A Hobby of Sorts

by James V July. 08, 2021 230 views
View From the Bridge

View From the Bridge

Has it been this long?

Has it been more than a month since a blog post?

For a while, my life found other priorities rather than photography. When I thought about it more deeply, I thought about the prioritization and purpose of my hobbies. It became clear that I derive some form of purpose, pleasure and personal solace from photography in particular. It made me wonder, do we run the risk of making our hobbies a lifestyle or obligation if we prioritize them above everything else? By definition, hobbies aren't supposed to be prioritized or...are they?

I classify myself (the need for classification is a carryover [or continuation?] from my discarded habit of applying personal biases and stereotypes) a selfish photographer; a person who uses photography as a personal salve. I hold an almost faith-based belief that my photography keeps me sane, healthy and distracted enough from everyday life to clear my head in preparation of its next challenge. A different form of "phototherapy" which clears the mind, not the skin.

Should anyone be placing this much emphasis on a hobby? Doesn't everyone regard their hobbies in this way?

Are selfish people hobbyists or are all hobbyists selfish?

The southern walkway remains open to pedestrians and is enclosed by chain link fencing.

The southern walkway remains open to pedestrians and is enclosed by chain link fencing.

I had never walked across the GWB until this past holiday weekend. Yep, lived near it my entire life, never took a walk on it. There was always an element of danger to walk across this bridge. When I was younger, countless stories of tragedy filtered their way through urban legends of those found dead from plunging more than 200' to the water below. It turned out they weren't legends. Every 3.5 days a person leapt from the bridge until the walkways were encaged in a chainlink barrier. The rest of us are now protected.

Do we encage ourselves within our hobbies to save ourselves?

New Jersey and New York are separated by the majestic Hudson river. Not the largest or longest river in the United States by any means, not even close. It is, however, of substantial enough size to physically divide the two states and their corresponding philosophies. However, the two states remain physically connected by man-made tunnels and bridges. In addition, our economies intertwine, but NJ is sometimes seen as the bottom feeders of these waters...grifting within the NYC economy and its riches while avoiding its excesses of glamour, wealth and poverty. One could say New Jerseyites have historical been opportunists and perhaps a little selfish. Once seen as openly naive and proud about its culture ("I'm from Jersey, you from Jersey?"), of its no-nonsense ability to capitalize on New York's discarded industries; NJ is now (like many surrounding regions of large cities) trying to imitate the mother city from which it once derived its pleasure of independence.

The NJ side approach to the bridge. Extremely concerned about safety, security and access from walkway to roadway.

The NJ side approach to the bridge. Extremely concerned about safety, security and access from walkway to roadway.

If there's one thing New York City has, it's scale. The City has never been intimidated by scale. New Jersey, unfortunately always appears worried about large scale effects and costs. As I traversed this beast, it made me wonder, "would the bridge ever have been built today?"

View of the western edge of Washington Heights and bridge ramps to the Henry Hudson Parkway. Photo taken from Manhattan approach to the bridge, notice the contrast from the NJ side.

View of the western edge of Washington Heights and bridge ramps to the Henry Hudson Parkway. Photo taken from Manhattan approach to the bridge, notice the contrast from the NJ side.

A hobby, in some sense, must divide us within ourselves. For some a hobby is intertwined within our everyday lives, for others it is an exploration of a modified version of ourselves, and for the rest it is a deliberate or conscious separation from our everyday obligations. In other words, a hobby can take the form of distraction, embellishment, escape or any combination thereof; but as an art, can never be separated or disassociated from our personality. After all, if as photographers we are creators, then there must be something of us in our work.

Eastern tower guard booth. Were the two booths originally open or unconstructed? I think they were added, maybe during the lower level addition of the bridge in 1962? This booth looks recently occupied.

Eastern tower guard booth. Were the two booths originally open or unconstructed? I think they were added, maybe during the lower level addition of the bridge in 1962? This booth looks recently occupied.

The security guard booths on the GWB apparently are still active. I had thought they were abandoned but a water bottle and recently crumpled piece of trash perched on an electrical utility box made it appear as if that isn't the case. The view from these two booths, near the towers on each side of the bridge, open to breathtaking vistas of the river and city. Ironically the focus of its occupants is in the opposite direction on the bridge itself. Their attentions are divided between the allure of the open expanse of the Hudson and the eight-lanes of the most heavily traveled bridge in the world.

