Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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: Gala Darling
Occupation: Writer, Blogger, Teacher at
Location: 9th Street between B and C
Time: 2 pm on Thursday, Dec. 18

I lived in New Zealand till I was 23. I always wanted to live in New York City. When I was younger I could recite the dialogue from "Ghostbusters," and was always reading books that were set in NYC. I got really obsessed with the city. I remember when I was 12 sitting in the Wellington Public Library with a stack of New York travel guides and making lists of all the places I wanted to visit.

I always wanted to be a writer and when I was 13 or 14, my parents and teachers started to say things like, "You’ll never make any money doing that, so you should have a backup plan." My father wanted me to be a journalist or a lawyer and I just didn’t want to do that. I went to university when I was 16 because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I went to university and I was like, "This is shit, I don’t want to do this. I don’t really know what I want to do and I don’t want to waste my parents’ money fucking around trying to figure it out."

I left. I was still living with my parents, and they told me, "You have to get a job." I got a job at a bank, selling home loans over the phone. It was the most boring job ever but I was making quite good money for someone who had no expenses. I would spend all my money on plane tickets to Auckland and back. Then I held a succession of random jobs: I sold newspaper advertising over the phone; I was a fiction buyer at a university bookshop; I worked on the sales desk in ISP; I did administrative, call-center shit — horrible stuff. Really soul-murdering.

Then I moved to Melbourne, Australia. I went for a job interview at a clothing store and they didn’t employ me. I was mortified because I had been managing a Lush Cosmetics store, and retail was one thing I was good at. So I made a list of things that were creative and enjoyable and would also support me.

Starting a blog was the cheapest and easiest thing to do. I wanted to start a magazine but I had no money so I thought, "I’ll start a blog and I’ll see how it works and then maybe it’ll work and I’ll transition it to a magazine." And it’s been so good that I don’t want to transition it to a magazine.

I started in 2006 but I had been journaling online since 1997, which is basically when I got an Internet connection. I was sharing my angsty poetry and all that stuff because I was a sad teenager. I would build websites on Geocities and Tripod and I had a RocketMail account. I didn’t realize it but that was job training for what I do now. I was always an Internet obsessive, and would get in trouble at every job for spending too much time online!

I started writing about style and fashion, and six months into it, I got an email from the editor of Cosmopolitan Australia. It landed in my spam folder, which I’m so glad I checked. She said, "We would like to give you a column in our magazine, we’ll give you the whole back page every month." Holy shit. You’re going to pay me to do this? So I started to do that and my profile rose quickly because of it. People would start to yell my name on the street, or tweet that they had seen me in public, and it was really crazy.

A lot of what I am doing with my website is helping women deal with fear. Everyone’s afraid of doing something that’s too bold or too risky. Most people would rather be unhappy than uncomfortable. If they’re comfortable but unhappy they’re okay with it, because it’s the uncertainty that people don’t like. So what I’m trying to get people to do is take that first step. You only really feel anxiety when you’re not moving or taking action; when you’re stuck and not doing anything; when you’re overthinking things.

And so my goal is to start getting women to take those steps, whether it’s being grateful, or using affirmations, or ritual, or journaling. There are so many ways that you can get there. But once you start taking those little steps, it’s not so terrifying. Once you’re in it, you don’t really have room to be terrified. You have to keep moving forward.

In 2008, I came over to NYC with my boyfriend at the time. The city was just so alive and so much energy. I felt like everyone here had a purpose and that they were here for a reason. It inspired me, because I was looking to find my purpose. We stayed for a week or two and at the end he had to London for work and then back to Melbourne. I said, "You know what, there’s no rush to go back to Australia, I’m just going to stay here for awhile."

I thought I would be here for a month, but it ended up being three months, which was the length of my temporary visa. By the time that three months was over our relationship was finished. I flew to Australia, packed up all my stuff, shipped it to my parents’ house, and started working out how to get a visa so I could live here. I got an O-1 visa and moved here for good.

My first apartment was this sublet in the West Village. It was beautiful. The toilet was in the hallway, of course, and the shower was in the kitchen, but it was clean and minimal, and to me it was perfect. I remember just walking around the city in the summer, being so excited and practically buzzing with energy. There was a guy who would roll his piano into Father Demo Square and play it every night. My next sublet was on 13th between A and B. It was completely crooked, and there was a lot of taxidermy everywhere. Then I moved in with the guy I was dating, we got married, and we have been living in Alphabet City ever since.

My husband worked at MTV for 15 years and when he met me he was like, "You make money doing this?!" The thing I’m most happy about with my work is that I feel like I can evolve and that’s not just accepted, it’s encouraged. I can continue to change and be true to who I am and not have to fake it for people. Making it in a creative industry is hard — I think creatives are like cockroaches, we will always find a new way to persevere, to make it work — but the freedom is so incredible. I can’t ask for a more rewarding or amazing job than this.

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


Anonymous said...

She's so cute! Great story!

Anonymous said...

Fun! Gala's website should be called ""!

Anonymous said...

"Most people would rather be unhappy than uncomfortable." That's something to think about for sure...thanks for this profile.