The After Cigarette, 2012
For the record, I am not a peeping Tom.
I know. It probably looks like we photographers are forever nosing into other people’s lives. But on this occasion I will take no blame.
I was staying in one of those oh-so-chic New York hotels the other night, the kind of place where they hire people because they’re good looking rather than because they can do the job. I don’t usually stay in places like this. But I did this time, and it was enough to remind me why I don’t usually stay in places like this.
I could mention the rooftop bar and club that was right over my room. No amount of 600 thread count sheets could dampen that. I could have changed rooms, I suppose. But what says Big Apple more than a little thump-thump-thump electronic music? And who doesn’t want a little thump-thump-thump electronic music to lull them to sleep?
It wasn’t the seductive lighting, either, by which I mean there wasn’t enough light to read a newspaper unless you were right under one of the few lamps. There could have been a band of Romanian gypsies living in the closet for all I could see.
It wasn’t even the sink, the stopper for which had been removed because, according to the good-looking desk clerk, “The designer didn’t like the way it looked.” When my expression belied my reaction, he continued, “Well, you have to admit it looks better without it, doesn’t it?”
No, the reason I won’t be going back to this hotel is because I like at least the sensation of some space between me and the other guests. To wit, this picture.
My room has a posted price of just under $500 a night. (I wasn’t paying anywhere near that.) The people staying on the floor right below me must have been paying several times that. They had not only a room, perhaps even one with chairs, good lighting and a stopper in the sink, but also a nicely fitted out terrace with its own a table and chairs, a potted cherry tree and a couple of chaise lounge chairs. It was the latter that were the problem.
When I woke up Friday morning and pulled back the curtains, what I encountered just outside my window was a mostly undressed couple doing—well, I think the kids call it “hooking up”—on one of the chaise lounges. I wasn’t the only one who could see them. But I was unquestionably the closest. It didn’t seem to matter to them.
It was mighty tempting, let me tell you, to whip out the camera and snap off a quick series of Helmut Newtown-like nude photos. Madonna might have even let me make a book of them. But instead I stepped back from the window and took a shower. Taking pictures just seemed creepy.
When I came out of the bathroom, the couple had donned bathrobes and returned to the terrace for a little post-coital smoke and coffee. By then my conscience bothered me not at all.