Thursday, May 10, 2007

At the Fulton Mall

I was at the Fulton Mall yesterday, taking pictures for a story on sneaker trends. If you don't know, the Fulton Mall is a center for urban shopping in Brooklyn. All around it, the walls of gentrification are advancing, but once you're walking the blocks of the mall, you'd never know that some of Brooklyn's toniest neighborhoods, e.g. Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights are all within a mile. And then even closer are all the mile-high condos popping up all over the place so I just know that the Fulton Mall and all its many sneaker stores are not long for this world (in fact, there's already been some committee formed to spruce it up and bring it up to speed) so I'm trying to enjoy it while I still can.

Here's one of the images I took yesterday:

And yeah I have ones in which the girls are all facing me, but I love this one cause it tells an interesting story. I photograph people and their outfits all over the city, but whenever I go to Fulton, much more so than when I'm in Manhattan, I get a lot of questions about what I'm doing there. "Why are you photographing shoes?" "What's this for??" Obviously they're curious, but I think I get more questions there 'cause for the kids, this is clearly THEIR territory. My old white self is definitely out of place in Fulton Mall and they don't feel any way at all about asking me what my deal is.

Sometimes the people who are observing me as I'm photographing also ask questions, and often they're older and my guess is that they're looking out for whomever I'm shooting. Yesterday, I was shooting two young guys and a nearby store employee in his 40s immediately got in my face about how exactly the images would be used, and on top of that, warned my subjects that they should be careful about letting anyone photograph them. Good advice. I did a similar thing when I saw this nice-enough-looking young man and his female companion video-taping some of the girls who live on my block (and he SHOULD have asked their parents if it was okay 'cause not one of 'em looked over the age of 10).

So you have the curious, you have the concerned, but then there's a third group who see someone being photographed and their first instinct is to get in on the action ASAP. While it's easy for me to be nostalgic about the Fulton Mall, I'm thinking that a lot of the kids there are looking for the key out. Sure, the Fulton Mall is nice, but like every other young person who's been banged over the head repeatedly by the amped-up, in-your-face phenomenom that is new-millennium capitalism, they also want to be able to shop anywhere. And who knows, maybe they think having their picture in a magazine will be a step in that direction. (Then again, maybe they're just typical kids who like getting their picture taken!)

And it's the third group that you're seeing in that pictures. I was all ready to snap the shot, and BLAM, a group of three or four guys came rushing up behind the girls and demanded to be in on the action and that's who they're looking at in this image. Check out the eye-roll look the girl who is facing the camera is giving. In the next shot I took, the guys are gone, but the image captures the girl who's second from the right giving them MAD hell for invading their scene in the first place. The whole thing was too funny.

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