Grand Central Station is part commuter nexus and part wonder; the sheer scale of the arched and painted ceiling of the main terminal, the intentional, architectural symmetries and the symmetrical breaks, the dark, commuter train tunnels and descending, subway staircases, the echoing arrival and departure pronouncements, the exotic aromas from the many restaurants and bakeries. And then there are all those people, circling in waves of organized chaos, taking it all in, experiencing their own, personal sense of wonder. I like to visit when I am not actually going anywhere at all, with no sense of the pressing of time, with the express intention of observing until I find something worth capturing. I took ‘Brass Rail’ in one of the train tunnels off the main terminal, resting the camera directly on the brass hand rail along the walkway.

‘Bodies in Motion’ was taken at the Newark Broad Street Station, a much different type of place, not a terminal so much as an interstitial, a place where most people either pass through or make transfers from one train to another. Standing on the platform between connections, one hears the sounds of the adjacent highway, the arrival and departure of trains every few minutes, sees the castaways taking shelter on the hard, oak, terminal benches, hear the seemingly unending sound of sirens scurrying, as well as the occasional pigeon ‘coo’. 

‘Miles to go’ – I’ve walked these streets. I’ve walked them back and forth and back and forth. 7th Avenue, more scenic and more crowded than most, with Times Square anchoring mid-town, a landing place for many curious and curiously lost souls. The city awakens around 7 AM, the steadily increasing pace of traffic and commuters makes it hard to get a good morning’s sleep on these busy sidewalks. When you walk through the city, with a little knowledge about architecture, you can date the decades when the booms rolled through.

There is the 1920’s art-deco explosion that bred so many eerily similar 10- to 30-story office buildings. They are the same buildings that often have block-ey, window air-conditioning units sticking out of jerry-rigged openings. There are the sleek, glass and steel towers that rose up in the 90’s and ‘oughts, more often than not featuring some bank name at the top. That is, until the 2008 financial crisis hit. And then there are the new, ultra-tall, ultra-thin residential condos designed for oligarchs and money-launderers. This is a simplification, of course, but close enough. Travelers come here from around the world, wander these same streets, huddle in small groups, speak in their native tongues, buy T-shirts and miniature Statue of Liberty paperweights in the tourist shops. Eat Churros from food carts. Someday I will live in the desert.

 

George L Stein is a writer and photographer living in North-Central New Jersey. George works in both film and digital formats in the urban decay, architecture, fetish, and street photography genres.

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