March 23, 2011

Frank and the Lunatic

Yesterday I went to a bunch of fabric stores looking for a location for a book cover I'm shooting next week. I roamed around the fashion district asking shop owners if I could possible shoot in their stores. Most of them refused and the ones who agreed told me I could only shoot for a few minutes (which won't work). Understandably they didn't want to interrupt sales with a big production going on. The last place I went was a dingy, cluttered shop down below Canal Street. After leaving the store, I zig-zagged my way north through Soho and the Village taking pictures. Walking up Elizabeth Street I stopped in front 10 Bleecker Street where I lived in back in 1996. It was a huge loft and probably the most amazing apartment I've ever lived in with its two huge bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows, Sub-Zero appliances and island in the kitchen. As I stood there reminiscing and scanning the buzzers to see if I recognized any of the names, I remembered that the famous photographer Robert Frank lived directly across the street from me back then.

Just as I was thinking this, I turned around to see Frank and his wife walking out of his apartment locking the door. I read recently that he was now living in a new apartment in the area that was more "age friendly" (he's 87) but apparently he had kept the old place as well. Without thinking, I rushed across the street with my hand extended and introduced myself. As I shook his soft, mushy hand I said, "Hello Mr. Frank. I used to live right there across the street," pointing up to the arched windows on the 5th floor. He looked confused but smiled. "I used to sit on my doorstep and take photos of you sweeping your stoop." Now he looked really confused and his wife smiled cautiously with the look of "this guy is crazy." Then I realized that none of this made any sense to him so I ended it quickly with, "Well, I just wanted to shake your hand, I'm a big fan...." and then I mumbled something about his book Americans as he turned and walked away. I suddenly felt this odd feeling, like the one you must have when you know you've just blown an important job interview.

As I watched him hobble away with the help of his wife and cane I realized a couple of things: What a complete lunatic I just sounded like and that I had just broken my own cardinal rule of never bothering a celebrity.
Hell, I should have just broken all my rules and asked for an autograph....

A quote from NPR:
Frank spent his time off wandering New York and photographing what he found. "Like a boxer trains for a fight," Frank says, a photographer needs to practice by getting out and taking pictures every day. "It doesn't matter how many he takes or if he takes any at all. It gets you prepared to know what you should take pictures of or what is the right thing to do and when."

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