Like a pulsating mix of champagne and meteors

New York City skyline Photographs by Alessandra Nicole

A woman like me alone in a city like this spells trouble, which is presumed, and I wish that you were here for the adventure. I love New York City like I will never again love any inanimate object that seems real and breathing to me, she embraces me every time, my passionate lover.

I am seated in patient anticipation. I hear her voice from afar only to come around the curve after Newark and see her brightly dyed hair tumble upon the nape of her bone-white neck in the form of the latest color scheme on the top of the Empire State Building. Her hands stretch out to greet me with a different bauble for every finger of her warm-heart-cold-hands. I leave the train, climb the escalator, step through the automatic doors to 8th Avenue, and am intertwined with her once more. She steals my breath into her mouth and slaps me across the face with her icy January winds for not calling. I love her with all of my heart and I let her seduce me, caressing every part of me, until I look at my cell phone and see it’s after midnight and someone else is awaiting my arrival.

She pouts with her arms suddenly folded, the black lace strap of her bra slipping down over her shoulder, and I put my finger to her blood red lips, Shh, not tonight, but I will be back tomorrow. I’m just as disappointed to leave as she is to see me go, onto the ferry, where she closes her eyes in sorrow like a woman who knows she’s the Other One in my life, and I realize some of her glittering eyeshadow has rubbed off on my cheek. A man next to me thinks I am crying, and maybe I am a little teary at the heartstopping way her skyline is sparkling like a pulsating mix of champagne and meteors; he offers me a handkerchief.

Anyone would be jealous of the way I dream of her at night, the way I think about her throughout days away. In the morning, she awakes me with the memory of her warm deep kisses and here I sit at 9:30am, plotting the hour when I will steal away to my secret lover New York City. Oh, if only you could see us when we’re together…

words ©️Alessandra Nicole 2004

4 years ago… 10 years ago happened 

This was from four years ago today… Popped up in my Facebook newsfeed and is worth remembering what I went through, curating a ten year commemorative exhibit (by request) of the biggest event in my life. I definitely got by with a little help from my friends! It was a collaborative effort that included a reading of an award winning off Broadway play and the authentic music of my Kabul-born musician and dear friend.  A well-rounded, personal, deeply intimate event. 

Here is a link to another small interview / article published about my experience: Delaware Photographer’s images of lower Manhattan on 9/11/01 to be exhibited in downtown Wilmington on the 10th anniversary

 

New York, New York

Enjoyed an unforgettable couple of days in the big apple with an important, beautiful (and camera shy) girlfriend of mine. We stood mere feet away from U2 at Madison Sq Garden (eeeeeee!!!), walked the Brooklyn Bridge, took a ferry ride to see the skyline from the lower Manhattan perspective, strolled through a heavenly italian market in Chelsea (Eataly!) and revisited Ground Zero together, having not been back since everything unfolded around us there on 9/11/01. It was thrilling, deeply memorable, and cathartic. 

   

Parting Shot

I always try to grab a little snapshot of the NYC skyline after emerging from the tunnel in New Jersey.

Though the day was seasonably warm last week when we left the City, it wasn’t remarkable weather. That’s alright though, unremarkable snapshots are fun to play around with using iPhone apps and a friend of mine turned me onto one that gave me this result:

via Instagram @Alessandra_Official

So, who cares? It’s fun. Don’t judge the bad snapshots, use them to experiment. I create something, however small, daily. Sometimes an unremarkable snapshot inspires sketches, paintings, illustrations, short stories, down the line. I open my eyes and explore. That (and a little bit of love) is the stuff of life.

day tripper

Near the top of my list of Most Romantic Experiences is taking a train ride up to NYC on a lazy Sunday, just for the day. NY Times in my lap, his head resting on my shoulder, swaying in a train… We arrive comfortable, relaxed and emerge into the city unencumbered by the usual gear, baggage; untethered to any vehicle. Free as a bird. Grab your mate by the hand and try it!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Posting this from a silver bullet in the shape of a vehicle on its way up the NJTP to New York City where we are spending the weekend; a lil bit of work and a whole lotta play!

