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Erica McDonald – The Dark Light of this Nothing

Janet: Hi Erica..(kiss)

EM: Hi, Where’s Adele?

Janet: Adele’s inside..Erica, this is my family, that’s uh..Donny, my sister in law, Sharon, Angie…David and that’s my brother John..

EM: You’ve got a good memory.

Janet: I’ve got a good memory, I have 38 nieces and nephews, I have to..this is just a little quarter of it.

EM: I’m trying to get people to talk about what the neighborhood was like and what it is like now and..

Janet: You want some dessert? Steven would know that, my husband would know that, and so would Mary.

EM: No thanks, I’m okay. Yeah, Mary was just talking to me a little.

Anthony: I wasn’t born here..I don’t know anything..

Janet: You was SO!  He’s full of crap! Where were you born? Where were you born?

Anthony: I was born in Staten Island.

Janet: No he wasn’t.. He was born here in the house on..

Anthony: What the hell is this? you gotta talk to this thing?

EM: It’s a microphone.

Janet: Dad, just talk about..

Anthony: What am I gonna tell? I was born over on 3rd street. And the place was beautiful at that time, we had a nice time, not too much traffic, I’m old, that’s why. We used to play stickball in the middle of the street, there was no traffic, you could play stickball. right? Today you can’t even walk in the friggin street, too many cars.

Janet: You played Skellies..

Anthony: Skellies, well, we played all kinds of games. Kick the can, you know, stuff like that. What else did we play?Johnny on the pony, Johnny on the pony..You know what that is? She don’t know…(looking at EM) On the fire hydrant, and everyone’s gotta jump on his back and try to make him fall. We played a lot of games, when we grew up it was a nice neighborhood..There was no computers, of course not. You had to add in your mind. We didn’t even have a television. That’s why we used to go out and play. No it was nice, it really was, it was nice around here.

Janet: We used to play cards, knuckles..knuckles..We used to play over here everyday, and Grandma would come out and go “Why can’t yous play on your own stoop, whattaya gotta play here for?” Because we live here, Grandma! People would come and have to get up to the house and we’d always have cards and we had to move and the people would get annoyed..cause we were sitting down playin’, but what else were you gonna do?

Anthony: When we were young we used to play stickball, or stoopball, you hit the ball against the stoop, or punchball. And when we grew up we were poor, in plain English, it’s the truth. When we played football, you know what we used for a football? You rolled up a newspaper, seriously, you taped it, and that was a football, we couldn’t afford a football..it’s true..and if we had a baseball, eventually the cover would fall off, we used to tape it up..yeah, we couldn’t buy another baseball, we were all poor. And the glove was falling apart..it’s true..now what, what do they call all these people around here now, they all got money, what are they, Yuppies? Right, they’re all Yuppies? No, I grew up in a good time, I’m glad I grew up when I did.

In the summer time, when it got very hot, nobody had air conditioning. Not like today. Everybody had a fan, that was all you had, was a fan. But, if you had a fire escape, you could go out and sleep on the fire escape.

Janet: Remember? Grandma used to feed us on the fire escape. My cereal, on the fire escape, every morning. And our favorite game was, what we played was jump rope, all day long. I didn’t need anything else. Grandma used to stand by the window and yell at us, “What are you doing? what are you doin?” Yeah, double dutch…All day, I could play jump rope all day long..double dutch. And be happy.


This piece is meant as a tribute to those long term residents who have sustained the Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York neighborhood for generations and are now in an increasing minority. The old guard is losing their sense of community. A new, affluent population, drawn by Park Slope’s popularity as one of America’s best neighborhoods, is swiftly overshadowing the working class.

The title of this body comes from the words of the philosopher Derrida that reflect on the experience of the loss of  “what I myself am not” and on the interiorization of the Other in his irrevocable absence.


Many warm thanks to Rachel Been, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Kelly Lynn James, Jacob Silberberg, Tom Sullivan, Andrew D. Sullivan and John Westfall for assisting in the making of the street portraits, and an especially big thank you to Sana Manzoor for her assistance which was both generous and gracious.

For all the thoughtful feedback and editing help, thank you to Joe Colligan, Jason Eskenazi, Paul Fusco, Eugene Richards and Andrew D. Sullivan.

Thank you Jim Powers for loaning me your lens! and to the Burn community for going on this ride with me.

DAH..thank you from the beginning to the end. Way back when you wrote on Road Trips that you might have “a good idea…why not really “show our photographic hand…” in the most provocative way…so, here is my idea: i give out short assignments or projects….on an individual basis…at the end each photographer presents this work right here for us all to see…for example, i ask Erica if she has time to shoot portraits on…” and somehow that idea turned into this work..though after a much longer wait than you had in mind! Thank you sincerely for your ideas and energy and care and for all that you do.



Erica McDonald is mostly a self taught photographer, taking inspiration from a myriad of social documentary and portrait photographers. She has a strong belief in the importance of lineage in photography and working in a continuum.

Erica is a thankful recipient of a Keyholder Fellowship at the Lower East Side Printshop, and her work has been exhibited in New York and Paris including in Chelsea and by PowerHouse, at the burn gallery and the Camera Club of New York, and has been included in projections at LOOK3, Palm Springs Photo Festival and the Slideluck Potshow. Awards and nominations include IPA/Lucies, PX3, The NY Photo Awards and the Magnum Cultural Foundation EPF. Her work has been published in Mother Jones, Boston Magazine, YES! Magazine and is part of The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Art Photography. She loves dogs, large and small alike, and is based in NYC.

A larger selection of images from this project is available for publication as a book. Please inquire with me directly at erica@ericamcdonaldphoto.com


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Erica McDonald


Editor’s note:

please only one comment per essay….

-david alan harvey

120 thoughts on “erica mcdonald – the dark light of this nothing”

  1. yesyesyes – great erica.. GREAT.. been looking forward to this for a long while and now it´s here it´s clear what you have been talking about trying to achieve.. and you did it.
    that´s inspired me on this fierce morning in the clouds.. feeling a little of the neuyawk..

    the blend of formal portraits, which i guess are the large format, and the street moments blend extremely well, aided by the dialogue.. this is one occasion when i think the vocals really sit comfortably, and knowing it is your own tuft you´re showing us added interest.
    really interesting way of introducing the piece with the text.. the whole thing feels extremely well crafted and thought through with real patience and foresight..

    a whole bunch of the photo deserve the second glance which good photography achieves.. my perspective is they needed to be up for longer.. take more time.. cigar kid with the hand buzzer.. snow on drain.. lots of photographs have stuck in mind and you´re bang on-the-money for catching those illusive, sharply observed moments and sights.

    it´s clear in this work how much you care about photography and people – it would have been easier to produce something much less successful.. avoid the large format.. rush through the streets.. shoot it digital.. cared less about the scanning.. yet what you have done feels crafted, even on a monitor, flowing, even if a little short on each image and produced with a real love and a respect for the environment you´re illustrating..

    well done.. just great.. look forward to seeing prints on a wall at some point

  2. Excellent, excellent, essay. Beautiful. And the sound track truly works. I will not single out any photos above the others, for they all work together in marvelous harmony. If you want a hard critique, I am not the man to give it to you, as I can find no flaw in it.

