Monday, September 9, 2013

Humility Along the Gowanus

Gowanus 027, 2013
(Click on image to see larger.)

There’s nothing that’ll put you in your place faster that seeing someone else publishing photographs of something you thought only you’d been prescient enough to photograph.
During my recent stop along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn my eye was drawn more to things above ground that in the canal itself. There’s a bridge and all sorts of interesting trestle steel for an elevated subway bridge and station.
The Gowanus Canal is famous for its polluted waters. Even though great effort is being given to cleaning up the canal and even though it may look pretty decent from a distance, it’s still pretty bad off.
But being the thorough kind of guy I am when I’m determine to mine every bit of photographic potential from a place, even the mundane parking lot of a Lowe’s home improvement store in Brooklyn, I did eventually turn my eyes to the canal itself.
What I saw was fascinating, even if it wasn’t something into which you’d necessarily want to dip your toes. Looking down into the canal was like looking into an abstract mural on which Marc Chagall and Claude Monet might have collaborated. Really, the colors you see in the photograph above are the colors of the…well, I don’t know if really qualifies as water. But whatever you call the fluid in the canal, it does look like this.
Now, here’s where the humility comes in.
I didn’t take many pictures of this petroleum-infused waterscape. I shot a few frames and them moved on. I figured that once you’ve seen one shot of the Gowanus waterscape, you’ve seen them all.
So it was with more than a little irony and humility that I opened my e-mail one afternoon a few weeks later and found a link at the aCurator site to photographer Bill Miller’s take on the Gowanus.
Sure enough, he’d done like I had. I’ll bet he even stood at the edge of the Lowe’s parking lot just like I did. And I’ll bet he, too, photographed the many other things there are to photograph around the Canal before he ever turned his eyes to the water.
But when he did look down to the water, he didn’t take the same casual attitude to it that I did. He stuck around for a while and captured a number of interesting views of whatever it is that pollutes the Gowanus Canal. If you didn’t catch the link to Miller’s Gowanus series in the paragraph above, here is it again.


  1. From looking at WM's photos, do you think a few were digitally manipulated? Your's and his are beautiful.