Ben Orlansky

These are my eyes. This is my city. Welcome to New York.

Some of my photos lie. Or do they? I capture microseconds of humanity. Look at that old man laughing. It warms your heart and puts a smile on your face. Well, actually, he was just picking his teeth, but the results and effects of those little micromoments remain the same. I may lie through my photos, but those lies have effected me greatly, and I hope they do the same for you.

I was sitting on the train today as we crossed the Manhattan Bridge, colors and graffiti flashing by in the usual New York City blur. I looked through the window as everything passed by, and I saw a girl sitting alone on the floor of the bridge, knees drawn up to her chest, her head in her hands. Everything seemed to go slow motion for a second. She was gone in an instant, almost faster than thought, but I’ll never forget how alone she looked as the world went on without her. She was sitting there with her head in her hands as the train thundered past, and I was on the other side, watching through the window. She was having her moment, completely unaware that I was, in some way, sharing it with her. She’ll never know some guy saw her at sixty miles an hour and spent the rest of the day wondering what she was so sad about. She’ll certainly never know he wrote about her. I wonder if she knows that two people can share two sides of the same moment and never even know it.

We ran. You said we took the easy way out. You never understood that running was the most courageous thing we’ve ever done. You said you taught us how to live, but you learned how to live from a book, while we learn how to live from our hearts. You call us ‘the free ones’ with contempt and disdain, oblivious to the fact that those are the words that keep us alive. We don’t question your beliefs nearly as much as we question your methods. We don’t question your faith - we question your refusal to let us have our own. Perhaps above all, we question your love, for love with conditions is no love at all.

Maybe words aren’t enough. Maybe you need to see my face twist in pain. Maybe you need to hold out your hand and let the tears I never cry burn a hole right through your palm. Maybe I need to cover your mouth so you lose your breath like I do when I listen to music. Maybe you need to hear my fist pound the desk as I scream the words an inch from your face. Maybe I need to stab you with my words. Maybe I need to kiss you with them. If I hate you with them, will you feel it then? Maybe you need to put your ear to my chest so you can wonder if that’s my heart or a bloody machine gun. Maybe you need my eyes so you can see the horrors I see in the mirror. You never believe me when I tell you, so maybe you need them to see what I see when I look at you. Maybe I need to put my arms around you so you can feel me shaking. Maybe you need to see the look on my face when I lie and say it’s just adrenaline. Maybe my words are shit and never come out the way they sound in my head, so maybe I’ll just stop talking. Then maybe all you’ll need to do is just fucking hold me.

There are so many artists who refuse to recognize themselves as such either because they haven’t reached a predetermined level of success, be it monetary or through public recognition, or simply because they think their work is shit. This is nothing short of tragic. Being an artist has nothing to do with success. How many commercially successful “artists” are out there who have no idea what it means to be one? You are an artist simply because you have no choice. You have a thirst within you that will never die. You have a need to create, and you must create to survive. Show me an artist who doesn’t have some way to express himself and I’ll show you pure misery. To any of you out there who can feel my words, who have felt the need I speak of, and have known the pain I speak of, you are, regardless of your status, an artist.

She lives in a city where everyone sees everything - everything but her. She thinks maybe she’s just too fucking ugly. She’s invisible, amidst a sea of rushing color and beautiful faces. She wonders if anyone would see her if she screamed. She scans the storm of endless eyes, searching for the one that searches too. She sees him, standing motionless against the tide. She watches in disbelief as his eyes move through the crowd, searching, searching for something, searching for her? His sighs crush his shoulders and the color leaves his eyes. Just before he turns to leave, he catches her wide-eyed stare and they both freeze, in startling contrast to the motion surrounding them. They move toward each other, almost involuntarily, their feet never hitting the ground. The impenetrable crowd parts effortlessly for them, in recognition of two souls that have found their home.