    I see that Jim Powers is your friend and is honored in your acknowledgments. So maybe he will say something good about this essay – as well he should.

    Well, we will see.

    Keep it up.

  3. Erica. Some fantastic shots in here.
    I am struggling with viewing it as a coherent essay in the form its presented here, but the strength of a lot of the pictures is undeniable.
    I think its the mixing of formats and treatment that breaks up the flow for me.
    I hope this develops and ends up in print (where the finished work surely should be).


  4. I was sure to find role-models on this site.
    You certainly belong to them.

    I like the way of presentation. Music, the people speaking .. it creates an even more emotion of being there.
    Print. Yes, I would like to see the pictures in print, too. A slidehow is nice for the overall view and the flow, but with prints you can rest and take your own time.


  5. I loved many, many of the individual images. I lived in Park Slope a while back, for a few years, and when I’m missing being in NYC (in Melbourne now) I most often think of the Park Slope flavor, even though I’d lived in different parts of the city as well.
    3 seconds for each image, I feel, is too short. I wanted more time to savor, to linger.

  6. Excellent work. The pacing is too fast, though. Leave the individual images up a little longer, not enough time to look at each one. I love the portraits. You’ve clearly taken a lot of time putting this together and it shows as a much more polished presentation than we often see here. I even wasn’t bothered by the audio, which I usually am. I would buy of book of from this project.

  7. Now I know what perfection looks and sounds like. Erica, this essay is so touching, so truth-filled, so real…and so incredibly beautiful. My dear, you took your time and just plain DID IT. Brava to you. I can’t wait to buy the book. But I want it to include a DVD of the sounds and voices that I can play while I’m reading it.

    Now what about getting videos and turning it into a short documentary film. I can see it done like Maisie Crow works, with a mix of video, stills and voices. YES!!!


  8. This is lovely Erica. It’s definitely one of my favorite pieces on Burn thus far. One really feels drawn into Park Slope and all it’s intricacies. You can feel its soul and the souls of its inhabitants. It’s not easy tying together different photographic styles, but you’ve managed to successfully. I love the straight on portraits, accompanied by the details like the TV in the repair shop, followed by the more reportage-ish shots which play with layers. I love layers :-) Ending the essay with the last image is great. What a wonderful picture and overall metaphor.


  9. erica, you know what you just did?

    You just took me by the hand and led me around the neighborhood. And Im sat here in Australia. Thats how good that essay is.

    you nailed it.

  10. @ Erica.
    What a really awesome essay. Touching.
    Winter pictures are the ones that I preferred as well as portraits in the Richard Avedon way…
    I’m bothered with the fade, to fast :-(,
    I don’t have enough time to look at every picture, so I have to play twice. That’s not the idea.
    I think with 4:30 would be great and not boring at all!! You can add more sound, more dialogue.
    I’ve said: “No, that’s all??, want to see more!!”

    Great! keep looking forward, cheers from Argentina
    pAtrIcIO m.

  11. Erica,

    This is simply the best piece of work that I have seen on Burn. Like Jim, I need an extra few seconds to savour each image… but otherwise…. WOW!!!!!

    You have inspired me enormously and have set the bar in terms of what we can achieve in our work….

    Brilliant. I want the book!


  12. Lance Rosenfield

    The Dark Light of This Wednesday morning caffeine stream pacing in my veins at the speed of Erica’s fantastical essay… getting the day started better than I could have imagined.. this work weaves through a dreamworld beautifully. My favorite. Erica you have a way.. a closeness and intimacy with your neighbors that is so powerful and rare… Thank you for this work.

  13. I wanted to say, “Hey, Koudelka wants his dog back.” But too late.

    My impression was similar to what others have said. I like many of the images, including the portraits, but I got lost along the way. It felt disjointed and jarring sometimes, like when the guy with the nose ring popped up out of nowhere, and I found myself growing impatient. Maybe I’m getting to comfortable with clear themes and just need to work harder.

    I loved to bizarre dog right at the beginning. Koudelka can eat his heart out on that. ; )

  14. Brava Erica,

    You have a rare sensitivity and it comes through in your work. You photograph with intuition while also acknowledging the legacies of the photographers whose lineage you carry. Brilliant job. These pictures stirred my heart this morning.

    You’ve got tricks up your sleeves!

  15. erica.. saw it a couple of times, and ambivalent.

    on the good side, u bring several very good photographs. i do feel the artist here, a combination of a few magnum women (like frank and morath whom i love alot) and diane arbus. but this is not really surprising cause i already saw your website and loved it alot (i think already told u that ?!).

    now about the criticism… thematically, it is boring a bit. a kind of feeling that these have been done alot and seen alot, even if u r a good sample. no twists, i even felt that something is not coherent and more importantly, doesnt have enough impact, be it emotional, intellectual or aesthetic … kinda, it doesnt engage, and does not stay enough on any level. u tell about a place that is nothing special and nothing significant. so, to make an essay interesting u have to bring something from U. and u dont do it enough in my taste. aesthetic and photographic language is great but not authentic enough, too much magnum and diane arbus in the air.. the “narratives/motives” of your docu are also limited abit and too bounded to the place and moment.. not expendable fluently.

    sound… sorry but go and do movies, or if u want photo+sound, do it interestingly… the photographs are good enough without sound, and if something is missing (as i tried to explain my feeling in criticism), sound will not help there… sometimes it seems to me that people put sound just because the media and presentation allows them technologically, nice flirt, but usually boring and even disturbing. technological capabilities are great but do it interestingly. with or without criticism, u r talking in a real/strong/genuine photographic language, and that language has enough vocabulary and music within it…

    overall a very god essay, with traditional feel that i love alot… essay that deserves a serious criticism in this context

  16. I didn’t realize this was to be up this morning, what a lovely surprise..

    First, really truly thank you to all who helped in ways large and small, and that includes burn for being here and all of you for helping me though…a happy Thanksgiving indeed. The than you to John Westfall should be Mike Westfall..

    I’m going to let your words and feedback settle in for awhile, I am touched and am reading and thinking…

    But I do want to say something about the pace / quickness and some of what a couple of you have alluded to as a disjointedness:

    I wanted the presentation to feel like this place feels to me – like a memory, like glimpses into something whole but not, non linear and about pieces of what was, slipping by, moving away quickly..people and things I wish I could have known longer.


