testament to the human spirit. It was hard not to be inspired by these people, but at the same time the trip was absolutely devastating. I walked around the rubble of the 111 houses and just tried to imagine what I would do if everything I owned was gone.

Since my last post on Roxbury another tragedy has hit this country. Tornados in Oklahoma have left many people homeless and in the same predicament as the residents of Breezy Point. Before you donate to the Red Cross to help the people suffering in Oklahoma think about some things I learned while talking to people from Roxbury and Breezy Point as well as Red Cross workers themselves. The Red Cross is very limited in what they can do for people. They work with FEMA but they can only provide immediate shelter, food and blood for people. They can’t help people rebuild their lives.

Everyone I talked to in Roxbury and Breezy Point recommended donating to Habitat for Humanity. They were on the ground almost immediately helping people gut and rebuild their homes. In this time of need in Oklahoma I would imagine that Habitat would be the ideal charity to support.

I would also like to point out that their is still a lot of work to be done in New York and New Jersey months after hurricane Sandy. If you would like to know how you can help visit the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation.

Now, please click here and check out the heartbreaking photos I took in Breezy Point, Queens one month after Hurricane Sandy.

Breezy Point After Hurricane Sandy

Breezy Point After Hurricane Sandy

Breezy Point After Hurricane Sandy

Breezy Point After Hurricane Sandy

Breezy Point After Hurricane Sandy

Breezy Point After Hurricane Sandy

Breezy Point After Hurricane Sandy

Breezy Point After Hurricane Sandy

Volunteers/ Victims At The Catholic Club

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Roxbury Queens One Month After Hurricane Sandy

In late November of last year I traveled to Roxbury and Breezy Point Queens with my former Village Voice partner in crime Camille Dodero to do a story for Gawker about the hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Only a month after the storm it seemed to us that people had almost forgotten about the complete devastation that occurred just a short drive from Manhattan. The city was without power and there was a lot of damage south of midtown but things were back to normal relatively quickly. I really wanted to see what was happening for myself and Camille and I spent a devastating  meeting with survivors and touring wreckage.

For whatever reason the article never ran and these photos just sat on my hard drive. I knew that I wanted people to see these images but part of me wanted to find a better place to publish them than my website, but something happened recently… I had a really bad day. I had a shoot get canceled, lost a $1000 gig, found out the Village Voice was falling apart, found out I was getting paid $400 less than I thought for a previous gig and my favorite hockey team got bounced from the playoffs later that night. During that 24 hours of bullshit for some reason I kept thinking about the people I met when I was in Roxbury and Breezy Point.

I wondered about them and thought about how much worse things could be for me. I also thought about how resilient people are and how even after losing everything people just carried on as best as they could. I met people still living in their flooded, heat free, electricity free shell of a home who just were just thankful their house wasn’t 20 feet closer to the fire that wiped out 111 homes in Breezy Point. In fact everyone I met would point to someone who had it worse.

I did fundraiser through the Dolfans NYC group that I run and I interviewed several members of our group. To a letter each one of them told me their horror stories about flooding and loss of power and then they would point to another Dofans NYC member who had it worse and how they were the lucky ones. I talked to a friend who lost his vacation home and was just happy it wasn’t his actual home. I talked to someone who lost everything on his first two floors who was just happy to still have a home. When I got to Roxbury they just were happy not to be living a mile down the peninsula. I talked to people in Breezy glad to still have a home and I talked to people in Breezy who had nothing who were just glad to be alive. It was crushing and inspiring.

I did a diservice to these people by not publishing these images and I want to apologize and thank them for their time. I especially want to thank the fireman who took us on a tour of Roxbury. It was such a small community and everyone knew everyone so he could point to each house and tell us a story about the people who lived there. Roxbury FD were the first responders in Breezy Point because the Breezy FD had been evacuated.

I am going to split these photos up into two sections. The first section is from Roxbury. The photos include shots from the Breezy Point Co-Op who had organized donations for the community, photos from the Roxbury Fire Department station and our tour of Roxbury. Later this week I will be posting photos from Breezy Point and the heart breaking devastation there.

But remember people still need help. Hurricane Sandy left hundreds of people without homes. If you want to find out how you can help check out the FEMA Sandy Website. And be thankful for your life no matter how bad it gets… humans can endure almost anything. We are amazing creatures.

Click here to see all the photos of Roxbury Queens one month after Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Roxbury

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Roxbury

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Roxbury

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Roxbury

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Roxbury

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Roxbury

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Roxbury

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Roxbury

Roxbury FD

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Sweet Election Party – 11.6.12

Last night I decided to head down to the brand new Slipper Room to watch my man Barry Obama put a licking on Mitt Romney while comedians entertained me for just five dollars that all went to hurricane relief. This is America at it’s finest. The entire six years I have lived in NYC I have been going to my friend Seth Herzog’s weekly comedy show Sweet. As it happens on Tuesday Seth has done a lot of political themed nights like Super Tuesday Sweet and election watching Sweets. Always a good time because nothing is better than watching comedians make fun of our insane political process.

