Something Wicked This Way Comes

Taking pictures of pictures.

Posted in studio by Christina Jenkins on October 21, 2008

Moving on to our second studio project: I’m working with Michael and Iva, and we’re looking at the park in DUMBO between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. We’ve been studying the site and are proposing a few different concepts for public space projects. My own idea comes out of the most-photographed-barn-in-America problem, which I’m sure has been articulated in a thousand different ways but which I read about in DeLillo’s White Noise. DeLillo writes about two of his characters who visit the most photographed barn in America, and one notes that the tourists who are taking pictures there can’t help but “take pictures of pictures.” That is, we – the picture-takers – have bestowed on this barn the very celebrity that makes us want to take pictures of it in the first place. What? So we see the same thing in Paris (is that whole city a picture of a picture?), or the Empire State Building, or whatever. We also see it in this park (officially, the Fulton Ferry State Park), with visitors taking pictures of (and maybe not even taking pictures of, just facing) the Manhattan waterfront.

So that – the most-photographed-barn-in-America – has become the challenge for us to overcome at this site, and our first response to that involves hiding Easter eggs that include “information” (stories, pictures?) about the landscape across the water. I’m not completely set on this yet; I think it needs to be rethought before we start going into different iterations. It’s pretty important to me to see the value in this project myself (and not just shrug, and say hey, I’m not the typical user, but someone would do it …), and I’m not quite there yet. I’ve started thinking about the water, and our relationship to it – as New Yorkers who live on islands, as park-goers who skip over it to admire those buildings on the Manhattan side, as tourists who don’t see the water when we see it.