  17. Erica, well done!

    well worth the wait. love it. brilliant stuff. one of the very best i’ve seen on burn.
    strong compositions with a sensitive touch, depth, emotion, energy…


    i really enjoyed this essay. first time in quite a while i’ve been turned on by new black & white photography. somehow reminded me of Deakin… moved a bit fast for me, but i guess that’s the big apple tempo for ya. (and we can always use the pause button) some lovely portraits, although not 100% sure about the mixed formats (a demon i’ve wrestled with). great to see all those verticals too, refreshing…

    again, well done

    big hug : )))


  18. I’ve been wondering what this often alluded to project was all about. It was worth the wait. Many many strong photographs here, it would certainly hang together as a book, and I can see many of the singles ending up as supporting art for, say, the fiction section of the New Yorker. The thought and perseverence you put into this piece shows in every shot, in the pacing, in the sound track. That you had feedback from the likes of Eugene Richards and P. Fusco is impressive in and of itself.

    Congratulations. It’s totally “legit,” start to finish.

    As part of a larger question — where do you take a talent such as yours into the world? i.e., can one survive making pictures like this outside of Magnum and VII ? Or do you continue with a day job and do this for only the love of doing it?


  19. erica,

    I think I know how you as a perfectionist have difficulty in letting something go…always wanting, thinking it might be just that little bit better.

    Thank you for letting this go. It’s wonderful.

    You nailed it.

    You and your work have and continue to inspire me to be a better person and a better photographer. Thank you.

    big hug.

  20. Erica, yours is BY FAR my favorite piece on BURN, thus far! Because it is truly considered, from the heart, made of simple, human, accessible reality, but transformed by your magically poetic vision into an unique, everlasting testament. Made me cry. I applaud you as loudly as I am able! Thank you for refreshing the photographic air we live in!

  21. Beautiful…and most of all there is you in it. Finally.. you abandoned the research of perfection without forgetting all the road you have done. That’s the way to do something special.

  22. rhythm
    wonderful presentation..
    make the next jump to film:)
    I like the visual journey you took me on,
    great inspiring imagery…
    full of heart,
    beautiful work….
    did you ever shoot any of this in color? any desire to?

  23. Erica,

    In addition to what’s already been said I love the title, love the audio.
    All your hard work has really paid off. There is so much depth here.
    Just lovely.

  24. Very nice piece, Erica.

    What struck me was that all the images,apart from a few of the ‘formal’ portraits were
    shot vertically.

    Compositionally, most worked for me but the vertical format somehow left me feeling
    a little ‘closed in’ as if I wanted to see more of what was happening to the left and right

    The audio, for me, was a good complement to the images and I appreciated that it was the
    subjects narrating the piece and not the photographer

  25. Erica, All I can say is WOW!!!

    really amazing work. I love the mixture of 35mm with Medium format and the mix in the audio is also done amazingly. But the photographs themselves are beautiful and you know I love Brooklyn myself and my Brooklyn project is totally different than yours, which is good, but really I am blown away. Can’t wait to see the book, which seems like will happen soon.

  26. A brilliant, shining star of the changing face of Brooklyn neighborhoods.
    This hits a spot in my heart because I lived and loved in Fort Greene for 5 years, just over Atlantic Avenue from Park Slope. While I lived there, I witnessed many changes, as the price of Brownstones rocketed to seven figures and the incessantly increasing number of gentrified baby carriages caused traffic problems in the sidewalks. At this same time, Bruce Ratner had proposed his Atlantic yards project, citing that his skyscraper buildings (which would dwarf the tallest building in Brooklyn, the Williamsburg Savings Bank, also in downtown Brooklyn) would create jobs and a scaled living situation from the rich to the poor. The proposal also included the development and erection of an 18,000 seat arena for the NBA team New Jersey Nets, who I believe should just stay in New Jersey. The arena would be located right in the middle of clusterf**k traffic nightmare Atlantic Avenue, which is congested from Washington Avenue down to 4th Avenue, where the dirty rich Ratner also built the Atlantic Center.
    Ok, I digress. My point is not that traffic jams and baby carriages change the face of Brooklyn; it’s that the influx of the rich cause a more rapid inertia of inflation in the cost of living, pushing out the lifers who were born and raised in these neighborhoods. The lifeblood and soul and history of these neighborhoods remains alive within these people…but they take this with them when they must relocate.
    Maybe I’m guilty of adding to the problem, having been a transplant myself. But no, that’s not correct. I was an avid participant in the art scene in my neighborhood and supporter of local business and Develop, Don’t Destroy. I lived in a woman’s brownstone who grew up in that house and bartended at Frank’s Cocktail Lounge on Fulton Street, which has been there for more than 50 years and is a benchmark in the history of Downtown Brooklyn and is a scene right out of the seventies.
    I think that the problem lies with people who have no intention or cares about being a part of a neighborhood, or realizing its history or what it’s about. These are people who are not adding anything by being present; they are merely taking up space and replacing those who have roots…simply because they have more money.

    Erica, your essay touched me. I agree that the pace was a bit fast, but other than that, it’s obviously a labor of love. Thank you for being present…and making a difference by telling a story and preserving a neighborhood.

  27. Joni – re the koudelka dog..I have a thing for animals, and certainly for lost ones. I spend a lot of time trying to reunite them with their owners, I walk through the streets whispering the names of animals I see on the ‘help me find’ signs people post when they lose an animal..so imagine my delight when I spotted koudelka’s dog, even if he lost one leg since koudelka had him ;)

    David B – “that´s inspired me..” what more could I ask for? except for “it´s clear in this work how much you care about photography and people” I really struggle with certain images that I take, I feel they should show how much I love the people I photograph. Sometimes I am not sure if certain images do, and even if those images are successful in other ways I can’t show them to the world..so your comment means a lot to me..

    Frostfrog, you are gentleman, if you are a gent? In printmaking art school we had bagels and coffee at our critiques. I once accidentally sliced my hand so badly cutting a bagel before my own critique and it was a huge relief because I didn’t have to focus my energy on any possible “hard critique” that came in my session, I could think about my hand instead while people critiqued my work.

    Bjarte – that may be the highest compliment. I experience that feeling a lot, when looking at work I admire. that’s the feeling that kept me going when I was tired of shooting this – I’d see someone else’s amazing work and be motivated all over again.

    marikinski, eva – i do so hope this becomes a book..

    john gladdy – the mixing of formats has been a big question all along. for me it sits okay in multimedia, but I have been think a lot about what the different formats mean for a book. DAH and Jason E and I have talked about some options, like having them in separate sections, or showing the portraits as contact sheets..

    Thomas, Jared, Vicky, david_bacher, fotorich, pomara, pAtrIcIO m., Steve M, joao, Harry, Armando, andrew b… xo

    Robert – when did you live here? The change has been SO significant. Part of what took me as long as it did to photograph this is the fact that there is so little of the old Park Slope left. Some days I would walk my boundaries over and over and see nothing that didn’t smack of the new affluence and culture and attitude. It’s a lovely place to eat out and but boutique clothing and go to mommy and me events now, lots of ‘luxury’ hi rise developments under way…What touched me so much was the old school’s willingness to try to accept the new, but sadly it is the new that has a hard time finding the value of the old.

    Jim – you can mute the audio and go through the images at your own place, pause unpause, if you want. You get a free signed copy. Also soon will put up a still gallery on my website.

