All That is Solid Melts Into Air

“The most popular use of the photograph 

is as a memento of the absent.”

— John Berger

Artist David Orr has been traveling to the sites of people’s deaths and photographing the skies above for his series, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air. The resulting images function as both portraits of absence and as abstract memorials to the individuals represented. In this piece, David honors the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.
“Can I help you?”That sentence, always a preamble to being thrown out of a place I’m not supposed to be, is one I’ve been half expecting all morning.

A construction worker who’s wearing so much orange that I’ve nicknamed him ‘Julius’ (in reference to the once-ubiquitous Orange Julius stands that used to be in every mall), is orbiting me from a distance. I think he doesn’t realize how much the eye-watering color (and the amount of it) makes him stand out. Bright orange vest. Bright orange flag. And, in a very stylish touch, bright orange Adidas sneakers. I’d like to think he’s simply admiring the Da-Glo orange tags on my equipment bags — I share a love of orange — but I’m wary.

He’s been clocking me ever since I arrived at the intersection of Greene Street and Washington Place, a couple hours ago.

The street and sidewalk have been blocked off for repair, and as I said above, I’m trespassing. Conspicuously so: I have a medium-format camera, mounted to a tripod with the lens pointing straight up, which I’ve been moving around the block. I’m using an old-fashioned cable release, so my old-school Hasselblad sounds like a mousetrap when it goes off. Subtlety is not part of my M.O.

For the most part, Julius has contented himself with keeping an eye on me, as he does his work. I just keep on shooting, taking his lack of approach as tacit permission to continue. I hope to net nearly 150 unique images from these streets and sidewalks.

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