I was sick as a dog during this visit to New York in April 2007. I got the flu the day before I left and it hit me like a brick upon arrival. It was then and still remains the worst case of the flu I’ve ever had. I felt absolutely smashed – sore muscles, joints, headaches and enough phlegm to drown Belgium. I was also feeling emotionally moribund, having just broken up with the person I was supposed to be travelling with. She was, in fact, from New York, though living, as I was, in Cambridge, UK, where we’d met. We had planned this trip together before breaking up and thus she was in New York at the same time as I – though, fortunately, an incompatibility in our schedules placed us on different flights.
Her presence which made the whole trip seem all the more loaded, a nagging case of what might have been – despite the fact that it was my call to end it. I had been very much looking forward to New York, but hadn’t been banking on getting sick and feeling lonely and confused. I’m inclined to quote Alain de Botton at this point –
A momentous but until then overlooked fact was making its first appearance: that I had inadvertently brought myself with me…
This was my second visit to New York and I was determined to see everything I’d missed the first time around. Fortunately, a cocktail of cold and flu capsules, Sudafed, codeine and shitloads of coffee got me out of my hotel on the upper west side every morning and kept me going most of the day. I did a hell of a lot of walking and sightseeing, but come early evening, I was absolutely exhausted and had no strength or desire to enjoy the nightlife. One great positive from all this was that until this point I had been casually smoking. During this bout of the flu, cigarettes from other smokers caused such a sense of disgust and repulsion that I never wanted to smoke another cigarette after this trip. Despite the occasional pipes and joints, I’ve had a grand total of 1 cigarette in the last 7 years.
This photograph was taken during a lovely walk across Brooklyn Bridge. A beautiful spring day, the air was cool and the sun was warm – a perfect combination. I spent a lot of time shooting the people crossing the bridge, which, with its grand stone arches and draped cables, makes a magnificent backdrop for any subject. The symmetry in this shot was accidental – I hadn’t realised exactly how well the background had aligned itself inside the frame, which made me all the more pleased on first seeing this shot. I’ve always liked the way the people are packed together in the bottom right corner, with so much space on the left side of the frame. They seem like the obvious subject of the photo, but are ultimately overwhelmed by the bridge itself, whose tall arches loom like vast eye-sockets.