Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm talkin' toilets here . .

toilet 2
the toilet
the urinal

I was asked by a customer who was interested in purchasing my "the old thinking room" if I had more photographs of toilets and old bathrooms etc. She was looking to frame three prints of old toilets to hang in her bathroom wall. (pretty cool idea) She loved the one I had but was having a hard time finding two others she liked to go with it. "Do you have any others you have not shown yet, or perhaps are you inspired?" she wrote me. Well, the fact of it was that I had been meaning to do more of that subject and well, with her need of a couple more prints I felt inspired enough to get out and get to it. I asked if she might wait a week or two and I will try to come up with a few more for her to see. She was pleased and I was in search of some old toilets. . .
Here are a few that I took at an old military base here in Brooklyn.
Now, there is a bit of a story behind these. One of the buildings I had ventured into was an old police precint complete witha long hall and lots of rooms. Very dark and spooky. To start things off, I had a Raccoon scare the wits out of me as it ran across the hall and out a cracked window. So there I am getting my nerves back together and setting up my shots. Must have been in there for nearly an hour when I hear a truck pull up outside, talking, chatter on handheld radios and persons walking into the slightly cracked open door. This would have to be the police. Damn, I should have closed that door behind me all the way, but I didn't because I needed some light to see my way inside. (forgot to bring flashlight) "Yeah, it's opened, gonna have a look" I hear one of them say. Now I hear another truck door slam shut and more footsteps and chatter. I'm packing up my stuff as fast as I can and thinking about my next course of action. Do I hide? Hmm, maybe but worst case scenario one of them sees me, gets startled and shoots me dead. Not a good idea. I'm thinking I should face the situation head on and make my presence known because after all the door was not locked and there were no "No Trespassing" or "Keep out" signs up on this spot. Plus, with my camera and gear its quite obvious I'm just a photographer perhaps going a bit too far for a shot. So, after several more endless minutes I gether the nerve. "Hello, is someone there?" I yell. Now I hear footsteps running out the door and someone say "Holy shit, someones in there!" OK, so now they are outside and know someone is inside. More doors slamming and more radio chatter. I am now imagining a swat team setting up outside waiting to storm the place. . . I'm wondering whether this was a good idea after all. I had better start getting to the door and showing smyself before this tension and situation gets out of hand. So, camera gear bag on my back and very large tripod in my arm I head to the door and open it rather slowly trying to look un armed and non-threatening. After opening the door all the way and stepping out I see a Parks Department truck and two park maintenance guys by the truck looking horrified. "Hey, I'm just a photographer taking some pics of old buiildings and toilets" I say. " Holy crap! My buddy here needs some new underwear. You scared the shit outta him, man" one of them says. I'm quite relieved at this point and say sorry but the feeling was mutual.
They asked me if I was sure I didn't kill no one in there and I said yep, pretty sure. These two were pretty cool and after showing them my ID and some of my images on the cameras screen they were convinced and relieved themselves. They were actually about to bolt the door up and so its a good thing I did come out when I did or I'd have been locked inside.
They told me of a building in the grounds where I could possibly get a permit and access to more of the old buildings and so I think I will try that next time :)
As it turns out, my customer loved and ordered the last two photos here to go along with "the old thinking room"

13 comments:

Sheila said...

OMG.... only you can make grungy old toilets look like beautiful archealogical finds Gary. The subtle bits of sunlight give these commodes a bit of an ethereal feel on top of that. Again, I enjoyed your story. I felt I was there with you and wondering if I should hide or yell a greeting. Love these shots.

Gary Heller said...

Sheila, thanks. I'm actually wondering what anyone else feels they might do in a situation like this.

Judy Mackey said...

The photos are breath-taking (no pun intended) I agree with Sheila about the ethereal feel to them.

Judy

mandi said...

i looooove these photos! they are wonderful. i am particularly in love with the second one...and i loved the story i would have freaked out! but im a big weenie and probably would not have entered in the frist place....:D

Brayton Homestead Interiors said...

yikes that what I call do anything for a photo- you were lucky and those images rock!!

TERI REES WANG said...

Art is where ever you find it!

Do you remember that oh-so-gross-crapper in "Desperado", when Quentin Tarantino kicks in the yuck splattered side wall of the crapper, which is the secret pass through to the big Honcho..!? Ugh.

That was memorable.

diane said...

You really went out on a limb for these photos, I'm so glad you're o.k. Better to get a permit next time Sparky.
They really are great photos, btw.

Victoria Bennett Beyer said...

That's a hilarious story - after the fact, of course. I'm glad you didnt' get locked it!

UrbanJunkies/zuppaartista said...

wow, gary! you are amazing! i was scared along with you as i read your story!
that last shot is beautiful with the light coming in! they were well worth the scare huh?

forgive me for my silliness but, it's your *duty* as a photographer to do what it takes to get the shot huh? :p
glad you are okay!

drollgirl said...

these shots are great, as is your story! i would have had a heart attack!!! bah!

Lianne said...

What a great story Gary. I love your toilet photos too and had thought they would look great in a bathroom. The places you find to shoot are amazing.

...love Maegan said...

wow. ...so cool!!!

Amanda said...

HA!! I love these pics even more now that they come with a story! Hilarious!