Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village.


By James Maher
Name: Derek Berg (and Nikita)
Occupation: Photographer
Location: 9th Street and 1st Avenue
Time: 11:45 am on Monday, Oct. 8

"I've lived in the neighborhood since 1977. When I first moved in I was actually nervous on my own block. I remember people sitting in the back of Veselka at the payphones, before cellphones, with newspapers searching for jobs.

I’ve seen strippers on the street at 9 in the morning getting change. You’re never really surprised to see something you’ve never seen before. It’s kind of unusual when you’ve lived here for over 30 years to say I’ve never seen that before. It’s been very stimulating.

I used to drive a taxi. It was around the same time that they made the movie 'Taxi Driver.' I wouldn’t see it until I finished driving. I’ve been working on a serious project about taxis myself. Mine had nothing to do with passengers, just the taxis. I did pretty much all black and white until I picked up a digital camera. Black and white was my main interest. I went to digital because I kinda had to. I lost my darkroom for awhile. I now have a darkroom again so I hope to get back to it.

I also photograph dogs a lot. I love the dog stuff because I have one and they’re everywhere and fun to shoot. I’ve got a lot of dog photos in calendars and post cards and thing like that. I photograph a lot of different things. I’ve done portraits of strippers for Penthouse magazine; I’ve done weddings; all types of things. I like to keep it varied. It keeps it interesting.

Oddly enough, I didn’t do much photography around the neighborhood. There were so many homeless people or people that were having a hard time and I found it hard to point a camera at them. I mean, I have some of that stuff but it’s not what I prefer to shoot. Although now with everyone taking pictures with their cellphone, it kind of eases it up, because with a real camera it kind of looks like you know what you’re doing. There is no privacy for anybody anymore."

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, look! A rare normal and intelligent human being in the East Village. This man gives me hope for the neighborhood. Thanks for this great series.

esquared™ said...

Derek Berg -- it's got a good John Houseman name, Derek Berrrrg...

+2 -- 1 for DB and 1 for Nikita

Let's Go Mets!

Anonymous said...

I think I recognize Nikita from the dog run. Cool pooch.

Marty Wombacher said...

I'd love to see some of his photos...okay, I want to see the stripper Penthouse shots, is that so bad of me?

THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N. said...

I love this series because it reminds me of why I wanted to live in the East Village in the first place, something I find myself questioning a lot lately. It's nice to see there are still genuinely interesting and creative people among us.

Goggla said...

@liberation - agreed. I love being reminded that there are plenty of interesting people around if you care to look.

The 'no privacy' comment strikes a chord with me. I recently saw a homeless man sleeping under some scaffolding, out of the rain. He was hugging a big teddy bear. The image bothered me for days...would have been a great photo, but no way would I take it. I'm sure someone else did.

THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N. said...

@Goggla - I totally agree. If we were photo journalists doing a piece on the homeless, I would argue its a necessary evil because we're shedding light on a social issue. But people's personal pain or loss isn't something I feel comfortable preserving in a photo for the sake of art. I have enough pain and loss of my own lol.

Privacy story. I once caught an old man filming me with his iPhone at a cafe. It was the creepiest fucking feeling. I came this close to smacking the phone out of his hands. Lucky for me I throw a mean death glare ;)

THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N. said...

PS - Be sure to click the above link to James's portfolio. He captures city moments quite masterfully.

James Maher said...

Isn't it interesting when normal people become the abnormal.

I completely @Goggla and @liberation. I have no moral qualms photographing people on the streets, but homeless people I generally do since the streets are technically their home. I feel like they should have privacy out there.

That being said, I have been known to throw my morals out the window very occasionally if there is a once in a lifetime moment in front of me.

An thank you for the kind compliment liberation. Made my day. :)

EV Grieve said...

@ Goggla & THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N.

I often wrestle with taking... or posting... such photos... same with photos of people being arrested or treated for an OD or something in Tompkins Square Park...

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Loved reading this, & agree about not wanting to invade privacy of certain scenes/people on the street. My husband drove a checker cab in the 70s too, when living in the EV, & has plenty of interesting stories ...

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see some of Berg's dog photography, any links?

derek berg said...

Just wanted to add a link to my dog images. The site is very unfinished but by hitting the thumbnails you will find more shots. And thank everybody for writing such positive comments about me. It's a long time since I've been called normal.

http://nydogpix.com/

EV Grieve said...

Thanks for the link, Derek ... and for sharing the anecdotes...

THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N. said...

The dog photos are too much! I've been killed by cuteness! lol

editrrix said...

Love this series. And yes, it would be cool to add the link of Mr. Berg's photos. Yeah, a darkroom. And someone who likely has negatives from 1970s NYC. Thanks for reminding me why I live here.

Nixta said...

I know Derek & Nikita very well (from the dog park, as it happens) and it's so nice to see such positive comments about this piece. He's a true gentleman and a great photographer. Also, I'm sure he'll be the first to tell you that there are plenty of other people in the neighbourhood who are just as normal (if not quite as interesting). It took me years to figure out how to find them and meet them, but they're all around.

Great stuff, Derek!

Editrrix (and anyone else who missed Derek's link above), here's his website: NYDogPix.com.

Anonymous said...

Hi Derek! It's your Texan cousin from the other side of the pond.Cute dog. You'd love my three hounds. Drop Shirl a line to get my email. Lou