Initial Observation for Court St and Joralemon St in BK, NY
An incredible experience that I have documented and organized as – “Scene Details”, “Observation”, “Photos”.
Jane Jacobs calls the street and its people, “a ballet”, in the Death and Life of Great American Cities, and I completely agree.
What I thought would be a tedious observation of people passing by, turned out to be a voyeuristic perspective on urban civilization, a front row seat to a choreographed participatory happening.
I never realized the various behaviours and roles urban humans undertake in something as simple as walking down the sidewalk, but there was a certain harmony and accord, that was a signifier of a safe street.
On obsolete networked technology.
There is something absurd about the image superimposition of people carrying around networked pocket computers to an image of a physical totem to obsolete networking -a street object that vaguely looks like a British post box and has all the user input of 2 buttons.
Each button has an etched symbol for “Police” and “Fire”. I wish there was a way to see if this device still works, since its outer appearance speaks to the contrary. If it does not function why does it still exist there, in the most important corner of 2 sidewalk vectors?
I am also left with a great anecdote about taking pictures in public.
As I was observing and snapping photos, through the window of the cafe, a man inside the cafe, starts taking pictures of me with his mobile phone, flash on.
While this was creepy, I could appreciate the irony of having my picture taken while taking pictures of strangers so in the interest of civility I let it continue for a few minutes, thinking he would get bored by my non reaction.
He persisted, and finally got too close. I asked him to stop.
He ofcourse, was looking for a direct confrontation, and used this moment to “lose it” insisting repeatedly that he would “fuck me up, if I ever came back to Brooklyn”.
Mind you, I’ve been living in Brooklyn for over 6 years now( clearly the part of provocation), but that point aside, I had not even taken that man’s photo.
I assured him that I hadn’t done so but if he insisted on physically assaulting me I would regretfully have to call the police.
At this point there was much noise from his yelling and my flatly expressed sympathies that employees of the cafe took notice.
Surprisingly, maybe because of my non combative attitude, the employees came to my aid, defending my right to take photos, a sentiment enforced by a sympathetic groan from the crowd that had gathered around us-
A show, ladies and gentlemen.
The man however did not appear convinced, but in the face of such total adversity, ultimately fell quiet, reverting to fake talking on his phone and mumbling, at my direction, a slew of unimaginative epithets.
In conclusion, after I was done with the assignment, he didn’t dare follow me out.
My deduction and advice from this situation and the way it quickly flared and then dissolved, is simply to avoid the “I can do whatever I want” temperament, avoid provocation, and if someone does not want their photo taken, avoid doing so or assure them that you haven’t.
After all, everyone is entitled to their own illusion of privacy.
A word about the volume and quality of photos I took.
I only had a 50mm lens, which I think was a bit too wide to capture most of the detail. In this case it worked well, because it mostly captures individuals in relation to others, and the patterns that emerge when they are super imposed. A better medium and vantage point for this would have been time lapse video from the top of the building. A flattened perspective would surely show clustering better.
I also took over 500 photos. I tried to narrow them down, but it is impossible. For now they are a document to 2 hours. At some point I will take a moment to extract what valuable information they may contain out of context with each other. My suggestion is a 10 min commitment with Flickr’s slideshow. The beginning is rough but gets better as more continuous shots emerge.
2 police officers leaning against building on north west side of Joralemon St.
In front of them a guy selling various tchotchkis
Next to him a Halal cart, with 2 employees
On the South East side of Court St is another Halal Cart.
Next to him is a Fruit Seller
Borough Hall Subway Stop on SouthWest side of Jerolemon St.
Various observed meetings.
Occurence #1 of woman stops by window and waits 10 mins
Man in his 60s, black pants, cream shirt, bald and overweight, waits on side of street with blue umbrella and a suitcase 20 mins
Seller of Tchotchki of slight built, in his 40s, dark, completes a transaction. His stand is popular. 2 hours
Allen School Nurses pass by
Man touches himself as woman passes by. Notices my camera and moves on.
Man stops in the middle of sidewalk and checks phone. 1 min
Man with suitcase is picked up and insists on driving. Two man swap places in car. 20 mins
Man with bicycle with a colorful hat stops on SouthEast corner of Jerolemon ST and observes. He appears to be homeless or destitute in some way. 1 hour
Woman stops in the middle of sidewalk. Does not move. Looks straight ahead. 5mins
Building workers have set up lawn chairs on NorthWest side of Jerolemon St. The observe people passing by and converse with each other.1 hour
Man sits down on edge of window sill on Southwest side of Court St. No benches. 2 mins
Two man in suits stop in middle of sidewalk, precisely on the SouthWest Corner of Court and Jerolemon St. They split sidewalk traffic. 10 mins
Building worker stops on South West edge of Court St. Looks away accross the street. 5mins
Two police officers leave corner 1 hour
Extremely difficult to analyze, observe and take photos simultaneously.
People utilize one free hand to hold their mobile devices. Counted 53 separate instances in a 15 min period, of people holding various mobile devices in one hand while struggling with packages, babies, bags, umbrellas, food, ice cream, newspapers, briefcases with the other.
Everyone has a mobile device, duh./
No one waits on the sidewalk for the light to change. There is a mania for the crowd to spill into the street while waiting for the pedestrian light to change. Jaywalking very common.
Bicyclists do not follow street rules. Observed bikes on sidewalk, opposite traffic, blowing through lights, weaving by pedestrians. Observed over 60 bikers in 2 hours.
People who have babies or baby carriages with babies are very cautious and will wait for on sidewalk for light changes.
More than 3 people in a group will cause for group to close in on itself as it is moving.
Momentum needs to be preserved. Full stops when encountering an acquaintance are reluctantly and awkwardly made. Usually stops are initiated only by one party.
2 instances of directions of asking for directions.
If people are together and need to split up, they will do so at the last possible moment.
This leads to people saying goodbyes right on Subway entrance, in front of coffeeshop door, on intersection. Obviously this leads to disruption in the flow and alot of angry people.
Groups of 4 or more close in on themselves.( See Observation 6) Majority of large groups tend to be young people.
Another model is one of staggering. Very much liek football, the groups will arrange themselves in formations such as 2 3 2, or 4 3 4. Observed 5 times.
A group that stops, takes time to put back into motion.
People traffic on sidewalk follows street rules of right side.
People traffic on sidewalk develops into fascinating
Right direction in the middle, flanke dby 2 streams going opposite direction
Two perpendicular sidewalks converge to create multiple oppossing streams of traffic
Groups clustered in middle of sidewalk flanked left and right with opposite going streams
A temporary switch to left side
If stuck behind a slow group of people, person will analyze and overtake left or right.
If followed by other people this creates a zig zag, especially when this is mirrored in the opposite flow.
There is usually vertical motion in 2 people walking side by side. Someone is fighting for the lead.
There is an elastic tie between couples (groups of 2) If one stops or changes course, the other person remains in motion in the original trajectory for a few moments. Elasticity brings them back together.
Individuals will generally join other groups
Clustering happens quickly, but disbands quickly
Collisions between people happen rarely. One observed instance was between a child and a grown up.
Strangers avoid touch at all costs. One observed instance was a woman touching the head of a child during collision.
Corrections in trajectory to avoid collision happen early on. A hysterical method of avoiding physical contact.
Clustering is usually mirrored. One side of street, will have a mirror cluster on the other side provided that they are perpendicular and do not see each other.
Static unmoving groups will float.
A float will happen over a longer period of time (10 min)and cover the width of the sidewalk – 4 meters.
Corners, where two sidewalks meet are very popular for individuals and groups to stop.
Photos taken 517 (they are fascinating)