Frontier Psychiatrist

Posts Tagged ‘Photos

[The second in a series of travel essays from China, New York, and Israel]

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While it was raining when my plane landed in Beijing, it was in the 70s and sunny most of the next two weeks. I was staying on the 24th floor of an apartment building and could see the surrounding mountains nearly every day. The haze that the city has become known for wasn’t completely absent, but was generally never an issue. But with good weather combined with the National Day and Golden Week that followed, areas of the city grew to even more phenomenally crowded than what is normal.  I had initially contemplated trying to travel outside of Beijing, but after hearing horror stories from travelers about overbooked trains, no hostel availability, and sleeping in a karaoke room for the night — I decided to stay put.

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[The first in a series of travel essays from China, New York, and Israel]

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The Airport Express elevated train flies past the stagnant Tuesday evening traffic and I’m welcomed to the city by the corporate offices of Mercedes, Caterpillar, and Microsoft. Through the haze and rain shine the bright yellow lights of an Ikea. Did I take the wrong plane? Nope. I’m in Beijing, back in China for the first time since I studied for a semester in Shanghai over three years ago.

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Bell System

As I roam New York with my camera, much of my time is spent looking for graffiti on poles, construction barriers, sidewalks, and security gates. Nowadays, I also take a cautious glance at the street to find a different type of artwork – one forged of iron and mostly ignored.

The ubiquity of manhole covers in Manhattan for access to every type of service – sewers, telephone, gas, water, fire department, and others – offers a panoply of intricate geometric beauty. I spy circles, stars, cogs, squares, parallel lines, radiating patterns, leaves, helixes, and text spelling out acronyms, uses, locations, and ownership.

The 14 images collected here represent a handful of the more “colorful” manhole and access covers I’ve seen and walked across. They run the gamut from simple to intricate, and those bereft of any text that hints at their purpose are perhaps the most charming.

Sadly, older and distinctive manhole covers are becoming harder to find. Newer covers, while often maintaining the use of geometric patterns, are being simplified and systemized. They feel cold and dispassionate. That’s why I take photographs of manhole covers: I’m afraid a unique form of street art is slowly disappearing.

So the next time you’re out walking, take a look down. You might discover a gem beneath your feet.

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As discussed in our recent journal, Mess With Texas (aka MWTX) has been the highlight of SXSW thus far.  We hope these photos from the party will convince you.


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