    Audrey – I should have thanked you too. It was you in the beginning who helped guide my direction on the 35mm. thank you xo and thank you to Bob too..for a bit of early encouragement…

    Patricia – your words are so touching. here’s the truth about a video component. I worked with TWO different professional video people on this, at two different times. Though both talented, generous folk, neither was able to capture something that fit. Bottom line I think is that I have to shoot it myself. I bought some Super 8 bw tri x to do just that. But I really need to spend some time thinking about what and how…

    Lance ! so glad you caught the ‘dreamworld’..that’s what I was after all along really, between a memory and a dream

    Andrew Gray – that’s Snoopy. he has one eye. I don’t see him often but I taught him how to pee on command. If I do a little moonwalk he will pee. and then he moon walks.

    andrew sullivan – tricks, eh? :))

    victor – I’m not sure what to say, I will take your words to heart and consider what more I could be doing. You know, when I was very young my most favorite legend of a photographer said something to me that was meant to be a gift, encouraging, about what she could see as the essence of my ‘style’ – but because it referenced others it caused me a lot of anguish and I stopped photographing for over a decade. We all do have a individual voice, though the effect of influence is unmistakeable. At this point I have chosen to celebrate lineage, but of course am a little concerned that for you – someone who has high regard for my work – that something is missing. The only answer I have is that I, for myself and a little for you, will continue to find my most authentic self, through out this long marvelous journey. what more can we do as photographers but honor those who came before us while committing to our personal truths?

    sam – I don’t know know the work of Deakin. Will look now. Glad you noticed that the essay is shot only in verticals! except for the medium and large format portraits. I swear I see vertically. Ever see the film The Vertical Ray of the Sun? http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1291518233/


  28. Well done Erica, you have obviously put a lot of time in to this project and it shows. I really enjoyed your work—the portraiture especially! It is great to see it up on burn. Give yourself a big pat in the back, you deserve it!

  29. sister :))))))))))))))))))))!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i will break the 1 comment rule (again) later tonight…im working on the brew (long) to leave you…running to darkroom, then in a few hours will leave you enough words to fill burn for a month ;))))..
    so so proud of you….

    more later


  30. A magnificent essay!

    I love the mixing of genres, the pacing and the soundtrack.

    More than anything, I’m deeply impressed by the way that the whole body of work seamlessly takes its place in the longer meta-narrative of New York City photography. The city as hero, as a character. Even though the images are clearly set in the “now”, they have fixed this moment – our moment – in such a way that one can almost remember it wistfully, from some time in the future when we’re all older and (hopefully) wiser…


  31. Just to add… The mixed formats really don’t bother me, it is something I am working on personally and like to see… multimedia or not. Personally I don’t think lot of vertical images sit so well in a multimedia presentation, I guess due to the “video” format, but this is the way you shoot so there is no getting around that. The multimedia presentation is only one part of you work though… I too would love to see some nice big prints and a book!!

  32. Loved it Erica, just loved it. Obviously a labour of love; you remind us that the Big Apple, New York, is really a number of neighbourhoods, of communities. The written intro is just perfect: it adds to the experience and to the photography. Same with the audio: just right, not overpowering, not too sentimental; just right.

    As for the book: I do hope that you are going to include the dialogue with the appropriate photograph?

    The photographs don’t need to be adorned, far from it, but the dialogue does help to convey a spirit of community and neighbourhood.

    Worth the wait, Erica.

    Best wishes,


  33. emcd,

    i should preface i am not a photographer… the aesthetics, compositions, lighting, ‘wonderful’ portraits i have yet to learn. therefore since i am a ‘feel’ being…

    your essay made me feel erm… upset. (thinking) yes upset. and i got done with your essay feeling like i should be. of being deposed, violated, transplanted… not belonging where i should belong.

    and i get you… even the tiniest little detail of the speed of your presentation you have pored over. fleeting.. should i look again… did i see his dog? … was he the one who said that? … feelings i am left with of fleeting acquaintances it seems… as if i should be there longer … but it is not my place.

    i like your photographs… is this what people call style? personal, unobtrusive but there. but then what do i know.

  34. sam – John Deakin’s work looks provoking..one more book to buy!

    dq – indeed I do get image requests for the fiction part of new yorker..so that one of these will be used, from your lips to…the ‘day job’ is photography, you know the market I assume, but there is work out there. as an adjunct I am starting a consulting / workshops biz with andrew sullivan and marie arago (long time right hand woman to dah) soon to be launched, is called DEVELOP..FYI develop.com will have a really strong resources library.

    michal – your words make my hear sing. you know how FASCINATED i am with your work, esp. the strip joint ones, which i am sure, led me in part to wanting to shoot more 35mm.

    preston – did I get loose enough for your liking ? :)

    laredo, cathy, mtomalty, valery, james, neven, john d… xo

    wendy..no, no color for these. took the bus i neighborhood away and saw a color world.

    benroberts – glad you caught that at the end. my intention. they still have a boom on me, the people.

    Carrie – YES. where do you live now? I too have written a lot about this development angle, and that is what made me start. If you go to http://www.ericamcdonaldphoto.com, under New York, the Park Slope portraits which was done some time ago, I have a whole essay written about it..i have a time slot to show this piece over the summer in the park to the community..and some plans for a guerilla style exhibit, it all makes me so sad / mad..the sick irony is that where there once was a healthy normal development / business / homes there is now, in many spots, vacancy, an empty lot waiting for the economic upturn to build another hi rise. feel free to email me if you want to talk about it more..Pete Hamill wrote, about the situation:

    In Brooklyn, most building is on a human scale and so the sun can do its work of gilding every surface. You walk for the morning paper, and total strangers say, “Beautiful day.” And you must assent. And when the scale has been violated, by apartment houses or housing projects, two things are always lost: a sense of community, and beauty. The big Stalinesque apartment houses now rising on Fourth Avenue seem like faceless transients from Area Code 800. An apartment house, after all, is rarely a community. Read more: 40th Anniversary – Pete Hamill Revisits His Native Brooklyn — New York Magazine http://nymag.com/anniversary/40th/50654/index3.html#ixzz0Xu6zNIPe

    bob – looking forward, but not too long, Thanksgiving preparations are upon us :)

    Jon-Marc – “Even though the images are clearly set in the “now”, they have fixed this moment – our moment – in such a way that one can almost remember…” I am so glad you can feel that through the images. It’s not that straightforward of a thing, to photograph a memory, and that is what I tried to do…

    Mike – yes, I have a lot of interviews / transcripts, but there are a numberof them that should be reprinted in their entirety in the book..

    Gracie – yes..your feelings are mine..forever a transplant, a gypsy, no land, no real home..”as if i should be there longer … but it is not my place.” It is not my place either, I was just a neighbor, a good one maybe, but a neighbor looking in..I have no place, or rather everyplace is my place, as a photographer and as a human, disconnected from a larger community that I born into that is long gone…where is home…if some communities have the good sense to know what it is and where it is, then they should be allowed to keep that…do you know that in some places in the world the thought of not having family land is the most devastating of all possibilities.

