48 Hours from Ground Zero

For my last seven years in New York City, I lived on Broadway, between John Street and Maiden Lane. That location placed me exactly one block away from the former site of the World Trade Center–or as most people now call it, ground zero. I moved into my apartment in the spring of 2000; I was at home on the day of September 11, 2001. Afterwards, my relationship with the neighborhood became, well, complicated. In the summer of 2004, I decided to reclaim the neighborhood by walking around. Periodically, I would leave my house and flip a coin. If it was heads, I’d go left. If it was tails, I’d go right. At every intersection, I’d flip the coin again: after an hour, I’d stop and photograph whatever block I was on.

The result is this gallery. I’ve chosen one photograph from the end of each walk, and written up some information about where I went and how I got there. I did 48 walks in fifteen months before I moved to California. I had a few ground rules about where I could walk and what the flips meant, but my basic rule was not to cheat: I was trying to surrender my fate to chance, and hoping that took me somewhere a bit happier.

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After I began my random walks through Manhattan, I discovered that I had accidentally stumbled into the field of psychogeography. When I began strolling with a coin and a camera, I didn’t have any theoretical underpinnings for the project: I just wanted to explore the neighborhood without a GPS, and to believe once more that my life could be better with random occurrences in it.

My concluding thought when I started: “As I step out my front door and flip my coin, I keep walking away from home. So far, I keep coming back.”

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