Walking the Block : Christopher Street, Then & Now

In May of 2009, I was finishing up the photojournalism/documentary program at The International Center of Photography. We were getting ready for the end of the year exhibit and “Career Day” aka portfolio reviews with editors, curators, etc. The last I should have been doing was starting a new project. One night after a late night at ICP, Sophie (fellow classmate) and I took the train to Christopher Street, in the West Village. I had walked around the Village before, but when we hit the block of Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets it was a scene like nothing I had ever seen.  The characters, the energy of that block, especially in front of a bar called Chi Chi’z (now closed) intrigued me instantly. I knew it was something I needed to experience further. After getting some liquid courage at a bar down the street, Sophie & I entered Chi Chi’z. Right away we were noticed and approached, for one we were white and we were women, as most of the clientele was African American males & Transgender women. After we finished our cocktails, we stepped outside for a smoke.

“You are making some of the girls uncomfortable, are you cops?” Qwanna asked. “No, I replied” Sophie had walked to the corner store to buy cigarettes.  “What are you doing here?” Not sure what to say, figured honesty was always best, especially if I wanted to gain her trust.  “I’m a documentary photography student, I’m curious…” Let me back track, the reason we ended up on Christopher Street was I had been hanging out with Damian, a 17 year old Transgender homeless runaway and he stopped returning my texts, so I got nervous and we were walking to the Chelsea Piers to see if he was there when we past Chi Chi’z. I explained this to Qwanna. She replied “We’re not all homeless.” “I know, that is why I am here, I don’t mean any harm.” “I know, that is why you are still here.” And with that answer, Sophie returned we shared cigarettes,  I relaxed.  We went back inside Chi Chi’z and enjoyed the rest of the night, which I barely remember, due to the “Purple Mother Fuckers” we were served. The next night I returned, by myself, with my camera out and saw Apollo. “You’re back!” “Told you I would be.” “Good, our story needs to be told, we need to be documented.” Not sure if Apollo knew this was all going away, or if he just liked having me around to take his picture. Either way I went back every weekend night for the next year.  I was in, I was invited into this community, this family.

Then a year later, I moved back to Austin, Texas.  Whenever I would find myself in the city, I always try to make it a point to head to Christopher Street, to see if I bump into any of my old friends from the block. As the years past, that block between Hudson & Greenwich as a lot of the village slowly began to change. First the Path Cafe went in then the spy (nanny cam) shop became an AT&T store, but there was still a buzz on that block. On my most recent trip a couple of weeks ago, I was saddened to see the block was gone. Nothing remained. Chi Chi’z is now a sushi bar, the adult DVD shop is a restaurant that is up for sale. It was a Friday night in April, a beautiful spring evening and the block was empty, there was zero energy. I know folks will argue that it was a good change for the neighborhood, really is it? No matter what side of the change/gentrification fence you sit on, always remember to respect individuals, just because you don’t agree with there lifestyle choices, doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to exist. This was a community, a moment in time that is gone.

wtb_then_now_01

Christopher Street (between Hudson & Greenwich Street) August 2009

wtb_then_now_02

Christopher Street (across from Chi Chi’z) April 2014

wtb_then_now_03

Christopher Street (across from Chi Chi’z) July 2009

wtb_then_now_04

Christopher Street (standing in front of Chi Chi’z) May 2009

wtb_then_now_05

Christopher Street (standing in front of Chi Chi’z) May 2009

wtb_then_now_06

Standing on Greenwich Street looking at Christopher Street April 2014

wtb_then_now_07

Standing on Greenwich Street looking at Christopher Street September 2009

wtb_then_now_08

Standing on Greenwich Street looking at Christopher Street June 2009

wtb_then_now_09

Standing on the corner of Greenwich & Christopher Street April 2014

wtb_then_now_10

Standing on the corner of Greenwich & Christopher Street August 2014

wtb_then_now_11

Standing on the corner of Greenwich & Christopher Street May 2009

wtb_then_now_13

Standing on the corner of Greenwich & Christopher Street May 2009

wtb_then_now_14

Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets April 2014

wtb_then_now_15

Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets May 2009

wtb_then_now_16

Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets April 2014

wtb_then_now_17

Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets May 2009

wtb_then_now_19

Sushi bar (former Chi Chi’z) on Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets April 2014

wtb_then_now_20

Chi Chi’z Bar on Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets June 2009