  35. ERICA,

    What a joy to open BURN today and see that your wonderful essay is up… I am so happy for you to see the very positive feedback from all…If there was a deserving patient photographer out there, it HAS to be you. You have built this essay at your own pace, always having a healthy dose of dissatisfaction to keep pushing, go deeper, take it to the next level… As you know, I have been a fan from the very early days and I have seen your essay grow, having been in touch with you on multiple occasions, having also seen your first initial Blurb book and even a short slideshow in Charlottesville but it is a great feling to see it all come together with the sound, the final sequence…just wonderful really… What I like in your photography is this sense of humanity, closeness and proximity with those you photograph… you do care for them, for who they are and it is clear that they are opening up for you…. You have also done a great job to capture the atmosphere of this neighborhood… I can feel the place…. I have never been to Park Slopes but it feels like a place I know now, a place that seems so familiar… in a way, we have all come across these neighborhoods where the clock seems to have stopped but at the time, everything is changing…. What can I say Erica…I am just impressed and delighted! Love the poetry with that intense feling of nostalgia throughout, just love the photography of Mrs McDonald and, as I told you this before, if I was an editor, I would be proud to be the one who will publish that book and I hope to be one of the first ones to get a signed copy (I guess after Jim now :):):).

    A friend in admiration…


    PS: By the way, your black athletic guy with his sun glasses could look like one of my boxers :):):):…

  36. ERICA…

    thank you for taking the time to do this right…certainly worth the wait….this essay should serve as a shining star and example for all those who want to publish on Burn or anywhere…good on you…

    cheers, hugs, david

  37. Congratulations Erica!

    It has been a long wait, but a well worth one. This is a real multimedia production: it smoooothly develops like a nostalgic lovesong. Mixed formats and the “fast” pacing are fine for me: they suit this particular presentation format you chose. On the other hand, most of the images (especially the portraits) would deserve the contemplating attitude of a book page or an exhibit.


  38. Erica,

    I like about 10% of this work…….and love the 90% left!!!

    Love the images, the different formats, the voices and the editing…..but very specially and above all, the ability to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary.

    This is an essay I know I will come back to many times in the future.


  39. ERICA,
    I’ve watched this essay two times today and I haven’t watched many essays from start to end recently. So I guess that sums up what I feel about this one. I had high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed at all.
    I love the different formats (portraits) because it just takes the whole thing a notch further. Without them it would be an amazing NYC street photo essay in it’s own right, but we have a lot of them don’t we?
    The portratis just takes it further and I’m glad you did portraits and didn’t lock up to just one “thing” or “style”. Lately I’ve been trying myself to not lock up on subjects, mediums, mono or colour etc and it isn’t easy, but you really succeeded and the editing is just brilliant.



  40. I am new to this site but I had to stop, register and comment on this beautiful essay. Not only are the photographs wonderfully personal and intimate but you really seem to have made a connection with these people and brought that connection to all of us with your work. Thank you.

  41. My God Erica, what and amazing body of work. I love love the audio. Many outstanding images. The portraits are awesome. Congratulations.
    This is one of the finest things I’ve seen here, or anywhere. I’m in awe of you m’Dear.

  42. Beautiful work well presented. In most essays over twenty images is too many, in this one I felt that fiftytwo was two few. Looking forward to the book.

    All the best


  43. “…I am responsible for the Other without waiting for reciprocity, were I to die for it….. For others, in spite of myself, from myself. “–Emmanuel Levinas

    “In the future, when something comes up, you tell exactly how it happened but write down for yourself the way you think it should have happened.”-betty smith, ‘a tree grows in brooklyn’

    “Life is missing things, not getting them.”–padgett powell, ‘edisto revisted’

    “I couldn’t live through New York, if not for what you boys give me.”–my mother, when i was 10

    my And we are surrounded by voices, voices that define and create us, carve us from the damp clayey mess we are into the firm imagining people we become. Though often we feel lost and bereft, in truth this is but an illusion, a masking of our own blindness set timbled by our own misguided ways and still rightness, somehow, unimaginably persists: these are the voices that alight and aline and allow us to begin to make sense of the world and our awkward place into it. We are nothing if not for the people and the lives around us: how long does it take us to finally recognize this? In a word: the clip of a disembodied voice. We too, my brothers and I, taped together things inorder to birth them some new life: pucks and screwballs and footballs and twined, autumnal stick-sticks. How long, as it been seen i thought of those? Those calluses are still there, warm and tough, aginst my life.

    I cannot think of a more beautiful and more appropos essay to which to usher in Thanksgiving, for if Thanksgiving has any value at all it is in the need for story, the celebration of those places, by various names we call family and state and place and memory and love and ultimately home, that have joined all of the wishy-washy sloppiness of our lives, the fortunes and the misfortunes, that add us to something fairly straightforward: the ‘I’ in the question of who we are: of them, always, of them. For Erica’s project is infact more than a celebration of a neighborhood in the lower thumb joint of Brooklyn, is more than a celebration of the memories of the people that have called Park Slope their home, more than a loving and aware and affirmative attempt to preserve and share what makes place, all place, so special (the lives and voices and details of the people that thresh out the living of that place), but is in fact a celebration of both all our memories of our lives and places but also a celebration of that which persists and is unyielding, even in the face of change and gentrification and hegemonious wealth and tricks of the light and batons of the now, and that is something simple: the stories and voices of each and every one of us.

    I wish to yell you a story Erica.

    When I was a child, my mother was taken from us, from my father and my three brothers and me, taken as a measure to save her, to right her, to make her well and whole and healed. For nearly two years, we would visit her in my aunt’s apartment (at that time, 33rd and Lexington), friends apartments (lower manhattan), hospitals and councilor’s offices and at that time my mother’s sister, for some period of time, helped me in the maternal duties of looking after my brothers. My aunt at the time, and later, was working as a NYC cabbie (yes, long before women were cabbies, in general) to put herself through CCNY Law School. One afternoon, she took my brothers and I to ParkSlope to pick up her cab and all i remember was the sounds along 9th street and the viscous sound of the cab garage and later, crying in Prospect Park and trying to understand what the hell was happening……Last year, when Marina and I were staying with you, as I walked around, all those memories return in a wash and welter of both elation and sadness, enough to upend all that I had imagined I wanted that weekend at Kibbutz: voices change everything….

    And this: long long before Burn, I remember the two of us talking about Levinas and Derrida and trying to carve out what it meant to care about others, what it mean to join voice with place, to harness hope and love for something with the intemperate world of photography, long before Burn was burn. and in this essay, i see and hear all of that magnificent love, all of that extraordinary awareness and watchfullness and extension: to get beyond the ‘me’ of your vision and toward the ‘you’ of those you wish best to celebrate.

