Meet Your Neighbor & Photographer Ner Beck
On view now through February 26, 2014 at the Bloomingdale Library is NER BECK: West Side Window Reflections. This exhibition of photographs, captured on the Upper West Side, will be displayed at the Bloomingdale Branch of the New York Public Library. Ner spoke to me about his photographs and his process of working. “What fascinates me visually is that as you stroll past these glass canvases the reflections from the opposite side of the street are constantly affecting, shifting and recomposing the images on the window you are viewing. I had always had an admiration for the 1960s silk screens of Robert Rauschenberg with his amazing layering of collaged images juxtaposed in bright gem like colors. I am also drawn to the 1920s reflective and translucent Paris shop window images of the photographer Atget. Somehow these two artists separated by time seem to have merged for me when I drift past these windows today.”
Are there particular streets or areas that yields interesting images?
Broadway has its shop windows with lots of mannequins that reflect and combine with architecture from the opposite side of the street. Amsterdam Avenue with its Dollar Stores always have great random arrangements of brightly colored neon colored plastic and seasonal objects that catches everyone's eye and creates an our own little West Side Mardi Gras. Side streets have a bevy of parked cars with their modern curved windshields that are constantly warping reflections like a museum of fun house mirrors as you walk by them.
Do you remember your first time taking a reflection photo?
The very first reflection that caught my attention was on my block. It was a distorted image of some buildings with round bay windows that was reflected on a curved car windshield. One library viewer said that photo reminded him of Gaudí buildings in Barcelona.
Is there a particular time of year that you like for taking photographs?
The best reflections appear in the fall and spring and early and late in the day when sunlight is at a very low angle and the colors at their deepest. Holidays provide lots of short term imagery that suddenly appears. I love Halloween when skeletons pop up all over the neighborhood and create our own little local Day of the Dead. Also winter holidays with their giant blow up Santas and snowman at the Christmas tree stands that look like they lost their way from the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
How do people react when they see you taking pictures?
With small digital cameras and picture phones everyone is shooting millions of pictures, so I go pretty much unnoticed. However once I find a reflection that interest me I start viewing it from as many angles as possible. It is almost like a movie that is changing every time you move your head up and down, left and right until everything aligns and tells a story of its own. When people see me doing this you would think they would be curious. But, remember this is New York City where stranger things are always happening.
Any funny, touching, enjoyably weird stories from displaying your work at libraries?
At a recent exhibit a viewer said that as he stood in front of one of my pictures and his image was reflected in the picture frame glass and that he became part of the photograph. I hope he was able to escape! Other viewers have thanked me for helping them appreciate and see the city in a new way. A young child wrote “I love your pictures and I love the library.”