wtb_then_now_21

Inside Chi Chi’z Bar on Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets June 2009

wtb_then_now_22

Inside Chi Chi’z Bar on Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets May 2009

wtb_then_now_23

Apollo, in front of Chi Chi’z Bar on Christopher Street between Hudson & Greenwich Streets May 2009

wtb_then_now_25

Former corner store on the corner of Christoper & Hudson Street April 2014

wtb_then_now_26

Standing in front of the corner store on the corner of Christoper & Hudson Street August 2009

wtb_then_now_28

Now closed flower shop on the corner of Christoper & Hudson Street April 2014

wtb_then_now_29

Johnny showing off his new tattoo in front of the flower shop on the corner of Christoper & Hudson Street : August 2009

wtb_then_now_30

Waiting on the corner store on the corner of Christoper & Hudson Street July 2009

Take a walk with me on this block in 2009. A journey in sights and sounds (warning explicit language and content).

 

You can view more images from Walking the Block, 2009 on joannsantangelo.com

 

Posted in Christopher Street, daily life, street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1,018 miles to and from Austin, Texas

I pulled out of my driveway at 6:05am on Saturday 03/22/14 and headed to Amarillo, Texas. Even though I have lived in Texas for over 5 years, being from the east coast, its still hard for me to grasp the idea that I can drive for 8 hours in one direction and still be in the same state.  Here is a selection of images I shot during my drive to and from Amarillo with a stop in Abilene on the return.  I am always saddened to see most of small town America store fronts closed and abandoned. I wonder will they ever return?

txroadtrip_01 txroadtrip_02 txroadtrip_03 txroadtrip_04 txroadtrip_05 txroadtrip_06 txroadtrip_07 txroadtrip_08 txroadtrip_09 txroadtrip_10 txroadtrip_11 txroadtrip_12 txroadtrip_13 txroadtrip_14 txroadtrip_15 txroadtrip_16 txroadtrip_17 txroadtrip_18 txroadtrip_19 txroadtrip_20  txroadtrip_22 txroadtrip_23 txroadtrip_24 txroadtrip_25 txroadtrip_26

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

02.24.13 : One Year Later

Visual Journal entry 02.24.14: Thanks to the time capsule that is my negatives, I know that last year on this day I spent the morning in my dark room, walked on The Drag), then biked over to the east side where I noticed that construction was now in progress at 1000 E.5th Street (former location of Falcon 5). It is now the location of the almost completed Corazon Apartments and retail space.

 

22413-1 22413-2 22413-3 22413-4 22413-5 22413-6

 

 

Posted in austin, daily life, portraits, street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Year Later: 02.20.13

One of the joys of not receiving instant gratification is prolonged joy. My personal projects, Austin Seen, in progress… and Arms of Progress… are two parts to one project which is a visual journal of my life,  memories captured of my explorations of Austin . Because they are both shot on b/w analog film I don’t get to instantly view, like, dislike and delete. And depending on my life, my motivation to get to the darkroom, it will be months before I see the negatives.

These set of images were shot on February 20,2013 while I was biking around promoting (hanging up & passing out postcards) for my Austin Seen, in progress… exhibition at Falcon 5 opening on March 02, 2013.

february-15

The now occupied Eleven apartment building on E.11th & 135 was being constructed, and the Old 97’s were set to play at Antone’s.

22013-1 22013-2 22013-3 22013-4 22013-5 22013-6 22013-7 22013-8

Posted in austin, daily life, portraits, street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2.17.13 : One Year Later : On my way to work

From January of 2011 until the end of May 2013, I was a server at Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar on South Congress Avenue (SoCo) in Austin, Texas. This set of images was taken on Feb.17, 2013 during my walk from James Street to Perla’s.

21713_0121713_0221713_0321713_0421713_0521713_0621713_0721713_0821713_0921713_1121713_10

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feb 10, 2013 One year later

Been awhile since my last post. What have been doing? Scanning, mostly. As some of you know, I take a lot of photos while I ride my bike around and Austin. As of 5 mins ago, I have 3,917 negatives scanned for Austin Seen, in progress dating back to October 15, 2006 in my Lightroom Catalog.

1,700  from 2013, 726 from 2012, 7 from 2011, 553 from 2007,  726 from 2006.

I still have about 1/2 of 2012 to scan and lots of 2011 and most of 2008. There is no instant visual gratification with analog photography, for me its all about the sound of the click of the shutter with the “I got it” feeling.