Last night Seth had his mom, who I love dearly, co-host. She was actually one of the funnier co-hosts he’s had and as always it got really awkward. Seth brought out Jordan Carlos doing a great Barack Obama impression. Rob Cantrell was up next and told a story about how he saw Run DMC, Whodini, Grandmaster Flash and the Fat Boys in 1986. It was hilarious and all but I was mostly just thinking about how jealous I was. Holy shit that would have been an epic show. Finally Driven By Boredom regular Hannibal Buress showed up and killed it as always.

After the jokes, shit got serious as we watched election results. Thanks to my near obsession with Nate Silver I knew Obama had it sealed up as soon as they called Wisconsin so I headed home early and by the time I got to my apartment CNN had called the election for Barack. I spent the rest of the night making fun of republicans on Twitter and then got an email about how my flight to Miami tomorrow got upgraded to first class. It was a fucking perfect day. God bless America.

Click here to see all the photos from the Sweet Election Party Special at The Slipper Room.

Seth Herzog Sweet Election Party

Jordan Carlos As Barack Obama

Seth's Mom

Rob Cantrell

Hannibal Buress

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My Hurricane Sandy Adventure

Last night as Hurricane Sandy started battering New York I stayed in my apartment waiting til the power went out. My internet went down pretty quickly but the lights stayed on and I just kept refreshing Twitter on my phone seeing the horrible things that were happening outside. As things got worse my joking Sandy Tweets became outrage and sadness as I saw photos of the Lower East Side under water. The combination of anger and photographic jealousy got the better of me and I decided I had to do something. I needed to help people or take photos or both. I really didn’t know what to do. I just put on a rain coat, grabbed my camera and walked outside.

My neighborhood in Brooklyn was empty but there wasn’t much noticeable damage. I started walking towards the Williamsburg Waterfront thinking maybe there was something I could do there where things might be worse. I promised my girlfriend I wouldn’t walk over the Williamsburg Bridge but when I got to the bridge something came over me and I just started walking over it. As I got to the middle of the bridge it went from the well lit bridge I have walked over a dozen times to pitch blackness once I reached the Manhattan side. Hurricane winds nearly lifted me up in the air as I kept one hand on the railing hoping I wasn’t going to be thrown onto the subway tracks. With a view of a half dark Manhattan and not much else I was half terrified and half exhilarated and I kept walking. At one point I was nearly scared to death when I came upon a couple actually having sex on the bridge. They must have heard me because they were completely still on the wrong side of the guardrail obviously hoping I wouldn’t notice them in the blackness. I didn’t until they were about a foot away from me. I yelled “Holy shit you guys scared me!” and then I told them to have fun and kept walking on towards the city.

When I got over the bridge there were cops everywhere blocking traffic. I slipped passed the barricades and darted up Clinton Street managing not to be seen by any cops. I didn’t want to get turned around before I saw the damage.  Walking up Clinton Street in the dark was one of the wildest moments of my life. It was completely vacated and totally black except for the police lights behind and in front of me. I walked the few blocks to Houston Street and didn’t see anyone except what I am 99% was a grafitti writer putting in work in an empty city. I climbed over a fallen tree to get to Houston. I stood there on the corner of Houston and Clinton for a minute, checked my phone and decided what to do. I wanted to go to the water but it was so dark I knew I wouldn’t be able to take any photos of it, but if I walked towards the police lights over on Ave A, I figured I would be told to get out of the evacuated areas. Eventually I decided to walk up Ave B, then over to C and then eventually over to Avenue D.

For those that don’t live in New York, Alphabet City used to be a dangerous area, but it’s pretty gentrified and safe to a point. When you reach “Avenue Dead” as they used to call it you meet with a series of housing projects that are still pretty dangerous. I used to date a girl who lived on the corner of D and 4th street and we would see people dealing drugs openly on her corner nightly. No one should be afraid to walk around there, but let’s just say I normally wouldn’t walk around there with a $3000 camera in my hand… much less at night, in pitch black darkness. Somewhere in my mind I fancy myself a war photographer or something instead of a second rate pornographer/ hipster party photographer so I decided I needed to see the flood and the only place it was still flooded was in the projects. As I walked north I saw more and more water.

Once I got to Avenue C I realized that most of it had been flooded. Cars were up on curbs and were steamed up from all the water inside them but the water had receded so it wasn’t until I got to Avenue D that I saw any actual flooding. The Jacob Riis projects were partially underwater. By this time I realized the cops weren’t going to stop me from wondering around in the evacuated zone so I tried to use their lights to take photos of the flooding. It wasn’t really working so I walked all the way into the projects and over to where the projects met the FDR freeway. The FDR was closed and mostly underwater. I started to take photos at 6400 ISO at an 1.4 f-stop and holding as still as I could to reduce the shaking from a long exposure. I got a couple okay shots but it started pouring so I put my camera away before it got destroyed. As I walked back towards Ave C I realized there were a bunch of people still living in the projects. I saw candles in the window and a few people walking around. They refused to leave despite the evacuation and four feet of water.