Does the guard imagine his hobbies while staring at the panorama? Are they hobbies of history? painting/sketching? writing? or nothing related to his workplace at all?

But no one was here this day, it was the 4th of July holiday after all.

Western tower guard booth. The feeling of hovering over the water is less apparent from this vantage point. Or is that just the photo?

Western tower guard booth. The feeling of hovering over the water is less apparent from this vantage point. Or is that just the photo?

The booths are enclosed by a curved and tinted type of plexiglass, making it difficult to see within. Scratched and worn, they look as if they were retrofitted years after bridge construction was completed. Looking into these booths requires some effort and the result is some type of ethereal haze bombarded by a constant source of reflections.

The bridge was originally designed to be clad in granite/stone. As a result of the Great Depression, cost cutting measures resulted in elimination of the cladding. Other ambitious plans for the bridge were also scrapped. As an example the tower portrayed in the next photo was originally designed to have a restaurant perched at its top.

What kind of bridge would this have been with a restaurant on its tower? Was this idea a reference to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence? What would those bathrooms have been like up there? Would they have had a view?

During holidays, a flag is hung beneath the New Jersey arch. The flag this year appeared smaller than the one I remember. The famed flag is supposed to be 60'x90' and weigh 450 pounds. Perhaps it appears smaller due to the scale of the tower when up close? Regardless, it's large.

During holidays, a flag is hung beneath the New Jersey arch. The flag this year appeared smaller than the one I remember. The famed flag is supposed to be 60'x90' and weigh 450 pounds. Perhaps it appears smaller due to the scale of the tower when up close? Regardless, it's large.

While the bridge is a local source of pride, like a hobby, it demands constant attention. I have an extremely talented friend who loved taking pictures. Years ago I asked why be didn't consider being a semi-professional photographer and he said "if it becomes a job, it's no longer fun for me, it becomes stressful." Today he doesn't take as many photos as he once used to. I think it's because he purchased an extremely capable camera and lens which placed an obligation on him to prepare for the perfect image to do his hardware any justice. In a strange way, his desire to produce high quality and fantastic images has led to the type of work burden for which he feared. Such images require more preparation and time and become work by the very nature of his highest expectations.

It becomes a question of scale. Are your images intended for the largest audience possible or just yourself? Do we scale our expectations as photographers and do we slide along that scale depending on our expectations? Are we willing to spend the time after purchasing newer gear (building your bridge) to maintain our highest expectations of the hardware? Does it matter or is any of this necessary to justify our desire to take pictures (can we not we enjoy the bridge in any state just the same)? Can the hobby BRIDGE a divide between our obligations and our expectations?

Is this type of maintenance required?

Is this type of maintenance required?

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There are 10 comments , add yours!
Nancy Andrea D 2 months, 1 week ago

Lovely series!

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
James V Replied to Nancy Andrea D 2 months, 1 week ago

Much appreciated!

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
Tom Snider 2 months, 1 week ago

Hmm . . . I (and others) enjoy seeing your photos.  If your selfishness brings pleasure to others, is it still "selfish"?

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
James V Replied to Tom Snider 2 months, 1 week ago

That's an interesting take, but wouldn't I have to be precocious to presume others enjoy seeing my photos? If one can't presume such a scenario, then one is acting in self-interest, no? Only by generous comments such as yours, can one hope to overcome a self-interest and share their hobby of photography. Comment much appreciated, thanks.

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
Chuck Staruch 2 months, 1 week ago

Great photos and blog about an area I was born and raised in.  Crossed the GWB many times going into NJ. Very interesting close up look at a bridge that is one of the many different iconic bridges in the state.

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
James V Replied to Chuck Staruch 2 months, 1 week ago

Its nice to hear comments from someone familiar with the bridge and area. Thanks for commenting.

2 months, 1 week ago Edited
Thomas Thompson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Wonderful captures love the whole set thanks for sharing

2 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
James V Replied to Thomas Thompson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you

2 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Berckmans Peter 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Great post. And yes hobbyists are a bir selfish

2 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
James V Replied to Berckmans Peter 2 months, 2 weeks ago

😉

2 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
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