Today the editing portion began, spent most of it looking, rotating, adjusting exposures and starring selects.

Always looking for a second pair of eyes. Let me know if you would like a peek at my unedited catalog!

To get in the practice , habit of posting again, I am going to do a flashback, throwback when I have scanned images of the day in history.

February 10, 2013 |Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake) & Rainey Street |These four photos were taken on While K and I took a stroll on  after we had brunch at Bangers.

This building is now completed and occupied.

ImageImageImageImage

Posted in street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The accidental filmmaker

Prior to stepping onto Ottmers Family Farm in Stonewall, Texas on April 02, 2012 to begin working on Within 100 Miles (of Austin) – I had never been on a working family farm. I was born and raised in “The North End” a tight-knit Italian neighborhood in the middle of Boston, Massachusetts. The extent of my growing anything was keeping the spider plants on my my two window sills alive in my childhood bedroom. A bedroom that sat in the back of our apartment and was enclosed by three other brick 5 story brick apartment buildings.

Growing up in the city—the narrow alleys, bustling streets and (now long-gone) specialized grocers—my experience didn’t train me to consider where food came from. I had never witnessed nor planted food personally. I knew farming was probably a hard job, but never knew how much work was involved in raising food and animals, especially sustainably and organically here in Texas.

Many of us have an idea of what a farm/farmer looks like. This community encompasses a range of third generation farm families to the accidentally passionate farmer. Some of the farms sprawl over the Central Texas countryside, others are nestled in the heart of the city, and the rest lie everywhere in between.

This project taught me that good food requires good dirt, seeds, water and a lot of care, that farming is a 24-hour job. Most importantly, I learned to not take food for granted.

I invite you to watch my first documentary short film Within 100 Miles (of Austin, Texas)

This project is a collaboration with The Sustainable Food Center

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And we all turned red, with signs of equality

Yesterday as the Supreme Court began hearings on Prop 8 and today Windsor vs The United States (DOMA), the world (real and virtual) turned red. In support, I put on my red t-shirt and laced-up my red chucks.  I am here, I am queer.

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 11.43.35 AM

I married my wife last June in NYC, our marriage is not recognized in our home state of Texas. It's time for repeal of DOMA. Wear red and show your support for marriage equality!

I married my wife and partner of six years twice last year.  The first time we said “I Do” was on June 1st in New York City at the City Clerk’s Office and the second was in Austin, Texas on September 22nd in front of our friends and family.

We joke, the first was for the paper, the second was for us, for our love.  It isn’t a joke that we had to have two weddings, it’s reality for us and the countless other LGBT Americans who have to travel out of their home state or to Canada to “get married.”  I do appreciate the support and comments from straight friends who say “You’re just as married and committed to Kate as I am to Sean.”  It’s true we are just as married and committed, but according to the government we are not. I would like to not have to file my taxes as single, I would like to not have to worry if one of us is hospitalized in the fine state of Texas, and not be granted visitation or able to make decisions or receive any benefits. It would be nice not to have to explain to people who ask and or say you aren’t married in Texas.

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 4.12.11 PM

On a positive note, what a great time in history to be queer! To be able to proudly post your gay status to the world. As the day progressed yesterday, and the red tidal wave took over Facebook, you could almost feel the queer envy. All this out and proud and support from straight allies had me wondering about Edie, what does she think about all this red madness?  Edith Windsor, was born in 1929, she lived most of her life in a time when you could not be free to be queer. Now, she is the face of DOMA.

From the Advocate article, DOMA how did we get herehttp://www.advocate.com/timelines/doma-how-did-we-get-here

From the Advocate article, DOMA how did we get here
http://www.advocate.com/timelines/doma-how-did-we-get-here

Listening to  Edie Windsor, the 83 year old taking over the Supreme Court (NPR) I found myself on the verge of tears multiple times (take 5 minutes and listen to Edie).

[Excerpt from the NPR transcript] In 1967, on a drive to the country, Thea asked Edie what she would do if she got an engagement ring. After all, if coworkers saw it, they’d want to meet the guy. And when we got to the house, she got out of the car and got down on her knees and said, Edie Windsor, will you marry me? And this pin appeared.  A circle pin with diamonds. At the time, of course, there was no place the two could actually marry. But they led good lives together. After 13 years, Thea was diagnosed with MS, but the disease at first progressed slowly.

