New York City Snapshots

“New York City Vortex Sutra:
The Advance of Culture is Marred by Progress in the Field of Signs”

This collection dates back from my first visit to NYC in August 2001.

Like its namesake city, that I have grown to love, it is an organic work in progress. Snapshots are added on a regular basis.

The title borrows some from the 1966 Allen Ginsberg epic poem “Wichita Vortex Sutra”, an incredible, consciousness-streamed, chopped-up, uncompromised, complex, wild-eyed mantra, incorporating radio reports and media sound bites, "Deathwar .. black language writ by machine!", tape-dictated in a VW van, hurtling across the plains of Kansas.

Ginsberg realized in “Wichita Vortex Sutra”, as the body count escalated in the Mekong Delta, that the ultimate war was being waged over his own consciousness and thought, his very soul, even as his mantra scurries its way from crater to foxhole, under a barrage of media bombardment.

“The war is language,
language abused
for Advertisement,
language used
like magic for power on the planet:

Black Magic language,
formulas for reality –“

But the power over thought and consciousness that is language, doesn't belong solely to the warmongers, corporate television, the spin-doctors or Advertisers, who mean to wield it to their own ends.

It is power also to be invoked and forged by the people.

"All we do is for this frightened thing
we call Love,...
... I search for the language
that is also yours - "

My search takes place on the visual field.

I mean to use these snapshots to explore and account for the complexities of the archetypal metropolis, as a metaphor for world rapidly become a field of signifiers. The title is self-reflexive, as the photos are themselves inserted deep, and emanate from the "field of signs". Not unlike Eliot, "These fragments I have shored against my ruins"

I am scrupulously trying to avoid the 'dumbing down' of much of current, popular photography, where photos, like magic for power on the planet’s pocketbooks, or votes, are stripped down to just a single, seductively obvious point, a visual sound-bite, a too shallow depth-of-field, a siren call. An instantly gratifying and simultaneously emptied signifier.

The photos presented in the collection will stand up against this lamentable "progress" in the field of photography/signs. So the title is ironic also. The photographs will attempt an extraction of the medium from its own overwhelming mess(ed)age. They will be restored their potency. They will sing the power of the Imagination and make glad.

The photographs work both individually and contiguously. They mean to be more than just simple deliverers of content. They can and must take into account, qualities inherent to them, the morphology of design, the semantics of allusion, the very syn-text of the moment, and the things that meta.

I look for nothing less than photographs at once rich, nervous, surprising, chaotic, obvious, funny, sun-drenched, boring, wintry, joyful, dumb as hate, breathtaking as love, wonder full as life.

~ alfie lee

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