    For me, this is a remarkable story and a beautiful and heart-felt love-song to both a neighborhood that is not your own by birth or nature, a love-song to a practice (both photographic and spiritual), a love-song to the ‘we’ inside the living of our lives. This essay, in many senses, is not at all about Erica McDonald photographer but about Erica McDonald human being who is passing along both metta and breath to all that she cherish so much: her neighborhood and neighbors, her dogs, her animals, her children, her friends, her world outside of that time-licked balcony that overlooks the squirrels that nibbled on my rancid socks for what seems so long ago. It is a poetic and humane love song that is not only about Park Slope but about the necessity of LISTENING to others, listening which is so much more important than photographing. It is a tapestry of lots of things, but for me, it’s power and it’s beauty is contained in it’s unabashed celebration of people and your profound and fully-aware connection with them.

    In almost all senses, I did not recongize Park Slope when Marina and I stayed with you, just as it is difficult to imagine Park Slope the place it has become, of fashionistas and boutiques and clever resto and famous writers/gurus/artists/designers/packagers, but time both changes and returns all things. In some sense, this essay isn’t what Park Slope has become, not at all, but what (to me more importantly) defines and fuels the beauty of park slope: the lives that have loved that damn place so well and for so long.

    Of course the photographs are gorgeous. As i told you in March and then in May and later on too, what i love about this essay is that you have not only celebrated the place and the people but you, you ERica Mcdonald, have been transformed through this process and have opened up. You have grown more at ease, more fluid, more loose, it’s all there in the pictures and the cadence and the voices. Sometimes I feel that your trip to Poland offered you a photographic re-birth, allowed you to not only loosen up and unwind yourself from the strangle hold of all those photographers you revere to much (avedon, arbus, davidson, mem), but allowed you to ‘feel’ your self in a place, trust the swinging and swaying of both your camera and your eyes, so that you were not entirelly beholden to those magnificent cameras you use: to allow you to make the photographs and not the cameras. In your pictures from Poland, i always sensed that you found your own footing again, trust in yourself and the looseness that is here in all those gorgeous Vertical 35mm pics: something to compliment the intensity of these magnificent Large Format portraits. Because of the looseness of the 35mm pictures, I am able to swing back and forth between the ferocious beauty of the lg. format portraints and the distilled quiet sadness and heart-break of the 35mm……had this series been only about lg formats, it would have seem fake to me, and not made sense: but you listened to the people and to their stories and your walked their streets, not with the white background, but with your ears and married your life to theirs….

    There is so much here that loves and reveres photography, with all the allusions to your heros Davidson and Avedon and Arbus and MEM and Levitt and Friedlander and Parks and Richards and Steiglitz and yes Koudelka by way of his roaming dog, but you have while cherishing and celebrating †he photographers and tradition to which you both respect and aspire, you have brought to bare your own magical and specifically unique relationship toward picture-making and people-listening, which is your unbridled openess to take into your life and celebrate those, all of those around, who deserve love and respect. Besides the stories that this piece celebrates, it really is a celebration of those who most often go unnoticed: not heroes, not famous folk, not grandiosity, not solipsistic aspirants, but something simpler: all those who make this life, this life: streetball, scribbled drawings, pawprints and tireprints, scattered marbles and birds, death bestowed and light begun, all the rhymes that define our life around….

    and at last ERica, as I told you during your disappointments and minor grief and sadness throughout the wrestling of this project, through awards and frustration and self-doubt and neglect, please remember what i countenanced you from the beginning:

    there is nothing more profound, more important, more essential than to tell a tale of the living, to respect and celebrate all that surrounds you and all those whose stories wish to be told, to give what small gifts and talents we may have as an offering to those who have even less and yet possess even more: to speak and to listen, to embrace and to come to love that which made you, and that which made you made all of us, and that is something very simple and clean:

    the stories that we all have and that give us the lives we hope to earn.

    I have already written too much already. You know from the first time that i saw this how much i loved it. When David Harvey offered that challenge to all of us, long before there was a burn, so much beauty and richness was born from eric’s boxing to patricia’s portraits to lance’s true grit to audrey’s folks to marcin’s hometown to rafals’ family pieces to kelly lynn’s swimmers to kyung-hee’s aquariums and cities to panos venice to anton’s little girl and fisherman (before Yakuza) to tom hyde’s scapes and even fucking bones, all those beautiful projects and more, and this too is such a beautiful attribution to that vision….

    if there be 2 types of photographers, those who continue and celebrate the heritage of photographic style and idea to those who break away from tradition, all that really matters (to me) is that it makes sense and that is opens me to a small, great truth:

    without the living, we are reft and alone…without stories, we are a cold, steely creature, withouth the tincture of love for what surrounds, we are hopelessly diseased….

    you and this work is an extraordinarily healthy, beautiful and celebrant life….

    and Ben Robers is bang on….the last minutes ripped my heart in two…

    so proud of you…and now i can leave in peace :))))

    beautiful and thanks for the gorgeous thanksgiving gift….


    “it doesn’t matter how long you have forgotten, but how soon you remember”-buddha

  44. Frank Michael Hack

    Really beautiful. This for me is what the future of photography is about. This kind of multimedia presentation with photography as the foundation I think is the niche that is waiting to be filled and for which the next generation of content consumers will be downloading off of iTunes and playing on their iTablets as they commute on the subway.

    The best way I can comment on this essay is to defer to a quote from Helen Keller – “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” This essay does just that.

    Congratulations Erica.


  45. I might have a bit different perspective since I lived in that neighborhood for a long time and often walk around there since I moved away. I agree with the general gist of the comments that the individual photos are excellent and don’t have any constructive criticism to offer at that level. There’s a lot I can learn from them, actually. And as someone who does some professional audio work, I’m flabbergasted by the quality of the sound. It’s very well done. I’m guessing you had very expensive mics and recorders. If not, I’d be curious how you did it.

    But I have questions, if not firm opinions, about the narrative as a whole. I watched it a few times before reading the artist statement. My first thought was that the woman speaking at the beginning sounded like Betty from my block. She sat, no sits, on the stoop in good weather and by the front window in bad and will happily tell any passerby about the good old days. I wondered if that were her. Not likely, I thought. Then I wondered if the photos were from around there. They looked like they might be, though a lot of Brooklyn looks similar. I recognized the Prospect Expressway shot, but as I watched the rest of the essay was not sure if it was about that neighborhood or old Brooklyn in general. So in that sense, you made my old neighborhood practically unrecognizable to me.

    I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Maybe you’re going for a universal theme and it doesn’t matter where it was actually shot? It’s certainly not going to matter to burn aficionados in the far corners of the globe. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just curious about your intentions on that score.

    But either way, I think the essay would benefit by the addition of at least a couple longer shots. I’d like to see you step back a bit and show much more of the context in which those streets, stoops, sidewalks, houses and people inhabit. And since you mention in the artist’s statement that these old working class types are being pushed out by the more affluent, I think it would be effective to show at least a little visual evidence that the affluent are encroaching.

    Here, I have to attempt to make another distinction. As documentation, or historical witness–however best to phrase that concept–I think your essay is important work well done. But from a literary perspective, or even as documentary-style entertainment, the story of old working class people being pushed out by the young and affluent has been told many times. Although good photography can overcome that burden, it’s much more difficult with words. I fear this will come off much more harsh than I mean it, but in pop culture terms, you are featuring Grandpa Simpson when I think Bart and Lisa have a lot more interesting things to say. But even as historical witness, I think the piece would benefit if the younger people had much more audio time. Their photos are strong. Their voice is weak. The old will die. They young will move farther down the F or the R.

    Finally, I question the choice of background music. I think a few commentators referred to it as sweet. I thought it was more like saccharine. I understand that there are too often copyright difficulties involved in getting the best music for a piece, but yours really cries out for some Boricua. You could probably find some street musicians to record and avoid copyright issues. The biggest problem I have with the tinkling piano is that it is the kind of music that the people moving into that neighborhood like, those who are pushing the old guard out, people like me and maybe you. The folk in those pictures listen to something entirely different. That discrepancy adds a layer of irony that may not be what you’re after.

    Again, I don’t mean to be too negative. You obviously do great work. I enjoyed watching the essay and thinking about it.

  46. I’m inspired. I’m inspired because I can see why you’ve done what you’ve done. It makes sense. Authentic.
    Loves the weird off key music in the background. Don’t know if it was just my headset or what but kind of reminded me of Tom Waits.

  47. jenny lynn walker

    A very touching portrait of a community in transition. I love the mix of street work with portraits and the voices of the people themselves – guiding us from the present and, through their memories, back into the past. It’s wonderful Erica! Congratulations!

  48. jenny lynn walker

    ps would be really great to see something similar done with local communities in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries.

  49. Pingback: Twitted by nodename

  50. Superb!
    Absolutely amazing!!
    This is how photography makes you travel all over the world. Your eloquent power, dear Erica is fantastic.
    Thanks and congratulations

  51. Erica,

    Your works are very touching and I love love them.:)))
    There are nothing superfluous. very straight and frank.
    Thaank you very much for such a nice work.

  52. Dope…:)

    “…very straight and frank…”K.Lee said…
    agree…( sincere )…
    very very carefully designed, ( im not gonna say safe, but carefully designed,
    magazine assignment perfect, “jimpowers”style…)
    not lose..not lose at all…super tight…
    very very vertical…honest, with emphasis on “description” and not “art”…
    very finished…explanatory, “closed”..

    Paolo Pellegrin said:
    Quote: “I’m more interested in a photography that is ‘unfinished’ – a photography that is suggestive and can trigger a conversation or dialogue. There are pictures that are closed, finished, to which there is no way in.”

    Again, it is very beautiful and perfect…no way in..
    but thats ok… who said that everyone should think like Paolo or me????????
    Erica keep it up!!!

  53. happy Thanksgiving all…

    I’ll be back as soon as I can to respond..

    wishing you all as much joy as you can muster



  54. Erica,

    Thank you very much for this work! Yes, it’s a shining star for everybody with a heart.

    And I was happy to visit your website and see there many other brilliant pictures.

  55. just saw it again, really lovely. thanks Erica for this piece.

    your comment is so tight today!
    Just when you wrote “very vertical”, I had to think twice what you meant there today… maybe vertical = spiritual or religious opposed to a more material horizontal???? I hadn’t even noticed the verticals at first look…

    I don’t want to start again the discussion about tight or lose, finished or not, arty or journalistic, vertical or horizontal, (Panos or Power),
    BUT do you think it’s the Slope that made Koudelka’s dog become a closed tight horizontal finished dog? -)

  56. I`m looking at this from the other side of the pond. Sad but beautiful and sensitive.I don`t have the artistic vocab but the music,everything was just right.


  57. Erica, I’ve been trying to think of something intelligent and erudite to write but I don’t want to procrastinate any longer in simply saying, this is great work. I do hope you pursue publishers and continue with this work.

  58. All – am still on holiday and not near a computer – but am reading and will write more by Monday. Hope everyone had a lovely thanksgiving.

  59. A photographic and audio tour de force. Photo and acoustic moments of real magic. Your talent is enormous. I see the ghosts of Robert Doisneau, Henri Lartique and Helen Levitt here. Added to such a list now of admirable photographers, is the name Erica McDonald.


  60. memorable … truly. the man on the bench with his arm raised is the one that will really stay with me. but it all works together, powerful and honest. and the Arvo Pärt is hauntingly beautiful – a nice touch.
    best wishes…

  61. exquisite work, erica!

    i’m so happy for you and for what you’ve accomplished. such a poignant, thoughtful, sensitive, intimate body of work — in a relatively short period of time.

    the elements you’ve juxtaposed [your blending of street + formal moments, the interview, dialogue, sound, pacing… ] all feel right to me. i totally feel like i’m there, in the street, toggling both complimentary and competing stimuli. trying to linger, searching for a complete connection, finding this an impossibility. not exactly the dream world to which you allude, but one that’s fleeting nonetheless.

    brava + a heartfelt congratulations to you!

    xo, anna b.

  62. I agree with so many others who have commented…one of the best essays I’ve seen here. Gritty, heartwarming, sad, beautiful, compelling.

  63. Hey Erica,
    saw your essay four days ago, back from the SouthWest, and it made me smile -a cool way to get back home! And a very interesting feeling: looking at only vertical photos after 10 days spent in panoramic mode…

    Showed it to Violette (loves it!), and looked at it again this morning… Very well done!
    That mix of street images with portraits, and wrapped-up in dialogues/audio makes it so… so You!
    I guess many have had a similar experience, probably explained it better than I did, but this is such a touching, personal,and strong essay, that I see you…!
    And yet we don’t know each other that well ;)
    See you soon, T.

  64. DAH – you’re breaking my heart :)

    John D, Akaky, Abele, Ramon, Martin, Glenn, Sean, Vivek, Liam, Peter, Charlie, Jenny, Alicia, Mimi, Kyunghee, Panos, Yulia, Arty, Matthew (matthew, matthew…), Michael M., Kerry, Tom, Anna B, Lori… XO and Thank you!

    Miles – Welcome to burn and thank YOU…

    Eric E – someone else (in a PM) asked if i thought of my audience in shooting, editing this..and i have to say, in the moments I thought of audience, it was an audience of 1…YOU.