Thea Spyer died 21 months after the couple’s wedding. Edie has a life-sized photo of Thea in their apartment. She says she sometimes leans up against it and talks to Thea about the progress of the case known as Windsor versus the United States.

Yesterday and today there are Light the Way to Justice  actions happening nationwide as the Supreme Court began hearing the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. I joined the Get Equal TX rally at the steps of the  Texas Capitol Building in support of the freedom to marry across the nation.

31613-3 31613-4 31613-7 31613-8 31613-5 31613-6 31613-9 31613-2

I first became involved in the fight for gay marriage in 2003. I was living in Boston, Massachusetts when Goodridge vs The Department of Public Health was happening. It was a landmark state appellate court case dealing with same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The November 18, 2003, decision was the first by a U.S. state’s highest court to find that same-sex couples had the right to marry.

statehouse

On May 17, 2004 I was privileged to be amongst the few photographers allowed into City Hall to document Julie and Hillary Goodridge as they applied for the first same-sex marriage license in Boston.

r1-29 r1-28

Here are a few selects from the scenes outside from City Hall Plaza. Visit my set on flickr to view more images.

twoladies embrace-1 lovemakes

This is a movement,  a love story for millions of people. No matter what the outcome, verdict decision of the Supreme Court over the next few months, this movement will continue until their is full equality for all in the United States of America.

Before I Die sign, Tillery Street, Austin, TX  03.26.13

Before I Die sign, Tillery Street, Austin, TX 03.26.13

Posted in austin, daily life, phone images, portraits, street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I found religion…greeting card giveaway

Self portrait at church

Self portrait at church

Today I was walking around Falcon 5, looking at the images on the walls and what stood out to me was all the religious symbolism in Austin Seen, in progress…  I’ve looked at the whole series of images 100’s of times and never saw religion before. I find it interesting, the human mind, our brains, how it works.

Why do we see certain things at certain times and not others? Why did I find religion today?

Is it because we just elected a new pope, maybe?  Or because it’s Easter is this coming Sunday? I did shot the first photograph of Sunday School in the original Austin Seen on Easter Sunday (’07).

Was it just what I was meant to see today?

For whatever the reason, it got me thinking about religion and church.

Church has meant lots of different things to me at different times in my life. As a child growing up in a very Italian Catholic neighborhood and family, church was the dark, overly incensed building full of tradition, rules and routine. A place I had to go to every week and confess my sins, ask for forgiveness for swearing, lying to my parents, fighting with my brother.

As I grew into my teens, I distanced myself from the Catholic church. My church became my rooftop in the middle of Boston. I would climb the five flights of stairs almost daily and sit in the middle of the roof, close my eyes and imagined myself traveling to all the places in the world I had yet to see. In my twenties church was the desert of Arizona, I would go on long hikes through the desert, up the mountains and feel the freedom of my spirit.  It was there that I discovered who I was, what I wanted to be.

After I moved to Austin, Texas church became a lot of things.   Any quiet place I could sit still and meditate, Barton Springs, the darkroom and bike rides.

When I hop on my bike with my camera slung over my shoulder I think and see clearly, everything comes into focus for me. I find peace, I ask questions, I get answers.

oakgrovechurch5x7_web jesustruck_5x7_web sundayschool2012_web amentruck_5x7_web

I want to know what/where is church to you? Now or in your past? Has it changed?

Leave a comment with your answer and I will select a random winner on Easter Sunday (3/31/13) to receive the greeting card set  “I found religion…

The set is also be available for purchase in my print shop.

Posted in austin, daily life, street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Signs of War, ten years later

Ten years ago on March 19, 2003 the United States military invaded Iraq and the war officially began. I was living in Boston, Massachusetts and remember thinking, why? Why are we invading this country? Why are we waging war?

A week later I was amongst the 50,000 people who marched through the streets of the Boston in the largest rally in the city since the end of the Vietnam War.

During the march and rally what really stood out to me were the signs made by the protesters. We were against Bush as much as we were against the war, the invasion of Iraq.

These images became my first photo exhibit Signs: Anti-War Protest at The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, MA, 2004

Ten years later, sitting in my storage container studio in Austin, Texas, thinking about the estimated 189,000 people — including Iraqi civilians, U.S. troops and journalists who were killed in the war in Iraq since the invasion in 2003, I still find myself wondering why?

Why do we kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong?

I also wonder what George W. Bush is thinking about today?

Posted in daily life, street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment