Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Street Photography: Vandalism of Staten Island

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All throughout our world vandalism can be found almost anywhere.  We may have to look a little harder and dig a little deeper, but no matter what anyone tells you, vandalism is always around.  Whether it is graffiti on the wall of the corner drug store or defacing a park bench, vandalism is a crime that has been plaguing places all over the world for years.  This crime can be especially seen in the five boroughs of New York.  Living and growing up in Staten Island, I wanted to focus on the ever-growing problem of vandalism around my home.

When I first began my photo-hunting expedition, I struggled with finding a theme to photograph.  Then, all of a sudden, this idea of photographing vandalism soon came to mind.  As a little boy growing up in a condominium complex riddled with graffiti and broken swing sets and slides, I was never allowed to play outside.  I never experienced the park literally less than a block away from my own home.  The slides were always damaged and the swings unsafe and full of graffiti.  At such a young age, I didn’t truly understand why I was never allowed to play there but I always wanted to.  I figured this topic of vandalism would be a perfect Street Photography theme, since I have much experience with it.  I don’t want this assignment to come off that I live in a terrible neighborhood.  My parents are hard working Americans that only want the best for their children, but sometimes it is impossible to escape acts of vandalism.  As it was previously stated, vandalism is everywhere whether you live in the apartment complex down the street or the most expensive house on a private street.

The photographs that I chose to take each have its own special meaning and message in it.  I wanted to show not only the large, obvious signs of vandalism, but the small, less noticeable ones as well.  My goal was to educate the public that vandalism is something that has been around for a long time and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  My tactic for finding vandalism was driving around in my car with my camera ready to shoot.  Surprisingly I actually found some great spots on my first photo shoot.

I wanted to capture the vandalism that hit very close to my home as a child.  I started my expedition a mere fifty yards away from my front door.  As I previously mentioned, there is a small park designed for young children.  Sadly the teenagers that resided within the vicinity of the park felt it was necessary to destroy swings and slides for amusement.  The few pictures I took of the park truly show the devastation that vandalism had on my condominium development.  After I was satisfied with the pictures around my home, I hit the road in order to find examples of vandalism a little further away.  My friend agreed to help me with the project in that he would drive and I would take pictures of whatever I felt would help me reach the goal I was trying to achieve.  Red lights gave me the opportunity to snap still photos of graffiti all over Staten Island.  When we stopped for a dinner break at Outback Steakhouse, I was shocked to see the amount of vandalism in the parking lot.  One picture I captured shows an upside down handicap parking sign.  This just goes to show that there are some people on this world that don’t have respect for the elderly and disabled.  It is bad enough these people are at a disadvantage, but now they have to get embarrassed.  One thing that had me worried was what I looked like taking all of these pictures on Staten Island.  Ever since September 11th 2001, people have become especially weary of what is going on around them.  I wondered to myself if I looked like a terrorist taking pictures in order to plan an attack.  Yes, it is a terrible thought, but it makes sense and I even received a few dirty looks.  I didn’t bother to attempt to explain that it was a project for school.  The people would not have believed me.

There is one photo, the last one in my Microsoft Powerpoint presentation, that signifies what has to be done to stop this growing problem of vandalism in Staten Island and all of New York.  I titled the photograph “Stop and Stare” because that’s exactly what needs to be done.  People and police of Staten Island have to stand up against these vandals and put an end to this epidemic.
This street photography project not only has helped me to become a better photographer and enhance my originality, it has also given me a newfound respect for real photographers like Jeff Mermelstein and Susan Meiselas.  I can only imagine the looks of disgust and disapproval they receive each and every day they take photographs.  They do it because they love their occupation and they are truly artists behind a camera.


1 Christian Iezzi { 12.17.08 at 2:21 am }

I found this to be a very comprehensive look at the vandalism of Staten Island. The fact that you chose something personal to document makes the presentation more meaningful. The way you portrayed the images really brought to light how serious this problem is.

2 Anonymous { 06.04.11 at 10:36 am }

Love the images you’ve chosen to photograph. Every picture has its own story to tell. Keep up the good work! 🙂