    Gordon, photohumourist – (blush)

    Petteri – good to hear that ’cause there are a lot more images in the wide edit :)

    Bob – Bob, Bob, Bob…yes indeed, our conversations started with Levinas..still, as you know, the Levinas signature on my email is still “The real fraternity is fraternity by the fact that the other concerns me; inasmuch as he is stranger, he is my brother.” and that is SO much a part of this work and i love that you understand… And you are so right, it is a celebration of memory..I had no idea about your thoughts of your mom while you were here, what a lot you were going through while the squirrels nibbled away… and about DAH’s challenge to all of us, so much beauty was born from it, you are right, you are right about the lot of it so i will just say thank you…

    Frank – very interesting that a quote by HK came to your mind for a visual/audio piece, quite profound actually, thinking about the essence of our work as photographers as being so much beyond what we normally suppose…

    Michael W – hi..let’s see..the audio was captured with a ZOOM H2, using just the internal mike and the windsock, I monitored the whole time, one earphone in…I think what you might be liking about the quality of the sound is the way it was put together, there are a lot of layers going on. For example, when you come to the photo of the girl jump roping, you can hear the sounds of shoes on the pavement, but that sound is layered with someone else talking from a totally different recording..there are birds and street music and such, none of which were actually happening at the same time, i recorded them separately and then put them all together using Final Cut Pro (well, I directed what I wanted layered after I selected the clips, I had help, i don’t myself know FCP)

    No Betty involved :) but you ask “Then I wondered if the photos were from around there.” You mean Park Slope? The photos are all Park Slope – in fact I am kind of into creating rules for myself for something like this to create some structure, so I picked very firm boundaries of what Park Slope is..until June I was in a tighter radius, ending at 15th street, but then I found a map from the 40’s that extended to the expressway so I started asking a lot of locals where they thought the boundaries ended..a lot of discrepancy but my point is that but for all but 1 image which had reason to be taken 3 blocks out of this radius, they are all strictly confined to the hood – so much so that I often felt like a hamster in my habitrail..but about me making your neighborhood unrecognizable, i have to say i decided early on NOT to include any of the new, and the reason perhaps that your hood is not apparent is because I only shot the vestiges of memory and time and of the old that is so so so little now..i would walk all day sometimes and find none of it.

    I’m going to quote Bob here about the neighborhood now: “the place it has become, of fashionistas and boutiques and clever resto and famous writers/gurus/artists/designers/packagers, but time both changes and returns all things. In some sense, this essay isn’t what Park Slope has become, not at all, but what (to me more importantly) defines and fuels the beauty of park slope: the lives that have loved that damn place so well and for so long.” And most of that is hidden from the eye. When i told someone from the ‘new’ who had lived here for 6 years what I was doing, she asked what on earth I would shoot, just people on their cellphones and the double wide SUV style strollers that line up in front of cafes? Point being this was my decision, to give the time and space to those who are disappearing. And in my mind stepping back to the long view and giving “Bart and Lisa” their time in this piece wasn’t appropriate, for me, it would be stealing from the old…

    Jerome C. – very interesting insight as to the why of these being vertical – I like your suggestion of spirituality being some how involved, it is quite a logical possibility given my background and predispositions..but initially this choice wasn’t conscious, it was intuitive. It wasn’t until I got my first bulk of film back that I realized on rare occasion I’d have to flip the film around because I had shot a horizontal. There are a few horizontals that I like, and maybe those will make it to the book, but I felt like it was one format too many for mm.

    David S – re: the man with his arm raised..that was THE day shooting…I had sh*tloads of other work to do but the light was calling..I had 2 dogs in tow, and on one side of the street was the lady looking out her window, pulling at my heartstrings, impish, playful – I was so drawn to her but at the same moment I had a concerned neighbor in my face telling wondering why i was shooting and trying to prevent me from doing so – and on the other side of the street was the man, who spoke no English, been in the hood for 38 years, straight from Italy and never left his small neighborhood, so i had to find his daughter because I wanted to be clear it was okay with him what I was doing..and all the while 2 small dogs on my hip…

    Tanguy y Violet – merci and I do hope we connect soon

  65. Truly amazing, you are a star and always have been! An inspiration. The audio wraps it in atmosphere, familiar, nostalgic, moving, coherent, tight, beautiful. Well done my dear, I hope this gives you all the financing, fame, recognition and pats on the back you so deserve.



  66. Absolutely stunning. True poetry. There are so many little stories in each frame, I just want to see more and more and more. Thank you for sharing Park Slope with all of us.

  67. Erica, this work is strangely so refreshing and so familiar at once. Great to see someone following local stories again, there seems to be a belief sometimes that you need to take a plane in order to find a good story.
    Your technique is immpecable as is your style. These people are lucky they had someone like you on their sides.

    Brava lady!

  68. Erica,

    Fantastic stuff – a heady mix of two classic styles (shall I venture Leavitt and Avedon) that work together well. Great to finally see what you’ve been up to. Congrats.


  69. Seriously great work Erica. It has a gorgeous timelessness that, as Charles says, brings to mind Leavitt and Avedon (as well as Gordon Parks). Simple, but it has so much depth to it. So, so good.

  70. Adam- and your work has long been an inspiration to me!

    jbnightengale – I hope I will be able to share more and more with you in book.

    Imants – and the hound is a fan of you

    nmn – local..this has been a big question for me. I too am lured by the promise of distant lands, but some of my favorite work (Davidson’s East 100th and Richards’ Dorchester Days, Petersen’s Cafe L, for example) are all neighborhood stories. I think these just take time to get into as a photographer, and to be able to see.

    Charles – though I of course know Levitt’s work, I haven’t looked at any of it in earnest..I will have to do that. It raises an interesting question for me about origins of ‘style’…

    Mark – you know how esteemed I fond your opinion, I’m so pleased to finally be able to show this to you.

    Ross – damn that’s a good word.

    ALL – Thank you!!!

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  73. Ms Mc Donald, this essay is so true & authentic. The images have power individually, but as a chorus, they just sweep over you like a tidal wave, submersing you in the milieu. The mixed soundtrack reflects the images. Maybe because I live in Harlem and have been a NY’er for so many years, the voices are sweat confections one observes just walking the town. These are like seams in a fabric of time that you swim in what’s real both in the street and in the homes. The flavors in the voices are reflected in your images. These people are genuine and your work is a fine tribute to the largely unseen population that makes NYC pulse. Thanks for the experience. Ben

  74. I’ve just had the quickest look Erica but its lovely. Beautiful. I look forward to coming back in a few months when I have more time to see it again. Really really lovely. Thanks for your efforts.

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  77. Very engaging, moving, telling. Just found this today. So thankful; your photos show me your neighborhood through your eyes. Yet it tells his story, her story, the truth. Wendy’s sharing today sometime or maybe yesterday–of Indian saying, his story, her story, the truth, and I add photographer’s story–comes into play with this piece. One word popped up, compassion. You come through the photos in your compassion. I love this.

    I’ve been working out how to do an essay entitled (at this time anyway) body language of love. And I know audio plays a huge part in the telling. Your essay has shown me it can be done in my imagined piece. So glad I found it today just when I needed the knowledge.

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  79. Pingback: Workshop 2011 “The personal documentary” con Erica Mc Donald e Andrew Sullivan :: Photography Workshop in New York City

  80. Pingback: Workshop 2011 “The personal documentary” con Erica Mc Donald e Andrew Sullivan :: Photography Workshop in New York City

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