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Artist's Statement

Thirty-four years ago, when I moved to the West Village, the Hudson River was teeming with commercial activity. Tugboats pushed scows loaded with trap rock and tied up at the piers across the road from my apartment building. The elevated Westside Highway carried traffic over the Canal Street Bridge to the site where the World Trade Center was being erected. The old warehouses on the piers were in poor condition, though still impressive structures. Soon there were fires, and the buildings started coming down. People were attracted to these dilapidated ruins; some ventured inside, others took their activities out onto the empty docks. Runners, loafers, prostitutes, dog walkers, deckhands from the boats – all were fascinated with the scene. Artists set up sculpture exhibits, dancers performed informally in the open air. In summertime at sunset the pier would be lined with workers returning home from the office, everyone hoping for a cool breeze as the light faded.


This was the backdrop for my first serious efforts at photography. The rich textures of peeling paint and rusting metal were a stark contrast to my young daughter. We walked the dog, flew kites and rode bikes on the deserted highway. I pointed my camera at the tugboats and exchanged prints for rides. I followed my husband inside the scary shells of the pier sheds and watched him climb the twisted beams. Soon I quit my “day job” and devoted all my time to the camera and the darkroom. In time I branched out and pointed the camera at other subjects, some of which are represented here, but it was the crumbling waterfront that lured me into photography.


Today, Hudson River Park is another kind of magnet. The area is safe, crowded with people pushing baby carriages, waiting for the water taxi, sitting in the shade beneath the trees, sunbathing on the lawns. Like everyone else I enjoy the clean, well-maintained gardens, the benches, the restrooms! But the gritty, picturesque texture of the decaying piers is missing, and I am acutely sentimental about its passing.


-- Shelley Seccombe 2004