I walked up Ave C towards 14th street and around 13th I ran into several feet of water. I waded in up to my knees because I wanted to get shots of the Con Edison trucks that had floated away from the power plant on 14th and C. I spent a long time wading around 14th and C trying to get shots. I managed to shoot some stuff at 6400 ISO at 1.4 at about 1/8th of a second by holding myself still against a railing and a car and a parking meeter. It is really amazing what today’s digital cameras can do. Making the total blackness of a powerless New York look like daylight is something cameras only a couple years ago couldn’t possibly do. All the light in those shots comes from the sky, police lights several blocks away and one car light that was parked outside the power plant.

I continued my walk West on 14th street amazed how I didn’t recognize anything. I have walked 14th street between B and 1st Ave probably 100 times and it felt like I had never been there before. Stuy Town was black except for the cops and Con Ed trucks. I know I keep repeating myself but the total darkness of the city was so terrifying and magical that I can’t express the idea enough. When I got to the corner of 1st and 14th I looked down into the L Train platform thinking how much I wished it was open. I had been walking for hours and was soaking wet and I was ready to quit. It was at that moment when I saw an actual cab speed by the Papaya Dog and over to Beth Israel hospital and I wondered if he was working or just helping out at the hospital.

I walked over to 2nd ave and started walking down back towards the Williamsburg Bridge and back to Brooklyn. More people were out at this point. There were a few cars, a group of hipsters on bikes, a few security guards doing the Gangnam Style dance outside the NY Eye & Ear Infirmary.  On 2nd and 9th I met two guys who were keeping their bodega open despite the lack of power. They were the only store I saw open in Manhattan and they had pulled two cars up to the door, parked horizontally, with their headlights turned on so the bodega clerks could see what they were doing. I talked to them for a while and continued on down 2nd. At some point I saw another cab and I hailed him. I asked him if he was actually working and if the Williamsburg Bridge had been reopened. He told me it was still closed but he would take me to the bridge for $5. I was feeling pretty miserable so I took him up on his offer and walked back over the bridge to Brooklyn.

Three and a half hours after I left my apartment I made it home. I somehow ended up taking 350 photos, but most of them were complete shit. Taking photos without a flash in total darkness is harder than it seems… okay maybe it’s exactly as hard as it seems. I was left with about five photos I was mostly happy with and a bunch more spooky images that are at least interesting to look at. I didn’t help anyone, the photos I took were disappointing and I probably put myself in more harms way than I needed to, but I don’t regret the trip in the slightest. I will never forget those three hours last night and I am really glad that I was dumb enough to go outside and go on my little hurricane Sandy adventure.

I was very fortunate that the worst thing to happen to me was that my internet went down for a few hours, but there are tons of people suffering today. It’s going to be months before New York City recovers and probably a lot longer before a lot of the east cost gets back to where they were before the storm. I hope anyone who lives in an affected area can help out. If you can’t help physically you can always donate some money. I recommend the American Red Cross and I am going to be launching a fundraiser this week through Dolfans NYC hoping to raise at least $1000 to donate to the Greater New York Red Cross. You can text “Red Cross” to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross right now.

Anyway, sorry for the long post but I had to write this story down somewhere. Again, the pictures aren’t fantastic but I think they are probably worth looking at anyway.

Click here to see all my pictures from my Hurricane Sandy adventure.

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

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#S17 – Occupy Wall Street Turns One – 9.17.12

I was still awake at 6AM this morning and I decided I would head down to #S17, the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street protest. I got there just after 7 and saw about a dozen people get arrested by 8. About an hour later I decided I should come home and upload the photos and try to get some sleep. I have been following the Occupy movement since before it even started and I honestly haven’t photographed nearly as much of it as I would have liked. The problem with the movement is that while I agree with a lot of it, there are so many too far left radical elements that make it hard to take it seriously. I watched news reporters interview the craziest of people and personally I think things like steam punk marching bands help trivialize important issues. So many people could get on board with this movement if the most visible elements of it weren’t so out there. Still, I am glad there is at least some at least mildly organized radical left answer to the Tea Party.

Whatever the case my experience yesterday was quite intense and seeing so many people including former Bishop George Packard willingly get arrested to promote something so important to them was very powerful. To me images like that are a lot more meaningful than people in costumes yelling about anarchy.

Click here to see all the photos from #S17 – the Occupy Wall Street anniversary resistance.

Bishop Packard Arrested At Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

Glen E. Friedman @ Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

Occupy Wall Street Anniversary #S17

 

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