New York Daily Photo Analytics

Friday, April 30, 2010

Smile


At one time, nearly all my photos were scenics of some sort. Landscapes or buildings. Streets with no people. I typically waited for people to leave before shooting. The feeling I had was that people would somehow mar the image. Telling this to a friend (an architect), she commented that perhaps I had the soul of an architect - that it has been said that architects love buildings more than people.
This bothered me, because there was truth to what she said. However, I actually love people and am very social. Since that time, her comment has nagged at me and I have come to see the value of people in my photography. I have become interested in people and their stories. What are buildings except structures built by people for people?

I have met many people who are so political that they appear to see everything through glasses colored by their politics. A conversation about bad weather, and they will blame a political party. And ironically, sometimes the causes take on a life of their own, and activists appear to love the cause more than the people. What are causes except efforts by people for the betterment of people?

Political and community activism are good things. Many potentially destructive projects have been thwarted by activists, and much that is hideous perhaps could have been averted with more involvement. However, being personally involved with people whose politics dominate their being becomes tedious. Many have no sense of humor whatsoever. I often feel that they worry that laughter will somehow undermine the importance of the lives.

Not Susan Goren. My first encounter with Susan was her yelling at me over my conversation with a park official about a group of street performers. On my second encounter (at a community board meeting) she approached me and apologized, excusing the our original encounter as a product of her political passion for things she had worked on for a lifetime. One thing became extremely clear - this woman valued human relationships.
And squirrels.

Susan has been actively involved in rehabbing squirrels - injured or orphaned. I visited her home last night, where she is currently caring for a group of four. Her home is a shrine to her interests in art, reading and squirrels. She toured me through her home, going over her collection of fine art, photography, squirrel collectibles, and a photo archives on her PC of the various squirrels she has cared for. The Villager recently wrote a front page feature article on Susan - you can find it here.

Susan is a New Yorker. Born and raised in Manhattan, she is a graduate of New York University with majors in literature and art history. Like myself, Susan has been a Village resident her entire adult life. She worked for NYU for 17 years and has lived a block from Washington Square Park for the last 36 years since her graduation. She is a habitué of Washington Square Park, where I met her a few years ago and where she mothers over the squirrel population. She can identify most of them and has named many. She is often referred to as Susan Squirrel to differentiate her from a number of other Susans who are park regulars.

Susan is a community activist. A lover of the arts, a lover of squirrels, a lover of people. And she has a sense of humor. You can find her easily - look for the woman with a squirrel, people, red lipstick, and a smile :)

7 comments:

Thérèse said...

Susan seems to be one to be distinguished by Jane Goodall "Roots and Shoots" project!

Russell Claxton said...

This is wonderful. St. Susan!

Horse Badorties said...

Everyone/thing is political. It's just that the politics of most people is that of the status quo, so it doesn't appear political to most other people. Put them into a different environment and it would immediately be obvious.

That said, I do the same thing when taking photos of buildings: I wait until the people have left the shot. Sometimes you have to wait a long time (as I'm sure you know.)

Lily Hydrangea said...

I don't know what I like more about this story, the fact that Susan apologized for yelling at you or that you forgave her and became friends.
Susan's squirrels are adorable.

Mary said...

Susan is a person who CARES, and who practices what she preaches. She guides a group of foreign students; introducing them to many of New York's unique features, like you Brian, though on a one-to one basis. I am happy to call her a friend, and hope she calls me one too.

(Mary P.)

Kathy said...

I think it is great that she takes care of the squirrels - what a great lady!

Karen Strunks said...

Hi Brian! Just found your wonderful blog. I'm planning a photo trip to NYC in the fall, and after looking at your images, I am even more excited about it! Great work and what an inspiring lady Susan is too! :)