The temps are unseasonably warm for October this year but the foliage is still popping with colour! Autumn brings elegant passion and beauty to dying. It’s such a brilliant and tactile season of vibrancy, crunch; the scent of smoke and apples, the gentle contrast of a chill in the evening paired with a renewed and electric awareness of the warmth of your lover’s cheek so close to yours. This is undeniably my most favorite of the four seasons.

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12 Years Ago

For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter.
-Deepak Chopra, M.D.

The short story: Today twelve years ago, I became a photographer.

I was working in Washington, DC for the United States Dep’t of Transportation at the time — occasionally I’d be working in our small office located inside of the Pentagon, more often I would be on travel anywhere domestically from Seattle to Miami, LA to Boston. This particular Tuesday I could’ve been on a flight slated for California but hijacked to PA, NY, or VA. I very easily could’ve been sitting in a chair in our office in a wing of the Pentagon.

Instead, I had been assigned to a federal building in lower Manhattan for the week and took the train up with some coworkers from Washington Monday afternoon. I spent a truly carefree evening of September 10th dining and drinking and laughing with a photographer friend of mine in Brooklyn before walking through the World Trade Center plaza on my way to an adjacent hotel for the night.

I was traveling so frequently at the time that my friends and family really had no idea where in the country I was when the news broke- most of them thinking I was at the Pentagon until they finally received word the evening of 9/11/01 that I was in fact in the thick of it in NYC.

Below was my view-from-the-office that morning, the 41st floor of the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigrations and Naturalizations at 26 Federal Plaza on Broadway, a handful of blocks from the World Trade Center. The 2nd plane impacted Tower 1 just a second before this frame was taken. A couple of my coworkers were scheduled to be in our I.R.S. location located inside one of the Twin Towers a couple of days later. I bought all the rolls of Fuji and Kodak the bodega had at ground level after we were evacuated from the building, and, loosely tethered to my coworkers, lived the events as they unfolded around us in a mixture of naked-eye shock and through the viewfinder of my Nikon.

I have had a compulsion to document, archive, appreciate and be fully alive in this precious present ever since.

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The Reflecting Pool

I grabbed tickets for my boyfriend and I to see the Barnes Foundation’s new location in Philadelphia last weekend for the first time. This view greeted us as we rounded the corner to enter the museum.

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© Alessandra Nicole, 2012 | All Rights Reserved

I personally had been putting a visit off because I had seen “The Art of the Steal” (a documentary that follows the struggle for control of Albert Barnes’ 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art) but curiosity and an obsession for seeing masterworks in person won out.

The Barnes collection was truly a feast for the eyes for the likes of me- walls crammed with Cézannes, Monets, Manets, Picassos, more. A beautifully produced and user-friendly free app was available to download from iTunes directly to our iPhones so we were able to embark on individual listening tours. The venue itself is marvelous for the prime piece of real estate the Foundation was able to obtain in Philly; the architecture is sleek, respectful, stylish, yet simple and intimate.

Definitely worth a trip though the consensus on museums is that such art should not be boxed up in a lump in pretty buildings but rather should be in homes and around, accessible, living amongst the people.

If you go: http://www.barnesfoundation.org

extra, extra

© Alessandra Nicole 2012, All Rights Reserved

So, this morning I got up at 4am to do something I’ve done periodically since I was studying film and acting in college. I worked as a background actor (as in, “extra”). In my particular friend and colleague circle this is certainly nothing groundbreaking so I’m not posting this blog for them. I’m posting it for those who haven’t ever done anything like this before or who have and still find it as cool and interesting as I do.

This particular work was for the new Harrison Ford / Gary Oldman thriller so far titled Paranoia (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1413495/). It was the first day of shooting and it featured Aussie Liam Hemsworth (Hunger Games), a few supporting cast members, and about 400 of us, both union and non-union. It was the biggest extra day scheduled so they wanted to make great use of us while they had us all there.

After conferring with wardrobe, hair and makeup and hanging out in holding for a few hours, we began filming at 830am and didn’t wrap the day’s shoot until 630pm. It was an outdoor day for the majority of us, thank goodness for mild temperatures and plenty of fluffy white clouds to shield us from long bouts of direct sunlight. We worked hard, had a blast, and made new friends. Here are a few snapshots that I sniped throughout the day.

