February 10th, 2009


Everyone wants to touch the Botero penis

A running gag and one of my favorite lines by the hapless villians in Meet the Robinsons was “I’m just not so sure how well this plan was thought through.” Which pretty much sums up my feelings about my new cameraphone. I realized too late that limited memory and having to pay 25¢ for each photo I want to send myself (there’s no other way to get them out of the camera) means I can no longer shoot dozens of pictures to get one or two good ones. With lots of light it can take some decent cheesecake, but in low light, well, you might as well be Helen Keller. With a quarter a pop plus its resolute low-resolution, welcome to my new series I’m calling two-bit photos.

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new york

What I love about NYC, No. 8,375 in a continuing series

Someone’s gone and published my dream book: a photo essay of the city’s remaining idiosyncratic storefronts, the ones that have been around for decades, haven’t updated their signage since the ’50’s, give their neighborhoods local color and character (and necessary goods and services at a good price), and are quickly disappearing only to be replaced by yet another cloned, visually sterile Starbucks, bank branch, or Duane Reade drugstore – some have even been closed and razed since the photos were taken.

STORE FRONT, by James and Karla Murray, captures what’s left of these, most of them now in the outer boroughs, although a surprising number of them still dotting Manhattan. I love all the pressed-tin and neon signs, the varied and vernicular letterforms before Helvetica took its inexhorable hold, even the occasional shabbiness.

Gingko Press did a luxe job with the publishing, perhaps too luxe for the subject material: the oversize mofo must weigh forty pounds (it actually only weighs seven pounds, which is still quite heavy for a book, and is hard to lug and wield in your lap). Still, the photographers shot some entire streets, which are eye-poppingly reproduced on fold-outs and gatefolds. I’ve seen books similar to its size and production values priced in the $100-$140 range, so I was pleased and surprised that Gingko priced it at only $65, meaning you can get it through Amazon for less than $50.

The photographers have done other celebrated books on graffiti. If you like their work, be sure and visit their website, http://www.jamesandkarlamurray.com/you can purchase prints of their work for as little as $40!

STORE FRONT- The Disappearing Face of New York
STORE FRONT provides an irreplaceable window to the rich cultural experience of New York City as seen through its neighborhood shops. These stores have the city’s history etched in their facades. They tirelessly serve their community, sustaining a neighborhood’s diverse nature and ethnic background, in a city with an unmercifully fast pace and seemingly insatiable need for change. Each is as unique as the customers they serve and have at their heart, owners who share a commitment to provide a unique service and in turn cement a neighborhood’s foundation. Through revealing interviews with shop owners and its unprecedented oversize images, StoreFront scours the city and provides an indispensable guide to the city’s timeworn shops. From humble neighborhood stores tucked away on narrow side streets to well-known institutions on historic avenues, anyone with a love of New York City will cherish being given a visual walking tour far beyond the scope of even the most thorough visitor or observant resident.

Thank you, James and Karla Murray and Gingko Press!

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