I had a photo teacher in high school who told me the only thing she takes pictures of is light. This sounded so pretentious to me. Actually, it still does. But it sounds a little truer now, too. Photojournalism has been a tenet of this magazine for as long as it’s existed, and I’m proud of that. Sometimes it kills publicists that we run a photo of a nice-looking musician with his or her head turned away, flashing a gnarly grin. Sorry. If your clients looked chipper all the time, we’d take those pictures. Life’s messy! I think I read that on a bumper sticker of a chef’s car. Maybe he knew my photography teacher.
This is our annual photo issue, and none of our photographers take photos exclusively of light. Thank god. Dominic Nahr takes pictures in a lot of far-flung locations, often with bad things happening there. But sometimes he takes pictures of airplane wings or his elderly aunt and realizes those are his best. Mike Brodie basically stopped photographing. He started accidentally, shooting crust punks riding trains. Not because he was a photojournalist, but because he was a crust punk riding trains. Jim Korpi, man, he just seems like a weird dude with a singular vision which is is the breaking down of America. He lives in Saudi Arabia right now, so he probably missed Hurricane Irene, but my gut tells me he would have loved to shoot it.
Being in New York, I didn’t miss the hurricane. It was on my 29th birthday. It was an okay birthday. My girlfriend played a lot of Angry Birds, I made some lentil soup. We stayed indoors and watched the first four hours of the Carlos the Jackal movie. My internet was out, so I googled him on my phone. Turns out he was pretty displeased with the film, specifically with his being depicted as a cigarette (and not cigar) smoker and the haphazardness with which some of his fellow terrorists were portrayed. In real life, and in the film, he seems like a dickhead. With or without Carlos, there was a lot of shit to process that weekend. In the middle of our cover story on Real Estate, Matt Mondanile says he remembers when the internet lodged itself into his child brain and he realized he didn’t want to watch TV anymore, he just wanted “to google stuff.” I understand that. Who doesn’t like knowing stuff when it’s so easy to know it?
Hurricane Irene mostly missed New York City (though I did see a giant uprooted tree smush a Range Rover on Dekalb, right outside a yoga studio. I wonder if they have the same owners). The day after the hurricane was beautiful, medium sun and the kind of sky that turns people into photographers. The only photo I took that weekend, though, was of that downed tree. It looks okay, if a little boring. Just the facts, which are never that nice.