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getting our hair & makeup done

 

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Comcast Center in Philly turned into a NYC corporate building

 

Crew working on the building’s transformation

 

an intersection in Philadelphia is turned into NYC for the day. This included fake NJ and NY license plates for cars, fake street signs reading “44th St”, NYPD uniforms and cars (see background), trash cans reading “Keep New York City Clean”, fake hot dog carts, newspapers, cabs, and a fake MTA bus stop amongst other things.

 

sweet camera on a dolly and track that I watched production assistants assemble as fast as a pit crew on the auto racing circuit

 

Wilma Garscadden Gahret observes the monitors for the current scene being filmed.

 

Director Robert Luketic watches the feed from the main camera and revealed that he “stole” the idea for the particular establishing shot from David Fincher and his 1997 film “The Game”.


an over-saturated snap I made of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia this afternoon

 

along my drive into Philadelphia at a quarter to 6 this morning

 

That Last Moment

I’ve been congratulated a lot lately by other photographers for my dedication to event photography. I stay until the absolute end, no matter what, and especially if everyone around me is already packing up for the night.

My first New York Fashion Week experience was, or as I like to quote a veteran fashion photographer friend of mine “I cut my teeth on fashion week” in September of 2010. It was an overwhelming week rich with great lessons! Of everything I learned in those 8 sleepless days and nights, the most important thing was to keep the camera in front of me for That Last Moment. Stay connected to and aware of what’s happening and commit until the end.

I made a beautiful, elegant picture from a final moment. It was a frame of the last gown of an enormous collection exiting the runway. It’s not one that Vogue would print for fashion; instead it’s a fine art image worthy of framing and hanging. It’s a graceful and unique image but what I like most about it personally is that it’s truly mine, not one other photographer on earth has that frame. I was shoulder to shoulder with photographers from top media outlets around the world. They were already folding their monopods up in a frenzy and thinking about the next designer on the schedule they had to get to.

© Alessandra Nicole 2012

in NYC: 84 Edward Steichen photographs

Steichen photography exhibit at the Danziger Gallery in NYC | photo by Alessandra Nicole

After the publication of Edward Steichen: In High Fashion – The Condé Nast Years, 1923–1937 in 2008 and the subsequent International Center of Photography Edward Steichen exhibition in 2009, Smithsonian magazine said that while the Luxembourg-born photographer may not have invented fashion photography, “he created the template for the modern fashion photographer,” with a precise eye for lighting and composition. Steichen (1879–1973) began his career in Paris as a painter and photographer before falling into fashion photography in New York, where he shot for publications like Vanity Fair and Vogue. Danziger Projects presents a collection of 84 of his photos—including portraits of Amelia Earhart, Fred Astaire and Martha Graham—through October 29. For more information, visit danzigerprojects.com.

This is an excellent exhibit- tomorrow’s the last day and I urge everyone to see it. Steichen’s compositions were (for his time) very innovative and compelling to see in person, many of the portraits were timeless and simply stunning. A beautiful lunch break away from the PDN PhotoPlus Expo today!

Steichen’s impressive life and career: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Steichen

October: Life After September Morning

the poster for the opening of September Morning, an exhibition of photography from NYC on 9/11/01 by Alessandra Nicole

September Morning: The Long Goodbye

Last month I had a very important photography exhibit here in my home base, Wilmington, DE- I displayed photographs I took in lower Manhattan on 9/11/01. There was a small fury of press surrounding the exhibit that left me pretty exposed to my community; 9/11 was one event that shaped me in so many ways over the past decade but it’s not something I’ve talked much about since it happened.

I encountered countless setbacks and challenges in getting the exhibit onto it’s feet and now that it’s finally over and in the past after more than 11 months of planning I feel great relief! I’m fairly proud of myself; it was a courageous thing to have taken on- opening myself up to something I had buried many years ago and revisiting what it’s meant to me while being available to everyone else and what it’s meant to and for them as well.

I’d like to say I handled everything with perfect ease and grace but those closest to me know better! The stress, tears, anxiety, late nights, and nightmares I had from rehashing images I hadn’t looked at in decades (and don’t even bring up the loss of my film negatives!) almost compelled me to cancel everything several times. I could barely shoulder the expense of the two gallery shows 40 miles apart that I had committed to let alone the pressure I was putting on myself about it all. I relied on those around me much more than what’s comfortable for me- and perhaps for them as well! This exhibit really tested the fabric of who I am becoming, and did so right down to the closing reception the last day of September with an emergency venue change.

For me it was a month-long goodbye that took nearly a year and a lot of generous and supportive people in which to arrange. I made a ton of mistakes and learned much. I also risked and lost much because my event had to be my number one priority last month. If I weren’t so eager to sum the experience up into a tidy blog post for documentation’s sake so I can move on from it I might be inclined write a book about the whole thing.

The week after my sweet and humble closing reception, a week into October, I found myself in the midst of 4,000 protesters marching from lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to City Hall in a movement called Occupy Wall Street. I was so into the energy of it and so electrified by the faces I was capturing that when I saw the huge sign reading 26 Federal Plaza in my camera’s viewfinder I was momentarily and visibly dumbstruck.

Ten years ago a 21 year old version of me stood in that very place after having been evacuated from 41 floors above Broadway with camera in hand, capturing faces on the streets and electrified by a very different piece of  history taking place. I hadn’t laid eyes on that building in more than seven years though it’s address has been engrained on my long term memory for the better part of my adulthood. I was also stunned to realize it was all in much closer proximity to the site of the World Trade Center than I had cared to calculate for the reporters that would interview me in the recent months leading up to my ten year commemoration exhibit. Certain particulars were a fog to me and I was content to leave it as such. I hadn’t been back to Ground Zero since visiting the site with my best friend back in 2003.

Occupy Wall Street protesters march past the Department of Justice building where Alessandra happened to be on assignment a decade earlier.

It suddenly dawned on me that ten years later I was running the same street with the same equivalent gear in my hands in the middle of another major event in NYC! I was amazed by the complete circle of it all! I felt like my amateur photographer 21 year old self had handed off an invisible baton to the present Me. A part of her had died in the ashes of fallen towers a decade ago- the resurrection of which this year was deeply painful. In a matter of the seconds that I had on hand in the middle of this enormous protest going on, I finally laid that poor afflicted girl to rest. With moist eyes I took the baton, kissed the memory, returned to the present moment and rejoined the march to Foley Square. It was just a few blocks, but the journey brought with it a decade’s worth of closure that I didn’t even know I still needed after having spent all of last month giving tours through my photographs and speaking openly (finally) about my experience.

Alessandra in SoHo, 2001. Photo by Laura Dotterer

Alessandra in Jersey City, 2011. Photo by Adam Robb

Exhale.

Waking Up from September Morning

Since Occupy Wall Street last Wednesday I have felt an inner shift within. I simply feel different. I’ve taken solace in my studio lately while working on a new project- illustrating a bit of prose I penned a few years ago- but mostly the isolation has been about me sitting with the awareness of a particular transformation I’ve made and finding my new legs within it. It’s something I have wanted for years. It’s been nearly impossible to articulate the experience to those closest to me. The very first gift given to me at age 4 as soon as I could master holding a pencil was the ability to wield the written word (while taking liberties to make up my own, occasionally!) Even in this form of self expression in which I am like a fish to water, I am floundering around grasping for the right sentences; the proper-est way to encapsulate something so profound that I am going through- and to find breath and levity within it so that I don’t get buried in my own avalanche.

It’s been an extraordinary 2011 for this girl. In the final days of my 31st year in this particular lifetime I find constant and beautiful gratitude for all I have seen, felt, tasted, touched, heard, loved, lost, embraced, and let go throughout my 20s. I want so many gorgeous and tender things for my 32nd year and for those around me. I feel so blessed to be a professional photographer! I feel blessed by my jagged journey to have gotten to this point and blessed by all the lessons and growing I’ve yet to do in and with it. I am grateful to be an artist- to have the luxury and the proficiency of multiple mediums at my fingertips that I can employ so that I may be able to articulate the simpleness and the complexities of how I see and feel this ever changing world around us…. so that maybe, just maybe I might be able to paint pictures and craft photographs to do justice to this crushingly vivid life where my written and spoken words fail.

I haven’t written in ages. Here’s to a fresh new chapter.

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Link to my Occupy Wall Street photos: http://alessandra.zenfolio.com/occupywallstreet